As great hi-fi debates go, you can forget CD versus LP, electrostatic speakers v. moving coil, or even solid-state amplifiers against transistor. No, the big question for me is the far more fundamental question of "what is the best...?"
You see, I am all too often being asked, "what's the best £1,000 CD player or £10,000 super speaker?" Before I answer, I tend to get into a debate about the very epistemological basis of the question itself. Don't worry, I'm not going to get my pipe out, spark up and begin the philosophy lecture just yet. It's just that sometimes I find myself uncomfortable with the idea of there being such a thing as "the
best" at all...
Let me explain. Imagine, if you would, that I walked into the local greengrocer's shop and said, "hey mate, what's the best vegetable under £3?" That's a bit like how I feel when I get asked to recommend "the ultimate £200 iPod dock" or "the best sub-£2,000 turntable"...
Think of it like this. Hi-fi is a bit like cooking. There are a lot of ingredients, and what (and how much) you put in of one particular vegetable, herb or spice depends on the quantities (and indeed the quality) of the others. So it's a touch too simplistic to be talking in absolutes. For me, the art of great sound is about taking your hi-fi separates as building blocks, and getting the best from them, both individually and as a whole.
So the answer is of course that the best is what's best for you. And this depends on a variety of factors, from your tastes, your ears, your expectations, the other items in your system and the sort of music you listen to most. Then there are other considerations too, like budget, family and even the volume levels you listen at. What's best for one can often be worst for another, as my other half keeps reminding me!
As a hi-fi magazine, we try to capture the essence of a product; its technical performance allied to its subjective one, relative to other products at the price. Of course we can and do opine on our favourites, but we always explain why first. I think that gives you a great 'start point' into buying decisions, so you can go on to find a good dealer and listen for yourself.
David Price, editor
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