In my last report, I ended speculating how there might be hurdles to overcome while attending the show in China. Well, that was an understatement. The speakers were uplifted from Melbourne on schedule and we were told that it would take 2-3 days for them to arrive in Shenzhen. They actually took 4 days - but that was no big deal.


So I arrive in China one week after the goods left Melbourne, expecting to see them at Melody's factory ready for final testing only to discover that they are still sitting in customs. It's Monday and we have to be setting up at the show on Thursday. Alex is trying to find out what is going on and heads off to the airport with Zhen from Melody while I wait at the hotel. He finds out that because the goods were not marked "Express", it takes 2 weeks to clear them. But there's more. Because they are a commercial import of electronic goods, you are on the proverbial slow boat to China. The integral bass amplifiers mean that they need to be inspected and certified for safety in Beijing. This normally takes 3 months. Now we are panicking. We don't have 3 months. We only have 3 days. This is a challenge. More talking with officials and Alex takes the customs officers to lunch. One wants to send his son to Australia for university and talks to Alex about the local opportunities. Alex gives him a great dissertation about studying in Australia thinking it might help but finds out that the boy is only 8 years old. Alex informs him that it's probably a little early to think about it just now. This improves relations with the customs officers but does not actually get our goods cleared. The issue of the approval certificate still remains. Apparently the rules for importing goods changed in January 2007 and Melody was not appraised seeing as they normally export goods, not import them. Now you need a CCC China Compliance Certificate which is their equivalent of the CE approval.


Allen Shi He Wang has been in Donguan for the day organizing some display materials for the show and meets me at 7.00pm for dinner at the hotel. Alex and Zhen have spent the whole day at the airport and come to the hotel. Alex informs us that there's a chance we can get our hands on the speakers on Tuesday but it will require cash to pay the customs duty and clearance charges. It seems they don't trust credit cards or cheques. I am pleased I have these guys on my team because you need local knowledge to sort through the maze of bureaucracy that exists whenever you have to deal with the government. Alex has to get back to the airport before 8.30pm because there'll be a change of shift then and if he does not sort it out tonight, he will have to start all over again explaining our case with another person which would take too much time. There is not much I can do so I head off to my room to catch up on emails and some sleep.


Next morning Alex is back out at the airport bright and early. In the background, Alex's mum LuLu has also been working on our case. She has some influential friends and brings pressure to bear for our case to be pushed to the head of the queue. During the day Zhen keeps calling me with updates. They submit paperwork which gets rejected. Then some more paperwork is submitted and finally a breakthrough. We can get a temporary permit pending issue of the formal CCC subject to a basic inspection now. The boxes are opened by customs and lots of ooh-ing and ahh-ing takes place as the customs guys admire the quality of Harry's workmanship. Finally the papers are signed off, the money is paid and the boys grab our stuff. What an ordeal. It is now Tuesday evening and everyone is very relieved. Surprisingly the ability to simply pay someone off and get what you want does exist under the new system. Everyone is accountable now and if they sign off on a piece of paper, it's got to be right or it can come back to haunt them later. This is good in a way but difficult if you are in a hurry as we were.


The goods arrive at Melody and I check that everything is okay. Mr. Wang is keen not to unpack and repack the speakers for fear of marking Harry's beautiful paint work prior to the show. So the decision is made to prepare everything for shipping to Guangzhou and send things out earlier to give us more time at the show to optimize everything.


On Thursday the Melody guys travel to Guangzhou by road. The traffic is horrendous and normally takes 2.5 hours to get there. Alex and I do the smart thing and take the train. That only takes one hour as the train travels at 200km/h for a good proportion of the journey.


We get to the show well before the Melody truck and check out the exhibition room at the White Swan Hotel. I am delighted. It is a conference room approximately 6m x 10m instead of the small twin-bed hotel rooms that most other exhibitors have to contend with. I clap my hands for slap echo and the acoustics are good - no need for damping or treatments. When the Melody truck arrives, the guys start setting up. I set up the speakers last because I do not want to risk something falling on them. Everything goes well and we get set up fairly quickly.


As soon as the first notes play, everyone stops what they are doing and listens. The sound is very clear and clean, with no overhang in the bass. We spend some time fine-tuning the speaker positions and are ready for the show. This is done with the assistance of Mr. Haoge Zhu, a Chinese reviewer noted for his expertise in loudspeaker positioning. He has been watching us set up and takes a keen interest in the proceedings. Mr. Zhu asks us to carry out some millimeter-precise changes to the positioning and says he is very impressed with the sound quality. I take that as a very big compliment because I know he has had experience with a lot of high-end loudspeakers. Stuart has the bass equalized in such a manner as to suit most rooms and it is working very well in the demo room. It takes account of the floor bounce and the bass boost that most rooms give and it is all handled in the analogue domain. We are using the Melody CD-M10 player, P1688 preamplifier and PM845 monoblock power amps. At 80 watts per side, the amps are far more powerful than we need but Mr. Wang wants to showcase them so we do so.


Many people pass through our room over the next three days and usually stay for 2 to 3 tracks. That is a good sign. The most popular recordings are those with plenty of bass and clear vocals. Other exhibitors and loudspeaker manufacturers visit our room and congratulate us on our good sound. Alex and I do a walk around the other rooms and feel that our sound is competitive with the best of them.


Mr. Zhu does the rounds of the show and visits every room. He is known as Mr. Loudspeaker Position because he is very particular about getting loudspeakers positioned correctly in a room. He is a man of few words and a deep thinker. He is also a Tai Chi exponent. I observe him and he seems to be absorbing the sound with his body, not just by listening with his ears. When I talk to him later with Alex doing the interpreting, he tells me that ours is one of the few loudspeakers he has ever heard that feels totally grounded and balanced like in Tai Chi. He says that with other loudspeakers, the image floats around and does not sit firmly planted with its roots in the ground like a tree. I think I know what he is getting at. In Tai Chi, you must lower your center of gravity and achieve perfect balance in order to allow your upper body to accomplish the movements correctly. In this way everything harmonizes. Because our loudspeaker has very solid bass performance, it allows the rest of the loudspeaker to work from that foundation. The Feastrex driver is very fast and the bass is also fast so the two do not have any problem harmonizing. I am pleased with the observations he has made.


The Melody team are invited to attend an industry dinner hosted by Shuguang, the largest valve manufacturer in China. I get to tag along. To my surprise everyone there has noticed our loudspeaker and wants to talk about it with me. The observations commonly made are that it is no easy task to successfully blend valve and solid-state technologies as we have done. I was astonished at the warm and welcoming hospitality I was shown. During the evening, I am congratulated on our product and they even propose a toast it and our development team. I was humbled by this experience.



In the blink of an eye the show is over and we are headed back to Shenzhen. Allen Shi He Wang is delighted with the reception our loudspeaker has enjoyed and feels that it brought good fortune to his exhibit room. It was a bit of a leap of faith for him placing his trust in me to bring a loudspeaker he had never heard before believing that it would sound good. Nothing could be more embarrassing for him than to have a guy from Australia arrive with a half-baked loudspeaker that sounds no good. Fortunately it all worked out for the best and the boyz from Down Under put a bookmark in the place that says we are here and we know how to design and build a competent loudspeaker. Our next job is to do some more refinements and prepare our loudspeaker for commercial production.



We will be preparing a few more loudspeaker models using the same design philosophy as we have with our RS-5a so the next 12 months are going to be very busy for us. It was a great trip to China once again and the Melody people did us proud.