Audio Excellence at the Toronto Home Show
How do you convince people that there's more to good sound than MP3s played on an iPod speaker dock? Events like the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and the Montreal Salon Son & Image allow attendees to experience high-performance audio in a no-sales-pressure setting, but they're mostly preaching to the converted. The people who attend these events are already interested in good sound. But what about the general public?
Toronto-area audio dealer Audio Excellence decided to tackle the problem last year by setting up a booth at the annual National Home Show in Toronto, reportedly with great success. I heard that they were planning to exhibit again this year, so I decided to check it out.
The National Home Show is the largest event of its type in Canada, held in a huge exhibition hall, and features everything from mops that promise to clean your floor better than any mop has done before, to a glass-walled "dream home," and talks by the stars of the interior design world. The booths are in an open space, separated only by false walls, so they're not ideal to demonstrate sound systems, but this didn't seem to deter the Audio Excellence folks. And they brought some serious gear to demo, including a system that included McIntosh electronics, B&W 802 Diamond speakers, Kaleidescape Media server, and Panasonic plasma TV, the total cost being $65,000. They also brought some more affordable equipment, like the $799 HTS200 5.1 system from Tannoy, to show that a system doesn't have to be expensive to sound good. They played concert videos by the Eagles, Roy Orbison, David Gilmour, Barbra Streisand, etc., and gave some music-only demos using an iPad connected wirelessly using a Denon receiver equipped with AirPlay.
Given the venue, the sound was surprisingly good, and on each of my three visits to the booth there was a sizable throng there, enthralled by the music and the videos. For many people, I'm sure that visiting the Audio Excellence booth was a revelation. "Wow!" was a comment I heard more than once. How many of these people will get "the bug" because of this experience? Who knows . . . Maybe some of them will attend the upcoming Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show. The Audio Excellence exhibit at the National Home Show has certainly provided a benefit to the hobby as well as the industry.
Adrian Low, who opened Audio Excellence 20 years ago and is shown in the photo, told me that he has a number of real leads to follow up with from the first day of the show. "All have to do with combining music and movies, and all based on the fact that in a poor show environment, video concerts grabbed people's emotional attention. The music made them stop. Not the movies."