Loudspeakers are all about balancing conflicting variables: accepting that you can't have electrostatic transparency and horn dynamics; finding something to suit the size of your room and credit rating; and picking the best all-around compromise to suit your particular taste. Goldilocks had the right attitude for loudspeaker reviewing. All that too-soft/too-hard, too-hot/too-cold merely sets the scene; "just right" goes straight to the heart of the matter.
It's rare to find people praising a competitor in this hi-fi business, but I first met John Michell soon after one of his biggest rivals had described him as an "engineer's engineer." Memorably, he'd be the first port of call for anyone in the UK who wanted something done properly and without compromise. Another competitor described him as quite the nicest person he'd worked with, and a naturally gifted practical engineer.
John Wright was one of the most important figures on the British hi-fi scene since the mid-1960s. His natural modesty and reticence made it easy to underestimate a working life that encompassed an unusually wide range of different roles: from inventor to speaker engineer to reviewer to businessman.
On November 19, Scottosh manufacturer Linn Products held a press conference in London to announce that it was forthwith ceasing the production of CD players, and effectively replacing them by its new DS-series "digital streaming" components in its product portfolio.
Ten years ago, I'd probably have got pretty good odds from industry insiders on a bet that Stereophile would still be reviewing phono cartridges into the new millennium. Linn's Arkiv B may not be a brand-new design—I heard my first sample in mid-1997—but phono-cartridge technology is about as stable as anything in hi-fi today. This Stereophile review is long overdue.
Oooohh! Aaaahh! Coochy-coo! are not the usual spontaneous reactions from hard-boiled audio journalists to the unveiling of a hi-fi component. Nor is the Silverstone Circuit, the self-proclaimed Home of British Motor Racing, the usual venue for such a launch. But the news that UK audio manufacturer Meridian and Ferrari were cuddling up together on a joint project was enough to drag yours truly halfway across the country to deep Northamptonshire on a miserably wet February morning.
The final piece of the TGI/Mordaunt-Short/Epos jigsaw puzzle (see previous story) seems to have fallen into place, with the news that Mike Creek (of the UK's Creek Audio) is purchasing the Epos loudspeaker brand, effective March 1.
It's been no secret that leading British speaker brand Mission was up for sale—the situation had been spelled out last fall in the Annual Report of parent company NXT plc. NXT is busy pioneering its new flat-panel speaker technology, and shareholder interests were clearly not being well served by "carrying" for any length of time a box-speaker brand whose recent financial reports had been mostly in the red.
Wood is not an engineering material. It might look pretty, but it's inconsistent and therefore unpredictable. So we smash cheap wood into sawdust and then glue it all together again to create something that can be machined. This is called medium-density fiberboard, or MDF. We then thinly slice some classy hardwood—hopefully harvested from sustainable sources—and use it to cover the ugly MDF. This might have made sense back when Chippendale was making furniture, but it seems strangely old-fashioned in our age of plastics and composites. I haven't seen wood trim on a TV set for more than a decade. Why is it still the norm for loudspeakers?
It had to happen eventually. Britain's internationally successful loudspeaker manufacturers tend to be highly geared exporters, with overseas markets often accounting for 80-90% of sales. The dramatic downturn in sales across virtually all Asian markets, alongside the collapse of the Russian ruble and an ever-strengthening pound sterling, has been making life very tough indeed.