Virgin's guide to exhibiting at Scalford - or how I learned to play music too loud...

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Firstly what a great weekend eh!

Whilst recovering from the exertions (and the alcohol) I thought I would share my own experiences as a first time/ total newbie exhibitor at the Wam show. I'm not entirely sure whether it will prove helpful and encouraging to others, or just put would-be room hosts completely off - I hope it doesn't , but here goes.

So it started months ago...

It suddenly struck me in a flash of courage that I would like nothing more than to lug a car full of stuff to Scalford and subject unsuspecting passers-by to a selection of questionable music in a less than ideal room [check, done that]. Originally the idea was for IanS1 and I to showcase some mainly DIY stuff, so a DDDAC, a Bottlehead 300B preamp and IanS1's modded Sonos box. Anyway as many of you know better than I would, that between signing up and attending, some things ermm tend to change - quite a bit in this case.

By the time Rabski had started putting the draft guide together...

Things had indeed changed. Bottlehead was broken so had bought a Graaf 13.5B2, and the DDDAC wasn't getting as much use as my Modwright Transporter. Within a month of the show and I had now acquired a big pair of Meridian DSP6000's. Even closer to the event I'd also bought an Anti-mode Dual Core 2.0, and the Graaf was not working. So what Ian and I settled on was to offer two different set ups, both digital streaming and both through active speakers. (BTW I do love vinyl and valves and maybe that's something for next year's show). Night before I sat and sorted a playlist which had about 7 hours worth of sounds, and that's not including the tunes on Ian's list.

Saturday 12pm...

We packed up two cars with all the assorted and very large boxes and made our way to Scalford, barring one Satnav malfunction, with relative ease. On arrival we then backed up the cars and began hand-balling over 200kgs of kit upstairs into Syndicate Room 5 - thank the Lord we were not on the second floor. Quite a bit of head scratching ensued as we had brought more stuff than we really needed and eventually decided to set up two completely independent set ups which we could switch between -


Saturday about 3pm ish...

Items not used included my 'vanilla' DDDAC NOS DAC, and Ian's Tom Evans Vibe preamp. So we had essentially two very simple stripped out set ups which were streaming and using the CDP/ TP as volume controls into active speakers. The slight SNAFU was that we had two different music libraries on different devices which we had not thought to be so damn difficult to amalgamate - basically mine was on a HDD linked to a Mac Mini, and Ian's on a Synology NAS which is how it stayed (note to self, sort this one out before you arrive next time). Due to the (ahem) different tastes that Ian and I don't necessarily share that meant we had very little music that was shared for comparison, and perhaps quite different flavours of music being demonstrated on each system.

Saturday about 5pm ish...

First obvious concern - mains access. Obviously two set of active speakers means needing 4 wall sockets ideally. I had brought the AG1500 regenerator to plug the sources into, and brought a couple of extension sockets but it still didn't quite work, and we need another strip. Duct tape on the cable down the middle of the room. Basically no matter how many boxes you think you have counted you will have forgotten some critical device (in my case an optical - coax converter) which needs power, and therefore you can never have enough mains strips.

Second concern - bloody computers. Yes I understand this is why some people don't like the very notion of a bloody 'puter being mixed up with the serious business of playing music. I brought a small projector to use to get the Mac linked to the router Ian had brought but bugger me it was like pulling teeth trying to get the damn thing to work. And to add insult when we plugged in the Antimode the Mac couldn't see it in Sound>Preferences, so lots of plugging/ unplugging/ swearing ensued...

Saturday about 6pm ish...

Switched the Anti mode input to USB and then hey ho it pops up in Preferences and we're in business - why didn't I remember that about 45 mins ago then? Time to get the Anti mode taking a measurement etc. Ian and I sat there in dead silence (well by that time I was layed on the floor) whilst the AM did its audible sweeps sending an ear bending frequency around the room. This is happening whilst Ian is trying to figure out a way of giving me access to his Synology drive so that we could write music from my HDD onto his NAS and then play either on the Opal set up. I think we tried it about 6 times before giving up - there were some other noisy bastards valued fellow exhibitors playing there music which unnerved the AM so that it would take a sweep but seemed completely unable to make up its mind as to what correction to apply, so it just repeated the sweep over and over...

Saturday about 7pm ish...

So we've given up on getting the AM to work right now and will come back to it later when things are a bit quieter (as if!). Houston, we now have a different problem - trying out a few tracks it well frankly sounds a bit shit. A lot shit really. Quite flat, and an absence of bass depth (this matches the AM measurement showing a sharp peak 25-30hz followed by a long suckout which never seems to come back up again!) Ian and I are starting to get hungry and irritable - this doesn't help the way it sounds!


Saturday about 8pm ish...

Whilst playing a few tunes with the wick turned up (to see if we could get some bass from exciting the room a bit!) its still meh, and now even worse we are playing John Campbell 'Down in a hole' and there's a spurious edgy sound coming through at the various points. We play the first minute over and over, then another track - dammit its still there. Then accompanying the opening bass line of JC is a more worrying electrical sound - shit is that the Sonos PSU? Ian has a spare Sonos (doesn't everybody) at home which he's anxious to head off to collect (plus extra power sockets etc).

Saturday about 9pm ish...

So I meander downstairs searching for solace of food and company to distract me from the impending disaster which is a big room with a shit sound coming out of it. Good news is there's plenty of veggie curry left, and I'm fortunate to sit down and get talking to a great bunch of Wammers (including StevieD, Tenson, Robholt and Cameron - dammit who have I forgot sorry, I did have a few...).

There's a nice atmosphere in the bar and lounge and we take in the sounds of Mark's (Missing Link) Quad set up. The Beaver-brew is not bad and going down very easily. Its not hard to find James - he's by the bar and to put it mildly, he's a big unit! Chat and a drink with Jack (BD Audio) and Rabski and the gremlins of room 5 are slipping away...

Saturday about 11pm ish...

Beer in hand, took a wander into a few rooms to have a listen.

- AdamK's Neats were knocking out some Joy Division very nicely (I didn't get back in on Sunday but thought I noticed that he might have completely moved his speakers around when I walked past). More than 'Very nice'

- JVS, just wow. I've never heard vocals sound just so there - Louis Armstrong sounded like he was singing just for me. A very special system.

Saturday about 12.30am ish...

I wander back to syndicate room 5. Everything's still switched on. I fire up a few tunes. Naaah, still sounds bloody awful, like cardboard, with zero impact. Halfway through my general depression one or two people p

opped their heads around for a quick listen - most agreed - it sounded shit! One of the late night visitors was armed with some Jura whiskey and kindly offered me a measure I think in consolation - was that you Rudy? Anyway, who-oever it was it was appreciated, as were the words of encouragement.

Saturday about 1.30 ish...

Back in the bar, with a taste for some cognac. Ah, Hennessy XO, one of my faves. Shared a couple of these, another pint and then off to bed for about 2.30am I think.


Sunday about 7am ish...

Aw shit, I drank too much. Feel like shit and still feeling the booze.

Shower and then stumble back into room 5 to get the Anti mode back on measurement duty, leave it while I go for breakfast.

Drink 6 glasses of OJ

Sunday about 7.30am ish...

Ian texts me - he'll be here in about half an hour - shit! Still a bit unsteady.

Sunday about 8am ish...

Back to the room, Yes, the AM has completed a sweep and produced a suggested correction. Save that and then dick about with the remote long enough to put a house curve on the bass to boost it away from a flat response in room.

Sunday about 8.15am ish...

Ian arrives like the cavalry and restores a bit of order. Plugs in the replacement Sonos and another extension cable. Its not ideal but we have the Meridians plugged into an extension socket from the wall, so now both set ups can run at the same time and switch over quickly from one to another.

Ian has brought nibbles and water - oh yeah!

Sunday about 9am ish...

Playing a few tracks it doesn't sound' too bad'. Remember at this point the Opals are playing straight with no real tweaking, whereas the Meridians have room correction from the Anti Mode.

Opals definitely sound free-er and less restrained. I think the Sonos at this point is showing its quality a digital source and sounds far more natural. First punters start floating in.


Sunday about 11am ish...

Okay so its been non -stop, and not a moment when the room hasn't had some traffic. Hangover mostly gone thank fuck.

We've been switching one system to the other at a reasonable frequency, at the moment I think the Opal system has the edge.

Sunday about 12am ish...

Blasting John Campbell out using the Opals and someone sat in the prime spot (second row centre) remarks 'where's the sub?'. Cool.

Sunday about 1pm ish...

By now we've had lots of comments about how good the Opals are. A few people interested in the merits of the AG1500 regenerator, and quite a few questions from people interested in streaming.

Sunday about 2pm ish...

Reckon that the Meridians have been warming up and according to a number of people who commented, they suddenly appear to come into their own. Radiohead 'No surprises'; Stevie Wonder 'Higher Ground' sound pretty good and get thumbs up from several visitors. I've been struggling to keep a playlist going on the Modwright and just scrolling through the artists and forgetting all the tracks I wanted to play. Suddenly remember to play Grace Jones 'Nightclubbing' from the Compass Point Sessions - turn the wick up - oh okay this is starting to sound okay.

Sunday about 2.30pm ish...

Take a break from the room and manage to rattle down the corridor and sample all too briefly a couple of other rooms. From what I can recall;

- Room 45: Tenson and Robholt, really like this, relaxed presentation, disco lights and very nice retro feel.

- Room 74: Take 5, Snell J's need I say more?! Asked for some dub and heard a nice Dreadzone track, toes tapping, yep good job.

- Room 73: Pluto, hard to get your head round how these sound so good? Thumbs up.

- Colman room: Non smoking man, playing Muddy Waters and sounding dramatic and so convincing.

- Syndicate 11: RJS, nice Lampizator system in a room that surely didn't do it justice, but very nice all the same

- Room 70: SCIDB, excellent and great music choices as expected. One of the best that hit the spot for me. Great blues track with call and response stuck in my head what was it dammit?

- Room 79: rmsshipbroker & setting son - brief listen but liked what I heard, really nice presentation, just made music.

Sunday about 3.30pm ish...

Back in room and starting to remember the tracks I wanted to play! Still pretty busy and fielding lots of questions about various bits and pieces.

Probably about the fifth person asked me if I wanted to sell the Meridians!

Sunday about 4.30pm ish...

Still busy but got a seat and had a listen to the system now it appeared to have warmed up properly.

Sunday about 5pm ish...

Ian wisely suggested we start to pack up. This is going to be a big job. Have to give big thanks to Trevor and Hearingisbelieving for staying behind and helping to pack up everything and get it loaded - really appreciated guys. Ian and I had started to flag (hours ago!)

Sunday about 6pm ish...

Remember I need to return the keys and settle up. Ah, was that how much I spent at the bar? That explains a lot then...

Sunday about 6.30pm ish...

Get in the car to drive home, stick the radio on and to my astonishment Villa have actually won at home, typically when I'm not there, anyway that's 3 points to help avoid relegation. Its pissing down with rain.

Sunday about 8pm ish...

Arrive home - knackered. No way that lots going to get unpacked tonight so wander in the house and get a beer. Realise I'm quite buzzed and start thinking about next year...


Monday about 7am ish...

Get up with the Monday morning Scalford ache. Oh shit I've got to unpack quickly and head off to work.

Reflections and thanks

Well for a first time and absolute beginner I reckon that went pretty well. Bit of a rollercoaster and very tiring but ultimately made worthwhile by all the acknowledgements and generous comments from people who dropped by for a listen - its really appreciated and made the effort feel appreciated so a big thank you.

Also a big thank you to all the fellow exhibitors - I fully appreciate all the hard work, thought and effort that goes into hosting a room - from what I heard you all did fantastic. More-over it was such a pleasure to meet and be amongst a crowd of enthusiastic and knowledgeable chaps who are friendly, approachable and good company.

And last but no means least thanks to James and all the support crew who helped make this happen and create a truly unique experience. Your hard work does not go unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.

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:^ Great write up Wayne, fun read and quite an adventure! :)

Happy to read the AM worked at the end - and all's well.

Saturday about 12.30am ish...

One of the late night visitors was armed with some Jura whiskey and kindly offered me a measure I think in consolation - was that you Rudy?

Yep, that was me.:)

Unfortunately, I couldn't make make it the next day, time really flies at Scalford and I needed to leave in a rush at 16:30 already.

Look forward to 2015!!

Back in the bar, with a taste for some cognac. Ah, Hennessy XO, one of my faves.

May I suggest to try a Delamain Vesper someday? Might become your new fav.

Yet, like audio, IMHO, YMMV ;-).

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Interesting tail, it may be easier next time, but I would not count on it.

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Nice write up Wayne and good to meet you.

The first time is always a bit daunting but you will be an expert when you do it all again next year.

I popped in Sunday afternoon - unfashionable on the wam but I liked the Meridians.

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- Room 74: Take 5, Snell J's need I say more?! Asked for some dub and heard a nice Dreadzone track, toes tapping, yep good job.


Ah, that was you. LOL

I thought you just asked just for a laugh!!

Cleared the room pretty quickly if I remember, but at least you and I enjoyed it.

I tried it again a few times, with the same room clearing effect. I dont think Dreadzone suits Scalford and I probably wont bring it next time.:)

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Bugger....I knew I missed 3 rooms due to running out of time. Looks like I missed this one too. :(

Saturday about 1.30 ish...

Back in the bar, with a taste for some cognac. Ah, Hennessy XO, one of my faves. Shared a couple of these, another pint and then off to bed for about 2.30am I think.

Note to self....never offer to buy you a drink.

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Syndicate room 5 was definitely one of the high spots of the show for me - both great systems but the Meridians were the winners by a good margin IMHO. Also, very interesting to hear the effect of the DSP Antimode on the SQ. Many thanks for taking the trouble to bring all that kit to the show.

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Great write up, cheers, I wish I'd had chance to visit and get our own rooms Dual Core set up:doh:.

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... unfashionable on the wam but I liked the Meridians.

I love those Meridians, personally. Just gutted I only realised they were there when i was back at home on Sunday evening and reading about all the rooms I'd missed! :doh:

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We switched between meridians and opals quite frequently. It was interesting that people expressed different opinions and had personal preferences, on the evidence of the feedback there was no clear winner.

I thought the meridians had more scale and a wider soundstage, whereas the opals rocked very hard and fooled a couple of visitors that we had a hidden sub.

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Top write up.. Has me tempted for next year . Also a virgin...

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Here's a list of the tracks played through the Meridians -

David Bowie 'Young Americans'

Stimulators 'Monkey Man'

Kraftwerk 'Numbers'; 'Computerworld'; 'Chrono'

Stevie Wonder 'Higher Ground'; 'He's Mystra Know It All'

Trentemoller 'Very Last Resort'; 'Snowflake'

Dr John 'Walk On Gilded Splinters'

Specials 'Blank Expression'; 'Stupid Marriage'

Rolling Stones 'No Expectations'; 'Can You Hear Me Knocking'

Grace Jones 'Nightclubbing'

Augustus Pablo '555 Dub'

Curtis Mayfield 'Pusherman'

Ramsey Lewis Trio 'Wade In The Water'

Radiohead 'No Surprises'

Telescopes 'And Let Me Drift Away'

Aretha Franklin 'Rock Steady'

Muddy Waters 'Mannish Boy'

James Brown 'It's A New Day'

Devendra Banheart 'Long Haired Child'

John Lee Hooker 'Money'

Belle & Sebastian 'Judy & The Dream Of Horses'

Elvis Costello 'Watching The Detectives'

Gary Numan & Tubeway Army 'Are Friend's Electric'

Human League 'Things That Dreams Are Made Of'

Doors 'My Wild Love'

Japan 'I Second That Emotion'

Spacemen 3 'Hypnotized'

Neil Young 'On The Way Home'

Nirvana 'Oh Me!'

Robert Pete Williams 'You Used To Be A Sweet Cover Shaker'

Portishead 'Wandering Star'

MGMT 'Pieces Of What'

Stephen Malkmus 'Pink India'

The Clash 'Junco Partner'; 'London Calling'

Love 'Alone again or' (live version)

Lou Reed 'Satellite of love'; 'Vicious'

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Very nice write up inspired me to give it a go

Great stuff, and a mild relief - I was conscious that the write up might put as many off as it encouraged.

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