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The future format of Headfi Meets- avoiding growing pains.

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

For those who don't know me- as I don't post that often.... I hosted two LA meets in Venice.








I love the headphone community. I want to help improve it.


So lets abstract this a bit. (something I do to examine extremes)


Let's say we collected Railway Locomotives audio systems in private box cars....  instead of headphone systems.


We could have a meet- say at NYC Grand Central Station and show off our systems, which would be easier logistically than keeping the box cars at our homes and having to travel to each persons home.


Ironically- with the privacy of Boxcars- you can see this is even a better alternative to having to invite strangers into your livingroom. (I did it, and liked it though.. see links above ) 



Sounds ridiculous?

.... not really...


if you have ever gone to a high end car audio meet.... it's kinda like that. We meet , sit in each others cars with Sound Quality (not volume "boom cars") as the determining criteria. 


And believe me- the car audio thing is a lot easier to coordinate that rallying people to each other's houses. With differing acoustics. At least with cars... some of the acoustics are similar...or identical!


This allows you to do some serious comparisons. In Headphones.. the listening acoustics are still not identical- you have not removed the listening room- like Ultrasones sound different to people with different outer ear structures- and universal IEM molds aren't really universal.



In Auto racing ... there was a race.




Sure people made fun of it... but it tried to bring some consistency to racing. I tune car audio systems.


The corollary to this in terms of acoustics are the Hotel based Hi-end Meets. Where many hotel rooms are similar or in some cases identical. Since we can't get people to travel to homes- we put systems in similar situations... and have a go at it.. Kinda like having a car audio meet where only Honda Accords are allowed to compete.


Here it comes...




the RMAF, The Munich Show, CES etc.. there are tons... 


I work these shows tuning rooms.


The rooms are no always  identical- but many are similar, some are identical. 




There are problems logistically with these speaker system  shows.


We are beginning to make some of the same mistakes... and I would like to see that the 'raison d'être" for these shows is not lost or subverted.


I have been on various headphone forums since the 1990's, I suggested making portable tube amps when people were making headphone amps in Altoids mint tins.


I've gone to meets like many others... on a quest to IMPROVE YOUR OWN RIG or to show others what your rig you made sounds like.


IMHO This is what shows MUST STAY FOCUSED UPON. 


headfi is sorta unique as it did not start up like an audio magazine catering to the manufacturers.. in a sense it is more like what The Abso!ute Sound was like in its infancy when it wouldn't take ads so it could remain true to the listeners...that was a cool concept in theory.


I have a format for the Next SOCAL show that I would like to try that meets this criteria of focusing on serving the Head-fier and his quest and having the industry come second... in the end... its also best for the industry.


Not enough time to finish this post today- I will continue later.

post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

Not sure if this is the correct place for this thread...maybe I will ask to move it o put another link in another thread so it gets some  viewing.




I thought I would go over some thoughts about HI-fi in general.


Obviously we are trying to assemble systems that please us..... and if it can be done within or under budget that is great (guffaws- keeping in mind my original budget for a near state of the art stereo to last a lifetime was $1500 back in 1978).


Ok. so headphones are great because of portability which relates to manageability.


It is a quick mix and match exercise to get great sound! and the cost is typically lower for many things. And for the most part...the acoustic issues are minimized compared to other audio endeavors.


Car audio testing is a major PITA- fitting speaker installations EQ time delay..the list is endless.

Home audio gear is heavy, expensive and scattered amongst dealers that are geographically far too spread out and exists mainly in affluent areas (perhaps Hong Kong, and singapore have good dealer density  I haven't been there... or NYC ). Hell even when I tune at a show- it's a pain to try and substitute gear from a  few rooms down on the fly.


Of course in headphones... shipping is cheap (headphones are cheap enough soooo  you could buy say.... 4 pairs and return the ones that don't work - ...not so hot for dealers) , and it size makes it easier.. but a meet is still the best. 


So let's try to optimize the meet scenario. I'm not even saying I have experienced the best formatted meet. I just think we need to give some thought to the format helping ...not hindering,  our ability to discern the correct choice quickly with a great degree of certainty.


One of the best meets I went to.... did not have a ton of gear... it was a Denver meet I think in 2007 or 2008. we were in one hotel room- the tables were set up around the perimeter with another perimeter ring in the middle. I was new there- no one had met me in person to engender trust as yet.


Easy line of sight to the whole room- so there was little apprehension about loaning something out to someone to walk across the room to plug it into some part of someone else's rig. You could see your loaned out item, see it was being handled properly, and that it did not leave the room.




I went to this meet to look for a snowboarding rig expecting to buy a PICO DAC/AMP or perhaps a RSM Predator DAC/AMP with Sennheisers HD 650 or HD600. If I had ordered things online... I would of perhaps ordered these two well reviewed items, and bought...and NOT been as happy as with what I "Discovered" at the meet. now I am sure the RSM Predator would not have made me unhappy at all... I still like those units... (and would still but a Predator today and still looking for a used one) ...but I was happier with what I decided upon.


I tried all of the what I was interested in,a nd fellow head-fiers pointed me to Ultrasones. I heard a pair stocka nd one with a APS V3 recable. I heard my first Imod. I heard  a bunch of ALo docks and other docks. I went away in a single day knowing EXACTLY what I wanted to buy. 





Since then I only changed from a Ipod Classic 6th gen to an Imod 5.5 Gen and changed a docking cable but I had it all in my hands in 2 weeks...and boy was I happy.


I wanted to do this again at the recent SoCal meet. (Which was very well organized... )


I failed completely in finding my "new" "improved" rig.


The meet was set up more like a regular audio meet like T.H.E. Show Newport Beach. I was not "new" there- many people recognized me because I organized 2 LA meets. I had trust. But I could not get a rig assembled from our "LIBRARY" of choices.




1. The layout (spread in multiple rooms)

2. No line of sight to everyone and everything.

3. Hard to find people

4. Security

5. Hard to find people who loaned you things to give them back


In short... for me... the meet was not good use of my time. I left....completely empty handed.


The matra of head-fi


"Welcome to Head-fi, sorry about your wallet" 


-was not fufilled. I bought Nothing.


HEAR ME VENDORS? I BOUGHT NOTHING! My credit card balances are now getting paid down.


(now some vendors did crisp business like Astell Kerns  240's were racking up sales.... but to them... IT COULD HAVE BEEN EVEN BETTER!!!!! There could have been greater sales, more purchase glee.




To  someone who had never experienced the earlier meet style... and this was their first meet- they were a kid at Disneyland... but for me... it was like trying to DEMO headphones, amps ,cables  from multiple vendors at CES.


I'd hear something in one room- and not know what else was around to pair it with until i went into another room. I got introduced to very little new gear as a result. instead of assembling a rig in 2 minutes it took like 20-30 minutes.After 3 rigs..I just gave up.


bad layout.... fantastic Meet socially though...well organized.  Don't get me wrong...nothing negative about it... it was an EXCELLENT meet. I just found it difficult to do which came easier to me before- i.e. pick a rig and know it is the best sounding rig I can get for my ears for the money- and leave with zero doubt.


I did have a great time talking with people- so it's not that it wasn't fun.. in fact it was in a way more fun when I gave up and just got a chance to talk to people more. But in the end - I couldn't say with certainty that I had optimized anything towards a new rig.


So I am looking into securing a better venue (I figure if you want something done - you may have to do it yourself- though I hope to have help) .


one with security control of who comes in and out,


one with a reference soundstage for newbies


A place for vendors.


A place where you can feel secure in loaning gear to an unknown head-fier.


Just a better way to do what was done before EFFICIENTLY ... Like of the old Denver meets were head-fi 1.0 and so was RMAF 2009 (I helped run the head-fi table there too)  I want to make sure that people can get there- try as many rigs as possible and get to audio nirvana faster (ahem... don't expect cheaper...you just end up going further than you thought....though you might get cheaper if you set an audio quality standard IN STONE and then look for bang for the buck ).


THE GOAL IS TO FIND AUDIO HEADPHONE NIRVANA in a single meet. and if possible BUY IT RIGHT THEN AND THERE hello vendors????


(we might have to make some sonic concessions for the wallet nothing new there......we can't all have Stax 009's....I found a good compromise to settle on...and you should be able too...IF YOU CAN TRY ENOUGH RIGS IN THE ALLOTTED TIME. It helps to have everyone accessible for good advice -and to easily pass on good rigs with great system synergy to others and share our findings. Audio is really a team effort, with your ears as the ultimate arbitrator.


So i am sketching the layout- I found a place.... and I'm meeting to get permission. The goal is to come with your gear and be able to buy what you want...and possible be able to sell what you have to BUY WHAT YOU WANT THAT DAY! 

Edited by Golden Ears - 4/16/14 at 10:59pm
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Not sure if anyone is reading this... but If someone is good at rendering from a sketch... send me a PM. I'd like to put up what I think might get us closer to a better format.

post #4 of 6

I get what you're saying -- mini-meets with portable gear are like this. I suggested that there be an area with coffee tables for people with portable gear to sit around and try each-other's portable rigs. There were a couple of people in SoCal with only portable gear and on a regular table it wasn't so ideal.


I have an idea how I'd like to set up a table with a variety of systems with the same headphones so people can switch them easily. Next year I'll plan a table better for this. It will require some help. Maybe before the show we can experiment building rigs at different price points.

post #5 of 6

Having just had to organize my first meet pretty much on the spot, I'm somewhat encouraged to realize that the setup I went with seems to mirror your ideal setup, at least as far as I understand it... One large meeting room, everyone visible to everyone else, tables all within reasonable proximity to one another to facilitate and encourage a community-minded exchange of equipment and accessories as need or interest arises. 


If you have any other simple, quick-to-implement ideas on how to make a meet as enjoyable and effective as possible, I'd be interested in hearing them! (Our meet is on the 10th, so nothing too involved, unfortunately). 


Thanks for taking the time to share your ideas! As someone with limited (as in, exactly one) meet experience, I'm curious to see how else things have/can be done elsewhere. Anyway, thanks again!!

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
I'm glad some people are chiming in. I have a meeting with an excellent venue for a meet. And I hope we can find some support for this format.

One thing I would like is for people to be evaluating combinations of gear on the spot and WRITING THESE RECIPES FOR GREAT SOUND. On some dry erase board or chalk board.... Something so we can keep track of well known combinations of gear.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that mismatching the wrong amp with the wrong headphones is nothing short of a huge waste of time and money ( with a minor but painful learning experience gained).

I want to save fellow head- fi'ers from making costly mistakes.

I remember buying Senn HD 600s and using the wrong amp and selling them... (I paid $178 for cosmetic blems from Germany- sold them for $150) kicking myself for doing that...

For many head-fi'ers the sum dollar total of their.errrrr........ "Learning experience". .......Might have bought them. STAX 009 and an amp.

By making it easier to combine gear... I hope we can come up with combos of "rigs to try and beat". And I hope in such a meet the rigs to beat would hopefully be "dethroned" every two hours by a better combo cableing, tubes etc.......after all....we have so many great EARS in one place. (And many duplicates) ... We should be able to use this time as productively as possible.

I think I am going to have to come up with an idea for tagging the gear. I already have a secure space. My thoughts is the new king is put up higher and the challengers are next to it. Periodically we would I revisit these set ups. There could be a price point or a best paring...

Let's say you have some particular amp you might suggest the best pairing for that amp.
So...you arrive with your favorite rig.... You hear something better...then you could put your items up in a trading post area...to trade or get credit to buy something else.
Edited by Golden Ears - 5/2/14 at 7:10pm
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