It went round the Internet like wild fire. A photo shoot of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev having an oh so humble breakfast with his colleague, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Except that sitting behind the breakfast table was some exceptional pieces of audio equipment. It transpires Medvedev is a bit of an audiophile and something of a rocker, with a healthy collection of original vinyl pressings of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and the rest. He and his son are also into Linkin Park. As we now know from the photo shoot, he owns an Avid Acutus turntable and the company's two-box phono stage, a Naim CD player (model thus far unknown) and Daniel Hertz amps and loudspeakers. That system's got some serious high-end
Around the same time, our beloved leader let it be known that he'd bought a Mumford and Sons CD.
While we don't lionize our leaders and we don't necessarily want to ape the music and the systems they play it on, the Medvedev photos highlight a major difference in the way we perceive our hobby between East and West these days. Apart from the fact that our media would tear Cameron limb from limb for daring to waste his own money on expensive equipment, it's unthinkable that a UK parliamentarian would dare 'come out' and admit they liked to listen to music on good equipment, even though that equipment might come from the UK.
While open displays of wealth have a nasty habit of backfiring on politicos (we'd all assume the MP bought their system on expenses), it would be nice if one day our MPs could at least call upon our little industry as a beacon of UK quality engineering and technology.
I find it depressing that one of the biggest fillips to the audio industry in years has come from a Russian photo shoot. We still have a mighty reputation abroad for good audio engineering - some of even it relating to products designed and built in the UK. But in the UK, we tend to play down our centres of excellence so successfully that the vast majority of it is now British in name only.
Hi-fi is an aspiration purchase in Russia. It's not simply something to enjoy, but to show that you have 'made it'. And, interestingly, the online nay-sayers for once have remained remarkably quiet about Medvedev's six-figure system. Who knows? Maybe a Russian President can make hi-fi cool again.