Top Audio Video 2011
by Ken Kessler | October 5, 2011
Top Audio Milano 2011 was a reminder of what hi-fi shows used to be like before the financial crisis. Okay, so the first two days were quiet, and the show was shy a couple of important exhibitors, but, equally, it hosted a few brand-new faces.
Then something unexpected happened: Saturday and Sunday were packed, and the crowds included women, children and a host of adult-under-40s. When the dust had settled and the headcount had been taken, the organizers revealed that 20,000 people showed up, to see over 700 brands. The only reason any of you might sneer is that the show wasnt restricted to high-end audio.
Its not so much that normal people (or those whove abandoned hi-fi) suddenly have a craving for single-ended triodes, hand-made moving-coil cartridges and electrostatic speakers. But neither were they captivated solely by the in-car audio, home cinema and iPod-related displays, which were sensibly isolated in their own halls to spare the sniffier audiophiles of reaching for the smelling salts. The newbies were buying vinyl, they were sitting through music-only demos, they were listening.
Of course, as with all shows, the usual suspects were in attendance -- the devoted audiophiles who wouldnt dream of missing Top Audio. Where things seemed skewed were the vinyl-and-CD sales area, which happened to be the first area of the show that you came upon, in a clearly defined selling space right after the entrance hall.
Like the Munich show, Top Audio bursts with LP vendors. What increased is the proportion of buyers who were younger and buying not reissues but rather vinyl versions of recent releases by current artists. The same individuals could be seen clustering around affordable turntables, as well as higher-priced-but-not-insanely-so models such as EATs rather cool E-Flat and the sleek and stealthy Avids.
In room after room, the hipper the hardware, the younger the crowd. The younger set drooled instead over Franco Serblins must-have Accordo speakers, the DAgostino Momentum amps (above, absolutely the hit of the show), and anything boldly colored or simply not looking like conventional hardware of yore. So, for once, I didnt mind the crowds around the B&W Zeppelins.
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