Baselworld and How It Relates to Hi-Fi Shows

SoundStage! UKSometimes, I wish I had studied marketing, if only to understand precisely how influencers create or affect trends. No, make that “to understand how trends even start.” Of course, we now live in the era of instant communication, and all matters time-related have been compressed as far as the spread of news, opinions, or, indeed, trends are concerned.

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The Industry Is Doomed

SoundStage! UKRather than the anticipated miserable, soul-destroying post-mortem to the catastrophe that was the high end at CES 2019, it’s worth recounting some of the optimistic notes that prevailed. But that is not my way. I haven’t been this depressed since 1970. Still, there was one positive note: bizarrely, amidst the palpable gloom of the Venetian, where the whole of the high end wouldn’t have filled even one corridor -- let alone a floor -- I chanced upon a well-placed individual with the ear of the CEA or CTA, or whatever they are called.

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My Final CES

SoundStage! UKAs I write this, the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show is only three weeks away -- or a week after this goes online. I look forward to it not with dread, as I did last year’s, but with sadness. Clichés spring to mind: “How the mighty are fallen!” “Pride comes before a fall!” and “You can’t argue with stupid!” The demise of the high end at CES is nigh, and it is a scandal. And it is self-inflicted.

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East vs. West

SoundStage! UKIt wasn’t my first time in what was once a country ruled by evil, soul-destroying Commies. It wasn’t even my first time in Poland. Long before I was lured to Warsaw, I had visited one country formerly behind the now-forgotten (by many) “Iron Curtain” on numerous occasions: Hungary. Of course, every trip to Budapest was about hi-fi; I went to visit the late, sorely missed Istvan Csontos, the most enthusiastic audiophile I ever knew. He ran amazing hi-fi shows in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which almost prepared me for the situation in another once-impoverished country.

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Negan's Bat

SoundStage! UKIf you believe, as I do, that trends at street level are more important than those manufactured by the press, then the latest Tonbridge Audiojumble was an education. As ever, it was also good for a number of surprises, which is why I’m reporting on it again. There is a subtle change in the atmosphere -- nothing sinister, just a sign of evolution.

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Baby Boomer Box-Set Bonanza

SoundStage! UKAfter hi-fi became populist in the 1960s, thanks to Japanese imports bringing down the prices of hi-fi separates, an unfortunate “disconnect” manifested itself. It was the creation of a chasm between the two elements of music playback that should never have exhibited anything other than total cooperation. I am referring to the massive gap between the major music labels and the high-end audio community, the latter consisting of both audiophiles and manufacturers.

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Days of Future Past

SoundStage! UKDespite the best efforts of certain brands, and in the waning years of our beloved hobby/passion/industry, high-end audio remains one of precious few fields with zero respect for its history. There are museums for peanut butter, rubber bands, sex toys, and shoes, alongside the obvious motorcar, aviation, watch, and other museums. Hi-fi’s lack of regard for its own achievements isn’t simply a disappointment; it’s a worry.

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Speaking of Sad Bastards

SoundStage! UKUnless one is an active member of an audiophile club, like the Boston Audio Society or a similar group, it’s easy to feel detached from anything approaching a “high-end culture.” Unless one works in the audio industry, whether manufacturer or retailer, regular contact with fellow hi-fi enthusiasts might be limited at best. Isolation is fine for components -- not so much for anything else.

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A Short History of the High End

SoundStage! UKEvery year at the Oscars, there’s a film tribute for the motion picture industry notables who passed away in the previous year. Inevitably, they leave out one or two, probably through human error, but I suspect because of politics, too; one can only imagine if they’ll include Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and the like, once they shuffle off to whatever level of Dante’s Inferno awaits them.

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Munich's Mini-Tapefest

SoundStage! UKMuch as I love saying “I told you so!” I will resist crowing about what transpired at the recent Munich High End show. It was only a mini-tapefest, not a veritable flood, but I saw enough reel-to-reel machines and pre-recorded tapes to be able to argue that the format -- if not back so strongly that Maxell, BASF, TDK, et al., are reopening their factories for it -- is enjoying enough of a renaissance to create a dependable cult.

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