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August 2022

 

The Term 'Broad Church'
The other side of the broad church description is
just how far it's possible to push 'good audio'.
Editorial By Alan Sircom

 

Hi-Fi+ Issue August 2022

 

  It's time for an apology! I've used the phrase "It's a broad church" many times over the years and never knew just how English that phrase is, until I was called out on it recently. The trouble is it really fits where the audio world is now, but is admittedly functionally useless if no-one outside the UK knows what it means. The term 'broad church' has nothing to do with physical dimensions of ecclesiastical architecture, but relates to the Church of England's traditionally all-encompassing position that has no problems with 'fire and brimstone' and 'Jam and Jerusalem' sitting on the same pews.

Over the years, the term has been applied beyond Anglicanism, to include political parties with similar diversity of ideas. In the days before the language became loaded, this was viewed as a 'liberal' position, but is perhaps more accurately described as a 'laissez faire' stance toward viewpoints within a 'broad church' political party.

How does this apply to audio? In fact, audio is a 'broad church' in two ways. Most importantly, audio encompasses and is accepting of a diversity of paths; ask ten audio enthusiasts about the best sounding format and you'll get 15 different answers. Some enthusiasts are staunch objectivists who think most listening tests are wrong, others are unblinking subjectivists who think good audio is made by listening alone, and arguably more pragmatic observationists who occupy the middle ground. While arguments between these different factions frequently get heated, they are all driven by a common love of good music and the sound it makes.

 

Hi-Fi+ Issue August 2022

 

The other side of the 'broad church' description is just how far it's possible to push 'good audio' now. At the turn of the century, there was a clear delineation between products that made a noise and those that made fairly decent sound, and while there were a few portable sound bars and active desktop speakers that crossed the border into 'acceptable' it was clear there were big differences between such products and audio 'proper' and that even applied to some separates systems. Those lines have blurred; today's desktop and portable audio devices often sound excellent in their own right; you can spend 'a few quid' or a few million and get good sound. Yes, there are huge differences in scale, range, headroom and the ability to fill a room when comparing these two kinds of products, but these polar opposites have more in common than ever before.

Of course, that doesn't fit in with 'it's all gone horribly wrong', a moan hugely popular on social media platforms and the algorithms that power them. However, when you see a system that is made in the UK, doesn't cost a fortune and more than delivers the sonic goods in a way unthinkable at the equivalent price a few years ago, I think this whole 'broad church' thing is rare in consumer electronics and needs to be encouraged and nourished in all its glory.

 

 


Alan Sircom, Editor Hi-Fi+

 

 

 

 


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