God Bless OCD Audiophiles

SoundStage! UKMust one suffer from OCD to be an audiophile? Or, to put it another way, does being an audiophile mean that you inherently exhibit OCD traits? It’s taken me years to admit this (and there’s a doctoral thesis in psychology awaiting any student predisposed toward writing about a dying breed), but the evidence is overwhelming.

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Payola, Backhanders, and Other Freebies

SoundStage! UKPlus ça change . . . Just when I thought the hi-fi scene was so battered, so desperate, so manifestly in need of professionalism and a sense of reality, and plagued with far more pressing priorities than to worry about the notions of reviewer freebies, up it rears its ugly little head. Shades of 35 years ago, when the audiophile community was so petty, so nasty, so infantile, that one had to step back and ask, are these schmucks really grown-ups?

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Two Hi-Fi Accessories Actually Worth Buying

SoundStage! UKAs far as I can tell, unless it’s something so grand or outrageous that missing it would be a faux pas too far, accessories usually get short shrift in show reports. Given the space allocations, especially in print coverage, a new speaker, amp, or turntable will always trump a new gadget. I do exclude from my contempt for add-ons such items as quality record-cleaning machines, stylus pressure gauges, tube testers, and other items with a valid purpose. But hi-fi accessories in the main tend to be as useful as electric carving knives.

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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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