What Is Your Current Reference System?

SoundStage! UKAfter “Which component should I buy?” the most oft-asked question of reviewers is: “What is your current reference system?” Both are loaded requests because of myriad implications. Most obvious is the suspicious thought related to the first demand: Why did he/she recommend Product X and not Y or Z? As for the second query, your nagging doubt is, How can a schmuck like you afford Product X, Y, or Z?

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Hi-Fi Shops: The Death Rate Continues

SoundStage! UKWhile I can only speak for the UK -- every country is reacting differently to the relaxing of the lockdown -- I must admit to a newfound pessimism about the future of all retail, but especially hi-fi. Stores in the UK deemed “non-essential,” which includes anything other than pharmacies or supermarkets, reopened on June 15th, but shopping in 2020 is (1) hellish due to limited numbers allowed in-store so one has to queue, the 6' distancing, and wearing masks, and (2) unsustainable for something like hi-fi, where you don’t just enter a shop, pick up what you need, pay, and depart.

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Victor Goldstein and Gianni Nasta

SoundStage! UKOf all the types of writing I hate, as a full-time hack, it’s preparing news items I loathe the most. The boredom factor is overwhelming because all that’s required is rewording the press releases. Some scribblers -- the cut-and-paste-from-Wikipedia generation of semi-literates which now rules the world -- don’t even bother doing that. On the other hand, most hi-fi press releases are so poorly written that preparing them for publication as news is more of an editing job.

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Old Times Good Times

SoundStage! UKSo sang Stephen Stills, and that is what most of us long for because the current situation is straight out of another Stephen’s canon: Stephen King. Things are bad, whatever spin anyone cares to put on it, so we are forced to endure a challenging reality check. In the context of this passion of ours, music is proving its worth as a restorative, for countless reasons ranging from nostalgia to diversion, along with all of the intrinsic joy music exudes.

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Will COVID-19 Take Out High-End Audio?

SoundStage! UKAware that I am of the date this goes live, let me assure you that, no, this isn’t meant to be humorous, satirical, or anything other than a straight-from-the-heart reaction to COVID-19. This accursed plague, arriving seemingly out of nowhere, has upset the day-to-day existence of every person on the planet, save for those idiots who don’t accept the gravity of the situation. Even if this pandemic doesn’t slaughter 1/1000th of the number the Spanish Flu of 1918 took, believed to be around 50 million, the havoc wreaked will have repercussions for decades, not least in terms of the global economy.

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A Crazy Idea

SoundStage! UKThis may seem a stretch, evidence that I have suddenly entered full-blown senility, but I think I see a tiny ray of hope amidst the gloom that is the possible death of the new LP. That, of course, refers to the recent fire which destroyed the primary source of lacquers and cutting heads for the music industry, thus causing genuine concern regarding the availability of lacquers in the near future. Apparently, the only other producer is a tiny concern in Japan which is already overstretched.

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Leaving It Behind

SoundStage! UKI’ve been an audiophile for over a half-century, involved professionally for nearly all that time. And I’m looking forward to leaving the latter in 2020 so I can once again just listen for pleasure.

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Go Local at Your Next Global Hi-Fi Show

SoundStage! UKFar be it from me to suggest that hi-fi shows are melding into one. The relative homogeneity is obvious because all use a mix of hotel rooms, hospitality suites, and conference halls, but subtle distinctions prevent the three shows I attended in one single month from turning into a blur. From Ascot to Warsaw to Tokyo, there was enough overlap, augmented by sufficient disparity, to foster a yin/yang response: you sense either an impression of predictable sameness or one of true diversity.

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The Audiophile Buzz

SoundStage! UKSo sang Buffalo Springfield in 1966: “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” Nearly every hi-fi show on the planet is reporting increased numbers, the vinyl renaissance is still going strong, at least three genuine luxury brands with no audio experience whatsoever have collaborated this past year with proper hi-fi brands, the reel-to-reel tape revival is costing me a fortune as the prices escalate, ad infinitum. I am not complaining, but I am pleasantly surprised, if genuinely puzzled.

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A Return to Passives with Bespoke Audio

SoundStage! UKAudiophilic obsessions, trends, or movements have proven to be cyclic over the years. I can’t quite nail down the lengths of the cycles, but it seems that we periodically revive hi-fi practice modes, the renewed interest coming from Japanese enthusiasts, French tube worshippers, Italian anachrophiles, or other hobbyists.

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