of the reasons for starting HIFICRITIC was
simply that Martin Colloms and I were fed up with reading unremittingly
sycophantic equipment reviews in much of the hi-fi press. Had all hi-fi
equipment suddenly become universally excellent, or had the standards of
criticism dropped? Or was there another explanation? Seven years down the road
I think I might be getting closer to the answer, but it's by no means a
simple one. In fact all three factors seem to be involved, and probably more
all today's hi-fi equipment achieve impeccable standards? It's certainly
true that many of the components we review end up with 'Recommended'
flags, but maybe one shouldn't attempt to sum up a product in a single word.
I'd far rather subscribers read the review as a whole before deciding
whether they're interested in the component in question.
I don't think the best hi-fi has actually improved by very much over the
years. I reckon I could put together a system using 40 year old components
that can comfortably rival a system available today of an equivalent
(inflation adjusted) price.
in my opinion, I feel that hi-fi itself has been undermined by the indifferent
quality of today's music and recording quality, and the widespread adoption
of MP3 downloading. Those factors alone might well have helped undermine
I do believe that the overall average performance of hi-fi components has
slowly but surely got quite a bit better, and that there aren't all that
many 'lemons' around today.
tell me that a main reason for using solid state amplifiers is simply that
they're perceived as more reliable and consistent. While I have some
sympathy with that view, I reckon hi-fi and music ought to be about emotion,
not practicality, and there's no denying that a good valve amp can sound
the reviewers become less critical? Possibly. But other factors have also come
into the frame. As the UK hi-fi industry has shrunk, so has the number of
distributors, and those remaining have become rather more cautious about who
reviews their products.
problem faced by HIFICRITIC is
that we do try to review products fairly but critically. However, if a
distributor doesn't agree with something one of our reviewers has said,
it's very likely that the reviewer in question (or even the magazine as a
whole) simply won't receive any more review products. One thing is certain:
hi-fi equipment has become much more reliable over the years, which has got to
be good news for everybody. Indeed, the reliability of technology as a whole
has steadily improved. Back when a mobile phone was the size of a brick, I'd
automatically take one along with me on a journey just in case the car broke
down, which in those days it did, quite often. Tempting fate, I haven't
suffered a breakdown in twenty years, and if I were looking to replace my car
today, I probably wouldn't care much which company made it.
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