A Short History of the High End

SoundStage! UKEvery year at the Oscars, there’s a film tribute for the motion picture industry notables who passed away in the previous year. Inevitably, they leave out one or two, probably through human error, but I suspect because of politics, too; one can only imagine if they’ll include Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and the like, once they shuffle off to whatever level of Dante’s Inferno awaits them.

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Munich's Mini-Tapefest

SoundStage! UKMuch as I love saying “I told you so!” I will resist crowing about what transpired at the recent Munich High End show. It was only a mini-tapefest, not a veritable flood, but I saw enough reel-to-reel machines and pre-recorded tapes to be able to argue that the format -- if not back so strongly that Maxell, BASF, TDK, et al., are reopening their factories for it -- is enjoying enough of a renaissance to create a dependable cult.

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Franco-phile

SoundStage! UKAs one grows older and witnesses the passing of one’s mentors, there’s a sense of deprivation not a million miles removed from the loss of a parent. No mentor, however influential, can provide the same impact as those who brought you up from birth to adulthood, but the specificity of a mentor’s guidance in his or her area of expertise can attain similar importance to, say, your mother teaching you how to roast a chicken, or your father showing you how to get that dimple in your necktie.

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Long Live FM

SoundStage! UKAs I am long-domiciled in Europe, a geopolitical area almost as bizarrely snowflake-y as Canada (your PM is such a deluded putz), I am never surprised by idiotic decisions. As has always been the case, whenever governments get involved with consumer technology, they usually screw it up.

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Soul-Restoring Vintage Hi-Fi at the Audiojumble

SoundStage! UKAnother February, another Tonbridge Audiojumble . . . but this time it was an eye-opener. According to the founder and father of the current organisers, John Howes, it’s the best attended yet, and none would dispute it. But why, all of a sudden, is the world’s finest hi-fi flea market enjoying a new audience? I kid you not: there were plenty of people in attendance who 1) weren’t over 40, and 2) didn’t have prostates or beards.

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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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