When showing your system to others, what do you do

When you guys demo your system to a hifi virgin whats your procedure? Do you ask musical tastes first before the first song? Do you first play somthing that you feel best demonstrates your gears abilities? and then have them pick somthing out? If they bring some of their own music do you throw that on first? Im curious as to what your opinions are. Since we(the audiophiles) are showing our friends hifi for the first time its our responsibility to make it great, right? I have alwaysed played somthing i pick first to let them relax and adjust and then ask what they want to hear, or put their music on. I have never had someone leave and say that was not enjoyable but im sure i could make the experience more enjoyable. Any comments you have will be much appreciated. thanks
First you have to understand that your victim has no idea what you're talking about, and what makes a system worthy of the money you spent.

If soundstaging or imaging were your goal, point that out for the person, if tone, or timber, or even volume were what you wanting to achieve, explain it to them. Tell them how to observe these aspects of the sound. I have found people much more sympathetic when they understood the reason for the system.

Don't jump up every few seconds and put new music on, let them absorb the full impact.

They're all going to think you're crazy, but if you can show some reason behind your purchases, they will think you are less crazy than... the next crazy person.

Don't expect them to love something because you love it. If you push for that they will lie to get you to leave them alone. Rememeber your hobby will seem as bizzarre to a real person as pedophilia does to you. At least I hope it is bizzarre to you!

You SERIOUSLY are not comparing our hobby (or any hobby, for that matter), to Pedophilia are you?

There is a large gap between our possible eccentric behavior (which is the worst I can imagine calling an audiophile) and being seriously, and criminally, psychologically disturbed.

Try again, and this time, with "sensitivity".
(To paraphase Bruce Lee!
I saw Kentucky Fried Movie again, and love that line!)
Ask them what they want to hear. That said I will someday host our audiophile society meeting and plan on putting something really non audiophile on like Mowtown or pop rock. Then the classic evaluation stuff. Regular people are not that interested in the system they care what music they are going to hear.
I found John Marks' suggested demonstration technique in this month's Stereophile, while aimed at a high end retailers, to be an interesting way to demo your system to a person who likes music but doesn't understand why we spend our money on it like we do.
Depends, if it's a short term listen I pick out something that I know is well recorded after asking what type of music they like...ie, classical/rock/country...ect.

If we are going to spend a good while listening to music then I play music that we have both picked out...smorgasboard style.

Short term is usually someone who spots my Apogees...Are those speakers? (yes)...wow?, humm? (would you like to hear them?)...sure!

Long term is any music lover with beer...90% of the time I know them fairly well...I like dark German beer.

With my guests, on those rare occasions when someone actually inquires, I simply ask them what kind of music they like and play it. I try to avoid all discussion of audio and answer basic questions as simply as possible, and move on. Love to talk about the music though and they are usually open to that. Much more interesting IMHO.
If they have children , I always invite them to touch the 845 transmitting tubes while the amps warm up. That usually quiets the room, well after the crying and whimpering subsides anyway. I should have ten or twelve minutes until the paramedics show up, too short for Mahler or Dvorak, so I usually bring out the Holly Cole. As most of you know, there is enough competition here on the 'gon for cool gear. A few minutes of the Colester should cure the neophites of any audiophile leanings. If they are made of sterner stuff and look like they are still hanging in, I usually expound on the virtues of $2000.00 power cords. Before you know it, I can hear the sirens faintly in the distance.
I like to play somthing they heard 10,000 times before.
Usually, pretty impressed when they hear all the sounds they have been missing.

That's the best stereo I ever heard they usually say.
I usually CRANK something heavy and stare at them with a dumb look on my face while wiggling my eyebrows up and down.
Alot of times I will play Fleetwood Mac Roumors....it is so universal and well known, atleast in my circles, but if someoone appreciates Classical, thats where the jaw can drop, while I want them to bring a CD of their own, it has a really good chance of being something Pop or current that isnt made to sound good in anything other than a car.
I had someone tell me once that he bought a real high end system from Rent a Center. Funny stuff.
What works for me is:
* First I get their basic taste in music - Rock? Jazz? Classical? Female vocals? Monks moaning? * Then I play something in that genre, hopefully something/someone they've heard or heard of before, something that is recorded and played reasonably well
* Then I play something they brought or that they know very well, ALL THE WAY THROUGH
* Then a little discussion of what they heard, what I heard, then possibly a replay.

To me the biggest thing NOT to do is trot out your audiophile crapola non-music demo disc sounds not heard in nature at the pawnshop got the music in me thunderstorm trains 1812 cannons direct to disc anything royale
listen to the airconditioner come on in this quiet part
the music suuuuucks but oh my listen to the recording garbage
and try to impress them with it. Give them something in a genre they know and love.
The MUSIC is what matters - that'll hook them every time!
I usually pick the music, most of my cd's are kind of rare sounding, hand picked stuff things I know they have never heard before, David Sylvian, Koop, San Ilya, and even some Micheal Franks, I look around the room, and when I see there jaws drop!!!!!! nothing more has to be said.
#1) & most important, I explain to them that if they touch anything - It's a capital offence & they will be shot.
#2) Sit them down & away from the equipment.
#3) Never tell them what anything cost as either they will not believe you or think your are crazy (aren't we all?).
Ever try to explain why a "needle" cost $8K?
#4) Play something on CD that you know sounds great & then ask what they would like to hear.
#5) Play something on vinyl & see if they notice any difference.
#6) Show them the system & very briefly try to explain what each component does.
#7) Sit them back down again & try to explain imaging, soundstage & depth.
If they seem to understand you & are accepting the music & approve, let them stay & enjoy - If not show them the door as you are only wasting your time & theirs.
I won't do the demo shit. I have an insane stereo and I am crazy and I do not want to convert or impress anybody. If they want to listen to my music on my crazy system, fine.
Thanks guys for all the suggestions. I, like most of you dont mention prices cause we always get the look. the look like im crazy for spending what i did and yet they say they wouldnt mind having it in their home.

So have any of you converted anyone? doomed them to a life of actually listening to music? or do they just come back to your place and listen?
Well I've been in this hobby since 1957, seen a lot of systems in 48 years. I generally do not demo anything unless a guest wants to hear something. I let them pick out a selection and let them listen. Some are impressed while others are less so. To me it makes zero difference. With less that 1 percent of the U.S. population involved in high end gear. If they want to expand and get something better I will guide them along, other than that cest le vie.

Having lived on Palm Beach a few years ago. One can be totally humbled by some of the systems there. Cubic dollars has it rewards in high end audio. Also the Cayman Islands have some very fine systems as well.

Once you hear some of those systems, this exercise becomes a moot point. I enjoy reading the posts of members audio systems on Audiogon. But thus far, including mine and systems I have owned,as well as members posts. Nothing posted here will ever come close to the absolute ultimate,no questions ask systems I have seen and heard.

Like anything else and high end audio is no exception, its all about the Benjamins.
Jlind325is writes:
... or do they just come back to your place and listen?
They do come back - but I think it's more for the drugs. ;-)

Ferrari-Im confused about your post. Are you joking saying dollars spent is the way to determine a good system or do you feel thats how it should be measured? When i invite a person over to expereince my system im not trying to wow them with what i spent, im trying to wow them with a higher sonic experience then they have ever heard. For me its opening peoples ears to what music can sound like. Im sure the systems youve heard over the years have been more than impressive, so it would be a humbling expereince. But ive heard a $600,000 system, not including room cost that i would never trade for mine. it just wasnt musical, it was more about the benjamins spent. For me its the music, dollars spent is exactly opposite of what hifi is about IMHO. But to each his own. Cheers
No I am joking by any means whatsoever and at $600K is not even in the realm. I am talking mega bucks. People in this range of equipment have the resources to indulge as they please. When one gets into this range of gear and the ultimate validation of the musical experience to be heard.

Believe me these folks are not trying to impress anyone, they know what they have and what it took to get to that point. Most are in the entertainment business, and indeed have a fine ear to evaluate recorded music. For them it is not dollars spent or to impress anyone. Although there is a pecking order among the elite, it has nothing to do with something as mundane as an audio system.

But most of these systems are custom made, by some of the most gifted designers in the business today. This is not off the shelf units by any means. and the $600K you speak of probably would not buy the speaker cables.

However with that being said it is subjective on how one perceives sound. While one may be very happy with what they have and would not trade it for anything, then that is good and you have found your comfort zone. I certainly have found mine.

With that being said, there are ultimate,no holds barred systems that defy sonic description, which few will ever hear, much less ever own. And in this case dollars do make the difference or many more of us, would have something of this nature.
I found many years ago that I kept better friends when I never demonstrated my system at all. This was especially true of female company. People just don't relate to the "my toys are better than your toys" scenario especially when the implication is that their toys are inadequate.
Still we are all human and like to show off the result of our labours.
Best not to be in a hurry. I don't even switch on the system the first or second time a new person visits. Most people like to talk about themselves and about things that interest them. Allowing them to talk and joining in with your experience in similar areas makes most people feel at home. After that the system might provide some background music that does not interfere with talking. Eventually the guest will provide a cue by asking you to play a favourite piece or by bringing a CD along and asking you to play that. (If that never happens then you know exactly how much he or she cares.)
By this time you will have a really good idea of what music the person likes and can have a selection of the top recordings in that field set aside.
I have a very large collection of music and can usually contrast different recordings with the one that breaks the ice. For example the same song by different singers or bands, or the same piece by different orchestras and so on. From there things tend to flow pretty naturally on to an in depth listening session.
Why bother? Well the best reward comes when someone has similar interests and can introduce you to music you might not have come across before. Even non audiophiles can have large record collections, which could include some great music you might not have come across before.
Yes, folks in the entertainment business rarely do things to impress anyone.
thanks for the clarifiaction Ferrari, i understand where your coming from now. I would like to say that my system is by no means at the point where i wouldnt trade it for anything. I just wouldnt trade it for that mega bucks(in my opinion) system i heard. So 600k for speaker cables, you got any pics or descriptions of those bad boys? When i saw/heard Transparent Opus MM speaker cables i thought that was near the top, i guess i was wrong lol. I would love to hear about some of the vinyl rigs these people are running if you have any info on those too. thanks
Amen to that Viridian. How many more American Idol and like shows do we have to suffer with? Oh wait I forgot, its about the Benjamins. How could I have missed that!!!! yet again!!!

But I degress, the thread is about showing off one system to a neophyte??? In the final analysis, who really cares ?? No one but said owner of system asking for validation. The super rich need no such validation of which I have been constantly reminded of for more years than I can possibly remember.

Main thing enjoy what you have and the music one derives from it. If others happen to enjoy - fine - but keep in mind it is not validation. The validation is you and no one else. It all about the music and your perception of recorded music in what medium you choose to listen to.

Listed below are some of the creme d'la creme systems I have heard, over the past 48 years,

Michael Bishop, Telarc Records
Jack Renner, Telarc Records
Bob Woods,Telarc Records
CBS Listening Room, Century City,CA.
Telarc International Corp
Herb Alpert
Ricky Lee Jones
Arturo Sandoval

Of this bunch I remember the Telarc Labs system very well indeed. Oops forgot to menetion the ever changing system we had while I was with CBS NY in the 70s. Sometimes mind boggling and other times mind numbing, but always searching and pushing the envelope of what was possible. Nice when one has those kind of resources to use.
I must of not asked my question right to begin with. Plain and simple i wanted to know what fellow A'goners did when having newbies listen. People who could care less about audio until finally hearing somthing other than their wave radios or ipods. Not showing off, not bragging just the thrill of good music. hoping to open the door if you will for these unfortunate souls.
Jlind325is, as others have mentioned, I simply ask what kind of music a guest likes and then try to play something they enjoy and are familiar with. If they like what they're hearing, we keep exploring other music they like, if I have it. I've found that it's the music my guest is most familar with that will suck them into becoming aware that they're hearing something special when they're over here. If they don't recognize that the sound quality is better than they're used to hearing, I don't keep trying to open that door for them, we just enjoy some music together.
This is the best answer I can give. After 8 years of owning a high end shop, I can only remember about one convert per year and that was long before MP3, I Pod and other portable mediums.

For the most part high end or quality systems just do not appeal to the masses. Today I feel it is much tougher to open the door to the uninformed. When I Pod and MP3 offers the total ease of music reproduction,albeit the sonics are just dreadful to say the least. High end audio for all its prowess in the last 30 years has yet to expand beyond its core group of customers and that base is shrinking each year as this group ages.

While music remains important in peoples lives, its the delivery of the music that has dramatically changed and continues to influence the newbies. They cannot justify the expenditure, time and effort audiophiles put into systems, when they have other delivery methods, that appeal to them at far lower costs.

The only convert I have had of late occured about 4 years ago while I was in the Denver,area. A gentleman and his grandson visited my home as he wanted to purchase some vintage gear that I had. At the time had four systems up and running. As we were discussing, the college student was listening to his MP3 player through headphones. As I was demonstrating the systems, his eye caught hold of a turntable, thats when he got involved. He had only heard about these and never heard one. So I showed him how to use the turntable and the system and pretty much left him to his own devices. The system was a Classe DR8 power amp.,Classe DR5 preamp, Denon 1560 CD Player,Denon DP61F turntable pushing some original Quad 57 speakers.Showed him where the CD Discs were and the LPs. Told him knock hinself out. High end yes, but a little long in the tooth. Continued showing the other systems to his Grandfather, who ended up buying a good deal of equipment.

At the end of the day found out that the Grandson was a music major at U of C. He thanked me for letting him use the Classe system and that the sound was all he could ask for. He really enjoyed being able to use a turntable and all. So with that they left. I had some cash and Grandad had some very nice gear. Grandad did not buy what his Grandson listening to. He bought an Acoustat system.

About two weeks later the Grandson shows up at the front door and says remember me? I got some money and want to buy a few things from you. And with that the music major was getting into high end audio. And over the course of the following year he got into it in a big way. But his friends never did.

I believe that everyone has to find their own way into high end audio and I further believe if I had tried to sell or demo something to him, it would have turned him off. But by letting him find his way on his own, he found the pleasures of owning a high resolution system.

Perhaps this is not the precise response to this thread, but is offered as my last experience with a young newbie.

I expect studios have very different electronic gear needs from home audio playback systems but what about the speakers?

Can you describe any of the speakers that the creme d'la creme use in these awesome systems you have heard?

Listed below are some of the creme d'la creme systems I have heard, over the past 48 years,

Michael Bishop, Telarc Records
Jack Renner, Telarc Records
Bob Woods,Telarc Records
CBS Listening Room, Century City,CA.
Telarc International Corp
Herb Alpert
Ricky Lee Jones
Arturo Sandoval
I've had two main reactions to my system over the last few years from non-audiophiles. One is complete disinterest, the other is that they're intimidated. Tube amps, big weird-shaped speakers and a dedicated room will do that to people. The disinterersted folks usually want to hear a particular piece of muisic, and couldn't give a flying fig what I play it on, so I just slap it on and let it play. The intimidated ones usually want to hear the system, so I'll ask what style of music they prefer and pick the best-recorded example I have. I rarely give any kind of commentary about audiophile virtues, I just let the music speak for itself.

I haven't made any converts, but I have opened a few peoples' ears as to why I spend insane amounts of money on this hobby. I've had a number of people say "Holy &#!%", and a few say they've never heard recorded music sound so real. One woman had all the hairs on her arms and neck stand up while listening to some Garnet Rogers through my Abbys. That is gratifying. The disinterested ones usually say, "Sounds really nice, thanks" and then we go have a glass of wine.
These systems and their speakers are not what one would call off the shelf brand name. In fact I do not remember seeing a brand name on any of the speaker drives and of course the cabinents were hand crafted one offs. But with that being said all of these speakers were quite large and built with very high quality drivers, that you could tell by just looking at them. All of these were in very large rooms, after all if your going to reproduce a standing 30Hz standing wave, the room has to be near 50 feet in length or more. This was in the day before subwoofers became somewhat common place. It has been some 20 years since I last heard one of those systems, but clearly the system at Telarc Sound Labs was nothing short ot total mesmerizing. Telarc produces some of the worlds finest Classical and Jazz recordings ever produced. So their system has to be able to reproduce the sonics they achieve in the recording medium. Telarc needs to be able to actually reproduce a full blown symphony orchestra at real time levels in order to judge the quality of the recording.

When one gets into this realm, literally nothing is off the shelf. Since 1986 was the last time I was at Telarc, I can only imagine what they have now!

I would say call Bob Woods at Telarc, if he is there, he will talk with you, one of the nice guys in the business. Might be able to find out what their using now. In fact think I will call him myself tomorrow, its been awhile and always a good to make contact once again. Not many good guys in the music business.

I wish there was a way to verbally transmit what these systems sound like and all the adjectives I have fall far short of the experience. You just have to be there.

But I can tell you I have never heard anything one can buy off the shelf, that comes close to the overall sonics of these systems. When one does not have to compromise the results are breath taking.
It is almost like listening thru 'their ears' when I demo the system for someone who is not engaged in this hobby. I usually try to select music that they like, and are familiar with, yet is recorded to a high standard- and save the grotty recordings that are purely about the performance for my private listening. Interestingly, one neophyte- she, a scientist, though, who understood issues about nasty AC and small signals, suggested that I play something I hadn't listened to on the system. I try to do that everytime i listen now (which is almost always a solitary exercise).

Try this search on google "Bob Woods Telarc Loudspeakers". Interesting reading.

This is probably not the same system you heard back in 1986. Although judging by the comments this system appears to be an improvement on what you heard (hard to believe but that is what Bob says himself).
I am never an initiator when it comes to this. I usually let the guest inquire first and show some interest. And if they do, then fine. Other than that, you'll be waisting electricity. To someone who doesn't care about music too much it will make no difference listening to your hi-end stereo or listening to a boombox on the beach.
As far as music selection, I usually ask what they want to hear. If they have no answer to that, then anything that sounds good to you on your system will do.
Thanks for all the suggestions and comments everybody. i am working on my first convert right now, we will see if he bites on it or keeps swimming.
Shadorne, thanks for the update on the Bob Woods Telarc google link. Called Bob Woods at Telarc, but he is on vaction till 7/19/06. So will make contact at that time.

I wonder where the previous system is?? Got to find out.

Now I've got to make a return trip there, to hear this new system. ATC has a literal client list of whos, who in the music business. Never heard them, but that will change.
people are always far more interested in my music collection than the equipment.
07-06-06: Jaybo
people are always far more interested in my music collection than the equipment.

do they attempt to re-arrange it as well? lol
always.....it is done by geographical location.....memphis is under memphis regardless of music catagory, etc. Yiu can have a living history lession on regional music this way
Many of my friends play music. So, I bring them INTO my system under the pretense of it being an introduction to simulated Quad. (using a Sansui QR 4500 for my main amp) and running four front speakers and four back with a small sub. Have a Dynaco pre (Pat 4) to help the Sansui push the speaker array.

When you sit in the sound center of the room, you can move your head just slightly in any direction and everything changes and different parts of the music recede and some peak out from different parts of the room. My system is anything BUT high-end (well, except for the Tandberg 3014 cassette I just added...) but it really does sound incredbile where I like it most, at high volume.

What is usually the theme of any demo is how loud the system is, yet really not loud like a car system with big sub, more subtle loud with depth and clarity, directional yet expansive, the Quad decoders really give me control within the mix and a great richness even at the edge of top range (about 5 on the Sansui and 5 on the Pre). I've been very methodical in putting together a vintage system that can push all my "toys" to full range. It also makes a great surround sound for movies without having to invest in a high-end 7.1 channel receiver, I have eight channels plus sub so in the end, my vintage amp wins the day.

My system is a mish-mash of brands, most of which would be considered mid'level, if that. That's the fun for me, to be able to put together a vintage system that can wow people in the room, and provides a great booth for me to do mixes in as I record a ton of cassettes and CD's and do some dubbing/mixing with multiple decks and tables.

For me, it's not about what your "victim" is used to hearing, although trying to be in the ballpark of their musical tastes can make their experience, understanding AND appreciation for what you've built, a much better time. I try to give people a number of themes, mostly rock, some jazz, and I have some great classical too.

If I'm just showing off, I play RUSH 2112 from the L.P., side one, and I can pull out my one Quad album, Rick Derringer's "R&R Hoochie Koo" which can be incredibily directional and as close as I can get to "real" quad, it's really live sounding once dialed in. Bottom line is that you ARE showing off your system, you SHOULD make the experience about your system, but first, you have to get them tuned in too, and listening! You can play them something they might know to start off, but then wow them with something that sounds really good on your system and watch their heads explode (with joy of course).

I'm enjoying this thread!
Pray that something doesn't blow up!
Make them take off their shoes and check all shampoo, toothpaste, hair gel, and bottled water at the door.
sometimes i will ask for sonic preferences. i can change cable or preamp depending upon my visitor's taste.

hopefully, my guest has brought some CDs, so that i won't have to inquire as to artists or genres.

i am not concerned as to any person's opinion as to the sound of my stereo system.
Mrtennis, your first sentence and last sentence seem incongruous to me. If you're not concerned about a person's opinion of your system's sound, then would you go to any length to make adjustments to suit your guest's sonic preferences by changing cables or preamp?
Tvad, I think what Mr T is saying is that if his guest found his system dull becuase of rolled off highs, for example, he wouldn't be offended if his guest asked for something a bit more lively and 'bright'. Just a guess.........
Stickwork-glad to hear you enjoyed my thread!

Sdatch-i have always worried that when im about to demo my rig a tube will go or the amp will go tits up. Nothing has happened yet but that one time when it does, that will be a definate blow to my ego. lol
newbee you are correct. i make an attempt to create a presentation that another person would prefer.

if he is not happy with the sound, his reaction is of no concern to me.

if a visitor asks to listen without any changes and doesn't like the "sound", it's mind over matter--i don't mind and his/her opinion doesn't matter.
Stop the dog from trying to eat them!lol.
I let my guests into the music room, and let them browse, while I trundle off with the dog to make a nice cup of tea(hot). On returning with tray of tea(hot) and goodies,not as many on the tray as was when I left the kitchen (blame the dog), they usually have a few cd's in their hands that they would like to play. I would take the cd's and inspect their selection, putting the ones down that I know my system doesn't play well (only kidding). The rest is as they say, history.lol.