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No. 241 June 2024

Editorial

text WOJCIECH PACUŁA
graphics "High Fidelity”



No 241

June 1, 2024

Time.
2004-2024, or twenty years of „High Fidelity”. Today

On May 1st 2004, the first issue of "High Fidelity" magazine went online. By coincidence, on exactly the same day Poland joined the European Union. Twenty years later, in 2024, both HF and our country are in a completely different place. However, we still remain ourselves.

I VERY MUCH LIKED SOMETHING I once read about plants - that, in fact, they are very, very slow moving animals. Although I don't remember where it was or who said it, the words rang in my ears for a long time. And that's because this perception of duration sets the perception of what we humans do in a completely different light. For, reversing the situation, one could say that we are impossibly fast, that we live life at maximum speed.

And when I think about the last twenty years of "High Fidelity" I have just such a feeling, as if this is how it has been, as if it all just flashed before my eyes. It sounds „grandfatherly”, but that's how I see it. And after all, it's two decades of work, 141 issues, thousands of devices tested and just as many news stories, dozens of smaller and larger interviews and show reports. Plus countless meetings with readers and 145 events as part of the Krakow Sonic Society, which I founded simultaneously with HF and have been running it ever since. And that's all behind us.

⸜ Test from the very first issue of „High Fidelity” from May 1st 2004, more → HERE

This year's birthday reflection on the history of HF has an additional weight of a round anniversary. The decimal system, arbitrarily adopted by us, forces us to treat them with special attention and pomp. And that's fine, that's who we are. This time it has even more significance than it could have been, because the first of May is not only our holiday, but also the holiday of Poland, which joined the European Union on the exact same day. I don't think I will be alone in understanding this event as a landmark and one of the most important in the modern history of our country. And personally, it is important to me because literally a few days earlier my daughter was born, which already completely separates this moment in time from the sequence of events.

The creation of "High Fidelity", a magazine - by the way - invented by my wife, thus coincided with important events for the people around me and for me personally. Without false modesty, I will say that it was an unprecedented event in the Polish trade press. There were three, maybe four online audio magazines around the world at the time, all in the US and Asia. Ours was thus at the forefront of change. Which also had its unexpected consequences, as I spent six months looking for someone who would grasp what I meant, understand my intentions, and then implement my ideas. And what I wanted was an "audio magazine", not a "blog."

I've written about this many times before, but I can't help it, it's kind of our "founding myth": for years, manufacturers and distributors didn't understand the difference between what I offered them and a "home" website and blog. In conversations with many of them to this day, I still hear "website", "portal", possibly "newspaper". "High Fidelity" is none of the above. It was supposed to differ from all of the aforementioned by two things: regularity in the release of materials and professionalism.

⸜ Starting from No. 12 from April 2005 our magazine features covers - initially they were rectangular

A classic website’s characteristic feature is that materials on it are changed as needed or as materials arrive. This is how almost all online audio magazines work, with the exception of the American "Positive Feedback", which those twenty odds years ago was one of the inspirations for me. This is how Dirk Sommer has been working like for a long time at his → HIFISTATEMENT.net. Or actually - he worked. Dirk and I have known each other for years, and our magazines have been cooperating. One of the manifestations of this cooperation, in addition to joint presentations at the Audio Video Show, is the joint STATEMENT in High Fidelity award given by our editors.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about, but rather about periodicity. Initially, Dirk uploaded material to his magazine's website as it came from authors. After a few conversations with me, he tried something different - now he only does it once a week. So you could say that HIFISTATEMENT.net is now a weekly. And, as its chief says, he is happy about it and doesn't know why he didn't do it before. After all, a constant publishing rhythm is justified. I understand it as a kind of a contract with readers. We give them what we can do best at a certain and predictable time.

In this way, we get rid of the omnipresent, annoying information noise that assaults us every day through every possible channel. Because the priority should be for us to simplify life, in a noble way, not by simple reduction. I do not know if you remember the arguments of Internet neophytes, for whom it was supposed to be the equivalent of paradise, with instant access to information, with connecting people who otherwise would not have a chance to meet, and finally - the Internet was supposed to be an area of freedom.

⸜ Ever since No. 52 from August 2008 covers have become square

Today we know that none of these utopian assumptions have come true. Or, if they did, it was as its own caricature. There is so much information on the Internet that it takes sophisticated algorithms and a lot of knowledge to find things that are true and valuable. At the same time, it is a remarkably oppressive place and gives permission for violence. That's why my idea two decades ago of limiting and staggering the publication of material every month, with a „recharge” in the middle, in retrospect seems like a good idea.

A sort of breather and a half-step back is also useful when we think of audio as a place of continuous development. I have ambivalent feelings about this. On the one hand, the past two decades have seen the emergence of many devices that perform far better than their older counterparts. This includes amplifiers, digital devices, speakers, cables (!) but also turntables and phono cartridges. On the other hand, however, I see that things invented decades ago, such as some (the best) amplifiers, speakers and even cables, still have "something" in their sound that the excellent majority of modern products do not have.

However, I am not an anachrophile, as the sadly late Art Dudley, longtime editor of Stereophile magazine, referred to himself (you can find an interview with him as part of the series "The Editors" → HERE). Because, as I say, the progress made by the best companies, regardless of the price range of their products, is undeniable.

Facing these two views of audio, however, I see something else: for many, many years there has been nothing really new in our industry. Even the state-of-the-art, as you would think, in the form of file playback is a thing more than seventy years old. The CD? - Forty-two since its official launch and almost fifty since the idea was born. I won't even mention the LP and dynamic speaker, as these are inventions more than a century old (!).

As I point out in conversations with friends and acquaintances, once the conversation leads to audio topics, the reason for this is the failure of basic research and the focus on monetizing what we already know. On polishing, refining, constantly fine-tuning what we have had in hand for years. The modern market hates innovation because it's expensive. And paying for something from which there is no immediate return is a detrimental action for corporations, listed companies, etc.

⸜ In 2008, the magazine was court-registered and changed its name from "High Fidelity On-Line" to "High Fidelity" (HighFidelity.pl)

We are thus living in a time of limbo. Twenty years ago, things looked very different. Jakub Banasiak, a participant in the debate of the magazine → DWUTYGODNIK.com, which, like "High Fidelity", was established from the start as an online (born-digital) magazine, in a discussion initiated on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the magazine (by the way - congratulations and best wishes!) spoke about Poland's accession to the European Union as a time of "a little stabilization", that is:

(…) relative affluence, infrastructure development and the art market. It was a time of widespread modernization: highways and stadiums were being built, on the one hand, and museums and art centers on the other. There was money: private, but also public, in new ministerial programs. As Professor Poprzecka noted, many people internalized this situation as a kind of end of history, in which politicking would be replaced by procedures and technocratic management.

⸜ JAN BŁASZCZAK, 15 LAT: Robimy swoje. Rozmowa z Joanną B. Bednarek, Jakubem Banasiakiem i Piotrem Olkuszem, → DWUTYGODNIK.com 383, 04/2024, accessed: 27.04.2024.

Today we know that this did not happen, and the "end of history" announced in 1992 by Francis Fukuyama in his book The End of History and the Last Man, is today at best a meme , and in the broader discussion functions as a warning against simplistic opinions on complex issues. The announcement by this American political scientist, political philosopher and economist of Japanese descent of arriving at a place where nothing can be invented, because democracy is the best existing way of life and no normal person will question it, in the face of the war in Ukraine, the massacre - first in Israel and now in Gaza - of Hutu attacks, the wars in Africa, the struggle between the "two tribes", as they are referred to, in the US, and finally the tension around the China Sea, this assertion seems grotesque.

This is why I see modern audio as something "in between". We know what was, but we don't know what will be. We already have a pretty good idea of what helps and harms the sound, and even if we can't support everything with measurements, if not every theory is thoroughly worked out, organoleptically, and often intuitively, the best companies, the best designers reach for similar solutions, taking the same direction.

But, after all, we are still working on the "the old". There's nothing revelatory about it, it's more of a craft of scraping off another layer of reality separating us from the recording. There is no question of the leap made by the invention of the cylinder, then the circular disc, then the tape recorder and finally digital recording and its reproduction at home.

⸜ Since July 2009, which was the 63rd issue, "High Fidelity" has had a new layout, modified and changed, but still the same.

From enthusiasm, even euphoria in these twenty years, we have moved to positions of uncertainty, marked by temporariness, lined with fear. That is why the role of music and all those involved in spreading it is all the greater in all this. Music as the perfect, probably the best known, carrier of emotions. Usually we want them to be good emotions. And these are transcendent, because they pass through time in every direction. The artist includes his emotions in the piece, the performer includes his own, and we add our own. The piece is thus in constant motion, each time it is listened to - whether live or from a recording - it "becomes" anew.

Thus, all the more responsibility also rests with us, the specialized journalists. For reliability. For honesty. Finally - for the truth, even if it sounds effusive, that is ultimately what it is all about. I hope you see this in us at High Fidelity. All of us who prepare this magazine for you, and that's BARTOSZ ŁUCZAK, graphic designer, and that's MAREK DYBA, journalist and translator, and that's BARTOSZ PACUŁA, WOJTEK PADJAS and WITEK KAMIŃSKI, writing columns for you, and that's - last but not least - EWA MUSZCZYNKO translating the remaining tests from time to time, and let us also remind you, those who used to write and translate, Krzysiek Kalinowski and Andrzej Dziadowiec, and - a deep bow - Lukasz Chmura of SLK Studio, who came up with the first layout of the magazine and put it in motion, all of them took care, and still do, to make the monthly magazine you read the way I dreamed of it those more than twenty years ago. I simply wanted it to be a good place.

We would like to thank all of you, readers, friends, and acquaintances, who have supported us from the very beginning. Keep in mind that without the participation of advertisers this would not have been possible, it is also their participation that has helped us get to where we are, for which we are grateful. Without manufacturers, working on more devices, speakers, cables and accessories, we would have nothing to write about. The best ones give us a lot of joy we love to share with you, our readers. Which closes the circle in which the central place is reserved for music. But only for music played with high fidelity. Thank you!

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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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