The Toronto Audiofest wrapped up its second-annual event on Sunday, October 20 at the Westin Toronto Airport Hotel. The event welcomed industry members, audiophiles, and those curious about audio to experience better sound.
The event, which hosts several exhibits, 100 demo rooms and suites ranging from 240 to 2,400 square feet in size, and product exploration areas covering everything from personal audio and headphones to hifi speakers, turntables, AV receivers, and more, offered free admission for industry members as well as consumers who wanted to browse and experience what's new. Some sales were made on hand as well.
Exhibitors included a mix of manufacturers, like Focal Naim Canada, Totem Acoustic, Yamaha, and Bryston, distributors like Gentec International, Gemsen, Motet Distribution, and Kevro International, and retailers like Kennedy HiFi and American Sound of Canada. Products were shown and demo'd as single pieces as well as complete systems. WiFi HiFi contributor David Susilo highlighted his experience at the event, and a few pieces of his favourite gear from the show, in his post-show report.
Audiofest Was a Success
The event was a roaring success, says organizer Michel Plante, who told WiFi HiFi last year that he and his partner Sarah Tremblay decided to launch the event after hearing from the industry that they wanted such a show in Toronto. The Montreal Audiofest has been an annual event for years, but this event brings the same flare to Ontario, attracting visitors and exhibitors from across the province and beyond.
Plante says they welcomed 3,400 visitors over the three days this year, which was on par with last year. Friday was the slowest day, and Plante says they'll be looking to find out why and come up with a solution to bring in more attendees on the first day next year. There were also far more men in attendance than what is seen in Montreal, at about 95% to 80%. Plante wants to work on changing this, too, finding ways to attract more women to the show.
The 2019 Toronto audiofest aimed to attract a new generation of hifi enthusiasts with an AudioTeens demo room, designed by and for Gen-Zers aged 13-19, and including gear from brands like Kanto Audio and Totem Acoustic.
This year in Toronto, however, audiofest did aim to attract a new demographic, Gen-Zers, with its AudioTeens room on the 15th floor that was decked out with gear specifically targeted to 13-19-year-olds. Set up by teens, including Plante and Tremblay's daughter Alex and Katharine, daughter of XLO Electric's Lily Luo, the room featured products from brands like Kanto Audio and Totem Acoustic. Using social media platforms, the language of a new generation, teenagers were invited to come check out the room and gain a better understanding of the value of not only getting better sound than what they might get with a cheap pair of earbuds, but also in sharing their musical experiences with others versus relying solely on personal listening. They were able to explore and listen to products that might appeal to them in style, sound, and price point. Plante says the initiative went very well with attendees asking a lot of questions; the organizers ran out of coupons for a raffle by the second day. "Many people commented that AudioTeens needs to be highlighted more next time as their message is important for the future generation," he adds.
In addition to manufacturers andd distributors showing off their latest and greatest in-market gear, some brands also used the show to launch their newest offerings. Highlights in this respect included MICHI from Rotel, Ministra from Neat Acoustics, the Rodger Hogson special edition turntable from Oracle Audio, and The White by Grado Labs.
The Theme and Entertainment
This year, the event's theme was the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, marked by clothing, accessories, and décor that fit with the peace, love, and harmony that was reflective of that iconic music festival including WiFi HiFi's own VW van Daisy, which was decked out in peace signs and other Woodstock-themed decals. Products were being sold out of her trunk to show-goers as well, through a partnership with Motet Distribution.
WiFi HiFi's VW van Daisy was parked outside of the hotel, showcasing items that show-goers could purchase right from its trunk.
In addition to demo suites littered through several floors of the hotel, which visitors could find by following the signage (or using the handy show guide), there were also conference tracks, seminars, and musical performances. "The presence of Mark Pinske [Director of Engineering and Senior Engineer at Skylab Studios] and his conferences have been very much appreciated," says Plante, who also highlighted demos from the team at JL Audio and seminars about turntable set-up that were offered by Richard H. Mak and sponsored by Corby's Audio and Audio by Mark Jones. "They were jam packed," he enthuses.
Harpist Isabeau Corriveau provided a lovely interlude for show-goers who would stop and listen to ber gorgeous voice and beautiful sounds.
Jazz singer Anne Bisson was one of a few musical artists to put on lovely live presentations during the show.
One of the most soothing parts of the show was the performances by Harpist Isabeau Corriveau, who captivated show-goers with her mesmerizing skills and vocal talents, along with live presentations by jazz singer Anne Bisson and cellist Vincent Belanger.
Any hiccups experienced last year were addressed at this year's event, such a lack of easily accessible food options (catered boxed lunches were brought to exhibitors) and more parking (attendees were able to park in the larger lot as well this year.) Plante says the hotel was much better organized and the staff had a better understanding of the show's specific needs, leading to a much smoother outcome. Since many exhibitors returned to the same rooms they had last year, they also knew the set-up and acoustics, and used what they learned and observed last year to choose equipment that was best-suited to the demo room.
Feedback From Exhibitors
The exhibitors we spoke with were e in good spirits, and appreciated the event and the business and awareness it helped build for their brands.
"The show was organized very well," says Dick Tuerlings, Managing Director of the Audio Division at Markham, ON-based distributor Gentec International, which handles brands like Klipsch in Canada. "A shout out to Sarah and Michel. As the audio industry needs these types of shows, we will be participating on an ongoing basis."
He adds that while he found attendance to be good on both Friday and Saturday, and the overall quality of attendees was great, he felt that Sunday was a bit soft. Nonetheless, he adds, "we look forward to next year."
Kanto Living exhibited at the show for the first time this year, and Marketing Manager Brett Smalley says he was extremely impressed with the organization and support they received. "Everything was laid out well and it was clear where to go to find vendors. The volunteers were helpful and the entire event was great! We weren't entirely sure what the traffic would be like, but pretty much from open to close, we had visitors entering our suite. Well done Michel and Sarah!"
Many exhibitors commented that attendees weren't just browsing, but many were serious buyers who were interested in following up with purchases at their local retailers, some of whom were exhibiting as well.
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