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Cai Brockmann, chief editor
“FIDELITY” (Germany)

FIDELITY Verlag GmbH ǀ c/o Cai Brockmann
Gutenbergstraße 1 ǀ 85737 Ismaning ǀ Germany

tel.: 0049 89 416 15 8298 ǀ fax.: 0049 89 416 15 8299



Text: Wojciech Pacuła | Cai Brockmann
Photos: FIDELITY | Wojciech Pacuła

Published: 1. September 2012, No. 100

I met Cai Brockmann for the first time during High End 2012 show in Munich (see HERE). A large guy with a shock of hair calmly explained something to someone. I might not get interested, because the stand was nearly empty, if it weren’t for a stack of magazines I had never seen before – German magazine “FIDELITY”.
It turned out that the Munich show witnessed the debut of, probably the youngest on the market, print audio magazine. Yes – PRINT! At the time we all go online, because that’s where the future is, where most of potential readers are, launching a print magazine may seem madness. And maybe it is, but just “maybe”… Cai, a bass player working previously for other German magazines (for of all for “Image HiFi”), may however have a nose for what people need. Although the Internet increasingly becomes the main source of basic information, the print magazine will continue fulfilling our need for contact with a tangible object for a long time. I can see it on my own example – even though I have been running an online magazine for over eight years, collaborating with other online magazines, such as “” and “Enjoy the”, I still love to unpack a new issue of “Stereophile” or “Hi-Fi News & Record Review” to which I subscribe (I also subscribe to several other magazines, but – in my opinion – the two are most important English print audio magazines).

So maybe there is a chance for “FIDELITY”. However, it must truly be a specialized title, having its own perspective, different from other titles on the market. German market is in this respect completely incomprehensible and unknown to me. Of course I know such magazines as “Audio”, “Stereo”, “Stereoplay”, “Image HiFi” or “LP”. But trying to interview any of their chief editors, either I had no reply or soon after making contact it would break off. I asked a few people from Germany for help, people with contacts and influence, and they all responded the same way – give it up because it's a wild goose chase. I do not quite know what they meant, but it probably has to do with widespread confusion on the German specialized press market. Cai, launching a new magazine at such time, either doesn’t know what he’s doing or, on the contrary, he knows exactly what’s going on is trying to take advantage of the situation…
In any case, the head of “FIDELITY”, despite being swamped with work (launching a new magazine must be a logistic nightmare) took time to answer my questions.

Wojciech Pacuła: “FIDELITY” is a completely new magazine – could you tell me why you started it now, in our Web-immersed world?
Cai Brockmann: “FIDELITY” is completely new from scratch and celebrated the very first issue just a week before the “High End 2012” in Munich. The team who runs “FIDELITY” is an excellent mixture of old and young. In fact, FIDELITY is a brand new print-magazine, having a long history already. And we’re doing fine because we are different, doing things different to all the others.

What is it that you are doing different?
“FIDELITY” shows the finest equipment where – and how – it’s used in „real life“, i.e. we take pictures in the living rooms of our reviewers, not in the photo studio. And we are writing exactly about what – and how – the reviewer feels when he’s using the gear. We let the readers take part of our life with high end audio gear. And we have the best writers, too! We promise facts & fun without compromise.

How is “FIDELITY” different from other German audio magazines?
It's the approach to the equipment and the pictures: “FIDELITY” is closer to real life, there's no studio coolness. In fact, “FIDELITY” shows the real world of a music lover, tells and shows real world experiences along with high end audio's top gear. “FIDELITY” doesn't necessarily put expensive stuff on top and feels sorry for cheap equipment. We tell and show our reader's, what's really going on - and how to improve the performance.

Please tell me something about yourself and your magazine.
I am a hi-fi gearhead since I turned 13, got my first serious stereo system two years later, discovered CD in 1983 at the age of 18 and became “analogized” (again) with a Linn LP12 in 1984. I worked for a high end retailer in Hamburg for years, run my own high end audio store in Berlin for another few years and finally became a high end audio journalist, writing reviews for a well known magazine in Germany, where I was for 15 years. And I confess: MUSIC was, is and will be THE most important thing (well, the second most important thing) ever. Music drives me, it's my passion, my life - and it's also the driving force behind our new magazine, “FIDELITY”, which I co-founded in 2012. Besides hi-fi, I was a bass player with various bands in Hamburg and Berlin, and I'm still playing bass guitar in two very good bands, covering a wide range between blues and hard rocking riffs, and I keep a complete drum set in my office. My wife, on the other hand, plays the harpsichord, the piano and the organ on a highly professional level. So I'm surrounded daily by live music - and I still enjoy it. Maybe you can read and see it in “FIDELITY”.

I would like you to tell me a few words about the German market – I asked many people for an interview and no one wanted to talk to me, as if something was wrong with German audio. Am I right?
You are right: There's something wrong. And that's why FIDELITY is going to get some good things into gear.

Could you elaborate, be more specific?
Well, the whole hi-fi market (as we know it from the 1980s) is going down for years now. Prices for quality products increase, numbers of retailers went down and still are going down, and the internet has completely changed the approach of getting “information”. Most of the hi-fi dealers are doing nothing to get people interested (again) in good quality music playback but complain about it. And the German audio magazines are trying their best to ignore all facts; most of them haven’t changed a bit over the last 15 years. It’s time to get the people interested in hi-fi again, and yes, especially the ones with iPods, iPhones and iPads. There’s more music “out there” than ever before.

Please tell us a bit more about German print audio magazines – we know the English but not so well the German ones…
The most obvious thing is: there are a lot of them. Germany has probably the highest number of audio magazines in relationship to the number of people who actually speak this language. And because we couldn’t see the right balance of “hi-fi Ferraris” and “real life” in one of the magazines, we finally founded “FIDELITY” for a fresh mixture of everything you have to know, and what’s interesting to know. I’m sorry but I will NOT talk about my German colleagues in public. Many of them are really nice guys but most of them are stuck in a certain scheme how they have to do things, so they are not allowed – maybe some are not willing, too – to do the necessary changes in order to get new readers.

I couldn’t help but notice some old equipment in your reference system – are you an “anachrophile”? Why are you using an old Garrard turntable, for example?
Well, I won't call it that way. Besides, there is not quite a “reference system” – at least there are two completely different systems in my house. And one of them is loaded with some old stuff – some GOOD old stuff, I have to say.

I'm definitely not shy of modern equipment, I love high resolution audio controlled by an iPad, but I also love some of the fine old gear from QUAD, Shindo, Ortofon or Garrard. Actually the 301 is the only working turntable in my systems these days but very soon there will be a new vinyl machine as a companion to the Garrard. And a music server system, finally.

What do you think about the future of audio?
Many of the young people who “listen” to their iPods via earplugs will discover one fine day that there is a lot more music within their lousy files than expected. That’s a good chance for high end audio stuff to show off and get the youth. Meanwhile playing records is cool again and probably will be cool forever. So there will be enough fine analogue equipment as well. Computer audio is on a very straight way to become cool these days, especially good quality internet radio can be thrilling. Yes, it’s radio!

How about hi-res files – are they the future?
I just learned these days that a few more major labels are cooperating with HiResAudio and Linn Records now, there is Bowers&Wilkins’ Society Of Sound, too, and maybe Apple’s iTunes will join the hi-res party very soon… All that is good news because: software runs hardware, hi-res music runs high end audio equipment. I appreciate that!

Is there any future for CD?
To be honest: CDs are definitely not cool anymore. If you have a fine CD machine and a precious CD collection, keep it.

What do you listen to at home, when chilling out?
That definitely depends on my mood. It could be everything from Ella Fitzgerald to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, from AC/DC to Bob Marley, from Erich Wolfgang Korngold to Red Hot Chili Peppers. That’s why I keep thousands of albums. Besides that: I really enjoy the deep silence of a summer day in Sweden or Norway, with no music whatsoever, only the sweet sounds of nature in my ears. On the other hand I often like to think about new bass lines for my band duties, but that’s not your idea of “relaxing”, isn't it?

What could online magazines learn from print magazines and vice-versa?
That's too difficult to tell in a few lines, because there's a different readership with different expectations behind the two different concepts of publishing.

What is then YOUR concept of publishing?
“FIDELITY” connects the best of both worlds: Readers of the print version will benefit from bonus material we put on our website, i.e. “Story Plus” or “Show Reports”. Visitors of our website benefit from daily news and frequent updates of information we simply cannot deliver “in time” in a bi-monthly magazine. And there is the download version of “FIDELITY” which is a fine mixture of all.

Which audio magazines do you read?
Usually I take a deeper look inside every audio magazine I can get my hands on, just to get an idea of the look and feel of a printed magazine, even if I don't understand a word at all because it's from Japan or Finland. I actually don't read any audio magazine word by word - except our very own FIDELITY, of course.

What kind of live music do you like; I mean what do you listen to outside home?
First of all, I play the bass guitar (and do backing vocals) in my own two rock & blues bands and I really love being live on stage! On the other hand, my wife plays the harpsichord professionally, she is a piano teacher as well and she playing the organ, and quite often she is touring the world with different baroque ensembles. My son is doing quite well with the piano, too, and just switched from drums to acoustic guitar. So there’s a lot of live music around me, every single day. And I love it all. I also enjoy live concerts of almost all genres as well, from Bach, Wagner and Arvo Pärt to Joe Jackson, Ray Brown and Joe Bonamassa. And I do love bigband jazz. Amongst my alltime favourites so far is The Mingus Bigband at Ronnie Scott’s, London, The Brian Setzer Orchestra in Munich, The Presidents Of The United States Of America, rocking a very small underground club in Berlin-Kreuzberg, AC/DC at the Olympic Stadium, Munich and Peter Gabriel live at the Waldbühne, Berlin. And forever and always the next baroque concert with my wife playing the harpsichord…

Have you noticed the agitation around reel-to-reel? Is it THE ULTIMATE source?
There are some hardcore fans of open reel tape machines and I really do understand their preferences, at least when they have access to mastertapes or mastertape copies. That’s amazing stuff, sometimes offering fantastic sound quality. But to be honest: If everyone has done his job properly you can achieve fantastic sound quality with high resolution audio data files as well, even if it’s not a digital copy of an analogue source. There is no such thing as “THE ultimate source”, because there is more than one way to do a recording right. Which way is best? I’m sorry – that depends on too many things. Take a deep inside look to a recording studio and you’ll get the idea.

Do you believe there is the “absolute sound”? First of all, the “absolute sound” is what you expect to be the absolute sound. With acoustic instruments it’s the best seats in the concert hall – or some other location with good acoustics – when a fine orchestra (ensemble) is performing your favourite piece of music. So my very own “absolute sounds” is the live event. With electronics involved there is only one reference: the way the sound engineer wants it to sound, sitting on his chair behind the mixing console. Lucky, if you are the sound engineer…

Do you think that audio magazines should be very specific, specialized, or rather wide open for everything on market? That simply depends on what the magazine is intended to be.

Ten albums you can recommend to “High Fidelity” readers?
Well, among 1,000 other albums these are 10 of my favourites right now, in alphabetical order:
- The Beatles: The Beatles (The White Album)
- Deep Purple: Machine Head
- Gabriel Fauré: Requiem, Op. 48
- Ella Fitzgerald: Sings The Cole Porter Songbook
- Massive Attack: Blue Lines
- Albrecht Meyer: Auf Mozarts Spuren
- Joni Mitchell: Travelogue
- Jaco Pastorius: Invitation
- The Police: Regatta De Blanc
- ZZ Top: Degüello