Things were very slow on Sunday at the Madison Ballroom. Bob of Bob’s devices and Chris, a local gentleman selling bargain and collectible vinyl LPs, and I lamented the lack of traffic. In fact, we suggested a small wager on who might get the first customer. I don’t know what it was but things were noticeably slower this year than last. Traveling from Los Angeles with two suitcases, a computer bag and a roller bag, renting a car, and booking a room (for me this was via AirBnb) is a major effort and expense, which makes it all the more disappointing that high-end digital recordings seem to be values less than a $150 USB cable.
Gary told me that the number of attendees was actually up over last year. He said that there were a lot more young people and that they were gathered in the CanMania area of the show checking out the latest headphones, portable DACs, and personal amplifiers. But with very few exceptions these folks weren’t buying physical media…vinyl LPs or DVD-A/V or Blu-ray discs. Bob had a disappointing show and even though Chris cut his prices in half, he still noticed a clear drop in sales.
My seminar “Definitions, Digital Delivery, Devices and A New Direction” scheduled for 11 am (which was only decided earlier that morning) had to be canceled because no one knew about it. I ended up chatting with Gary and one other local audio engineer about the new construction that Gary was doing. It was disappointing. I figured if sales of my discs were down at the table, at least I could engage some new people to the issues surrounding high-resolution audio.
However, it wasn’t all bad. There were plenty of people that made it worth the trip. One young man paid $20 on Friday afternoon for the HD-Audio 2013 Sampler. He listened to the whole thing (he wasn’t the only one) and returned on Saturday to purchase a few discs…and then came back again on Sunday for a few more. Some products that I didn’t bring to the show, I’m planning on sending him once I get back to Los Angeles.
And there was Larry and his friend on Saturday. Larry is a decidedly analog audiophile and his friend is a digital advocate. So we got into a conversation about vinyl and bits and DACs until I finally stopped talking and dragged Larry over to my listening setup. I asked him to put on a pair of the Oppo PM-1 headphones (which were connected to my Benchmark DAC2 HGC (sourced from the Kanex Pro and Oppo BDP-83 player) and listen. The proof, I told him, was in the listening. I selected “Primavera” by Destani Wolf and The Banda Brothers and hit play. Within two minutes, Larry pulled off the phones reached across the table and firmly shook my hand. He congratulated me and said that he had never heard sound that clear, expressive, dynamic and emotional before. His friend thanked me as well.
It doesn’t always go well. Audiophiles are a stubborn bunch (myself included) and giving ground is hard to do. I spend a few moments with a young gentleman late Saturday afternoon that was not going to have anything to do with digital of any resolution. He told me that the sound was great but his favorite music is “classic rock”. He kept asking where he could get his favorite music in the kind of fidelity that he heard from my sampler. I told him he couldn’t. The best he could do was to get some high sample rate/long word length transfers of those albums at HDtracks but that it would be hit or miss if he got a good master and transfer.
So as I sit here on the first leg of my trip back to Los Angeles, I’m debating whether I’ll make the trip next year to the Capitol Audiofest in 2015. There’s some talk about moving the show to a different time of year and perhaps another venue, but the bottom line is getting more people through the door.