Linette Smith takes a Bird’s Eye View of the recent Audio Visual Show in Warsaw. 

I had never been to Poland before, so our Warsaw trip was going to be a bit of an adventure. Last year people told us it was an excellent show, and seeing as the organisers invited us as their guests, we thought we really should make the effort to get there.
It was dark by the time our flight from Paris landed at Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport, but then it does get dark pretty early this far east in the winter. Chopin was probably the city’s most famous resident so you find references to him all over, from museums to vodka. We hopped into a taxi to our hotel, the show organisers had booked us into the Golden Tulip, handily where part of the show takes place. One of the first things we noticed was how cheap things were. The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was 26 zloty, which is just over five pounds sterling. This theme continued with food and drinks, even in the show hotels, neither are what I would class as expensive.

The show doesn’t kick off until the afternoon on the Friday so we took a walk into Warsaw. Not the most pedestrian friendly city I’ve been too, it’s criss-crossed with a lot of big roads and woe betide you if you try and jay walk, it’s an arrestable offence here. There is an air of people being watched all the time, lots of security guards in all the shops etc and we did see a spectacular amount of police flying about in cars, vans and even a water cannon! However, people are incredibly friendly, even in the face of our knowledge of Polish being limited to “Dziękuję” which we learned by pronouncing it “Gin queer’ and means thank you, they helped us with ordering food that we could eat, get around the city etc. Seriously though, don’t be put off visiting if you don’t speak Polish, most places do have an English speaker or two and menus are often in English.

Warsaw was completely destroyed during World War II, both by bombing and monuments and official buildings being blown up by specialist German troops. In 1945 the Soviets took the city and began rebuilding under the communist regime, this included the ‘Palace of Culture and Science’ or the Stalin Building as it is unaffectionately known in Warsaw. The late 70’s and 80’s saw the rise of the anti-communist movement and since Poland became part of the EU in 2004 there has been a huge economic boom in Warsaw with many new buildings and a vibrant new culture. When you know about even the potted history of the city, things start to make a lot of sense, it’s a gritty place that has been shaped by a turbulent past, but has a ‘never say die’ attitude…it also explains why people are so into music here and, of course, their hifi.

So on to the show…

Split over three distinct venues of two hotels and the National Stadium, this is a big show, however each venue retains it’s identity. At the Radisson Sobiesky, despite having over 80 exhibitors, the feel is of a boutique hotel show. The rooms were incredibly well done and so much effort had gone into every single one. We visited on the Friday, which is the quietest day, almost like a press and trade day, still buzzy but not as packed as the Saturday, which we spent checking out the last few rooms here. Sunday we went over to the National Stadium, just a hop and a skip over the Vistula river by the coaches which run from the Sobiesky to the stadium every 30 minutes, though even if you get a taxi its only a few zloty. The stadium has a totally different vibe, more corporate, but also very tailored to families with lots of Audio Visual rooms, headfi zone and even ice skating and other activities on the stadium pitch itself. The show is well spread out over a couple of floors and uses the Sky Boxes for many rooms with their view out over the stadium. Though it is very busy it doesn’t feel overcrowded. We finished off Sunday at our own hotel, the Golden Tulip, which is just over the road from the Sobieski. The Tulip has only 8 rooms, all in the conferencing facilities, so these were bigger rooms and easy to wander leisurely around, taking in the sights and sounds.

There were a lot different brands, some familiar, there was plenty of really high end gear from the likes of Transrotor, Wilson, Naim and Cabasse to name just a few. The Polish people really like their high end gear and the brands brought their most aspirational products. They really love British brands along with German and American. There were also a lot of home grown brands, we are very familiar with some like hORNS and Lampizator but we also got to hear some new ones from Poland and other eastern European countries too. There were also some vintage exhibitors and that scene seems to be really popular in Poland.

It can be easy to go to shows and just hear the same brands over and over again, but here it felt like a real weekend of discovery, it was very refreshing. Also refreshing was the people that attended. I saw the most women that I ever have at a show, there were lots of couples and also families with kids in tow. It seemed like a real event and the atmosphere was lively and youthful. The exhibitors and the organisers are really putting on a Show in it’s biggest sense, and the people love it!

So we have already posted our photos of all the show but I wanted to share with you some of the real stand out rooms that I enjoyed, impossible to cover every single one, but here is my selection that for many reasons stuck in my mind.

Starting off in the Radisson Sobieski:

Voxativ’s room sounded excellent, Holger was really pleased to see us very welcoming and the room was a showcase of German precision. This was one of the few rooms using a reel 2 reel source. Also worth noting that Voxtiv drivers were evident in other speakers too…watch this space.

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