Stuart Smith looks at the year that was 2015 and hints at a few things you can expect to see in the coming year from Hifi Pig.
I was thinking about what to write for this months article and a million and one things went through my mind without really realising that what I should be doing is doing a bit about our year in hifi, but it has been so hectic I barely realised it was getting to that time of year. You know what it’s like, you’re doing something you really love and just become so entrenched in it that you lose track a bit.
2015 has been so full of highlights it’s really hard to single a few out of the many but one of the things I really enjoy doing is getting out and about at the shows we do. This year the main ones for us have been Bristol, Munich, The North West Audio Show and more recently Paris.
All the shows are very different indeed in both scope and what you see, but the one uniting theme is always the great people that want to say hello and chat with us about Hifi Pig and audio in general.
It was the first time at Bristol for us and it’s a really great show. It’s very much an event aimed at the end user. Of course there is high-end stuff there as well as more affordable kit, but I like that there is something for everyone and it goes to prove that in this hobby there are loads of people from myriad different backgrounds, with diverse tastes and with varying budgets. People are queuing well before the doors open which gives you an indication of how important this show is to the UK hifi scene. It’s also a great opportunity for us to meet some of our readers and the feedback we got was universally positive, with people saying they enjoy Hifi Pig’s slightly different approach to the more traditional and, some may say, staid hifi media. We love being a bit different and will continue to be so in the coming year.
Munich is a bit of a marathon for Lin and me but we both absolutely adore the High-End show and the city it’s held in general. This year we got to meet some of the mags in the US and beyond and had a truly memorable night out with Jeff and Pamela of TONE Audio. When we mentioned to a few folk at the show we’d be spending the night with Americans we were pretty much universally told that we’d be having a relatively quiet night and excessive consumption of booze would be frowned upon. Let’s put the record straight on this one, this particular pair of our American friends can booze with the best of them… as was demonstrated by hammering shots of tequila down our necks at 3am in our hotel bar. Linette was especially chuffed at this year’s show when a then unknown chap popped up and told her she was the best dressed audio journo he’d ever seen…turned out this was the truly lovely Jason Serinus from Stereophile. Lin’s struck up quite a friendship with Jason and he’s been recommending some opera for her to get her teeth into…
For me the highlight of this year’s Munich was meeting up with the guys from Avantgarde Acoustics and putting in our order for the company’s excellent Duo XD loudspeakers, which now take pride of place in Hifi Pig Towers’ listening room and reference system.
The North West Audio Show in the UK was brilliant again and despite only being in its second year it is proving to be a firm favourite with both punters and exhibitors alike. We had an absolute blast and are thoroughly looking forward to this year’s event in June which will be over two hotels with free transport between the two.
The Haute Fidelité show in Paris took place just a week after the terrible attacks on the city and it was touch and go as to whether we would make the journey, but we were so pleased we did. There was some great kit on show, we met some great people and there were a few surprises that the city threw up for us… You can read all about it here and here.
We obviously get a whole load of kit sent to us for evaluation and this past year we’ve had some absolute corkers sent and the reference system has changed accordingly. The aforementioned Avantegarde Duo Xd loudspeakers have replaced the hORNS Mummys, the Lampizator Big 7 DAC has replaced the VAD DAC, a Music First Baby Reference V2 is to be the new preamplifier, Merrill Thor amps are the new amps, The Wand tonearm is in place, Graham Slee Elevator EXP and Reflex phonostage take care of the signal coming from the cartridge, a Melco unit holds all our FLACs, an old but very nice Musical Fidelity NuVista 3D CD player spins the silver discs and we’ve bought a Hifi Pig edition of the Lab 12 gordian mains conditioner. Cables from Tellurium Q, Vermouth Audio, Chord Company and Atlas are all in place too. We’ve also been putting together a system for when we get less expensive products and ended up with a pair of Leema Xen loudspeakers, Graham Slee Proprius amps and Leema Elements CD player. Many of these products are yet to have their reviews published, but you can look forward to reading them in the New Year. There have been loads more that didn’t make the reference system too!
One of the biggest upgrades this year has come from an unexpected area and that has been in the form of room treatment from GIK. We met Dave Shevyn from the company earlier in the year and he asked if we’d be interested in trying the company’s products. We did, bought a load of it and will be buying more in the New Year. If you haven’t thought of using room treatment previously then you really should…bang for buck it’s a huge leap in performance. We’ll be doing a full review in the New Year of our experiences with their products!
In 2015 we launched columns from our contributors and they’ve proved to be hugely popular. Janine’s Retro Bites looks at vintage audio equipment and has been a great hit with loads of folk. Dominic’s Voice Of Dom published and excellent series on mains cables which put the cat amongst the pigeons a bit. Ian’s Fidelity Matters has drawn on his years of experience in the audio retail world. Linette’s Bird’s Eye View ruffled a few feathers when she introduced the ‘itchy blanket” of gender politics to the hifi world and I had a few tongue in cheek prods of the wasps nest with my Views Of Stu series of articles. We also had Mike Twomey of Big Kids’ Toys in the US write his monthly column giving the Dealers View on all this madness. John Scott has done a sterling job with his music and gig reviews and his Classic Album series of articles is very well-liked. Thank you all!! We’ve also interviewed some great characters in the audio world for our Behind The Brands series and have some fab interviews lined up in the coming year. There is more to come in 2016 from the current contributors…and we have a few surprises in store too if all goes well.
Hifi Pig will continue to do what we do. Sometimes we’ll be serious, others not so much, but we’ll always endeavour to bring you the latest news (not news that is months old like some sites think is acceptable), the best and most accessible reviews of kit and keep on telling you about what we think is the best music out there!
We have never sat on our laurels and 2016 will be no different and we will continue to innovate, change where needed and listen to our tens of thousands of readers to give you what you want to read on our pages.
May I take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who have taken Hifi Pig to your hearts and wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year, filled with great music and fabulous hifi.
Read more of Stuart’s The Views Of Stu