How the show looked from here

We've been bombarding you with news from the show all weekend, writes Andrew Everard, so rather than offer you a report on what went on, I thought I'd just give some impressions of how the show was for me, along with some of the things you possibly didn't see or hear.

Turning up at around 8.30 on Friday morning, I was immediately impressed by the crowd of visitors waiting to get in, which always bodes well on what is traditionally a day frequented by trade visitors and those die-hard enough to take a day off work to 'do' the show.

And on the What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision stand there was a mix of anticipation and bleary eyes - anticipation of the show opening and the imminent return of whoever'd been on the first of many Starbucks runs, and bleariness on the part of those who'd been up into the small hours fine-tuning the demonstration system.

Meanwhile up in the bar the 'Macbook twins', Andy Clough and photographer Peter Crane were wi-fi'd and hunched over their computers busily Photoshopping and Ectoing and posting the first of many news stories.

As the show opened, the website screens on the stand refreshed to display the 'show is open' story, and we were off.

Before long the crowds had arrived, the first demonstration was shaking the walls of the stand, and Ms Editor Newsome was having the first of many distraction moments as Daniel Craig emerged from the sea in Casino Royale on the screens of the Pure Theatre stand opposite us.

And the first visitor had taken me to task about the endless cable debates on the Forums - a hint to to grab the laptop and camera and take a wander...

A quick chat with Chord's very tall Cable Doctor, Nigel Finn, on the way out, a moment or two to sort the crick in my neck, and up to the Mezzanine floor. Time to check out Naim, Cyrus, Denon and Sony, pausing only for a moment to hear BADA PR Phil Hansen bemoaning the last tequila at the previous night's trade magazine party. We've all been there...

In the Naim room, the big news is the arrival of the company's new 'italic i' versions of the CD5 and Nait5 (above) - just for once, Naim products out of left-field and not rumoured and anticipated for many months.So why was the room playing the CDX2 and the SuperNAIT, fine though they sounded? Never did quite find out.

Next door to Cyrus, to check out the new slot-loading CD players. They look pretty slick, but the fact that the people in there were playing Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds would be enough to drive anyone from the room.

Later in the show I recognised the unmistakable sound of Alison Krauss's Baby, Now That I've Found You from the same source, which brought back memories of a Bristol Show long ago and far away when I must have played that track about 100 times in demonstrations. 1996, I think...

A quick look in the Dali room, and then into Denon, to check out the new S-52DAB DAB/dock/wireless one-box. Vey neat, but it was hard not to be distracted by the massive flagship processor and power amp on static display, even if it seems not all showgoers were as enraptured.

Across the hall to the Sony room and - what Sony room? No signs, and no signs of life! Huh?? A clue came when shooting the breeze with some colleagues in the corridor, as a Sony person staggered past under the weight of an STR-DA5300ES. So back down the hall, and a swift and very masonic knock on the door revealed Sony Technical Marketing Manager Eric Kingdon in some despair.

It seems the system was singing like a bird at bedtime on Thursday night, but come fire-up time Friday morning things had gone a little haywire, with players not talking to receivers, and projectors refusing to play ball too.

The obvious culprit? The usual bane of any shows - power supply - with a strong suspicion of a power spike over night. And that's another good reason not to leave your laptop and digital camera charging in your hotel room overnight, road-warriors...

By the time we got into the room, Eric had stripped out just about all of the system, boxes for Blu-ray players and projectors were all over the place and the display in the Sony booth down in the Best of Stuff show was being plundered as the fault-finding continued. Everything seemed to be working properly, but there seemed to be more HDMI thumbing of noses than HDMI handshaking going on.

Only when we returned much later was the sign back in place and the show up and running, the system sounding good being driven by the very modest STR-DG910 receiver - it was worth all the heartache, Eric!

By now it was about time for SIM2's launch of its new £20,000 top-end projector, and a striking step-by step demonstration moving up the range. Fascinating stuff, and the Hot Fuzz shoot-out clip looked stunning, as a 'Who's Who' of British character actors blasted each other with assorted weaponry. Respect to SIM2 for not showing an obvious action scene.

A noticeable trend at the show was the effort manufacturers had put into making their rooms look good.

Pioneer had an all-black room for its new Kuro TVs, with black-clad staff lurking in the darkness - and strangely, no sign of the controversial 'Pioneer vs the Award-winner' demonstrations this year!

Meanwhile Cambridge Audio had a coolly-lit, spacious room for its products, not to mention a seemingly inexaustible supply of branded bottles of water for thirsty showgoers. The big Mordaunt-Short Performance speakers looked and sounded good, while along in UK distributor Marantz's room, the new M-S Mezzo speakers were being launched.

In the same room, you'd have to have been pretty observant to spot the Marantz entry in the 'soundbar' market. The ES7001 Opsodis speaker (shown above, mounted above the DV7001) has two HDMI inputs and one output, and sells for £800.

Friday evening saw a reception to mark the 40th anniversary of Mordaunt-Short. (Note to PR people - terribly bad form to gatecrash an event like this and start offering the hosts' booze around in a very obvious fashion.)

Mordaunt-Short founder Rodney Short was on hand to share some stories and accept a pair of the new speakers, and I had a chat with him over dinner about the first 'serious' speakers I ever owned - a pair of the company's unusually shallow Pageants, bought in the late 1970s. Seems he still has, and enjoys, a pair of these classic speakers.

I was reminded on the Klipsch stand of my own hamfsted efforts at building a speaker on the assembly line in Canada of API, now owned by Klipsch - yes, I'd been trying to forget, although the speakers are still working - but it was good to see a Klipschorn speaker (left) in the corner of the stand.

It's a design as old as the company, dating from 1946, and still in production - nice touch to have a 3.5mm lead attached to it for iPod hook-up, emphaising its 105dB/W/m sensitivity.

Saturday morning saw me shut in my hotel room posting news to the site, so I missed the first rush of visitors, and only arrived on the WHFSV stand in time to miss the first Starbucks run, too.

The rest of the day was spent taking some final news pictures of product launches such as Tannoy's sleek-looking and fine-sounding Revolution Signature speakers, the Myryad one-box systems, and the tiny TVonics Freeview tuner.

I took another look at the Chord HDMI demonstration, had a brief listen to the new Audiolab processor, wondered why the IAG projector was rainbowing so much, told the 379th person that no, Onkyo wasn't at the show, met a few forum regulars and did some crowd-marshalling on the queue for the WHFSV demo room. And for anyone who was worried, yes Andy Kerr did come out of the room at least once during the day.

Other highlights? The marvellously dotty brazier-powered hot tub outside on the Stuff floor - was anyone daft enough to take the plunge? - and the guy I heard telling his mate it was 'heated by a brassiere'. Oh, and the chap who said to his partner in crime as they passed me 'Well, seems LCD's dead from today'.

Then there were the endless kids who played with our website display screens until they discovered you couldn't do anything much more than browse the site, WHFSV News Editor Joe Cox doggedly winding a Baylis torch/charger trying to get some juice into his phone to find out the Premier League scores, and the very mad giant rabbits in the Sony booth.

Possibly strangest products of the show? The subwoofer from Taiwanese company TwinMOS, in the shape of a traditional vase, and the OrbitSound speaker you hang round your neck and hook up to your iPod, thus creating a 'revolutionary personal stereo aura'. I'm still not sure I 'get' iPods, but I know I get this one even less!

And final honourable mention goes to the lovely little Asus EeePC on the Stuff showfloor: £200, wi-fi-enabled, small enough to drop in the camera bag and - look, I'm just buying one, right?

Packing one of those, these show reports on the run are going to get even easier. Watch this space...

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.