A ‘Voice of Sanity’ at Gy8?
One of the biggest challenges with reviewing is bandwidth. Not audio bandwidth you understand – market bandwidth. It’s not just that the range of price and ambition is so wide, the perspective and requirements to review at opposite ends of the market are so different as to be almost incompatible. I might have three listening spaces, but even my smallest room is still quite large in starter system terms. Yet there are smaller, (sometimes) more affordable systems that are more than capable of delivering the musical goods. As I’ve had cause to observe, if the term ‘budget esoterica’ had been rendered meaningless by a flood of high-priced, ultra versatile offerings from high-end brands – the very antithesis of the concept – recently we have seen products from the likes of Neodio and Living Voice, Konus Audio and others offering astonishing performance at remarkably approachable prices. Meanwhile, advances in our understanding of system infrastructure are making high performance from modest systems even more attainable.
With that in mind, I’m going to be asking Steve Dickinson to cover this ground. That doesn’t mean he’ll only be looking at bargain basement product. I’ll be turning his head with a few choice items that will still work in smaller rooms. But his system, his space and his demands are all distinctly real world – and all the more interesting for that. Here he is, in his own words…
I first started writing about hi-fi in 2004, when Roy Gregory, then editor of Hi-Fi+ magazine gave me a break and let me loose on the unsuspecting readership. I’ve continued writing for the magazine ever since, which leads me to assume that nobody in power actually reads what I write… Over the years, some remarkable equipment has passed through my hands, much of it remarkable for the right reasons. Some stayed a while, becoming a cornerstone of my system. Some of it went to more deserving homes and was quietly mourned as it left. Some, it must be said, was quickly and gratefully forgotten. I’ve learned a fair bit about what makes me tick in terms of an approach to reproducing recorded music. I’ve also made some lasting friendships along the way. So thank you, Roy.
I live in Manchester, UK, in a typical 1930s-vintage, suburban semi-detached house, with typical UK sized rooms. That means I don’t have a dedicated listening room and the room I have is far from big. It’s also the main sitting room, with sofas, television, and a big bay window. Basically, if I can get something to work in my room, most people probably can. My long-suffering wife – she’s from Yorkshire and doesn’t suffer in silence – puts up with the clutter of cables, piles of discs and ever-changing deposits of bric-a-brac in her sitting room. I’m very grateful for her forbearance and try not to take it for granted. My next door neighbours have been, either, old and deaf or young but largely absent, which has been helpful.
Over the years, certain products have stuck in my memory. Like my first Accuphase (the E-213 integrated amp) that taught me just how important phase relationships are to audio systems and recorded music. Coupled with Focal loudspeakers, of which there have been several, it’s been a blast. And then there’s dCS, from an early, and short term, loan of the abortive P8i player, to the Puccini/U-Clock combination that came in for review and only left ten years later. Oh, and the Albarry M1108 monoblocs, with their warm and comforting ruby red glow which belied their sound, which was only warm and comforting if that was what the music required. Otherwise, they were fast, tight, insightful and just an utter hoot to listen to. I try to put my money where my mouth (or keyboard finger) is – anything that stays has usually been paid for. So the system I have is one that I own and one that I chose, from the parade of products that shone under review.