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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Will the CD Make a Comeback?

SoundStage! UKWhile I have no idea what the quotidian existence is for my fellow audio scribes, I seem to have a lot of traffic through my listening room. Most obviously, there are visits from manufacturers delivering, installing, and then collecting review equipment, but there’s also a steady flow of “civilians.” That is not a pejorative term; it’s merely my way of identifying people not employed in the hi-fi business who drop by, and that includes a number of friends, audiophiles, or acquaintances eager to hear a high-end system.

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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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