Volume and Bass levels at LA HE Show

This was the first show I've attended and I was surprised to find that SPL levels were cranked up in so many rooms and that bass was so often overblown. While the Vandy 5a wasn't up yet (I was in and out early Friday) even the room equalized Quatro sounded bass heavy to me. I was wondering:

A) If my impressions were generally shared


B) If so, why don't the demos ease back on the volume knob?

BTW - I was pretty close to buying a pair of Quatro Woods and am now reconsidering,
They think they are making it sound impressive and exciting. It's classic American one-upmanship at its finest - quantity is so often prized higher than quality.
I had a simlilar experience with some Sunfire gear at a high end shop. My thinking was that they didnt think i knew anything about hifi, therefore the louder the better. My brother and myself walked out saying "well that was a waste." It wasnt just loud it was cranked, ear damaging levels in my opinion.
Yeah, but were you in the MBL room when they had Metallica on "11"....Dang that was fun. I had no idea such "delicate" looking speakers could rock!!! And I am not that much of a rocker.....anymore.....

MBL loves to crank their gear, and it usually sounds incredible at those ear splitting volumes.... At last years HE show, I had to leave the show and go have a beer to let my ears rest after being in that room!
When I walked in, MBL had some electric blues playing at ear splitting levels. The speakers were clearly overloading the room on the bottom end. That said, it rocked. Alas, I ,too, am no longer a headbanger.

BTW, of all the stupidly loud, bass heavy demos, this was the only one that impressed me to any meaningful degree.
First off, I think 80% of the rooms far too small for the systems being demo'd. Second, they were msotly bare except the few who had sufficient room treatments - Brooks Berdan, Acoustic Image, etc.

Also, exhibitors have to compete with hallway noise/talk and music/bass from rooms on all sides. Each time one of them turns it up a little, all others down the hall recipricate. Then, people in the hallways have to talk louder to be heard and the cycle starts over again.

It would be extremely foolish to form any opinion about any component unless you live in a hotel. Home environments have almost nothing in common.

Remember, most exhibitors have never even set foot in the rooms prior to the show and then only have a few hours to try and create "magic". I think shows are more for seeing the actual product in person and gauging it's fit & finish, than judging it's potential capabilities. It's also great to meet the people behind the designs, most are really great to talk to.
One thing at HE2006, regarding bass: Every room had the same "bass note." Maybe I should say node. The dreaded hotel room sound was in abundance but particularly, bass sound was uniformly compromised in the same way, and loading any of those rooms with high SPL disproportionately made the bass problems more acute.

There wasn't a single system at the show that could be considered heard optimally. But some vendors were careful to find the best possible placements in their rooms and overall I think this was the best sounding *in-hotel* exposition in a long time. Particularly good were the Verity/Nagra/Audion, and Verity/Audion/Sonic Euphoria systems in that multi-vendor room, and Zu's Definitions system, especially Sunday after further refinement of their setup mitigated a room node.

Another thing driving SPLs is that vendors are starting to use real music again, instead of audiophile dross/gloss. Rock is inching its way back in to demos. Johnny Cash was on in multiple rooms. Blues, 'Trane, John Lee Hooker, Bill Frisell, Miles, the Chets, Wilco, etc. When people are having fun, SPL tends to go up. More feeling, less analysis. How much can you analyze in a hotel room acoustic environment anyway?

See these vendors miss the point. Do we really want a system that can play loud? Of course not. So why do they try to tempt us with alot of loud noise? Makes no sense to me. Just put the volume at 1/4 and let the sytem sell itself. I image they try to overwhelm our hearing to numb it, and so we really think we are getting a great speaker/system. Makes no sense to me. I have a gigantic room and a 20 watt tube amp and only play it at 1/4 volume, maybe a tad more. Never at 12 oclock. I've never understood the theory or concept of loud music. At a show its a frickin turnoff and one should run past those rooms that do so.

Man, was it great to have some real rock and blues played, finally. I found a few rooms where we were able to tear the roof off the place. Globals Acoustic's Audio Aero amps and WLM speakers - Cranking Tool, Neil Young, etc. and Zu was ripping Radiohead and other alternative bands.

It's too bad most "audiophiles" are anti-rock or any modern music. There is only so much Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Patricia Barber a person can't before their blood turns to sludge.

Audio shows are quite possibly the worst place possible to make any critical decisions about equipment, so maybe everyone should stop pretending and just get on with having a good time. Crank it up and let house start rockin'
Dark Moebius,

This went beyond "analysis" or decision making. I like a whole lot of different music, including rock music, played loud enough to disturb my wife. At this show, I found the SPLs extremely unpleasant and left almost every room after a few minutes. Further, I found that the bass problems drained the fun out of party music (for me, anyway). I guess you chalk this one up to dif'rent strokes.
I went into the Mbl room and asked them to play a piece on the Pope music sampler CD. The gentleman from Mbl asked me how high I wanted the demo. I told him very low, so he pushed the volume control down what seemed like a tiny amount if at all. I asked him again to lower it way down and he told me that this was a demo room and he would not do that. Therefore, I have no idea as to the ability of his
equipment to play in real world rooms or how the speakers sound when not pushed. I left the room as soon as the piece concluded.
I've never understood the theory or concept of loud music. At a show its a frickin turnoff and one should run past those rooms that do so.
Bartokfan (Threads | Answers)
High volume in some audio show rooms may be unintentional, or forced by surrounding rooms.

Have you ever been in a room with a lot of people who are supposed to be quiet, and a few start whispering, and then a few start talking quietly, and the whisperers next to the quiet talking people start talking quietly so they can hear each other, and then the quiet talkers begin talking at full voice because they can't hear each other over the people next to them. Gradually, everyone starts talking louder and louder until the room is cacophanous. I believe this is the same phenonmenon found at the audio shows. Not all the manufacturers intend to play at loud volumes, but they all eventually crank up the volume to drown out the sound from neighboring rooms.
Hi Marty,

When I said "everyone should stop pretending" I meant manufacturers and exhibitors, primarily. They should stop pretending that their rooms are for competently evaluting equipment because 95% fall far short of the level.

To a certain degree, it's not their fault and there's not a lot they can do under the space, cost, and time restraints. Most have finances that are only a tiny fraction of Lamm, Wilson, McIntosh, etc. And those that fly in from across the nation or interantionally probably have a hard time shipping/storing enough room treatments to assure good sound. Especially, since most will never see their rooms until hours(or day) before the show opens.

As a result, I went expecting mostly poor sound from previous show experiences and allowed myself to be pleasantly surprised by the few surpassed that low threshold.

***"At this show, I found the SPLs extremely unpleasant and left almost every room after a few minutes."****

Interesting, there were a lot of rooms that I missed, so there's a good chance I didn't make it into the ones you are talking about. Any in particualr that you can remember?

I have to admit that I am guilty of encouraging more than a few exhibitors to to crank it up to louder levels than most middle-aged audiophiles enjoy. A few rooms, we literally sent people scurrying out like a grenade had been thrown. But, Hendrix, Tool, Neil Young, Radiohead, Zepplin, etc. are meant to be played loud for full effect. Besides, those exhibitors admitted they were dying to "Get the Led Out" for a little while.

***"Further, I found that the bass problems drained the fun out of party music (for me, anyway)."****

I found that worst problems tended to be in the smallest rooms. I don't know if you made it to the Continuum Audio Labs room at the very end of one of the wings on the 3rd floor, but the were demo'ing a $99,000 Caliburn turntable, Cobra tonearm, and Castellon rack system with probably an equal or greater amount for the rest of the equipment. Yet, they were in the smallest room available at the hotel.

Their audio system was probably spectacular, but even at moderates levels the room was far too small for what they were trying to achieve. The small 8th Nerve room treatments probably helped a lot, but that wasn't enough. They would have needed full sized ASC tube traps stacked two high throughout the room and then thre would have been no space for chairs.

I made a remark to a friend that many exhibitors/manufacturers would have been better served by simply showing their products without ever turning them on. I spoke with many, many, people who left the show with seriously negative impressions of equipment they were interested in. A common statement was "I came looking to get that piece, but now I would never buy it".

That's really too bad because no one should ever consider these convention setups any indication of a component's potential.

****"I went into the Mbl room and asked them to play a piece on the Pope music sampler CD...Therefore, I have no idea as to the ability of his equipment to play in real world rooms or how the speakers sound when not pushed."****

How would you ever derive a component's ability to play "in real world rooms" when busy hotel's have very little to absolutely nothing in common home environs?
Show conditions are generally bad and not really a good place to audition products. It's a means for manufacturers/dealers to show their new items and generate interest in them. Auto Shows are a better example of this because you only get to see the cars, not drive them and evaluate their performance.

We all try to make a reasonable presentation, but it's very difficult with poor power, noise from all the other rooms, fitting all the gear(& people) in a small room, and dealing with many other unknown variables.
We were givin a diagram of our room layout before the show, but when we arrived...it was nothing near the diagram, and had one day to set it all up and try to make music...all things considered, most manufacturers do a pretty good job.

The loudness issue is personal preference...personally I like to hear things at their natural level...so a cello sounds like a cello in a live performance, etc. At the show, we handed the listener the preamp remote and let them choose the volume. But when you have 15 people in a room, the music being played and the level will never suit everyones tastes.
I didn't find all that many rooms playing too loudly (MBL was too loud everytime I went in, however, and I would bet that their speakers will absolutely kill at low volume....so they are missing an opportunity). But I did feel that many rooms sounded too bright. Dusty's was an exception, but many rooms just seemed to have too much treble to my ears...and I like treble.