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HIFICRITIC
Volume 5 No. 1
Editorial
By Paul Messenger

 

HIFICRITIC Volume 5 No. 1  This issue marks the beginning of our fifth year, which seems an appropriate time to say a big 'thank you' to all our subscribers for making this possible, especially following the unwelcome financial meltdown that arrived at the end of our second year.

While I regret the magazine has to carry such a hefty pricetag, I hope we've managed to create a unique mixture of features, columns and reviews. Product reviews are an important and integral part of all hi-fi magazines. They serve a number of useful purposes, notably in keeping both the reviewer and the reader up to date with what's going on, and of course the trade – brands and dealers alike – love them. But I also think that they've become rather too dominant.

When I first became a journalist on Hi-Fi News in the mid-1970s, the ‘Equipment Reviews' were relegated to a modest section at the back of the magazine. Now they seem to have almost completely taken over the contents of most hi-fi magazines, which seems rather a shame.

I do appreciate the importance, the appeal and indeed sometimes even the educational value of equipment reviews. But as a magazine reader myself, I also find myself cherry-picking the reviews that might interest me, and skipping over many that don't.

While it's more or less true that the performance of hi-fi equipment has steadily improved over the years (something of a contentious statement, I admit), it's equally true that equipment reviews in general seem to have become rather less critical and more predictable, which certainly makes them less interesting to read.

Which is maybe where HIFICRITIC comes in. Much of the equipment we review is very good of course, but hopefully our appraisals don't involve the complete suspension of our critical faculties. And we are endeavouring to leaven the equipment reviews with interesting columns and features, which seems increasingly important as our system configurations today have never been more fluid and confusing, not to mention downright schizophrenic.

Historically, all was analogue easy. Source components of various kinds fed an amplifier and a pair of loudspeakers. With very few exceptions, the power amplification and speakers are unchanged, but the proliferation of digital sources raises all sorts of questions about the pre-amp side of things. Choosing the right system configuration will depend very much on one's personal lifestyle. As Martin Colloms points out, the very best sound quality is found by eliminating the pre-amp entirely, but in my view (and lifestyle) that is impractical to the point of irrelevance. (I find less than six inputs a real inconvenience!)

Neither do I have the time nor the patience to transfer large chunks of my CD and vinyl collections onto hard drives. I'm sure the ergonomics would be delightful, but I'd never cope with all that computer stuff.

For the time being I shall therefore stick to my nice analogue pre-amp, through which I shall play vinyl, FM radio and a CD player. And I'll feed it the less critical digital sources like the TV and computer (today's cassette deck!) via inexpensive DACs. 

 

Paul Messenger
Editor

 

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