The Cassette Revival

Following 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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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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Heinz Lichtenegger: Kiss My DAC!

SoundStage! UKAt the recent hi-fi show in Paris, the first person I happened upon was Heinz Lichtenegger, locked in conversation with one of his dealers. Heinz is always animated and passionate about everything: opera, wine, turntables -- you name it. He didn’t become the world’s largest manufacturer of record decks by showing a lack of faith or enthusiasm. And it is this that had him steaming.

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The iPhone 7 and the Audiophile

SoundStage! UKIt’s that time of year again: show season. OK, OK, there were regional shows over the summer, but the heavy stuff (other than Munich, the biggest high-end show on the planet) tends to be held in the autumn. I guess the idea always was / still is to get customers fired up for Christmas or, as seems more logical since I don't know that many people who find TechDAS turntables or Nagra power amps under the tree, to get them to buy something new for the winter, when we spend more time indoors.

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No Apologies

SoundStage! UKHmm . . . it seems that I have upset a whole bunch of you. According to one chat group I’m a “racist” and “a piece of s***,” so I must be doing something right. As my dear friend, the late and sorely missed Harvey Rosenberg, of Futterman and New York Audio Labs fame, once told me during a similar situation as he fed some grapes to a hooker through his car window while we toured the Lower East Side, “Ken, it is better to be hated than ignored.”

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High-End Hi-Fi's Glimmer of Hope

SoundStage! UK[Warning: If you are easily offended, or a Democrat, or earning less than $200,000 per annum and bothered by it, or are inherently antipathetic to those with money even if they’ve earned it by hard work, please skip this month’s column, because no apologies will be forthcoming.]

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Taking the Bad with the Good

SoundStage! UKThank goodness for the summer months -- not that I (nor most of you) ever stop working. As for my failure to relax, websites and magazines don’t take breaks, but a huge chunk of the audio industry certainly does, not least because the collective populations of most of Europe take off for the whole of August. Sometimes, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I welcome the period of relative inactivity.

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