• Vox Olympian is now in Hong Kong
  • CAD Review
  • Boenicke Audio
  • Hong Kong 2016 High End Audio Show
  • CAD Ground Control Review
  • Living Voice - Lifetime Achievement Award
  • The Listening Experience
  • CAD Ground Control - HiFi+Review
  • Audio Technique features Living Voice and CAD
  • Audio Technique Article Sept 2016
  • Hong Kong Show 2013
  • Easter 2015, Audio Evidence meets Audio Note Japan!
  • Kondo Factory Visit
  • IMPORTANT NOTICE - THE WORLD'S BEST SPEAKERS
  • The Digital Domain
  • Garrard
  • Red Wine Audio

High End Audio, where is it going?

 
Sadly, nowadays, that question is often asked by "audiophiles" and indeed by manufacturers and retailers. Someone the other day told me that they thought there are about one million audiophiles, in the world and that is not a lot of people. Think about all the manufacturers, retailers, people employed in the industry generally chasing a client base of only one million people.

The disturbing truth is that even that number is falling. I was talking to Ken Chan, the proprietor of The Sound Chamber, who has been in "the industry" all his adult life; he was telling me how it was in "the old days", how young people would browse round the shop at lunch time, interested in the music and the equipment. No longer. Nowadays, the people that come round are middle aged or old, and do not have the same youthful vitality for music or the equipment.

I think the decline started, to some extent, with the invention of CDs. Despite the convenience they just don't thrill the same way that LPs did. It is a bit like eating a pre-prepared meal rather than Mom's home cooked version. Mom's is hard work to prepare but much more satisfying to eat.

Even shopping for the music was different in the days of the LP, it was a pleasurable experience; I remember choosing records from a record shelf, from the age of about 16 onwards and being thrilled at the experience. Who, now, is thrilled by buying a CD?!

Also, everyone seems to agree that all the great listening sessions, the ones, which really are memorable, seem to involve listening to music on LPs.

It is no good me trying to explain why, I don't know. Some people suggest that the recording process that is used in CDs actually scrambles the brain and sends the brain into a sort of depression! Other suggested that it is just that somehow the conversation of digital to analogue is so disjointed, that the music does not flow. I don't really know, in my system if I play a CD and then the same record, I can really not tell the difference in many cases. Nevertheless, listen to them over an evening and the LP version is much more pleasurable and so that it is one reason, perhaps, for the decline in the hobby.

I don't think it is the only reason and I think there are two other major reasons, the first can be stated shortly. It is down to the complex world we live in; there is an awful lot of "entertainment" attracting our attention. For the young and youngish two channel audio and music played on it is just not interesting enough.

The third and last major reason, I think, for the decline is the really outlandish high prices that were charged for some audio systems, manufactured through to the 80's and 90's.

There were a lot of system that were very expensive indeed and this was alright if they were truly worth it; the trouble is many were not. Of course, there are manufacturers who really put their heart and soul into manufacturing exceptional equipment which justifies the expensive in the same way as Ferrari justifies the expenses of their cars. Others charge "Ferrari" price and produced "Fords" (no disrespect to Ford, good cars as I am sure they are). This is not fair and of course it has tarnished the whole industry, not just the few that abused the system in the first place. People become sceptical about buying Hi Fi and you can't blame them.

What I think is now happening is that there are a number of manufacturers who make physically small and good sounding equipment at reasonable prices. I am thinking of the Op amps, Red Wine, 47Lab, Kore-Eda, and others. I think these systems deserve success but the question is how to attract the 18 to 30 years olds (those who have abandoned this sort of listening) back to two-channel audio and music in the home? These Op amps coupled with hard drive storage systems (a subject on its own) and modified i-Pods (into an acceptable audiophile tool) may hold the key.

It is a little depressed thinking about all this but perhaps it is cathartic to set the issue down in writing and stick it up on a web site!

DPS 3 turntable for Hong Kong

 
The new and improved DPS 3 turntable will arrive in Hong Kong in the near future. The main difference between the DPS 2 (which is the DPS that has been available in Hong Kong for some years now) and the new DPS 3 is the upgraded motor/power supply. As good as the old DPS 2 is, the DPS 3 is a very substantial and worthwhile improvement. It brings the music much closer to the master tapes and still at a very affordable price, and a domestically acceptable package.

For those who want the ultimate analogue payback system, we recommend serious consideration be given to the Schroder Reference tonearm or the Triplaner mark 5, using the DPS 3.

Hong Kong High End Hi Fi Expo 2006

 
This year we had the privilege to be joined by Masaki San of Audio Note Kondo Japan, Kevin Scott of Living Voice England, and Matsumoto San of Mactone Japan.

The equipment included two newcomers to this market :-

1. The mouth-watering Kondo 'GINGA' turntable. GINGA is the Japanese for Milky Way. This design involves some unusual features including a Kondo electronics power supply and a differentially damped aluminium and copper platter. The sound is powerful, calm and assured with a beautifully natural tonal balance.

2. The Living Voice OBX-RW loudspeaker system enjoyed its first international showing. The new model from this celebrated company has been developed exclusively with Kondo KSL electronics. The presentation is musically charming with an open, luxuriously expressive tonality. Its easy portrayal of scale belies its domestically acceptable proportions - a giant killer.

The ancillary electronics were an M1000 phono, GAKUOH monos with Western Electric valves, KSL SF-z transformer, and the new IO-m moving coil cartridge. The digital source was the 47Lab PiTracer with Kondo KSL DAC.

Not surprisingly, the sound created, despite the slightly difficult show time condition, was as one would have expected.

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