RMAF Past, RMAF Present, RMAF Yet to Come

Written by Bill Leebens

In years past I looked forward to RMAF as an opportunity to escape the perpetual swampy humidity of Florida, enjoy some actual crisp weather, and see leaves changing color. It was also the premier social event of the audio calendar (yes, I realize that “social” and “audio” may seem like an oxymoronic combination…but trust me on this), and one of the rare occasions when I was able to meet with colleagues from all over the world. There was also that one time when…oh, never mind. But high altitudes can be tricky for flatlanders.

Much has changed.

For the past two years I’ve lived and worked in Colorado, about 40 miles from the Denver Tech Center Marriott where RMAF is held. For all practical purposes, RMAF has become my home show. So, there is no longer the shock of 20% humidity and temperatures in the 60s that were so invigorating when traveling from Florida. I’ve been watching leaves start to change color for weeks now. And—importantly— I’ve learned how to drink at altitude.

The elements of shock and disruption that I always looked forward to no longer apply—but RMAF is still the premier social event of the audio calendar. Other shows have made headway, but they lack the heritage and history of RMAF: 2016 is the 13th edition.

I often make fun of the audio community, but in its weird, dysfunctional way, it is like a family. –No, strike that: it is a family. This year there have been a lot of changes and disruptions in our little world, with upheavals in the world of audio shows as well. The news that RMAF was facing some serious challenges tied to unfinished renovations at the Marriott provoked a number of sky-is-falling comments, but as always, solutions were found, and Marjorie Baumert will manage—did manage— to produce another memorable show.

Yes, there will be some omissions and changes, things will look different or will be in different places, and some attendees and exhibitors will pass. That’s hard for us obsessive types. Oh, well. Get over it; the show must go on. Will go on.

As any veteran audio show exhibitor can and likely will tell you at length, exhibiting at an audio show is a pain in the ass. Imagine shipping valuable, often unique items halfway around the world, hoping they escape the potential brutality of shippers and the unpredictable whims of customs, and make their way to the right place at the right time, in one piece and fully functional. Hell, as much as these folks travel, it’s tough enough for them to arrive fully functional.

Add in the joyless trudge that is air travel these days, the unpredictability of hotel room construction and acoustics, the variability of AC shared with hundreds of other high-powered systems…

Get the picture? I’ve had two years to tweak my audio system in my Colorado home, and I’m still not happy. These folks have to set their megabuck gear up in strange rooms and make that set-up shine, in front of thousands of folks and the press.


Pressure, much?

It’s a job I’m happy to leave to the experts. I’ve been to a lot of shows over the last 30 years, but I’ve never aspired to doing set-up. Acid reflux be thy name.

The plus side of all this? Other than the possibility of some recognition and affirmation (by no means guaranteed), there is a great joy at the sense of acceptance that comes from being greeted by familiar faces. Many of us work remotely in home offices, making contact with one another by phone or email, and being able to just plain be together is…special. There is also the sense of community that all geek tribes strive for: after months of quizzical glances and comments of “you do WHAT?” and “they still MAKE that stuff? In AMERICA??”…it’s just a relief to be surrounded by folks who understand, who get it.

By the time you read this, RMAF 2016 will be over. I hope you managed to attend, and I’m sure it was a grand time.
Next issue, we’ll have pictures and stories from the show. Maybe that way we’ll be able to make sure you understand.

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