Hifi Pig (Stu) has a background deeply rooted in both playing and listening to music. In the dim and distant past he hosted the infamous “Midnight Train to Doomsville” show on the Sony award winning station “Wear FM” and has DJd at clubs, parties and festivals around the UK, where he’s been known to play sets of eight and nine hours.
As part of the dub reggae band “Roughneck Sounds” Stu toured the UK, cut an album and even got a tune played by the great John Peel. He has owned a vinyl only record store, a recording studio and finally ended up working in newspaper and magazine publishing.
Stu got the hifi bug in his mid-teens when he was bought a Hitachi separates system and was immediately hooked. In the first term of university his grant was blown on an LP12, Crimson Eclektrik amps and Wharfedale Diamonds and he survived on little more than swill and beer. These days quite a bit of kit goes through the sty and he has a bit of a fetish for unusual loudspeakers.
Stu lives in NW France with his long suffering wife and two teenage sons. He is, for the moment, T total – though this status can change without warning (and indeed has) – and he is a bit obsessed with making Hifi Pig the very best it can be. His musical taste is eclectic and most things get an occasional spin, though classical music is a species rarely spotted in the pig pen he calls a listening room.
Stu is the only person to take any income at all from the Hifi Pig project which is derived from advertising you see on the site. He has been hired to design websites for a small number of hifi related companies (G-Point Audio, Epiphany Acoustics and also Paul’s Reference Fidelity Components) and a handful of non-hifi related enterprises. He is solely responsible for the design and creation of all advertising copy on the Hifi Pig website unless supplied by the advertiser/sponsor’s own design and graphics department.
Linette Smith (Mrs Hifi Pig)
What do you do when you live with an audiophile? You can either make them keep themselves and all their ‘kit’ in a little-used room (preferably with a lock on the outside of the door) or you can embrace the madness and let the HiFi take over the entire house……..guess which path I chose?!
You could say that music brought myself and Stuart together…he was a dance music DJ and I was a fully paid up member of the glowstick-waving rave brigade, a match made in heaven!
We used to live with a neon pink PA system in our lounge so a full on HiFi fest was never going to drive a wedge between us!
20 years on and I still like to wave a glowstick on occasion though I’m not quite the party animal I once was.
I like HiFi that looks good and sounds good, I like kit that dares to be different …..life is too short for boring HiFi.
I’m a bit of a hornlautsprecher Fan Girl, love going to HiFi shows, and find vinyl to be a pain in the butt.
Other than music of the repetitive beats variety, I like to listen to a lot of different genres, from disco to rock but have a bit of an aversion to ‘stately home music’ or classical, as some folk call it.
As well as HiFi and music, I enjoy art, reading, cooking…. especially baking (come on, you don’t think that Stuart got to be such a fine figure of a man on lettuce leaves alone?!) and am doing my bit to try and reduce the European wine lake, one glass at a time!
Janine is hi-fi journalist best known for her reviews and column “Hi Fi Confidential” in Hi-Fi News magazine up until 2010. As well as hi-fi she has written on a number of subjects from cars to tropical fish, and worked in the hi-fi industry for a number of companies in research, design and writing of product manuals. She spent 25 years at the BBC as a sound engineer and now teaches music in schools. As a musician she has played keyboards and guitar with a number of famous musicians and produced her own albums and music for film. As musician, hi-fi fanatic since the age of 10 and being female she ticks all the boxes for being able to make sound reviews.
Ive always been a creative person and a creative thinker. From a young age i always enjoyed art and music, being an 80’s baby i grew up with what I believe to be one of the greatest eras of music ever. Memories of being at at home watching my mum dancing around the kitchen listening to the radio, my grandad having his own band and all the family going to gigs to support him. He had a studio in the garage and I remember being in there beating on the drums making the most awful racket but loving every minute!
My first personal system I had was when I was 12, my Dad found a Technics receiver in a skip and spent days cleaning it up and repairing it for me. He then managed to find a kind man at work who donated a three way pair of pioneer speakers and then spent the foreseeable future telling me to turn it down!
I was always a great fan of art throughout my teenage years and used to spend my evenings drawing, painting and listening to music, which was mainly 90’s pop at the time.
Continuing my love for art after ‘A’ levels I went on to art college to study fine art and eventually found a calling in graphic design and printing which led to a job with local newspapers and magazines.
My music tastes are hugely varied but i have a passion for acoustic and vocals, I find it so relaxing and it seems to just touch my soul. After a busy day or if I have a lot on my mind I love to unwind with the simplest of music, stripped down to its very essentials, it just seems to calm me so much.
I was inspired when in the mid 90’s after the death of my grandad’s brother who played the drums he went on to gig himself. He would load a set of MIDI files onto a laptop and place speakers all around a stage in the positions of a ‘ghost band’ and whilst he took centre stage singing and playing his guitar or clarinet, his ‘ghost band’ would be performing with him via the laptop and if you closed your eyes eyes the music felt complete and real.
I believe this is where my connection to computers and music first came from, it was beyond what I knew to be possible at that time and thought you clever sod!
I am completely convinced with the format of streaming and having music located in one core location, be it on a server or nas drive which can be utilised by a number of devices around the home or on the go.
To compliment the convenience of digital recordings I love the sound of valves and to feel the balance that can be achieved between a digital front end and a valve amplifier in conveying a wonderful and realistic insight into the music.
The way we are listening to music is changing and educating the next generation is a must for it to keep evolving, compressed mp3’s for convenience is not foe me but lossless through a good system, essential!
My love affair with music and in particular HiFi began at the age of 17 back in the early 70’s when my employer used to ask me to babysit for him on Saturday nights. Once I had fed the children and seen them tucked up in bed, I would put on his music system and listen to his record collection. The music system was a Dieter Rams Braun all-in-one music centre with bookshelf Bang and Olufsen speakers wired to various rooms in the cottage. That sound was truly infectious and I saved for many weeks to buy my own hi-fi system which comprised a trusty Pioneer PL12D turntable, a Rotel RA-310 amplifier and a pair of Wharfedale Linton speakers, joined soon afterwards by an Akai 4000DS reel-to-reel. The itch to upgrade was manifest even way back then and the Rotel amplifier soon made way for a Pioneer SX-636 receiver and then a pair of Celestion Ditton 15’s ousted the Wharfedale speakers.
Those with a long memory will spot that my component choices back then were heavily influenced by the hi-fi magazines of that era. I seem to recall that reviews were centred around having a microphone placed on a stand 1 metre away from the centre axis of a speaker and a graph plot of the resulting frequency response. I am still not entirely sure how that translated into what we humans were hearing in that sound, because we are all so variable in our likes and dislikes, so the graph was pretty useless to be honest. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that I can look back now and shudder how things were done back then, but that was all we were armed with to head off down to the dealer’s shop for auditions, which probably meant some superb sounding (but not measuring particularly well) components fell by the wayside.
When it comes to the actual reviews that I carry out for Hifi Pig, I try my best to select music that people at home might play, is probably in their collection as well and can easily relate to. There is nothing worse in my view when a reviewer mentions they played an excerpt from Bloggin’s 39th Symphony in Z Flat, Third Movement, on the Watchamacallit label recorded in 1947. Who on earth is going to rush over to their rack, select that same album and compare to see if they can hear that triangle sound the reviewer has described noted at 17 minutes 47 seconds?
Once at the dealership after avidly scanning the magazines, I was generally met with speakers standing shoulder to shoulder with many other pairs of speakers, same too with shelves full of amplifiers and turntables, routed through the ubiquitous Comparator. This was nothing more than a huge glorified box of switches so you could switch between turntable “C” to amplifier “H” to speakers “R” and any permutation in between. How on earth we actually managed to select the right matched components is still a mystery to me. But, the one enjoyable memory from that bygone age is shelf upon shelf of blue or green illuminated tuning dials and amber pointers of receivers and tuners set in that hushed darkness that was Unilet Hi-Fi’s showroom in New Malden. Ahhhhhhhhh . . . . . . happy days.
Some years later I managed to get a part time Saturday job in a hi-fi dealer’s shop in my late teens which was an education by itself and it was much better than being a child in a sweet shop too. Provided I signed the loan book, I could pretty much “borrow” anything I liked and some wonderful components found themselves in my system, much of it originating from the USA with big bruiser amplifiers and speakers. Far more important than that was learning that each of us has different tastes and preferences and even more so, different perceptions of what we hear. A junior that was taken on managed to offend a customer when he laughed at the customer’s music system, so the boss took him to one side and read the Riot Act to him. It wasn’t the fact that the chosen brand amused the young lad that was the problem, it was that he had offended the customer personally by inferring he was an idiot because he had chosen what he did. Lesson learned there. Attend any hi-fi show and listen to what people say about any system being demonstrated and the opinions vary greatly so there can be no rights and wrongs in anything that is expressed by others. Those lessons have been kept close to my heart ever since for all these years and hence why I try hard not to impose my own preferences and tastes into my reviews, which I think is the hardest task of all to accomplish. However, I do have benchmarks I have set that components must attain, like dynamics, timbre, leading edges, separation and imaging, to name but a few.
I have over the past 40-odd years had an endless procession of components come and go, most were average, some dreadful, some thankfully outstanding too and the irony is that I hadn’t realised how good they were until AFTER the courier picked up what I had sold and delivered my new arrival. Some of the very best came from little known or start-up manufacturers that took extensive pains to produce a top class product at a reasonable price and provide excellent customer service. Never mind, there are plenty of diamonds in the rough still waiting to be discovered and that is why I relish and enjoy reviewing for Hifi Pig magazine. Hope you enjoy my written outpourings on this diverse, colourful and highly enjoyable subject.
I reckon I was born with hifi in my DNA. My mum and dad loved music and went to dances in the 40’s when they were growing up. My mum loved all the old dance bands like Glen Miller and had a lot of 78’s as a teenager. When I was born this wasn’t really apparent as they had moved on with my dad being a professional footballer and international for Eire and my mum a housewife. In the 60’s they bought a Pye Black Box stereogram and I played lots of singles from that era such as the Beatles etc. I then got hold of a Readers Digest favourite Classical box set and proceeded to conduct all the old favourites with one of my mum’s knitting needles for hours on end. Musically I had no talent at playing an instrument but I loved to listen to all types on the radio or TV.
The 70’s arrived and my sister went to university and the first summer she came back she brought her current boyfriend’s hifi with her, a Tripltone amp, Garrard SP25 turntable with Goldring cartridge and speakers which I can’t remember now. This beat my parent’s stereogram hands down and I was hooked. The following year I was old enough to work during the school summer holidays so I spent six weeks in a dull office filing. It was worth the boredom though as I was able to buy a BSR HT70 turntable with a Goldring G800 cartridge, Metrosound ST60 amp and a pair of Koss Pro 4AA headphones. I couldn’t afford speakers yet, much to my parents’ relief at the time.
As the 70s progressed I got a regular job as a civil servant and proceeded to spend all my spare cash on hifi and records. Then in 1980 I was offered the chance to work at the hifi shop I was a regular customer at – the Audio Centre in Sheffield. I had five happy years selling, setting up and installing quality high-end hifi such as Linn, Naim, Rega, Creek, Arcam, Meridian etc. Times changed and I moved to Superfi in Sheffield and spent 19 years there selling less exotic, but none the less good quality hifi. I left retailing in 2004 due to the climate of retailing dramatically changing and the influence of the internet and came back into the Civil Service. This didn’t dampen my enthusiasm though.
Today I write for HiFi Pig of course as a reviewer with extensive experience and still have close contact with many people in the hifi business. When my wife married me she knew what she was getting into and likes music as well, but she isn’t bothered about the equipment side, just what it sounds like, and she will comment readily if it’s not to her taste. Analogue is my thing with turntables still the best in my opinion, but I like CD as well. If I won the lottery I would be like a kid in a sweet shop wanting to buy everything I fancied, but for now I have to be sensible. I am a great advocate of value for money equipment and don’t shy from buying classic second hand kit if it is still good. I love progressive rock from the 70’s and listen to a wide choice of musical genres apart from opera, rap and traditional jazz. I have lost count of the different pieces of equipment I have owned over the years, but don’t regret any of it and look forward to many more years of collecting kit and music.
I’ve been obsessed –I don’t think that is too strong a word – with music, and the things that make make music, for as long as I can remember. My first experience of a “hifi” system was my parent’s 1950’s radiogram – my Mum still has it – followed later by a Sony music centre, which I thought was a sonic revelation and I suppose compared to the radiogram it was.
Around 1979, a school friend had become aware of the concept of “separates” as the way to go for a true hifi experience and we both spent many Saturday afternoons in Russ Andrew’s hifi shop in Edinburgh – Russ had sold his share in the business by this point but the shop retained his name. The staff there were very generous with their time, recognising that we had next to no money but letting us hear what we could aspire to, from a Sansui turntable, NAD amp and KEF speakers, through Rega Planer 2 and 3 turntables and all the way to the Holy Grail of a Linn Sondek and active Isobariks, powered by Naim 250s.
We were hooked. As soon as I left school and started work I began saving and within 18 months I was the proud owner of a second-hand Linn Sondek, an A&R Cambridge A60 amp and a pair of Linn Kan speakers. Over time, the turntable was upgraded to another, better, Sondek (Valhalla power supply and Ittok arm) which I still have, Naim Amplification and Linn Keilidh speakers. I resisted the lure of CD until the point came where I could no longer find the new releases I wanted to buy on vinyl and had no option but to buy a CD player. These days, the CD player has been banished to the attic, all my CDs having been ripped to hard drive and streamed into the hifi system, currently via a Squeezebox Touch. I think that streaming/computer audio/hi-res is providing a really exciting opportunity for the future of the hifi industry and I look forward to seeing how this develops.
Music-wise, I raised myself on Top Of The Pops and Radio 1 until I discovered hard rock and Prog in the pre-punk mid-seventies. When punk came along I didn’t see any reason to turn my back on the music I already loved and so it just joined the mix – the more music the better as far as I was concerned. A developing obsession with Dylan along with Elvis Costello did put a dent in my love of Prog for many years and I totally avoided the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, but these days all genres of music sit side by side in my collection – life is too short to be a genre snob. I still struggle a little bit with opera though.
Since about the age of 12 i’ve always had a fascination with music and HI-Fi, mainly due to me being exposed to my Dad’s Hifi and music collection throughout my childhood. I remember we had large floor standing speakers hooked into a valve amp and a very expensive looking CD player. 12 years old is where the passion really kicked off for me as I bought my first Philips bedroom Hifi kit and started buying my own music. I was exposed to all sorts of music as a kid, from old reggae/dub, classical, motown, 70’s & 80’s pop, jazz, funk, even Christian rock (due to my mother’s influence). My Brothers were all fairly musical too with my two older brothers playing drums and my younger going through phases of playing violin, clarinet and now piano.
At 17 I decided I wanted to study Music Technology and Production at College; I wanted to further my knowledge on how music’s made in a studio, as well as get inspired again. During those 2 years I learned how to use Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and how they aid in the modern day mixing & mastering of music. I even started experimenting with my own music through software instruments (which I developed further at University) and also started learning how studios are run. Knowledge such as certain microphone names and recording techniques started to imprint onto my brain and I got a better appreciation for the anatomy of a finished track.
I continued my studies for another 3 years at University where my skills using DAWs greatly increased and my love for making my own music increased too (My drum skills increased a lot). I learned more about music history, sound acoustics and recording techniques. I was also involved in more large-scale recordings, such as helping to record a jazz/soul band and a punk-rock band in the studio. I believe my ear for music mixing and mastering improved at University; I was also exposed to other music I’d not heard before.
One of my latest music-related jobs I was involved in after University was at King’s Lynn Festival as a ‘Communications & Events intern’.
I have a wide scope of musical interest, some of my favourite artists include: George Duke, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Queen, Prince, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jamiroquai, Keziah Jones… but I also like to listen to some more off-beat, experimental or up-and-coming artists such as: Culprate, Mr. Bill, Tennyson, KOAN Sounds, Tipper, Aphex Twin, Darkside, and many others…
Hopefully you will enjoy reading my articles on this site about new experimental and off-beat music I find.
Music has been an important part of Peter’s life. While he was growing up, his parents always had opera or classical music playing and both his school and his college had world-class choirs. He entered his teens just as new wave was making music interesting again (!) and he was lucky enough to hear/see all the major, and many minor, acts of the late seventies and early eighties.
Having studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at university in the eighties, he worked for a long time in the civil service and then for one of the Big Four accounting firms before becoming an independent consultant in 2012. Now that he is working from home, the music is on all day.
One of the big advantages of his work over the years has been the extensive international travel that has allowed him to hear music in its natural habitat in all kinds of venues (not all of them seedy, either) and to collect interesting music.
He has been building a substantial record collection since his school days, largely focused on rock, blues and bebop. Although most of his classical music is now server-based, he has kept an extensive collection of boxed sets and other classical LPs.
Peter’s main system and interest lies in vinyl and valves but he is no Luddite. While his kit and expenditure is predominantly aimed at LPs, he has also invested in a high quality Naim-based automated system for his home, which is used more when background music is required when he is working.
Peter sees hifi as a means to an end – to enable listening to good music – but he does have a preference for retro kit – idler turntables, old school cartridges and tone arms, valve amps, and open baffle speakers. However, he also has an enthusiasm for air bearing linear tracker tonearms.
He has owned, and does own, many turntables, starting with a Goldring Lenco in the late seventies and including since a Well Tempered, an early Kuzma Stabi, a Gyrodeck and various classic Thorens.
His stable is currently a Clearaudio Reference TT (with a Verus rimdrive), Trans Fi linear tracker, Yamamoto YC-03S; a Garrard 401 on Slatedeck plinth, Mørch UP-4, Zu Audio 103R; and a Kuzma Stabi/Stogi S 12”, Ortofon Cadenza Blue. His current phono stages are: Whest PS30RDT, Clearaudio Basic Symmetry, Electrocompaniet ECP1, and Dynavector p75 MkIII.
When reviewing equipment, he will tend to use music that is likely to be encountered in everyday listening rather than “audiophile” recordings. He feels that the point of having the kit, after all, is to listen to the music not to the equipment. Having said that, he will take care to find well-mastered music that allows good equipment to show what it is capable of. He also believes that assessments should be based on the likely environment in which a piece of equipment will be used, and that kit should be judged on its own merits.