Is Hi-Fi Cool Again?

SoundStage! UKIt was an offhand remark by a mainstream “technology” writer, one who isn’t even worthy of the term “hack,” but he made me stop and think. This observer of the latest gadgetry -- his bailiwick is mobile phones and gaming, but he fancies himself an audio expert -- let slip the observation that high-end audio is becoming “cool” again. We should be so lucky, but what’s so momentous about this revelation is that it came from someone who has been writing off high-end audio equipment for a decade as the sole province (with some justification) of boring “beardy old men.”

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Embracing the Change

SoundStage! UKThey say a change is as good as a rest. With hi-fi, a complete change ranks right up there with a hit of Viagra. It’s not merely ear-opening to replace your entire system in one fell swoop; it’s revelatory, shocking and, yes, invigorating. As I found out this week.

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It's All About . . . the Music

SoundStage! UKWhen you’re past 30 -- or so it should be -- a bruised ego should be no more of a concern than a splinter, a slow episode of a favourite TV show, or being put on hold by some call centre where English is not the main language: a minor irritant. You’re not some 14-year-old worried about being cool. But I suppose it depends on one’s levels of insecurity, and I consider myself neither mortally hypersensitive nor brazenly immune to slurs.

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Delusional Nice People

SoundStage! UKIt seems that I touched a nerve with last month’s attack on cable and cartridge pricing, but I remain unmoved: in the intervening weeks, I’ve had as many observers agreeing with me as not, that most of the high-end audio industry’s woes are self-inflicted, with the worst cause being pricing. The consensus seems to be that pricing is followed by the (admittedly innate) issue of having to match hardware from different manufacturers, with audiophile gibberish and arcane practices being the third and fourth.

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Of Cables and Cartridges

SoundStage! UKMy old man -- who was even less refined in his speech than I -- had a number of curious proletarian views, e.g., “The rich don’t get rich by giving it away.” He and I (though my relatives note too many similarities to ignore) shared little politically or philosophically -- he was a union official at the local Post Office branch, for starters -- but his pearls of wisdom still resonate nearly two decades after he passed away.

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The Cassette Revival

SoundStage! UKFollowing the fairly conclusive evidence in February at the Tonbridge Audiojumble in the UK that reel-to-reel tape is back with a clearly definable cult, my mind started wandering toward the renewed attention being paid to cassettes. As I mentioned last month, there’s a tangible glimmer of activity on the cassette front. However, unlike open-reel, which always was and always will be elitist / exclusive / expensive, cassette has its own intrinsic justification: it was a mass-market format.

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Reel-to-Reel Tapes: The Next Audio Revival?

SoundStage! UKAt the mid-February Tonbridge Audiojumble, in the UK, there was a distinct groundswell of support for a forgotten genre. I am but one of many who has noted, over the past three or four years, that reel-to-reel is making a comeback. This event, where countless vendors sell second-hand gear, and which is genuinely hi-fi at “street level” with finger-on-pulse, confirmed it. But with a cautionary note. Let’s back up a bit, though, to provide context.

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CES-SUX

SoundStage! UKA year ago, I wrote about CES as being about as lively as a funeral. This year, it was like one of the slower episodes of The Walking Dead. I don’t know if I should rejoice for those high-end audio manufacturers who are optimistic/naive/stupid enough to think that luxury hi-fi has a future in the Venetian, let alone any future at all, or if I should rend my garments.

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Mainstream Vinyl: The Shinola Runwell Turntable

SoundStage! UKWhen the mainstream news sources in the UK recently revealed that vinyl was outselling downloads, the LP-über-alles brigade had every reason to crow. Call it “reaching critical mass” or whatever denotes such a turning point, but it meant far more than actual unit sales could signify: if this is going to be the case, a hint of a backlash against non-physical formats, then it indicates how a segment of the public really has embraced (or should that be “re-embraced”?) vinyl.

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Headphone Shows Rule

SoundStage! UKOne learns to embrace, as one ages, a lovely contradiction: expect the unexpected. As the LP revival had been stewing for 30 years, ever since CD slapped it across the face with a glove, its success had to be 50/50, but we were aware of it. The surprise value, then, was the same as Brexit’s or Trump’s election: it could have gone either way.

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