My end-of-year round up – Part 1. There might be a part II later today, but don’t hold your breath.

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Most played CD:

Joni Mitchell “Hejira”. This truly extraordinary CD has grabbed me in a way I no longer thought possible. There’s some magic here that I just can’t explain. I mention this because I’ve bought her CDs from either side of this release, and they just aren't quite ‘there’ to the same extent. For me, impossible to over- praise.

Depressing but true:

The above mentioned CD has been played through my very modest office system; a dirt-cheap old Denon receiver, through dirt cheap JPW tiny bookshelf speakers, driven off Apple i-tunes from my Apple G5. Yes of course my big systems offer more, but in terms of value, this little office system is quite something.

My 3 most played tracks:

“Amelia”: Joni Mitchell - Hejira

“Two Time Tango”: Christine Collister - Live

"Win My Train Fair Home" (the Live in Timbuktu version): Robert Plant with Justin Adams - La Festival au Desert

My top 5 Live Gigs of the year:

Elkie Brooks

Suzanne Vega

Jet Harris and the Rapiers

The Mods

The Counterfeit Stones.

Live venues of the year:

Millfield Arts

Half Moon Putney

My digital equipment discoveries of the year:

(a) The Musical Fidelity X-RAY V8 DAC driven by my North Star Transport and (b) my North Star Sapphire one box CD player.

My preamp of the year:

The LFD Linestage-3. Possibly the most neutral yet engaging preamp I’ve ever owned.

My power amps of the year:

My pair of LFD Powerstage-3 monos. I really didn’t think I’d be able to recapture the purity of my now sold Accuphase P60 with the drive and grunt of my old Meridian 107, but I have – and then some.

Unreasonable and therefore frustrated expectation of the year #1:

My Krell KSP-7B preamp. Beautifully built. Noiseless. Great value on the used market. Bass grip ‘n grunt to die for and yet in my main system, un-engaging. Inappropriate mismatch on my part.

Unreasonable and therefore frustrated expectation of the year #2:

My Levinson ML28 preamp; see above.

Biggest ‘Oh wow” factor from a loudspeaker this year:

The Harbeth HL-PES-2. Astonishing is too mild a word here. These little stand-mounted miracles are as near perfect a 10 litre cabinet design as I’ve ever heard. An LS3/5a on steroids. Obviously the other Harbeth designs go louder ‘n deeper – and I stock those too, but for breathtaking credibility / neutrality, at a reasonable price and small footprint, these are the benchmark.

Greatest ‘Oh how I miss you’ factor this year.

My Lumen White Silver Flames, now in their new home in Switzerland.

A pity, but no regrets experience this year:

Resigning my profitable STAX agency and closing down simply-STAX. Unreliability and issues regarding a few box-shifting UK retailers who spoiled it for the handful of other STAX retailers all doing a good job meant it was no longer fun. The brand was in my view becoming merely a commodity.

The hmm – I wish I could have made a go of this experience:

Thiel CS 1.6 loudspeakers. Bloody amazing when partnered with the Ayre integrated. A synergy made in heaven, at a very reasonable price too. My biggest audiophile failure this year.

Magazine revival hope for 2008:

The revitalised (if the January 2008 issue is representative) Hi-Fi News magazine. Under new editorship, it’s really making a comeback. Now destined to give Hi-Fi World a run for its money. Can only be good news for enthusiasts.

The ‘hey, after all these years, I got one’ experience:

My lovely, stupidly heavy and I hope wonderful very old Luxman FQ 990 receiver.

The ‘I'm really happy for them’ experience

Boothroyd Stuart Meridian being valued at $40m by investors and as a consequence poised for accelerated expansion. A fine achievement for a UK audiophile company, given all the media paranoia about Apple i-pods and the credit squeeze. Congratulations.

Enthusiasts website of the year:

No doubt about it, John Mayberry’s Lecson site. A text-book example of how to do it.

The ‘bucket of bile’ website award this year goes to:

Pink Fish Media. I'm not in favour of censorship and I do uphold the ethos of free speech. However, and I guess this is inevitable, the quantity of ‘hand-bags at dawn’ bitchiness is extraordinary. The moderators do remove those that become particularly offensive though. Increasingly looking like it is infiltrated by the LNM – the Linn Naim Mujahadin.

More later - possibly.

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