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No. 177 February 2019

FIFTHEEN YEARS OF THE „HIGH FIDELITY” AND WHAT CAMES OF IT

On May 1 this year, "High Fidelity" will be fifteen years old. It seems like not much, but it's quite something. During that time, the world has changed beyond recognition, technology has evolved, and also we have changed. The "High Fidelity" the magazine you are reading at the moment, has also changed several times. On the other hand, it still remains what it was at the very beginning, at the moment when the idea arose - an expression of my fascinations and passions.

This is one of the reviews from the first issue of „High Fidelity” from May the 1st 2004

We will celebrate this jubilee this year, because exactly on May the 1st 2004, the first issue of the magazine was published. Initially our magazine was called "High Fidelity Online" and after registering the title in court we shortened the name to "High Fidelity" (highfidelity.pl). Although we still have four months till that moment, we would like to invite you to celebrate the anniversary with us already now. For example, by sending us your memories,, shorter or longer texts about memories you have regarding our magazine. We would like to publish some of them every month, for the whole jubilee year, or all of them in May. .

We also would like you to think about adding the "High Fidelity" to Wikipedia. Once, one of the readers tried to do something about it, but from what I know, it was immediately banned by the administrators, who did not recognize HF as a magazine, but an unspecified ephemera. I think, however, that fifteen years in the Internet, tens of thousands of readers per month, cooperation with audio magazines over the world should be enough to recognize us as a real entity that will receive a "permission" for an entry in the after all - open, democratic and unbiased towards anyone or nothing encyclopedia...

In any case – let me encourage you, dear friends, to create such an entry, preferably in the Polish and English version (and maybe some others too?). I will be very pleased if in this way you will show your sympathy for our magazine and in this way let others - people, magazines, countries – know that there is something in the country over the Vistula River, something valuable and interesting. I can promise you all help you will need to establish all the facts for the entry, I also have lot of archival photos. /p>

We also talked to several manufacturers about them joining our celebrations and we already know that together we will prepare special versions of several products, that will feature appropriate logo. We would also like to see one or two music releases on this occasion – we've been discussing it with musicians and records labels. Dirk Sommer, chief editor of the hifistatement.net magazine, we cooperate with, but also of the record label - Sommelier Du Son - promised that he would record an album for us, preferably in Poland, of a Polish band. We do not know how many of these idea will actually be realized, but we strongly believe that the most of them will :)

HTC smartphone with Beats headphones. photo: HTC

What about the world? The world has changed in this time, some say for worse. The audio industry has also changed, and the changes have been driven by the development of the Internet. Has it also changed for the worse? - Probably not, market has changed and the industry has had to adapt to it. After the deep depression that the audio industry suffered from with the advent of gamers' culture first, followed by home theater boom, mp3, "smart homes" (custom systems) and some other trends, we recovered, regrouped and today, in my opinion, we are doing quite well. However, the position of audio industry is different than before and this is probably the reason for complaints I often hear.

The fifteen years in question has meant also a huge change in the way we consume, so to speak, culture - including music. We listen to it more often than ever before, it is available in a previously unprecedented ways and relatively cheap too. But the thread connecting young people, with their headphones and smartphones, streaming from You Tube, Spotify, the thread between them and the "adult" or perfectionist, high-end, audiophile audio, or whatever you want to call it, is thinner then ever.

For years it was the radio and 7'' singles that were the main source of music.

Once widely understood as "young people" listened to exactly the same products, which understood equally widely "old guys". They differed only in size, complexity and price. Let's recall, for example, the madness of the "45s", or singles – they were popularized by rock'n'roll, or people listening to it to be exact - young people. If they had not bought millions of singles - by 1954, more than 200,000,000 copies were sold - never would, this niche format created by RCA Victor, have gone beyond the phase of a children's toy, which it was perfectly suitable for. Neither the sound quality, nor even the easy of use were single's advantages. It was still a vinyl record and it had to played using a turntable, i.e. it was a hi-fi sound, only on a smaller scale.

People who listen today to streamed music in poor mp3 quality are exactly the same - they are looking for immediate excitement, energy and access. If they do not like the track within a few seconds, they skip it without any regret. And how can you force such people to take out a CD from a box, put it in a player's tray, or put a records on a turntable's platter? The hopes placed in the vinyl records that it would attract young are - in my opinion - false. Research shows that almost half of them bought LP while not having and not even planning to buy a turntable. This is another gadget for them associated with music only through a network of cultural connotations, not through the sound.

Why am I bringing it up? - The last fifteen years of working in the Internet have only confirmed for me, what you can read this month in an interview with Luis Fernandes, founder and recently again the head of finite elemente: "shoemaker, stick to your craft!".The thing is simple, though still so many, seemingly reasonable and smart people, can't understand the simple principle – one should stick to what they know best.

In the perfectionist audio industry, it's extremely important. Because this is a special occupation. Completely de-touched from the "real" world. Real, of course, in quotes, because for us, it seems often simply stupid and dull, as it does not understand what we do, and what it does not understand – it ridicules. What we do is real for us, is not it? But to the point - I mean that audiophilia will never be a mass hobby, never. What's more, it never was. It has always been a summit to climb to.

Snail Project loudspeaker system– the first Franco Serblin design for his company Sonus faber – an image taken during the Munich High End Show 2017

It is not identical to many trends and fashions followed by manufacturers, distributors and the press. Do you remember something called home cinema? I mean the phenomenon and the hip about it at some point. As a new group of customers appeared on the market, everyone started to deal with this new trend and, for example, many audio magazines added tests of TV sets and home theater systems to reviews of stereo systems. It didn't do any good to anybody.

It is clear that it was about "following the money". However, this has „blurred” the whole industry, which now, when the home cinema is what it should, that is, one of many home appliances, not necessarily a hobby, can not really get to grips with what is happening. Later, there was this trend to connect audio systems with "custom installations", i.e. "smart homes" and then to soundbars. This is not our world and it will never be.

The situation is very similar today. What is the new home cinema casus? well – it's portable audio. People in the industry reason in this way: if so many people use mobile devices to listen to the music, we have to use it and make money from it. And again - it's a normal business reaction, but it does not make sense. This is not the way, the young people do not read industry magazines, they base on what they read in social media, what they see on TV, etc. So they follow mass media where audio is not, never has been present.

Do you remember the crazy spike of popularity of the iPod docking stations? Each manufacturer had to offer them, and even the greatest specialists released devices - usually amplifiers - equipped with it. It ended up as it ended, which was a complete lack of interest on the part of people listening to music from an iPod. And audiophiles were disgusted with an idea and rejected it.

Krell docking station – Krell Interface Dock (KID). Photo: Krell

Although there is a thing that we „inherited” from mp3, although more connected to the computers than portable audio - audio streamers. It is the real value and a future of audio. But, again, following our rules - see Telegärtner Japan Limited M12 Switch Gold, which is again a product that "normal" people can not wrap their heads around.

Because audiophilia is a niche hobby, from the "world's" perspective at least a shady one. A reflection of this approach to us can be found in the culture's mainstream. Let me remind you what I wrote about an image of an audiophile that is common in the „outside” world. It's someone "disconnected", different, usually not quite normal, often dangerous. You can check who and what kind of audio components use in such films as A Clockwork Orange (directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1971), Lara Croft: Tomb Rider (directed by Simon West, 2001), Girl with tattoos (directed by David Fincher, 2012), to name a few most obvious ones.

What about the latest Polish productions? - Here you go: a priest who listens to classical music, one of the most despicable figures in the Kler by Wojciech Smarzowski (2018) movie has a great system with a turntable, and in the Ślepnąc od świateł TV series by Krzysztof Skonieczny and Jakub Żulczyk the main character, an eccentric, listening to Chopin (!) member of the drug gang has a really cool audio system. And again the main source in his system is a turntable. We can at least comfort ourselves with a fact, that we are not alone in this common mis-perception, music lovers listening to the classical music are there with us ...

The main character in the Ślepnąc od świateł TV series has a Rega turntable, T+A amplifier and Audiovector loudspeakers.

However, there is nothing to worry about - the unknown is always "dangerous". That is why events that familiarize people, mainly young ones, with audio are so important. It is not even about convincing them to our point of view, but about familiarizing themselves with the bizarre - from their point of view - constructions, and in the future, perhaps, attracting them to the world of music played at the highest quality level. I would not expect, however, that it will immediately translate into doubling the sales, it does not work like that. Audio is an proposition for people who have money on one hand and know what they want on the other. Although the dealers and distributors most often despise these people, they do not understand, that they are the salt of the earth and they are real buyers, not some imagined "youngsters".

I saw all these changes and tried not to participate in them. I wasn't always successful, but - I believe - the balance is a positive. I kept on with the stereo believing that it would prevail all fashions and trends. I've been writing about what I like and what interests me. I've always seen it as the only chance to truly communicate with readers. With you.

Welcome to the fifteenth year of the „High Fidelity” magazine. Let me invite you to celebrate it with us!

Wojciech Pacuła
chief editor

About Us

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.

For years, "High Fidelity" has been cooperating with other audio magazines, including “Enjoy the Music.com” and “Positive-Feedback.com” in the U.S. and “HiFiStatement.net”  in Germany. Our reviews have also been published by “6moons.com”.

You can contact any of our contributors by clicking his email address on our CONTACT  page.

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