Times are hard. Our current economic landscape bears more than a passing resemblance to that darkest of American nightmares, the Great Depression. As I write this, the House of Representatives is set to vote on a $700 billion bailout plan to buy distressed mortgages and thereby offer a crutch to our ailing financial system. Times are hard, yet we persevere. Though we may lack some discretionary income, we find ways to maintain the essentials: food, clothing, shelter, and, for audiophiles, music. So for a short while at least, let's put aside our struggles and lighten up. After all, this great hobby of ours is meant to be fun, and is supposed to cure any depression. Let's celebrate music, and those wonderful audio components that bring us closest to it.
I was sitting in the main listening room of In Living Stereo, a small Manhattan hi-fi shop nestled between Greenwich Village and the East Village, when my conversation with store owner Steve Mishoe turned to the economy's current dismal state. In the face of slow sales, Mishoe had noted an encouraging trend: Because we have less money to spend, we want to make sure that what money we do spend goes for products that not only deliver the thrill of something new, but also promise enduring quality. If this is true, then we have reason to celebrate. By shifting our focus from the so-called "latest and greatest" to that which will provide lasting enjoyment, we set ourselves up for some real happiness and fun. Editor John Atkinson had this in mind 17 years ago, when he began our "Products of the Year" ritual. He felt it important to distinguish the truly good products from all the flashy pretenders that too often win the affections of our capricious hearts.
Since 1992, Stereophile has named a few choice components as its "Products of the Year." In doing so, we happily recognize those products that are capable of providing musical pleasure far beyond our formal review period. If one of our reviewers raved in Stereophile about a component, that component is mentioned here. These are products that not only define the current audio landscape, but that we hope will someday be seen as classicsproducts to be handed down to future generations of audiophiles and music lovers.
What makes one particular hi-fi component stand apart from all others in its class? In this issue's "The Entry Level," I state that an outstanding hi-fi component will fuel the listener's desire to explore new music. If a component does not achieve that fundamental goal, it has failed altogether and should be passionately heaved from the nearest listening-room window to hit the unforgiving asphalt with a definitive, satisfying boom (or traded on one of the online auction sites). But that rule is most pertinent when the discovery of new music is the listener's only goal. Most of us want our hi-fi components to also be attractive, well-built, versatile, and user-friendly; we want them to represent good value for our hard-earned money; and we would appreciate it if they stuck around for a while, rather than have to be too soon replaced by something new and "better."
Each December since 1992, Stereophile has named a few special components its "Products of the Year." These are products that not only define the present audio landscape, but that we hope will someday be seen as classicsproducts you'll want to pass on to future generations of audiophiles and music lovers.
There's a strange similarity between La Lupe and Melanie. They are both clearly passionate, to say the least. I've read that La Lupe's live shows had that certain danger to them that only the greatest rock performances can manage. On stage, her hands went wild like pigeons exploding into the summer sky: Lupe would poke at her face, tug at her clothes, and throw her shoes into the crowd.
While I was still basking in the warm, colorful glow of my Polyvinyl package, I received a copy of The Book of Audacity, written by Carla Schroeder and published by No Starch Press. This 359-page guide promises to help “build that home recording studio that you’ve been talking about for years.”
Forum member, dbowker, gave me the heads-up on this special Record Store Day LP. With This LP Crashes Hard Drives, ten of my favorite hard-core crate-digging specialist labels came together to release one hell of a deluxe, limited-edition, gatefold masterpiecejust one of the many reasons to raise our voices and rejoice for Record Store Day. The awesome package includes a CD sampler, zines, catalogs, stickers, and posters from all participating labels.