:: WRAPPING UP 2017
This year, has to be said, will not be remembered as one of our most “web creatively” significant ones. Whether inspirational indisposition or objective lack of genuine news may be the root(s) of the problem, does not really matter. What matters is that Audiofreaks is still very much alive (if not kicking), and in a more than sufficiently good spirit to post one more page of this annual vintage. So, let’s try to recap and summarise the main characteristics of the year about to expire as we see it.
Manufacturers and their brands have not been anywhere near as idle as one might think. To name just a few, conrad-johnson design brought a new ET7 line preamplifier and a pair of stupendous new flagship stereo and mono amplifiers (ART150 and ART300). Zanden Audio Systems gave us a remote controlled line preamplifier (at last) through a much improved Model 3000Mk2. Our Canadian friends from Magnum Dynalab are approaching production of an intriguing new range of components bravely named Dynamite, launched at the High-End Munich show in May. Kuzma presented two exquisite new products of different intent and purpose - the CAR60 state of the art moving coil cartridge, and a considerably more affordable 4Point9 tonearm. Cardas Audio, as inconspicuous in their new product introductions as ever, added an interconnect cable to their Clear Beyond collection, not to forget the A8 30th Anniversary Eddition Ear Speakers (in ear headphones). We also welcomed the arrival of a very useful and effective sound improvement device for LPs from Germany, called API FLAT (Record Flattener). Finally, we also thoroughly enjoyed our first full calendar year of activity with the Vienna Acoustics range of dynamic loudspeakers.
Trends within the audio industry showed once again that, in actual fact, there were no real new trends to shout about. The, already well developed, "battle" between the hard-core traditionalists and (no longer) new ideas about music streaming and whatever else related to computerised playback of music, continued without new winners and/or losers. Self-centred and self-serving approach along the lines of "we could not care less how few of anything we sell for as long as the price tag of a single unit makes up for it", continued to blossom at an even more ludicrous level, thanks to the remains of the infinite wealth in some areas of the Far East and similar enclaves elsewhere. Times have and will continue to change. I always say it is more a "generational shift" than anything directly associated with ideas, design and engineering. Fear not, there are still plenty of LPs, CDs and not entirely digitised FM radio stations to enjoy for some time to come.
As far as the world of Music goes, 2017 was no better or worse than recent years before. Within the domain of recorded music, certain disappointing trends continue, especially around classical music. Funding for proper studio recordings of established masterpieces performed by new best artists, have disappeared years ago. As an example, all more recent operatic releases have been recorded live at festivals or opera house stages. Why? Much cheaper that way, of course. Here at Audiofreaks, we continue to promote all music genres as much as we can, mainly within our webshop and our precious association (more on a personal than commercial or similar levels) with maestro Enrique Mazzola whose consistently stellar performances both as an opera and symphonic conductor elevated him to the very pinnacle of contemporary conducting over the past few seasons. His 2017 CD release of Manuel deFalla music with his 'home' ONDIF orchestra from Paris (NoMad Distribution record label) belongs, both musically and as a recording, to any serious music collection.
2017 has been our first year of involvement in another area of activity. After 30 years of being (arguably, of course) one of the two most influential and longest standing high-end audio distribution businesses in the UK, we felt the time has come to find ways to support and promote gifted young individuals within the worlds of culture, art and business. In association with some of our manufacturer friends we will do our best to create some sort of a "Legacy" trust in order to provide financial and other support to selected 'youngsters' in the years to come. My personal dream - a small record label to promote young musical talents - remains alive...you never know...nothing is impossible, no matter how futile it might be.
Something else happened very recently that was “the first” in our long existence. In association with and support of the British Hi-Fi+ magazine, a promotional incentive is being offered to all readers of Hi-Fi+ until the end of January 2018. Most of our products (both in physical stock and on factory order) are available to their readers at substantially reduced prices. We were pleased to see the publishing and editorial forces behind this publication (that has very seriously supported true high-end audio for years) realising the potential of such a joint venture. Bearing in mind the overall state of our industry and the level of affordability combined with interest in (imported, in particular) true high-end audio hardware, our example should be followed by many others in the near future. Without making true high-end audio components as affordable as possible, soon there may not be true high-end audio at all…
Overall, 2017 was good enough in most areas that matter, but does not need to be remembered for anything in particular. Brexit or not, a cruel fact of life that our currency (GBP) remains 20% or so less worth than before June 2016, cannot be ignored. Reduced general interest in traditional true high-end audio cannot be helped this way, cost of imported masterpieces even less so. However, as one of my close friends, whose pragmatic wisdom I have been holding in high esteem for a very long time, often says: "Hindsight is pointless as there is nothing we can do to change the past. Future is equally impossible to predict, so no time should be wasted on this either. Let us, instead, focus on Now and do our best every single moment". Damn right! I continue to believe firmly that where there is a will, there is a way, too. Miracles may be impossible, but, as a humble example, perhaps (and just that) it may still not be too late for UK to have at least a proper, unified, quality audio and home entertainment annual trade/public event in 2018?
As always, allow me to express my profound gratitude to all of you who have continued to support Audiofreaks in 2017. Trade or consumer, you are all very precious and I can only hope that your kind loyalty and patronage may have been rewarded most, if not all the time to the best of our ability and competence. Long may it continue.
With our best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a healthy, joyful and even more musically pleasing New Year 2018!!