Don't mention black boxes. They're bringers of mass produced, nondescript hi-fi product turned out heartlessly in some corner of the world we know little about. We're inevitably talking about product that may work well and cost little, but it lacks style of any description, it is shoehorned into a cheap metal case and it sounds much like – well all its rivals that are built in exactly the same way.
Then there's Icon Audio's PS3 MkII valve phono stage. This is just the opposite. Designed in Leicester by David Shaw it is all discrete, has no transistors – and form strictly follows function. And it has form, akin to that of a MkI Land Rover. Tough, built to do a job - and do it well. Do it like no other in fact. You can see and read much more about this almost-unique phono stage on p98 of this issue. I hope it throws light – a warm glow that is – on what is possible today with vinyl.
No apologies for nostalgia, of a sort, in this issue, when we feature Spendor's new SP200 loudspeakers. Phil Swift, MD, knew we would take to these giants with not one but two 12in bass unit apiece. What you have to bear in mind here is that they produce prodigious bass as a result and need a big room to work properly, the assumption being that if you can afford their £15k price tag then you have a home large enough for them too. We have a massive 6000 cu ft listening room specifically for monsters like the new SP200s and loved every minute of having it re-arranged by them. See what Jon Myles felt on p10.
As vinyl sales spin steadily upward Paul Rigby continues to steadily spin LPs round and round, playing them with an ever increasing number of quality pickup cartridges. This month he reviews the Transfiguration Proteus MC cartridge - and you can read about it on p103.
Britain's economy is, we are told, quite healthy and this is giving inhabitants of UK plc a feel good factor that was evident at this year's Bristol Sound & Vision Show. Attendance from exhibitors and from the public were both up this year, quite markedly. And with more hi-fi and less A/V than for a decade I would guess, music remains popular with us all. And that can't be bad. I hope you enjoy reading about it all in this busy issue.