Capital Audiofest, save thyself!

This is a message to the brand exhibitors at Capital Audiofest. I've got an idea for next year: Don't bring any of YOUR boring music to the show and advertise the event as an all-audience choice show. That's right, WE bring our music and you play whatever it is, whether you like it or want it or not. Yes, you want to show off your equipment in a controlled environment, but I would venture to say the music I brought with me on CD does it better than the somnolent elevator or atrium with a waterfall music you all kill us with. We - or I - want to hear audiophile grade sources, of course, but also modern music that people not living in the high-end audio bubble - a place called the real world - listen to. We also need some damn life at the show. Not a single room in the hotel had sound coming out of it I was rushing to for the MUSIC. A show like this MUST include that facet, not just great equipment. Hell, even just play some Joni Mitchell (always flawlessly recorded). Something, anything. WAKE UP!

Every one of the rooms I visited were manned by equipment designers or sharp and mostly reasonably friendly salespeople who hadn't a single clue about how to bring out the best of their systems to normal people. Nothing had a beat, few were playing music with horns or voices, none of it - zero - had anything to do with what sells today - just terrible ambient, rudimentary garbage with a variety of percussive sounds. I would have settled for some old Blue Note jazz. I ran screaming from the hotel at the end of three hours there and my friend and I vowed to never return.

That said, we still heard some superb equipment. I took no notes, so can't remember everything, but here are a few quick-take impressions . . . The great Jeff Joseph manned the room showing off his sumptuous top-of-the-line Pearl floor-standing speakers (about $39,000 or so), but the room with his Pulsar2 Graphene mini monitors was far more effective and appealing. At around $10,000 they are indisputably ranking among the very best speakers in the world. Vivid, popping, wonderful soundstage, startling bass, tonal excellence. They have no drawbacks whatsoever, period, and they set the standard we measured by in every other room.
Good guy Bill Hutchins, the chief designer at LKV, has two winners in his effort to bring more affordable equipment to market. We loved his LKV PWR-3 power amp (I think $3,350) and the new Veros VNL phono pre. I'm pretty sure this was coupled with the Pulsars. Top shelf all around. Bravo. LKV was new to me, and I'm mostly a tube guy, but this was wholly impressive.

The all-Audio Note room was expensive and an absolute standout. I believe they were running their AN-E speakers, the 8w P3 Tonmeister amp, and I believe their TT-3 or coming TT-3 Half Reference turntable with cart. The whole system had good flesh to it, despite how boring the music was, with an appealing human-scale and dimension. I like when it sounds life sized. We got to play our own music (Christine and the Queens' "People, I've Been Sad" on the Audio Note CD player (I think it was the 5.1x) and I would have opened the wallet and taken that player home in a heartbeat if I hadn't purchased a Bryston BCD-3 a couple years ago. Another round of bravos. If my somewhat needy speakers could play nice with an 8w tube amp and whatever the pre-amp was, I wouldn't hesitate to break the bank and go Audio Note.

The Amped America room did nothing for us. Lifeless, flat, compressed sound.

On Sunday, the large Democracy Room at the hotel was in the hands of Command Performance AV and they were showing off a massive Gryphon power amp. I can't remember the speakers but if you like huge, all-enveloping sound, far beyond scale, get in touch with them about this system. They knew how to fill a big room. Bad music, enjoyable experience.

Tried twice to get into the little Border Patrol room, set up horizontally, but it was packed and we didn't want to stand in the corner by the door to try to hear.
Couldn't find Conrad Johnson, which was hugely disappointing because they were high on my list.

Enjoyed a Pear Audio turntable in Room 307.

Merrill Audio's Element 116 monoblocks (I'm pretty sure that was the model) and the Genesis Maestro (pretty sure that was the model!) speakers, a design I hadn't seen before and worth looking up, produced exquisite sound and I wished there was less talking in the room and less bad music and a little more volume showing off something worth listening to. I would have sat there happily for an hour. VPI had it's 80-some-pound 40th Anniversary Classic Direct turntable on display in there but not hooked up and it was a beast to behold. Would have loved to have heard it.
I didn't see it advertised on the Capital Audiofest website, but one room was showing a Kronos turntable (can't remember which one) and lord the music coming out of that thing was beautiful. I can't see owning a table that looks so bling, but rich people in the market should not ignore this company.

McGary Audio - maker of a very striking KT88 tube-based SA2 amplifier was back again this year with Salk speakers. McGary himself declined to allow a switch flip from ultralinear to triode on his very versatile amp because it would change the volume level, as if that wasn't adjustable. Don't bring in a system you can't adjust the volume on. When your amp is before the public, find a way to flip a switch to triode if asked. We're there to hear the amp, not just half of it. I liked the McGary-Salk match better the last time I heard it, so it must have been the room, setup or (yawn) music. Still, really good-sounding equipment by both, although I'm still not thrilled from an aesthetic standpoint with the SA2's unbalanced RCA interconnects being on the front panel. He's got a sound reason, as the designer, but I'd sacrifice whatever little incremental betterment that is to have them in the back. One of the most beautiful amps on the market (a shade under $8,000), and I'd love to fiddle with it - and its user-adjustable global negative feedback knob - when no one is saying no to me. This amp remains coveted.

Finally, VAC took over the massive Atrium room again with a system that probably cost about $450,000. Teamed with Von Schweikert speakers. It was better-sounding than the last time I remember it, and that's saying something, but I didn't hear any music playing I'd want to play at home (the theme of this post). I asked if I could play a CD and the gentleman in charge said I could - after he played a few things he wanted to hear - so I rolled out. There were maybe three or four other people in there. This is the second Capital Audiofest I've attended at which VAC has displayed its beautiful Sigma 170i integrated with KT88s - probably the most affordable amp in its lineup yet still plenty expensive - but not had it plugged in. I'd love to hear this thing (and others in the lineup) some day, not just the company's most untouchable components.

The music vendors in the lobby were not getting much action on Sunday and had a bevy of audiophile discs and vinyl records for sale. I didn't snap up a thing but was tempted. I would have LOVED to have heard a "Still Crazy After All These Years" MoFi one-step ultradisc, but at $200 I decided to take the money up the road for some cheap and delicious Northern Chinese dim sum at the venerable A&J on Rockville Pike. If you like authentic Chinese food, that stretch of road is a wonderland of options.

Great advice, tubegb, thanks.
Douglas, thank you, too. When you put it that way, I think my idea would be great for Sundays, traditionally the show's slowest day (right?).
Also, yes! They put the nooses around their own necks.

Here is me at the show: Love equipment, know a little (almost enough) but not technically savvy, believe firmly in my good ears, have a decent system at home, read the trades on, I love music and have thousands of records and CDs - and, to makers, most importantly - I have money. I'm the ideal candidate to be lured in to take the plunge on something that costs up to $10,000 or maybe even $15,000.
So, I should be having fun. A LOT of it.
I saw some young couples making the round, too. I would never bring my girlfriend - into me, into music, into me being into audio, but not, herself, into audio - to the show because there's nothing in it for her (i.e. good music).
When I think of shows I think of Art Dudley. If memory serves he went to one and after a day he was found in a room playing his guitar. 
I also think of the police convention in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". 
I have been. I am done. I can see the appeal and even the logic if one is in the market for new gear and hopes to save some money on a show special. 
In general, there are way too many things to despise. Listed on my annoyance factor list from high to low;
1) Insider groups-you are either in one or you are a schlub. 
2) Rude people-from hoarding a spot to demanding attention to bowling you over in a hallway, I have seen it all. 
3) Confusing layouts where despite a guide, finding a specific room is nearly impossible. 
4) Insufficient elevators.
5) No quiet rooms in event space. Bring earplugs and Ambien. 
6) Shitty sound. 
7) Arrogant exhibitors. 
8) Obese old men dressed badly and wearing crappy cologne. Where are the pretty women (answer-generally nowhere to be seen). 
9) Nerds. Related to (8) above. As Groucho said, "the problem with clubs is that I would never want to belong to one that would have ME as a member". Audiophiles are ugly people. Anyone want to play wing-man for Steve Guttenberg?
10) Lack of service at host hotel-from trying to get a drink at the bar to daring to ask a question at the concierge counter, the the host hotel staff hate audiophiles. Likely for good reason. 
I could go on but why? I only wish that I could have met Art and could have shared my hatred for the show he attended. 

Your feelings about attending shows are clearly stated; fortunately other people myself included do enjoy going to shows like CAF. 

Where else can you sample so many different components in a short period of time and, if you are so inclined, meet so many equipment designers and manufacturers? 
All hifi shows have limitations and you have to be willing to put up with some crowds, some noise, poor room acoustics etc.  But shows are still a great way to see and hear equipment that you would otherwise never hear.  
For me the new experience at this year’s CAF was hearing the JBL Everest DD66000 speakers in the VPI room.  I had read some online mentions of the Everests but I had never heard them and I doubted I would like them.  Wrong!  The Everests sounded great despite being in a challenging room with lots of glass and despite being used with solid state electronics and cables that I don’t think are optimum (Nordost Odin 2). The Everests are too big for my room so I won’t be putting them on my Christmas wish list, but I am very thankful I had the opportunity to hear them.
Get a grip for Christ's sake! I never said my views were correct or real or objective or anything close other than being my views.
No different than your view that HW's ugly JBL loudspeakers sounded great while others here were unimpressed. 
Clearly people love going to shows as they exist despite all odds. Axpona draws thousands though it is worth noting the mortality rate of audio shows in general is quite high.
And you are dead-wrong that shows are a great opportunity to meet "equipment designers and manufacturers". 99% of the time you will meet a rep, not the engineer or owner. The exception is with small start-ups. 
And last, can you not recognize a tongue-in-cheek post when it kicks you in the arse!

Where these shows miss the boat is not providing products that will appeal to a broader audience at all price points. Why visit a Ferrari dealer if all you can afford is a Toyota or maybe a LExus if you stretch.

Most people will go and leave thinking I can’t afford this stuff and move on.

Not to mention the music that nobody really cares about playing.