But unless they send me gear by request and let me play with it (and maybe conference with a tech rep), I'm going to miss that part...
With hardware, that's tough. Software...not so much. I bet any company would send you a time-limited NFR, if not a full one that you can evaluate - assuming a trial version isn't available already.
Nearly all software these days has a reasonable free trial period, but if I wanted more time or to get around limitations for a "demo" I expect that I could get a license - and indeed I've accumulated a few over the years. Thing is that I'm a hardware guy, and I don't use software the way most users do. So not only would I know how to evaluate software knowing what I do about hardware, I probably couldn't say any more about it than what has already been said by other reviewers and forum posters who use it all the time.
Back when I was writing reviews for Recording and Pro Audio Review, I had hardware coming in here - interfaces, mic preamps, a couple of mics (I don't like reviewing things where what's to evaluate is really just how it sounds on things you can try it on), consoles, interfaces, and recorders. My one software review (only posted on my web site) was of IK Multimedia's MODO Bass - because I was particularly interested in how they were doing the modeling - it was based on string mechanics - and I wanted to see how closely the harmonic content of a real and a simulated string was when you changed certain characteristics like string length, tension, and material. But this was in essence a hardware review.
My kind of review is different from most everyone else's, and I got a lot of favorable feedback from readers who appreciated the deep dive, and, from reading, learned some things that weren't in the spec sheet, manufacturer's web page, or manual.
Since I'm not longer associated with a "real" publication, relationships that I built up with manufacturers 20 years ago no longer mean much. The "guy" who would send me a unit for review doesn't know me from any of the other bloggers, so it's hard to convince them that my reviews are different, or, even if they understood that, that their customers would care.
It's hard to convince a manufacturer that a review is valuable even if the web site where it's posted gets only about 10 hits a day. It's not like Pensado's Place. I had the thought that MPN had been around long enough and was well enough known throughout the industry and user's community, and was hoping to maybe get some reputation back here, but activity in the forums, at least the ones that pertain to gear that I might review, is really pretty sparse. But, unfortunately forums are getting like that all over, unless it's social media.
But another question is how much "new stuff" will there be anyway?
A valid question. But there's older stuff that hasn't been reviewed in much technical detail. And, when I write a review, I don't just spew facts and test results, I explain why something I've chosen to write about is important, so whether the reader decides that he needs the product or not, he's come away learning something that will help him understand, perhaps, a competing product. Or just gain some knowledge.
My understanding is that Sweetwater actually sold more gear during the virtual GearFest than the physical one. Why not? Anyone in the US could participate in the virtual one, without having to get on a plane or drive to Fort Wayne.
Well, it seems that there are plenty of people who are willing to make a purchase decision based on others' experience with it, or published specs and features. And I'll grand that few are disappointed with their purchase. But then, Sweetwater, with the annual live Gearfest, has always been primarily a mail-order dealer rather than a storefront with a showroom, though they have an excellent demonstration facility for those who pay them a visit. And, I expect that their return rate on things purchased during Gearfest was probably not significantly different than year-round. Maybe a bit higher because there's bound to be some impulse buying.
[/quote]Not to point too fine a point on it, but I feel validated about the advantage of a virtual show's ability to transcend time zones and geographical limitations.[/quote]
That makes published marketing material available any time, but how's show time different in that respect than any other time, other than that you have a flood of available literature? Can you ask a question and get an answer immediately? (well, admittedly, at live shows, I can't always do that either)
Does that make up for like not being able to test out gear, or me not meeting friends, and not running into SSS folks by accident? No, it doesn't.
This is one of the reasons why I attend shows. It's more than the gear. It's the free dinners, too. ;)\