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We are now entering the hi-fi industry’s busiest time of year. The new products that were announced in the spring are arriving on retailer’s shelves. Audio journalists have left the beach and returned to their testing rooms to analyse 2023’s best new products and to start compiling their annual awards lists. And the music industry has shifted up a gear with multiple new releases destined to be played on our hi-fi systems.
Like squirrels instinctively preparing their winter stash, as the longer nights approach, us audiophiles feel the natural urge to take stock of our hi-fi systems and search for those vital upgrades that will deliver perfect performances to warm our ears until spring.
Once we are beyond the equinox, I’ll be taking a good look at my hi-fi system and will make an appraisal of which pieces should be kept, upgraded, or replaced. My hi-fi knowledge is pretty good, but I’ll be looking at online reviews to check out which new products I may want to purchase, and I’ll be talking to the folk at a friendly hi-fi retailer (you know the one) for their advice.
I’ll also be reading all the latest issues of the hi-fi magazines to gauge their writer’s opinions. Traditionally, the Christmas issues used to be the biggest and most useful of the year, but they don’t just seem to be what they used to be – call me sentimental, but I do miss the days when snow settled on the cover of a magazine’s masthead (title) and a cheeky robin was perched upon a tonearm.
Also, confusing magazine schedules make it impossible to identify which is the actual Christmas issue. I’ve already received a November issue (written in June), and I know that a few hi-fi magazines will be publishing their February editions over the Christmas period. Confusing?
There are many theories as to why the cover dates are out of synch with the real calendar. The truth of it is that the dates have been shifted by publishers who want to ensure that their magazine is the first edition of the month to appear on the newsstand. Quite simply, the first edition to appear on the shelves will outsell the others. Why? Well, if you walked into your local newsagent looking for a magazine to tell you which amp you should buy, you would always purchase the October edition of Hi-Fi Galaxy instead of the September issue of Hi-Fi Universe, wouldn’t you?
If you’re thinking that the dates of hi-fi magazines are a bit crazy, cast your mind back about twenty years to the halcyon days of the PC press. Each month, there were at least ten titles that fought to be first into the newsagents. Each of these IT dinosaurs was the size of a phonebook (anachronism?) and things were taken to an extreme when, to be ahead of the pack, one of these magazines released its Christmas edition in early September. However, at the time, it was worth it for the publisher as these magazines were selling hundreds of thousands of copies each month. Unfortunately for them, as we all know, the monthly PC press has gone the way of the real dinosaur.
Hi-fi magazine publishers take note!
Back to my research. I’ll be going online, buying all the hi-fi magazines (especially the awards issues) and will sit down to read them probably listening to the Stones’ new album (who mentioned dinosaurs?). I quite fancy the 180g heavyweight purple vinyl gatefold sleeve edition. If you’ve not seen the accompanying video for Angry, check it out. The billboards are quite something.
Before the new album is released, I’ll be heading down to Ascot at the end of this month to visit the UK Hi-Fi Show Live. If you’re in the London area that weekend, I urge you to visit as there will be some amazing products on display and on demo. The Renaissance suite of rooms shouldn’t be missed as it will feature the new North Collection of MOON products, the mighty VPI Avenger Direct turntable, stunning Danish speakers from Audiovector and the best hi-fi accessories in the world from Nordost.
Perhaps one of these products will sneak into my system and help see me through the winter? I’ll let you know.
Matt Tasker (Ammonite Media), September 2023