CES 2018 -- I Told You So

SoundStage! UKIt is with no joy that I exploit the opportunity to use those dreaded words “I told you so.” As I feared last month, CES 2018 was as grim, as dire, as soul-destroying, as joy-robbing an event as any I have attended that wasn’t a funeral, a prostate exam, or a dinner in a loud restaurant. What’s so utterly depressing about it is my sympathy for the 50 or so high-end stalwarts who did appear.

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The Death of CES -- a Mercy Killing

SoundStage! UKIt’s that time of year -- as recent history demonstrates -- when high-end audio visitors to the Consumer Electronics Show feel a sense of doom, of foreboding that “It Will Suck Again.” Unlike this organ’s esteemed editors, who will not waste the time nor money for the Vegas trip, which Doug Schneider described as “too dick-all of a show” to be worth attending, I have contradicted myself by visiting it once more.

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Musical Influences

SoundStage! UKSaying farewell to one’s mentors is always heartbreaking, but losing two in one week is almost too much to bear. One will be familiar to you, and you will undoubtedly find him to be the subject of many glowing, deserved tributes. The other will be known only to his friends, family, and the denizens of Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1980s and 1990s. Both of these gentlemen had a profound impact on my life. Whatever you might glean of any value from my scribbling over the past 35 years owes much to both of them.

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High-End Audio in Tokyo and Paris

SoundStage! UKTwo weeks, two shows, and a few impressions: while my North American colleagues were attending the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I visited Tokyo’s International Audio Show and Paris’s Festival Son & Image. The big news is that both were turntable and vinyl heavy, the shocker being the Paris show. The French market has never been all that audiophile-oriented, the nation considering itself more “cinephilic” despite the local talent at Jadis, Micromega, Focal, Cabasse, and other proper high-end brands. That has changed.

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Appropriating Audio's Past

SoundStage! UKRemember that feeling, probably experienced as a teenager, when something you held to be privately yours suddenly became popular? Maybe it was a cool band you cherished that unexpectedly found cult status: say you were into Big Star before it was co-opted by critics and indie bands. Or maybe you were an avid fan of a lesser Marvel hero before the school dickhead got into it. You felt violated.

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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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