hifi+, a truly "honest" magazine

i can't remember when but i have stopped reading hifi reviews altogether, except for the occasional reference check where i need to do research on my upgrade. even then, i only read from reputable reviewers, and i can count all of them within my 5 fingers.

i still buy hifi magazines, namely taiwan's audio art (for their audio pornography, i mean the sensuous photography) and america's TAS (for RH and HP, and to a small extent, jonathan valin) but my interest is mainly on their think pieces, i mean those intellectually simulating articles on topics like market trends, new technology, breakthru state-of-the-art products etc etc.

i frown everytime i read cliche statements or raves like "a reference product if ever there was one", "the best for under USDX grand", "standard by which audio components must be judged". i am not doubting the reviewer's honesty but i just feel that they are seriously short of vocabulary. i remember those days of harry pearson (reminiscing again, we old folks), he who single-handedly created new vocab for hifi reviewing. words like "chocolatety", "whitish grain", "gestalt", "yin and yang" are irresistably sexy, fun and accurate at the same time to describe sonics attributes.

i think it is very hard for new-generation reviewers to gain the fame like HP, RH, JA (john atkinson), MC (martin colloms), RG (roy gregory) and KK (ken kesslers) in the past. there is just too much BS going on in the hifi publication biz that reviews are no longer trustworhty and reliable.

more importantly, once an audiophile reaches a certain maturity, he doesn't need reviews to decide or validate his next purchase. a great review serves merely to reaffirm his wise decision.

21 comments:

hafiz said...

Agree with you with regards to HiFi+

Certainly the best publications on hifi coming fr the British Isles.no wonder the Absolute Sound Group bought them over last year

Imert said...

Hi Maggie,

I like Ultra high Fidelity Magizine a lot ,I think it has the most technically competent editiors amongst the Eng language publications..
And Hi FI+ always give hope to small ,unknown specialised Hi fi manufacturers because the Editior[RG]rarely care about adv money etc..Truly credible..

as for the rest ,just read for fun,,,

having said all that the best source of advise and recomendations always come from seasoned audiophile.Always true advise...

Achai said...

I'm a big fan of UHF too..and Of course Desirable audio boutique!!!!

swam said...

Maggie,
Brilliant piece...

I have to learn the hard way that the best advise,and certainly most honest advise comes fr seasoned audiophiles

I used to run to the nearest shops looking for the latedst recommended components etc...always feel dissapointed.

get yourself a teacher folks..can't go wrong.as for the magizines?I still read them for the picturers..

chuck said...

Maggie,
I am not sure about the absolute sound ,but certainly Hi fi+ has become the gold standard in term of balanced reporting.Stereophile is certainly less attractive than TAS but they try their level best to be neutral

As for the UHF ?love them!!!

liam said...

Maggie,

Why don't you like stereophile?

lim said...

My favourite is stereophile.
Do not forget thatRH was a stereophile writer before falling out of favour with JA and moved over to absolute sound.

the reporting is more scientifically backed whereas TAS propogate voodoo...

JK said...

Maggie,

In the states nobody really read TAS for serious reading,people read it mainly to find new vocab that HP would makeup.Stereophile ,though is something else JA is an englishman that has infused acertain degree of prestige in the Hi Fi lit.

Anyway it cost TWICE as much to advertise in stereophile as oppose to TAS.

as far as RH is concerned ,he haslost o lot of creadibily after his error proned books hit the street.


the Canadian publications Ultra HIgh Fidelity is also another very respectable publication,and Hifi world and HiFi+ from the UK also are well respected.

I do not know about you ,being a veteran audiophile myself I still subscribe to Stereophile[I am in my 15th year of my subsciption ]and UHF,and buy the occasional british publications whenever there is something interesting mentioned.I still learn something new everytime I flip the pages of Stereophile .I am just surprised that you don't

Anonymous said...

I like HiFi+ because they review more products from specialist small time audio manufacturers, which the big boys will never cover. The reviews are rather balanced and honest too.

I like Stereophile because it's relatively low cost subscribtion. Plus I enjoy ST, MF and AD's colluums. Most of all it's the only rag that do very detailed test reports.

Hi-Fi Choice does them too but at a much simpler presentation. the only reason I like Hi-Fi Choice is KK, as much polarization of opinions as he bring's, I like that he speaks his mind, even though it sometimes makes him look bad.

I also like Hi-Fi World, as they are kinda like HiFi+ and DIY journal rolled in to one. The reviews are pretty straight too, no beating around the bush.

I think I have too much time in my hands?

liam said...

Anonymous,
Fully agree with you.

Incidently I read exactly the same mags as you do.

You pretty much sum up what the mags are all abt.

I don't think there as such a thing as over reading.

Also agreed that The absolute sound{TAS} has a lot of junk,especially those written by HP.It 's hardly creadible

ken said...

I like Stereophile. I think it is the best hifi magazine that is being published.

The main reason for this is that it is the only mag that combines technical measurements with review. So you can also understand why certain hardware sound the way they are.

I am not technically inclined but I find that I learn a lot by reading the measurement section because John Atkinson takes the trouble in explaining the what the measurement means.

The only TAS reviewer I like is HP because he is very neutral. RH was good when he was with Stereophile but I find that he has lost something since he left them. I concurred with all his reviews that he wrote in Stereophile but his reviews for TAS is a bit inconsistent.

sam said...

Well put Ken,

I agree with you fully

Ch'ng said...

I stopped reading the chinese {HK and Taiwanese}magizines quite a while back.Everything is described in a dramatic superlative ways.And they seems to championed the use of beutiful product ,sonic quality be damned

On the other hand I like the UK mags a lot especially HiFi News there's many sections and interviews that is not just confined to hardwares

Ooi said...

If you enjoy nice pictures my friends in Kedah said they got some HiFi magazines from Thailand.

Fortunately for them,they could understand thai and they claimed that the Thai Mags are better than the Taiwanese ones

geuillame said...

Hello Maggie,
Houte fidelity is a french magazine that is highly regarded,very frank, very honest[till the manufacturers have sleepless night whenever their product is going to be reviewed]I know of a few hardcore audiophiles who learned French so that they could understand the magazines.

There are some really really excellent Japanese and German Scribes that would make TAS looks like childplay.very Very informative[And always very technical]

As for the e nglish ones,The Canadian Magazine Ultra high Fidelity[UHF] is just brilliant!!!Their problem??So unattractive..Stereophile is OK and TAS is funny.

aboon said...

come on Maggie,
you not old lah!!!Next time you say you old again i'll ask aken to shave your head bald!!!!

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

hi all,
the diversity of opinions showed here amply illustrates the fact that hifi magazines, just like the hifi hobby itself, is highly subjective and personal. i am just glad to see such a myriad of opinions pouring in.

don't be mistaken, i am a avid reader of both stereophile and TAS in the the later part of 80s and throughout 90s. i must say that both magazine have declined since.i find the modern TAS more reader-friendly, not only in terms of font-type used and the presentation format but also the editorial.

i would like to check out UHF based of the many recommendations here.

lastly, ask yourself this question - who, in his heyday, in the history of audio journalism, has (had) the power to move and shake the market with his words (poetry)?

only then you would realize why i am such a nostalgic fool ;-)

aboon,
my youngish looks are highly deceiving and biologically defying! hahaha

jackson said...

Maggie,

UHF is very good content wise but the pages and presentations are just so unattractive.maybe you could modernize it a bit.

Just remember you have been warned!!!

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

hi jackson,

maybe they are too honest and as a result, frighten all the advertisers away and ended up having no money to pay their graphic designers? ;-) just joking.

i will check if they want to have a presence in malaysia.

Anonymous said...

late entry!

first, a defence of hp. if you had to name two people in the english speaking world who pioneered and developed a way to describe sound, and thus subjective reviewing, it would be j gordon holt and hp.

they (and their comrades in arms, such as the technically adept robert greene and dick olsher) gave subjective reviewing credibility, and blew the whistle on simplistic measurements and industry-led progress (ie early transistor tech).

hp continues to develop the audio vocabulary if you read carefully, and have followed his writing. it has a philosophical rigour and clarity that the commercial press badly lacks.

second, as the original baby boomer readers of tas and stereophile have grown older and amassed their disposable incomes, so have the two mags become more and more mainstream and are really now part of the orthodoxy, nothwithstanding the presence of hp, art dudley (formerly editor of listener) and a few others. the spirit of enquiry is no more, and everyone is now an authority. holt has been scathing about what the hobby has become, because of this lack of rigour in the writing and the trophy mentality of the former hobby known as high end audio.

haven't read hi-fi world in a while; stopped because it was getting too insular, but i suspect it may now be a bastion for the less ostentatious maker, retailer and reader. hifi+ is great, mainly because it still has personalities such as roy gregory. chris thomas is the sharper writer though, imho.

er, ok think i'll stop here but so much more to say - the history of the high end is rich, no pun intended, in adventure and human stories.

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

hi anonymous at 4:07pm

seriously, the current generation of reviewers is a crappy lot. they don't write for passion anymore.

i think for us the babyboomers, we have seen better days and we would reminisce the good old days of hifi from time to time.