This was a first. Would I be interested in reviewing a book on audio as art? I immediately wondered how long it would take to break in before, in quaint Harry Potter fashion, it'd commence to make sounds whenever I flipped a page. But let's be serious rather than flippant - this was exactly the kind of cushy assignment craved by any working reviewer whose ears are turning into cauliflower jobs from tightly crammed listening assignments. Hurray - none of the usual audiophile matters to deal with. What's more, Hideo Kitazawa of RTL Audio could be relied upon to unearth items of merit. And indeed, his friend Terence Wong has unearthed a whole mother lode to create what could be the world's first coffee table book on fine audio fashions, presented in full-color whole to double-page images on high-quality paper, annotated with marketing commentary on 185 pages, and forewords by Mr. Wong; Kathy Gornik of Thiel Audio and Chair Woman of the CEA's board of directors; Ken Ishiwata of Marantz; and Simon Yorke's meditation on "Future Audio".


How to extend HighEnd audio's hypodermic needle to those not already addicted? Rather than whining, dreading or ignoring, Terence Wong decided to do something about it. By appealing to our eyes, that predominant organ of human perception, he has addressed fine audio in Art Gallery rather than techno-dweeb style. He thus neatly circumvents the real issues that plague audio evangelism - opinionated apartheid and fringe appeal.


Running the gamut of brands -- some of which even I hadn't heard of before -- Marques of Distinction's immaculate photography offers eye candy of the highest order. In less words rather than more, it establishes HighEnd audio as an art form on par with custom boat or motorcycle design and fabrication. Do your attempts to spread the gospel routinely fall on deaf ears? May I suggest getting to your intended parties quietly and elegantly with this book?


It makes its points convincingly and without stress. It encircles the audio wagon from every conceivable direction, preparing acolyte questions about tubes, horns, electrostats, single-driver speakers, digital amplifiers and all manner of other 'alien beasts' merely in their classy presentation. Add the tasteful inclusion of website URLs for each brand. It invites ever so underhandedly to follow up and investigate further.

Possibly even more powerful? The subliminal message and endorsement of lifestyle as it finds itself reaffirmed on each new page, both in the elegant presentation of the book per se and the occasional images of homes and environments in which these sound-producing object d'art have been placed. The old chestnut of pictures speaking louder than words or loudspeakers has finally met its HighEnd audio match. Without a doubt due then is a standing ovation. Bravo to Terence Wong of I-Audio Magazine; the Modavi Private Ltd. publishing house; and the roster of sponsors involved in bringing this project to fruition.


At $99 or 89 Euros, this is the perfect negotatior's tool to make your fevered case with relatives, friends and work acquaintances who thus far have shown little aptitude to appreciate your hobby with any semblance of sympathy. Don't argue. Don't insinuate. Don't preach. Don't try to convince. Simply slip 'em Marques of Distinction in a big red bow and see what happens. I predict more than you'd bargained for. Just make sure you play real music should curiosity kill the cat and have people knocking on your door to finally check out that much talked-about system of yours... let the music do the talking. The book should have already opened the requisite mental passages of real curiosity. Olé!


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