Four years. That plus a few months is how long we've broadcast our reviews in cyber space, quietly slipping into our 5th year of operation sometime in June of this year. Equally quietly, your publisher slipped out of the US and relocated to Cyprus in the Mediterranean. The first fruits of this new location will be personal coverage of the Warsaw Show in Poland next month, plus a special RoadTour report to Hong Kong before the year's out to meet with some advanced music lovers and the fearless importer/retailer who supports them with the requisite luxo hardware.
Having by now settled into my new listening room and recovered from the ordeal of moving an entire household halfway across the world, it's time to focus on business - scoping out European events, soliciting European and Asian manufacturers for review loaners. That's not an instant transition but you'll be seeing more evidence of it in 2007.
As I write this, the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2006 is in full swing in Denver, with first coverage by our own Stephæn on Audio Asylum's General page. To be honest, I didn't feel like shouldering the substantial travel expense to attend myself when Stereophile, SoundStageAV, Positive Feedback, Audio Federation, some of our own crew and others would cover the event at great lengths already. Warsaw? Now there's an entirely different proposition. The show itself is in its 10th year while I'd never even heard of it before the show organizer contacted me a few weeks ago with an invitation. Nor have I been to any of the audio shows in Asia before. That'll be my new event horizon to pick from as schedules and travel budgets allow.
Four years. Some contributors are no longer with us, new ones have joined. Audio reviewing isn't as easy as it seems. Burn-out is a very real liability that can interfere with the original enjoyment of the hobby. Life can infringe on the many hours required to meet deadlines and turn around assignments. There's health, kids, mates, jobs, other hobbies, the need for novelty and variety. Sometimes training yourself to listen analytically in order to quantify the experience and share it with others undermines the more innocent holistic/synergistic listening mode. The reasons why it may be very healthy to quit writing about audio are quite many.
Four years. My own system has undergone changes and the need for additional review tools crept up. As will be clear to anyone with even a modicum of experience, everything about the higher levels of audio performance is about synergy and tuning. A so-called reference system -- nothing other than that which is used to compare against, turning a constant into the reference to gauge variables -- is quite a narrow slit through which to observe the vastness that is audio choices and possible review subjects. A system optimized around low-power tube amps requires high-efficiency speakers. That's not necessarily the ideal sparring ground for high-current high-power amplifiers. And so on. The more specialized and defined a reviewer's tastes, the more advanced her investment into catering to them with exotic components, the more restricted future review options become if they are to be met fairly.
To report about amplifier bass performance and current delivery, I've for a while now looked to identify a ball buster of a speaker. Contrary to my general audio religion, here I wanted efficiencies and impedances the lower the better. For practical reasons of where to stow such speakers outside of specific review projects, they also had to be small. In fact, the smaller the better. On top of that, my upscale audio sensibilities insisted on first-class build quality and good looks. Lastly, I had to be able to afford this mystery speaker. Having a well-stocked tool box is about reality, not dreams. But who in their right mind wants an ugly tool or, in this instance, one that doesn't sound good just so you have a yardstick to measure with? With the assistance of my own staff, I've by now identified the ideal candidate and 2007 will see me add high-power transistor amps to the mix of products I can personally pursue and write about.
Four years. Looking back, we've come quite a way, from humble beginning to having made our mark already on the small sector of self-published audio magazines. There'll be new publications to incorporate lessons our example presents, copying what we do well, improving what we don't. So it goes. In the end, it's about being part of something and serving that thing to the best of one's passion and abilities. The great thing about audio reportage is how it transcends cultural barriers. At a time when strong religious beliefs are creating a global division of political ideologies, something as essentially meaningless as audio reviews can hitch itself to the necessary counter trend of practicing unity in diversity rather than the opposite. Seeing how audiophiles around the globe respond and get involved is proof positive how this works.
Four years and a team of 20. It's been quite a ride. Seeing that I've deliberately arranged my life around my chosen occupation to suffer no distractions, there's no reason to think the fifth year will see us let up riding this wave. There's simply far too much good new music around that keeps feeding it to plan on jumping off. So here's to looking ahead and hoping for many colorful opportunities to spread the enthusiasm and joy true audiophiles feel whenever they enter their listening sanctuary and cue up a new disc or LP.