Don't Forget the CD

SoundStage! UKSome years ago, in an interview I gave to a magazine in Hungary (I think), I said that the Vinyl Revolution would never grow beyond that of a cult, albeit a fair-sized one. I am pleased to stand corrected, as mid-September 2020 saw an announcement that must have had my colleague Michael Fremer punching the air and shouting, “I told you so!” Apparently, LPs outsold CDs in the USA for the first time in more than a quarter-century.

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Ken Kessler: "Audio Research: Making the Music Glow"

SoundStage! UKIndulge me this month, please: the culmination of my 52 years in hi-fi, 37 in audio journalism, and two years of intense work are about to come to fruition. My fourth brand history is published this month, and if I can’t plug it, who can? It’s the story of the company responsible for the electronics in my reference system for a few decades, so there’s a personal element to Audio Research: Making the Music Glow.

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What Is Your Current Reference System?

SoundStage! UKAfter “Which component should I buy?” the most oft-asked question of reviewers is: “What is your current reference system?” Both are loaded requests because of myriad implications. Most obvious is the suspicious thought related to the first demand: Why did he/she recommend Product X and not Y or Z? As for the second query, your nagging doubt is, How can a schmuck like you afford Product X, Y, or Z?

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Hi-Fi Shops: The Death Rate Continues

SoundStage! UKWhile I can only speak for the UK -- every country is reacting differently to the relaxing of the lockdown -- I must admit to a newfound pessimism about the future of all retail, but especially hi-fi. Stores in the UK deemed “non-essential,” which includes anything other than pharmacies or supermarkets, reopened on June 15th, but shopping in 2020 is (1) hellish due to limited numbers allowed in-store so one has to queue, the 6' distancing, and wearing masks, and (2) unsustainable for something like hi-fi, where you don’t just enter a shop, pick up what you need, pay, and depart.

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Victor Goldstein and Gianni Nasta

SoundStage! UKOf all the types of writing I hate, as a full-time hack, it’s preparing news items I loathe the most. The boredom factor is overwhelming because all that’s required is rewording the press releases. Some scribblers -- the cut-and-paste-from-Wikipedia generation of semi-literates which now rules the world -- don’t even bother doing that. On the other hand, most hi-fi press releases are so poorly written that preparing them for publication as news is more of an editing job.

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Old Times Good Times

SoundStage! UKSo sang Stephen Stills, and that is what most of us long for because the current situation is straight out of another Stephen’s canon: Stephen King. Things are bad, whatever spin anyone cares to put on it, so we are forced to endure a challenging reality check. In the context of this passion of ours, music is proving its worth as a restorative, for countless reasons ranging from nostalgia to diversion, along with all of the intrinsic joy music exudes.

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Will COVID-19 Take Out High-End Audio?

SoundStage! UKAware that I am of the date this goes live, let me assure you that, no, this isn’t meant to be humorous, satirical, or anything other than a straight-from-the-heart reaction to COVID-19. This accursed plague, arriving seemingly out of nowhere, has upset the day-to-day existence of every person on the planet, save for those idiots who don’t accept the gravity of the situation. Even if this pandemic doesn’t slaughter 1/1000th of the number the Spanish Flu of 1918 took, believed to be around 50 million, the havoc wreaked will have repercussions for decades, not least in terms of the global economy.

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A Crazy Idea

SoundStage! UKThis may seem a stretch, evidence that I have suddenly entered full-blown senility, but I think I see a tiny ray of hope amidst the gloom that is the possible death of the new LP. That, of course, refers to the recent fire which destroyed the primary source of lacquers and cutting heads for the music industry, thus causing genuine concern regarding the availability of lacquers in the near future. Apparently, the only other producer is a tiny concern in Japan which is already overstretched.

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Leaving It Behind

SoundStage! UKI’ve been an audiophile for over a half-century, involved professionally for nearly all that time. And I’m looking forward to leaving the latter in 2020 so I can once again just listen for pleasure.

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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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