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Clew Bay outside Westport, Co Mayo - (George Karbus Photography/Cultura RM/Alamy)

For many, late December is a season to unwrap gifts. For us this year, it'd be the season for massive packing before any of the unwrapping could begin in the second week of the new year. That's because for us, 'twas moving time again. Having come to Ireland in April of 2016, we always knew that after two years, our landlord would sell. With the UK's divorce from the EU looming, we simply didn't want to wait until April '18 when not just locals but Brexiteers would compete in the tight game of Westport's rental market. As it turned out, Ivette's diligent tracking of the daft.ie online classifieds chanced upon the perfect listing during this winter season. We were the first and only clients to see it. The owners were as surprised to rent so quickly during a really cold snowy spell as we were to find something which once again ticked off all our boxes. Whenever we relocate, we always hope to do as good if not better than we did with whatever we just left. By how splendid the present Lecanvey digs were, we simply doubted that our lucky streak could continue. Surely it was time for a sideways or downward move? Not yet. Nyet. Of course moving during the holidays wasn't at all our idea of fun. Heck, even moving during the summer isn't. But when Lady Luck organizes a show, it's best to get tickets. Otherwise she might stop running the show. And then we'd be limited to our own far narrower vision and resources. That wouldn't be the same.

So for the first time in 15 years, 6moons would go on a brief 2-week hiatus starting January 1st to take down one place and set up a new one. Plenty of equipment loans were booked for an about January 15th delivery to keep things churning, from 8mmaudio, Crayon, Denafrips and Gold Note to Gryphon, FirstWatt, HifiMan, Nagra, Pass, Stacore and Zu. One or two earlier deliveries would move with us. With a 4x6m listening room beneath a tall gabled beam ceiling opening into a big kitchen and living room for once more an open-plan scheme with no wall behind the seat, I was certain. The new house would support good sound within just slightly more modest dimensions than before. And we'd still be in County Mayo looking directly at the holy mountain Croagh Patrick; just from the other side for a change. With that covered, late December is also the time to look back over the year about to close. Our awards page revisits certain highlights at a glance. In that context, there's my 49th Keep-it-honest KIH column for our Berlin contributor's site darko.audio. It's about awards, how they come about, what they mean and what they don't. This now makes for the ideal occasion to thank all the manufacturers who opted to once more work with us in 2017; or did so for the first time. If it weren't for them, we'd have nothing to write about, you nothing to read. Equipment makers aren't obliged to send us a thing, you know. They could just work with other publications; or bypass such marketing altogether. When they do send out loaners, not always are they pleased with all we have to say yet two-way ship fees can be significant. You'd expect nothing less for a 200kg palette. That's the risk. Whilst readers might shrug it off from the cozy comfort of their chairs, it's not their hard work, time and money we're critiquing. It's somebody else's efforts on the line. Usually that's not even a sole individual but a team of people who weigh every word and inflection. When they think on this, honest readers might admit that if they were in the hot seat, they might not feel like joining this dance at all. Fortunately most makers are made of sterner stuff.

So, gratitude to them all, big and small, famous or still barely known. They provide the raw material whereupon your entertainment of reading about hifi depends. And because we're a free read without any subscription or log-in fee, it's also they who cover our costs of operation so we can continue doing this thing we love. During a season of reflections and thanks, that very fact is much on my mind. Here's to them and all our readers. Sláinte!