The PLASA show is one of my favourite things of the year. There's cool sound desks you can play on, there's people on stands just as enthused about connectors and cable as I am, there's like-minded techies to share some free alcohol with and, most importantly, free catalogues!
This year was a little different, though. Working for an exhibitor meant I did four days of setup prior to the show, and spent most of the show standing on Avo's stand, demoing to the punters. The biggest challenge was the half-hour lunch break, which was the only time I had to look round the show, meaning I had to pick which stands I went to very carefully.
On the Sunday I had a quick fly round Earls Court, spying out any stands I might like to visit, and looking out for Optogate's stand, which I'll come to later.
I ended up accidentally spending my whole lunch break on Harting's stand. When there's sound stuff to be played with, a twenty minute conversation about the connectors we use on multicores seems excessive. However, they had new products, including their "Yellock" connector, and I had an actual discussion about whether coffee could go down the pneumatic module for the modular HAN.
The icing on the cake, though, was when he offered to send me a two-inch thick catalogue! This arrived a couple of days ago, and was worth the wait.
During my scouting session on Sunday I'd mainly been looking for Optogate,my most favourite company ever. However, even an extended glance through the program didn't find them.
This was very sad, partially because I wanted to visit the stand, but mostly because in an email exchange a few months earlier, Axel had promised "the best coffee in London", an opportunity too good to miss.
So imagine my amazement when, whilst walking out of the toilet, I see a crazy-looking German with a badge saying "Optogate". He pointed me right in the direction of the stand, from which I claimed the promised coffee.
As for whether it was the best coffee in London, I'm not 100% certain, but it was pretty good, even after his slight accident with the cream!
I spent the whole of my lunch break drinking the coffee and looking at their latest products, ranging from a fully tube guitar amp (a mere €750) to an improved smart DI box. I vowed to pop back the next day to buy an XLR pink noise generator, which was £45 less than I expected.
The guys are slap-bang in the middle of metal and genius, and their website's
worth a look.
Tuesday began with a quick trip back to Optogate, which took a lot longer than planned, as they offered me more coffee! I had another nice chat with the guys though, and tried to persuade them to do a bass version of the tube amp!
The rest of lunch was spent picking up a Sommer catalogue (great reading material) and having a brief look round Earls Court Two, which was a little disappointing.
My last day, and last chance to play on Allen & Heath's new digital console, the GLD80. It was highly recommendable, given it's price relative to the iLive series, and would quite happily keep me gigging. There's always the question of the new Behringer X32, but that's for another time. In short, it's at least three grand cheaper than the comparable iLive, and the main thing you miss is modularity and scalability, which both represent investments of much more than three grand extra anyway.
After passing Nexo's stand all week whilst we were rigging, I thought it was finally time to see what they offered. It wasn't worth a long trip, but I'll be looking at their catalogue again once I come to buy some speakers (assuming I still can't afford anything by D&B).
The great tragedy of Wednesday was that Neutrik had run out of catalogues, only having the catalogue of their discount brand "Rean". Neutrik didn't have anything new and exciting, other than a slightly modified OpticalCon, which is significantly out of my price range, so I didn't stay long.
Right next to their stand was RJS, who make switches. Every year I like to have a feel of the clicks, and watch lights flash - their stand is like an R&D pitcher plant! Unfortunately the sales guy saw my Avo t-shirt, and kept me there for the rest of my lunch break, trying to persuade me to buy their imitation Schadow switches (word from up top is that this won't be happening, so no need to fear). My honest opinion is that they were good switches, but not quite
as nice, and that makes all the difference when you're used to real Schadows.
The Avo Stand
I couldn't really not mention the Avo stand. Approaching 40 hours of standing time during the week, it was hard on the feet. It took four days to set it up, with a (first ever) day off before the show started. Breakdown took less than 24 hours, and saw me driving flightcases whilst heavily ill, due to "PLASA flu", which I may have caught off an MA user...
I was demoing the Titan One, our new DMX dongle. After a day or so I had the demo down short enough that I could demonstrate how to program a show in about thirty seconds, which seemed to get people interested. My blog isn't here to sell them, but a £70 DMX dongle that comes with a fully unlocked version of Titan (the software running all Avo's desks) is a bargain, and I'd recommend getting one, even if you're normally a sound guy!
This year's roundup is much shorter than last year's would have been, due to working a stand. However, despite my accidental tendency to spend far too long at the more "boring" stands, I didn't feel I missed anything.
Next year brings a whole new load of excitement, as PLASA's moving to the Excel.I'm not yet sure if I'll be on the Avo stand, as I should be back at uni by then, but keep your eyes open in 2014, when I might be demoing my rackmount coffee machine!