Unexpected -- The Best of CES 2018

I didn’t think I’d be writing anything at all about the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas January 9-12. After all, toward the end of my report on last year’s show, “The Best of the Worst CES in Decades: 2017,” published in this space last February, I wrote: “[W]e’ve decided that, unless something changes, we won’t be there [next year], because we feel there’s little value for us or our readers.” What changed?

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The 2017 Products of the Year -- One-Sentence Summaries

It’s time to announce the SoundStage! Network’s Products of the Year -- the best of the best products we reviewed in 2017. To be considered for a POTY award, a product must have been reviewed on one or more of our five main editorial sites -- SoundStage! Access, SoundStage! Hi-Fi, SoundStage! Simplifi, SoundStage! Ultra, SoundStage! Xperience -- and have received a Reviewers’ Choice award. Those products that qualify then went to our selection panel of five of our senior staff, who chose the winners based on the contents of those reviews.

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The Best of Poland's Audio Video Show 2017

Few would think of Warsaw, Poland, as a hub for high-end hi-fi, but with the growth of the annual Audio Video Show (AVS) over the last 20 years, it’s become exactly that. AVS 2017 was held November 17-19, and Brent Butterworth and I were there to cover the show for SoundStage! Global -- it was my second AVS, and Brent’s first.

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Close Up with McIntosh Laboratory

I recently tagged along with the SoundStage! video-production crew on a trip to McIntosh Laboratory. It was a balmy, late-September afternoon in Binghamton, New York, and the crew were shooting interviews with McIntosh Group president Charlie Randall and several engineers for an upcoming video series about the company’s new integrated amplifiers. Between takes, I was able to talk with Randall. That discussion expanded into a full interview that we’ve decided to run in place of SoundStage! Hi-Fi’s regular opinion piece.

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Mismatched Masters and False Frequencies -- Is MQA Better, Worse, or Just Different?

Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) digital-file playback has been a controversial topic in the hi-fi press ever since it was first announced, in December 2014. Usually, the controversy around a new audio technology cools down after a while. But with MQA, it just gets hotter, as recent tests by SoundStage! and other journalists and manufacturers are raising more questions that have so far received few answers.

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A Poor Man Can Only Afford to Buy the Best -- Three Tips for How to Avoid a Bad Buy

In July we unveiled a SoundStage! InSight video about Amphion Loudspeakers, filmed in June in Finland. Near the end, Amphion’s owner, Anssi Hyvönen, says: “In this country, we have a concept that a poor man can only afford the best.” He explains that the idea behind it is that you buy something of high quality, then keep it for a long time.

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The Music Server of the Future: Your Phone

According to Statista.com, 122.32 million smartphones were sold in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In 2016, almost 1.5 billion smartphones were sold, and there’s no reason to believe this growth will stop anytime soon. According to a January 12, 2017 article by the Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011.

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Estelon, Amphion Loudspeakers, and Hegel Music Systems: Appealing to Different Customers Inside -- and Now Outside -- the World of Audiophiles

As I write this on June 24, 2017, I’m on a flight from Oslo, Norway, to London, UK, where we’ll have a five-hour layover in London before flying home, to Canada. Sitting next to me is our chief videographer, Chris Chitaroni; beside him is the second cameraman for this trip, Jeremy Prudhomme. Oslo was the final destination of an 11-day, multi-country trip to visit three hi-fi companies and shoot videos for our YouTube channel. Those videos should begin pouring out in August, and will be viewable at www.SoundStageTV.com.

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The Best of High End 2017

After a dismal start to the year with the worst Consumer Electronics Show (CES) I’d ever seen, I was thrilled to attend High End 2017, held May 18-21 at the Munich Order Center (MOC), in Germany -- the biggest and best edition yet of this annual event. According to the High End Society’s follow-up report, the number of exhibitors was up 4% over 2016, and overall attendance was up 10%. Furthermore, of this year’s 538 exhibitors, 63% came from outside of Germany, reflecting the growing international flavor of this show. High End has become the most important hi-fi event in the world.

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Is It Finally Time for Active Loudspeakers?

At the 2017 Montréal Audio Fest, held March 24-26 at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Montréal, Canada, I thought the best-sounding room was Bryston Limited’s. Based in Peterborough, Ontario, Bryston began in hi-fi in the early 1970s, first building power amplifiers, then preamplifiers, and, much later, digital source components, external crossovers, power conditioners, cables, speakers -- even a turntable. And no doubt there are Bryston components I never heard about.

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