See also Walkabout at the KLIAV Show 2012
THERE is a conflict in my mind over what to expect from an AV/hi-fi show. Are my expectations justified, given the market realities in this part of the world? Or am I just being an idealist?
Let me explain – I attended my first show, the popular but now-defunct Penta Hi-Fi Show in Heathrow, London, in 1991, and then did the trip four years in a row! I was there on trade days – for industry players, distributors and journalists – and open days for the general populace, and met a number of legendary designers and manufacturers.
It was where British and other European manufacturers displayed their latest wares, and spoke to the media about them. When one was done visiting the rooms where hi-fi equipment was displayed, one could go to the foyer area to shop for accessories, of which there was a wide range … books, LPs, record brushes and cleaners … I still have some of these things with me today!
When I proposed holding a Malaysian hi-fi show to my current employers back in the mid-1990s, I held to the same ideals … that it would be a show to highlight new products. It didn’t take long for reality to set in, and by the end of the show’s eight-year run, it had merged with a computer show and developed into a bargain-hunters’ haunt. Time for a break … and it appears to be a permanent one. This is the reality of Asian hi-fi/AV shows, which are for distributors and retailers, and not manufacturers, who mostly are from Europe or the United States.
Which brings us to the KL International AV Show, an annual event organiser Dick Tan has broken his back on for nigh on two decades. No doubt, he’s made a decent living out of it, and it is the cornerstone of the local AV and hi-fi industry, drawing dozens of exhibitors (there were 70 this year) and audio/videophiles wanting to hear/view some high-end systems, and others with a nose for bargains (of which there are always a-plenty, in guise of optical disks, LPs, a variety of regular and quaint accessories, and hardware).
If this is where one sets one’s expectations of such an event, and with the right sort of company, the KLIAV Show is indeed a fun place to be … some would complain that, unlike its motoring or PC counterparts, it doesn’t always excel in the “model” aspect (you know, those ladies in skimpy outfits), but that’s just a distraction. Having attended the show regularly in recent years, I was looking for more meat (not flesh, do note), and on the first day of the show on Friday, I found a few gems. Unfortunately, being on photographic duties, I was limited to a just few minutes per exhibitor.
What I did note was that some of the regulars had down-scaled from previously. High-end hi-fi distributors like CMY Audio & Visual and Centre Circle Audio have put on more flamboyant sideshows in the past, but seemed subdued this time around. Panasonic and Sony showed some interesting stuff in terms of video (check out the splendid 4k and 3D-without-glasses display), with Sharp and Toshiba also in the thick of things. There was also a spattering of eye/ear-catching products in a number of rooms … I’m not going into the specifics as it won’t do some justice, but the Avantgarde speakers were heart-stopping for their presence (physical and sonic), the Sonus faber Aida glowered menacingly, and an array of McIntosh amps driving the flagship Focal Grande Utopia EM did a big conference room justice, while a number of luminary products drew audiophiles the way sugar attracts ants.
There were also some oddly fascinating things at the stalls, like a multi-gang AC outlet offering “premium” surge protection and energy saving capabilities, and some odd-looking wooden panels that I assume were diffusers and reflections to tune a room. And if you’re looking for vinyl, CDs, Blu-ray, and of course audio hardware, the KLIAV Show is where you want to be this weekend. As for mind-blowing new products … not much of a proliferation of those. Then again, tastes and expectations differ, and maybe I’m too much of a cynic for such things.
This, like I said, is a show for distributors and retailers, and for sweet deals – it is the AV/hi-fi industry’s equivalent to the numerous computer, travel and home living exhibitions in Malaysia. In fact, it is the only equivalent … and for the sake of Malaysian music lovers, audiophiles and videophiles, let’s hope Tan will keep at it for years and years to come, although I know even a seemingly indefatigable personality like him must be feeling the strain after all these years.
Exhibitors know they need an event like this, and my only suggestion to them – keep it lively and on the edge, bring us the future of AV and hi-fi, rather than letting us wait for it … this is crucial for endurance.