REVIEWING THE REVIEWERS: Hi-Fi News August 2010 versus HiFi World August 2010 – the shoot-out

So anyway I wandered in to W H Smith’s with the pennies jingling in my pocket wondering how many Hi-Fi magazines I would come away with for this article. It turned out not to be particularly difficult. I took one glance at Hifi Choice, nostalgically remembering what a truly great magazine it was in the 70s and 80s, looked at the front cover, looked inside, same old boring format with the same old boring reviewers reviewing the same old boring equipment and I put it back. I looked at Hi-fi Plus and as usual, immaculately presented,. It does in this respect put the other magazines to shame, but the line up of equipment wasn’t particularly interesting and I’m pretty sure I knew already from looking at what equipment was going to be reviewed, what the likely outcome was going to be. This left, of course, Hi-Fi News and Hi-fi World. I was in for a pleasant surprise with both publications.

It’s quite clear that both News and World have seriously upped their game. Both of them are excellent reads this month.

Let’s start with Hifi News. I’m convinced, as indeed many others are, that Ken Kessler is really that publication’s ace in the hole. There is no one, and I repeat no one, in the audio world currently, or in the recent past, who writes with the sheer verve, enthusiasm and exuberance that he does. I don’t always agree with his views and I’m not alone in this. I do like his style of writing and I don’t take offence at the eccentricity – although some people do. The point is though, if there is anyone writing today in the audio world that is likely to generate the sort of excitement that would encourage people to want to go an visit a retailer and audition equipment, Ken is the man. So, eulogy over, let’s analyse what’s in this month’s publication.

Certainly their news section is more comprehensive and more interesting than that in Hi-Fi World. I’m very surprised that both of these magazines don’t seem to expand on their news sections and this can either be because there frankly isn’t much news around – or the people that own the publications don’t think that there is much revenue to be generated from it. It’s also very surprising to note that press releases regarding dealers never, ever appear. Looking at this from a fresh perspective, it seems to me that only press releases from makers and distributors ever get published. Surely it cannot be that dealers have nothing of interest to report?

There’s a rather nicely put together, but all too brief four page summary of the Munich HiFi show from Ken Kessler with some excellent photographs of eccentric equipment. As always Ken has gone for the more unusual rather than the predictable. Moving on, a very interesting article called ‘Taking You Higher’, where Andy Rye talks to a label at the cutting edge of hi-res downloads. I didn’t necessarily understand the entire article but found it very well put together and it’s interesting to note that HiFi News are branching out into this particular area. One up on Hi-Fi World

There’s a attention-grabbing review of the Oracle Delphi MkV1 turntable. It’s obviously a beautiful product and the write up is particularly well put together being both lengthy, but not boring. After this there’s a number of me-too valve amplifiers that frankly didn’t interest me, but the review of the JBL Project K2 at a mere £28,000 per pair of speakers was certainly worth taking a look at.

The NAD C316BEE amplifier got a fine review, demonstrating once again that they really have the ability to make interesting products at very good prices. Moving on there was a group test of ‘single-driver loudspeakers under £5000. I didn’t know any of the products and none of the reviews were particularly interesting. My guess is that this really does appeal to the niche market.

An interesting review on the Clearaudio Stradivari V2 cartridge is well worth taking a look at as indeed is the review a product which I am thinking of buying for myself, the LavryBlack DA11. This is a studio grade headphone DAC/amplifier with ‘a feature for headphone devotees who want it out of the head’. This being called ‘play back image control’. Once again Ken Kessler writes with assurance and verve.

Part 2, in due course

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