Let us pause for a moment to reflect on the passing of one of hi-fi’s most venerable components. For 30 years, Rega’s Planar 2—recently, simply known as the P2—has provided countless hi-fi enthusiasts with their first taste of the potential that the vinyl disc has to offer. Now Rega has decided to stop making it.
I don't know whether Sam Tellig or I first discovered the delights of some slightly idiosyncratic loudspeakers made by Triangle—Tree-ON-gle, if you add the relevant accent—in the northeastern corner of France. I do recall feeling quite relieved to find that I wasn't the only hi-fi writer who liked and wrote about them.
Angus McKenzie was a wholly remarkable individual. One of British hi-fi’s legends, he was the country's leading equipment reviewer for more than a decade, but that was only one of several careers and passions he pursued with repeated and conspicuous success, despite losing his sight completely at the age of 26.
Rumors have been circulating for some weeks now that the Chinese-owned, UK-based International Audio Group (IAG), which owns and operates the Quad and Wharfedale brands, was in talks with TAG McLaren, with the intention of taking over the latter's Audio division.
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.
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.
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.
I reviewed JMlab's Mezzo Utopia loudspeaker in the July 1999 Stereophile (Vol.22 No.7). By chance, the Mezzos had followed a pair of B&W Nautilus 801s into my listening room, and the substitution had proved rather interesting. For all their many fine qualities, the 801, with its 15" bass driver, was distinctly bass-heavy in my room, whereas the 11" drivers of the Mezzos seemed just right in this regard.
At the end of July, UK-based TAG McLaren Audio, which had been experiencing difficult trading conditions and was reducing its workforce, issued a rather pessimistic announcement. The core of the announcement concerned the firm's commencement of "a full strategic review of its participation in the audio market."
The international uncertainties of 2003 have not been kind to the specialist hi-fi sector, and are probably a key factor in this week's shock announcement. In a statement that sounds depressingly valedictory, the press release (reproduced in full below) baldly states: "TAG McLaren Audio ceases development of new products and commences a full strategic review of its participation in the audio market," before signing off with, "TAG McLaren Audio would like to thank everybody for their kind support over the years."