A long night of the ears

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In front of a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3 loudspeakers driven by Mark Levinson electronics, all fed by an AURALiC Aries streamer, sit two rows of six chairs, not one of which is empty. The room is packed full of dudes, mostly middle-aged – it’s standing room only. Out in the street, more middle-aged fellas queue for entry. Huddled together under a canopy they dodge the rain but not the rapidly falling temperature.

This could be an audiophile meet anywhere in the world. It could be Los Angeles, Sydney or London…but this is Berlin; specifically, Hifi Im Hinterhof, one of the city’s most beloved and largest hifi stores.

On a cold, wet Saturday night, the store’s twelve demo rooms – that straddle both sides of Kreuzberg’s Großbeerenstraße – are set to run after hours from 5pm until midnight.

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On the agenda are audio gear demonstrations from some of high-end audio’s most well-respected brands: AudioQuest are here to show off their Niagara power conditioners; Naim demonstrate an ongoing marketplace synergy with Harbeth loudspeakers; an entire room is given over to high-end headphones; across the courtyard are the UK’s Cambridge Audio, showing off their streaming media chops.

Tonight in Berlin however, Hifi im Hinterhof aren’t the only ones maxing out their demo spaces. Eight more of the city’s high street hifi retailers will also hold their doors open through to the stroke of midnight.

Joining the dots are half-hourly shuttle buses that take punters from here in Kreuzberg to Boxen Gross’ Linn Klimax demo to the Dynaudio Contour’s local debut at King Music to a schooling in ELAC/Roon streaming at Hifiplay to Hifi Studio 10’s Martin Logan electrostats (and more).

In other words, a decentralised audio show, already in its ninth year, that sidesteps the setup challenges of hotel rooms and makes use of existing, well treated spaces. One that requires no external agency for its organisation and charges its exhibitors no room rental where appearances (presumably) become invite only.

This store-based audio show concept is rendered all the more potent when we consider the thirty or so rooms that made up the Chester Group’s recent shows in New York and Melbourne. In theory, each of the nine Berlin stores need only offer up four rooms each to top that. In reality, they deliver more.

Damen und herren: Wilkommen zu Lange Nacht Der Ohren. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Long Night of the Ears.

An espresso and a grappa pull yours truly away before a chance to board the bus but I’ll be back next year for a longer, wider look.

Oh – and a hearty shout out to AudioQuest’s regional sales manager for Germany, Thijs Helwegen, for spinning a lesser-known Lou Reed cut: “Vanishing Act” from 2003’s live album Animal Serenade. Tidal here, Spotify here. (Gentle proof that it isn’t mandatory to fall back to the Boz bloody Scaggs heard elsewhere).

Further information: Lange Nacht Der Ohren

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Written by John H. Darko

John lives in Berlin, Germany. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also a very occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR

12 Comments

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  1. I wish we had something like this here in Detroit. We do have an annual techno Music festival which attracts more than 100,000 people. Kraftwerk showed up a couple of years ago too for the headline act.

    Here in US, people are obsessed with home theater above all else. I had a friend tell me that 128 Kbps MP3 is “very high quality”, and “not everyone wants perfection” when I said I was going to spend $2000 on a pair of speakers. You don’t get perfection for $2000!

    Lot of People here in US don’t know any better than the cheap portable speakers they get from the local electronics chain. Klipsch, Bose and Polk rule, and Definitive Technologies is an aspirational brand (!).

    There are good local dealers for Auralic, Magnepan, Dynaudio, KEF, Cambridge audio and so on, but no organized effort like what you described.

    The HiFi industry needs to do a better job of promoting itself than hoping their goods will sell on the basis of quality alone.

  2. Ah, Germans… (I’ve lived in Germany too.) The banner for this event sounds like a grisly play on words derived from the famous (or infamous) massacre of the Nazi Sturm Abteilung by the SS in the 1930s, which was dubbed Night of the Long Knives. Only in Berlin…

    Sounds like a lot of fun though. There’s also a good German language audiophile literature.

  3. Very cool concept. Of course you actually need to have hi-fi stores to accomplish it. New York, right now is a difficult market because of soaring real estate prices and American interest in audio can’t compare to Europe’s because of gross cultural differences….Thanks for letting me know about this! Meanwhile in Poland last weekend they had more than 12,000 attendees at an “old fashioned” type show…

    • Hey Michael – yeah, I would’ve attended the Polish show had it been a week later but I’ve only just arrived in Berlin and finding an apartment proper is top priority. I hear Warsaw put on a terrific event that attracts normal folk, not just weirdo audio dudes. Next year, for sure. Are there not enough dealers in Manhattan to make the Long Night Of The Ears happen in NYC?

  4. Great stuff John, but there’s no way I’d be wandering the streets of Berlin at night in November just to listen to a couple of tunes, regardless of how good the gear is. Also heartening to see that Fremer no longer wants to cut your head off and have it mounted on his wall for a piece he misconstrued as vinyl heresy 😉

    On a more sombre note, I expect the price of everything to go up (and our dollar to go down) here in Oz from January 20 – anyone contemplating new gear might be well advised to take the plunge now rather than later.

    • For some Berlin would be too cold, wet for this type of event. My point is that this event model is transferable to New York or Melbourne or wherever there is a reasonable concentration of inner city stores and dealers are happy to collaborate.

  5. Hi John, Great stuff!
    There is enough (at least 10 I can think of) high quality dealers in Manhattan:
    http://innovativeaudiovideo.com
    http://stereoexchange.com
    http://www.soundbysinger.com
    http://brighthometheater.com
    http://www.parkavenueaudio.com
    http://inlivingstereo.com
    http://www.lyricusa.com
    http://ciamara.com
    http://audioarts.co
    https://www.turntablelab.com
    Most of these dealers been open and served music enthusiast for decades. They are all cab ride away from each other – and some pleasant walking distance with few pints in between. Stereo Exchange, In Living Stereo, Bright and Turntable Lab comes to mind. Sure the landscape over past decade shifted rapidly and none of these dealers will survive without custom installs and home theater. Yet they all provide wonderful 2 channel experience to New Yorkers and tourists. They all have multitude events throughout the year – just not together. Perhaps someone needs to organize the efforts and put an event together. Wink, Wink. Cheers! Jerry Cmehil, Well Rounded Sound
    PS – please forward this to Mr. Fremer as he is not aware that there are HIFI stores in Manhattan…:)

    • Thanks Jerry – I only really know In Living Stereo and Stereo Exchange but they are pretty much round the corner from one another. If dealers could come together, Manhattan would provide the perfect location for this dealer-centric show idea to spread.

  6. Hi
    You should check out phonophono in the Bergmannstr. as well. They offer a weekly listening session with different themes:analogue vs. digital, phono, loudspeakers etc. PhonoPhono is close to HiFi im Hinterhof which was – not only in my opinion – a better store before they decided to not treat everyone the same.

      • Cool. Maybe we meet by accident in one of the upcoming Friday sessions. Next Friday the theme is “Phono justification”. I want to take a look at some affordable and different german Loudspeakers (www.Duevel.com). Kind of German Physics with a nice price tag and less demanding.

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