September / October 2022
Editor's Lead In
I very much doubt you need reminding of the cost-of-living crisis, considering that the rocketing cost of food, energy and fuel is causing many of us to tighten our pursestrings at the moment. And I apologies for getting this ed's letter off to a miserable start. But perhaps a poorer state of financial affairs is putting you off buying your next system upgrade (especially if it's valve-based) or music purchase (especially if it's a new release on vinyl), to which I say, "Fine, understandable, me too... but how about buying second-hand?"
This month's Hi-Fi Primer story is an offering to those who are willing to potter down the pre-owned path: tips on how to look and what to look for when it comes to sourcing second-hand speakers, electronics and vinyl. It's advice I found myself intuitively following just recently while spending a Saturday afternoon dipping into the many record stores dotted down Melbourne's Johnson St.
Ironically, those pages neighbor the high-end Esoterica section, which includes a review of an amplification quartet that would take me years to save up for. As it happens, the following pages also contain a review of the most expensive wireless headphones I've ever worn — and even more surprising than their price was that I came away truly believing them to be good value! But it's good to dream, and to appreciate such lofty engineering.
Speaking of lofty engineering, the publication of the EISA Awards 2022-2023 lies inside this issue. These 23 winners represent the best-value, best-performing products currently in the hi-fi realm, chosen by specialist magazines (including yours truly) and websites from all around the world. Yes, it took a lot of listening and late-night Zoom sessions to get there, and I promise you there's plenty in there for your wish/shopping list, no matter your budget or needs. A bonus if you're particularly interested in photography, home cinema and mobile technology: a list of EISA Award winners in those categories is printed at the end of the dedicated section too.
But away from money and toward something entirely more wholesome: the industry's increasing efforts to be more eco-friendly... even if there's still a long way to go.
Plastic-heavy, blink-and-its-obsolete audio categories are being infiltrated by more and more products made from recycled and/or sustainable materials, with the annual European technology show IFA having just hosted launches of the latest climate-friendly kit, and where Nokia launched an eco-rewards scheme to incentivize people to keep their phones for longer. We're seeing bamboo (Grado) and solar-powered (Urbanista) headphones, brands that are solely developing sustainable kit (House of Marley) and generally the introduction of more "energy efficient" components. R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe has just announced the release of his long-awaited solo track on the "world's first commercially available 12-inch made from sustainable bioplastic" so vinyl could be getting in on the green act too.
The path towards sustainable technology certainly needs to be more heavily trodden, though, and there's certainly an outcry for more stuff to be built to last rather than binned after two years because it's been shoddily made or its software is obsolete. Remembering that the three ‘R's of environmental sustainability are ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle', that's another appeal of buying second-hand kit, too.
As Berlin's Clean Scene collective found that 1,000 touring DJs took 51,000 flights in 2019, emitting an equivalent of 20,000 households' consuming electricity for a whole year, the music industry has, to put it lightly, its bit to do too, now that global tours are back on the menu. Plenty of influential artists like Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and The 1975 have partnered with non-profit organization REVERB to enhance the ‘greenness' of their tours, while for its 2022 tour Coldplay is aiming to cut its emissions in half compared to its 2017 tour. Hopefully, live music's recovery in a post-Covid world can be greener then too.
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