Friday, December 31, 2010

Year end audio fashion

Easy copy is provided at this time of year for the best-of lists but I find the presence of such product listings in audio mags to be largely a waste of space, a poor substitute for more substantive content. I concede to the request in AA for my own which I keep brief but really, audio development and product releases are not as cyclical as films, books, and other 'events' in the media. A recent discussion on A'gon about products that came and went, initially with a flurry of positive reviews, reminded me of how one year's best can be quickly forgotten when new products come along, reducing the whole audio product cycle to the level of more transient realm of quick-turnover consumables.

It's not difficult to see what are the current darlings of the audio press, especially in speaker design, so I was reminded of how a couple of years ago in TAS you could hardly open a page without positive images or comments on the Kharma speakers, but where did all that attention go? You can pick up a pair easily on A'gon at about one-third of list now. Got an eye on some Magicos? Wait a couple of years and save yourself a fortune. Always longed for that Esoteric front end the mags all loved? You can have one now for a fraction of the original price. In short, take all such best-of and hyped up reviews with a pinch of salt. As I reminded myself recently in reviewing the Eastern Electric DAC, a 15 year old CD player can still sound very respectable partnered with the right gear, and yet digital audio is one area where very real progress is being made. Imagine the bargains to be had now in used tables, amps and the rest. A more interesting best-of would be a listing for a great system sourced from the used market. Try this from today's audiogon:

Basis Debut Gold, with Audio Research PH3 SE phono stage,
a Sony XA5400ES CD player, an MBL 601D preamp, a BAT VK600, with a pair of Wilson Wp7s, and you'll come in comfortably under $30k for a set up that listed closer to $100k when the rave reviews came out not so long ago. Now that's a best-of I could live with for more than a season.  Happy New Year!

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