January 10, 2009

Greening Hi–Fi Reviews & Magazines



Greening Hi-Fi Reviews & Magazines

Audia flight 50 power


"The Audia Flight Pure Class A creates a 30kg radiator when it's idling" Hi-Fi News Review Jan 2009



As the posting on moving towards greener hi-fi focusing upon digital amplification is gaining good readership this has stimulated me to consider wider aspects of the construction of the whole discourse around "Hi-Fi" and consider how it could be changed towards a greener way of thinking and doing.

I have noticed that for somtime Hi-Fi News has been delivering a pie chart at the end of its reviews which includes an evaluation of the power which the particular product uses. This for Hi-Fi News is its "greenwash" as far as I can see. The magazine explains its pie charts as follows:

Plus, and here's an important consideration in our era of Global Warming, power consumption is indicated by a final green segment.


Well the Audia Flight 50 power amplifier illustrated above scored a dreadful 42% for the green segment of the review verdict of the Hi-Fi News verdict! Well it is clear that pure class 'A' is extraordinarily inefficient. It uses huge amounts of electricity and weighing in at 30 kg this is a huge amount of resources required to give 50watts per channel. The review even mentions that it can run out of steam if a loud listening session is required. Of course everybody who knows anything about electronic engineering knows this, so why continue to design products with this antiquated technology when there are a plethora of other solutions? Quad's famous current dumping invented many years ago and still going strong is just on such example. Here a low powered class A amp provides the quality and the power is class B.

Quad 909

The current power amp in the Quad range the 909 which uses current dumoing and can produce 140 watts per channel


Just as is happening in the field of motoring designers need to come up with better solutions than producing behemoths. Of course, those of us who like good quality sound don't want to compromise that. Class A can produce good sound but it is past its sell by date. Amplifiers will need to be treated like overpowered sports cars and taxed heavily. Those who are already happy paying £4,000 for their Audio Flight and the electricity bill shouldn't whinge at a green tax on their exotic and anti-social artefacts.


There is more to being Green than just considerations of power consumption

High end audio design can make good use of new materials. The Wilson Benesch "Curve" speakers being a good example.These speakers could also be ordered with real wood veneers sustainably sourced.

Wilson Benesch Curve

The Wilson Benesch Curve Speakers. Carbon fibre construction
can be combined with real wood sustainably sourced veneers


Clearly deforestation is part of the overall threat to global environmental catastrophe as the world approaches the tipping point for irreversable global warming. It is clear that a responsible attitude to the creation of products made to last and made in as environmentally a sensitive way as possible is essential. This relates to hifFi and home entertainments as much as any other industry.


Products which can be upgraded and with repairs supported by the manufacturer even for discontinued ones is a responsible way to proceed. Of course Quad was always famous for its quality of aftercare service. Built in obsolesence needs to stop. In many ways the big Japanese mid and lo-fi manufacturers are more guilty of this than high end companies nevertheless all companies must take responsibility.


Conditions of Labour


Another issue which must be taken into consideration is conditions of labour. For many workers in China conditions are appalling yet it is in this country where considerable amounts of home entertainments products are produced on wages which are a pittance. Another issue is the toxicity of many of the products going into electronic goods. These substances can effect workers health as well as pollute the land and water supplies.


Hi-Fi Consumers


One good thing about high quality proper Hi-Fi is that there is a thriving second-hand market. Well made products should last for years if treated properly.  Good secondhand markets mean good recycling practices. There can be a problem though. I bought a scond hand Pink Triangle DAC from my local dealers which was fine for a couple of years however when something went wrong with it there were no parts available and it had to be junked which was a waste. This is why a re-emphasis on aftercare following the Quad example is good business and good environmental as well! 

primare_1.jpg




Primare could be forming a new model for ethically and environmntally aware hi-fi companies


Conclusion

Good Hi-Fi can mean good environmental and green practices. The February Hi-Fi News has a feature on the Swedish based hi-fi company Primare. Many of the ideas which they are following seem redolent of a contempory Quad. There is rigorous quality testing, there is continuous research to try and produce very high performance products at a realistic price and a real concern with customer aftercare.


The new Primare SP22 integrated AV Preamp is a digital one claiming audiophile quality:

Primare SPA Integrated AV


The new SPA22 combines the advanced control flexibility and upgradable topology of the SP32 with five discrete channels of amplification rated at 120W each. The amplifiers are of a new type of purified Class D/switch-mode design, dubbed UFPD (Ultra Fast Power Device), which delivers a natural dynamic quality of sound across the entire audible spectrum while retaining an amazing energy-saving efficiency. (Primare website)

Combining a committment to providing high quality in a good value way and developing new tchnologies such as digital amplification to provide for new consumr desires without 'costing the earth' in both senses of the term thus making high audio available to far greater numbers of people is a far cry from the craft elitism displayed by by the gorgeous looking but antediluvian Audia Flight. Well done to Hi-Fi News for carrying this article.


- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. A.G.

    Indeed, well done Hi-Fi News,and yourself for writing an informative blog post. One thing though, you need to proofread your posts for typos!

    Class A amplification is totally ludicrous and outdated and deserves to be treated with the same disdain as 4×4s etc. Same with valve amps, I’m sure they sound good (never heard one myself) but the world has moved on and there is no place in the world for inefficient devices.

    I was just reading today that Marantz once made an amp which was switchable between class A and class AB and it was nigh-on impossible to tell the difference.

    I often look at my made in China equipment and imagine the amount of coal that went into making it, but what can I do when I have no say on where and how it is manufactured? The best I can hope for is that it will lead a long life and get recycled properly when it’s pushing up the semiconducting daisies. Let’s not forget that there is more renewable energy in use in China than any other country in the world, so let’s not be too harsh on the Chinese. If they had an abundance of geothermal energy instead of coal then they’d be using that instead. Anyway, I am digressing.

    There is urgent need for laws to ensure that manufactured electronics goods are efficient. The EU’s less-than-1-watt standby program is a good start (although I’m unconvinced of the need for standby modes in the first place) but there is still work to do. An environmentalist’s work never ends…

    10 Jan 2009, 20:15

  2. Sorry about the typos. You might have noticed they usually involve a missing E. this is because the E on the keyboard is knackered. You’d be amazed how many were picked up in proof-reading. I still kick myself for missing some though.

    Re industrial production practices it appears that any newly industrialising country follows bad practices in both labour conditions and environmental practices. Think back to Engels’ work on industrial conditions in Victorian Manchester.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Condition_of_the_Working_Class_in_England_in_1844

    It would be useful if hi-fi magazines took industrial production practices into account in some of their features however this could easily reduce their advertising income!

    11 Jan 2009, 03:36


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