My worst demo ever (so far...)
Now this was an experience!
Looking for a dealer with the Anthony Gallo Strada speakers in demo, I came across a 'shop' that sold this brand. Unfortunately he had no Strada in demo (and no Ref 3.5 either), though he was willing to sell me the speakers (blind, that is)...
What he did have, were some Totem models (Sttaf, Dreamcatcher and Tribe III). I had heard good things of Totem, so I made an appointment and went. I first couldn't find the shop, but it happened to be in the man's living room. Personal service, I like that.
He started right away with a demo of the Dreamcatchers, fed by a Sonos Connect:Amp(!), playing some internet radio station(!). The speaker wires went from the Sonos to a wall plug, and then from another wall plug (the other side of the room) to the speakers. The result was not particularly impressive, so to say. So I asked him to quickly move on to the bigger boys.
Those were in a chalet in the garden. A real amplifier here: an Einstein integrated hybrid amp (retail price €7000, he told me). The source was an Olive 03HD server, that doubled as CD player. All was ready, so I slipped a CD in the Olive's slot loader; the device swallowed my CD... and froze! Attempts to get the thing running were futile - the CD stayed in and it did nothing.
The dealer went and came back after some time, with a Denon CD recorder he had found somewhere in the house. We could then finally start to audition the Sttaf's, with the CD's I had left. Nice soundstage, good timing, but the music sounded shrill, with annoying sibilance to the voices. The (wall mounted) Tribe IIIs had the same unpleasant treble, but with lesser soundstage and poorer timing. (In the meantime the dealer kept trying to get my CD out of the Olive...)
I'm not sure if the speakers were to blame, or the electronics, the room acoustics or what have you. But it sounded dreadful... I wanted to leave ASAP. On our way out, the dealer told me 95% of his customers just bought "a hifi" or "a surround set" without bothering about the sound, as long as all was as invisible as possible. I kid you not!
So there I was, back on the street, having lost a couple of hours of my free time... and a CD. Ready to explore new hifi-shops in rural Belgium!