All entries for January 2009
January 29, 2009
iPod Nano 4th Generation Review
I am well pleased with my iPod Nano which was a birthday Xmas present. It is a luxury 8gb model and it's worth paying out the extra for doubling the memory. They clearly aren't hi-fi although they do offer very good quality. The iPod is better as the AAC compression is a higher bit rate than MP3 players. That they don't off the last word in high fidelity is besides the point. Where they are going to be listened to on trains / coaches etc is an ideal listening environment.
The key thing for quality improvement is a good pair of headphones. I have a pair of Audio Technica EC7s the forerunner to th EC 700s pictured here. I got them for an excellent end-of line price. The EC700s are around £130.
Audio Technica EC700
Here is the blurb if you are interested
Incredible lightweight ear-fitting headphones designed to offer both style and high quality sound. Audio-Technica has improved the EC7 earphones to bring you the EC700 GM's. With an increased driver unit and a reduction in weight to 11g, you'll get earphones with superlative sound and a lightweight fit, for total listening comfort.
The earphones feature an all aluminum body and unique, unobtrusive stylish design. Easy to clip on and designed to offer long hours of listening without them becoming uncomfortable, they come with a convenient protective carrying pouch.
My EC7s are superb but there is a problem when travelling that a lot of surrounding noise can be heard. Wearing them for a long time if you are a glasses wearer can also be uncomfortable. This means that I would be tempted towards good quality in-ear headphones such as the ones shown underneath if you plan to us them on public transport.
Audio Technica CK9 In-ear headphones. Seem to retail for around £160
Audio-Technica presents the all new CK9 black earphones. These stunning earphone
Top of the Range Sennheiser IE8 in ear headphones recommended price £250
Unsurprisingly the Sennheisers got an excellent write-up in the Feb 2009 BBC Music Magazine although paying this kind of price just to use with an iPod seems a little excessive. It is worth using on a full audio system but be sure to get an adaptor to fit the standard headphone sockets. One thing for certain is that the audio experience of an iPod can be considerably improved. There are plenty of mid-priced in-ear headphones coming onto the market and they will offer a very good listening experience.
January 27, 2009
Ben Nicholson: Artist (1894-1982)
Ben Nicholson by Humphrey Spender
I have been excited that on of Britain's most important 20th painters Ben Nicholson has got a retrospective exhibition. "A Continuous Line" has opened earlier this month at the Tate St. Ives - a gallery I love. The exhibition continues until the first week of May and offers an excellent opportunity to develop ones knowledge and ideas about the enormously influential St. Ives artists. Take a drive into the surrounding countryside afterwards to discover what influenced the abstract landscapes.
Ben Nicholson was born in 1894, in Eight Bells, Denham, Buckinghamshire, England. Ben Nicholson's father was the artist William Nicholson, and his mother was the Scottish painter Mabel Pryde. He studied, for a short time, at the Slade School 1910-11. His first solo show was held at the Adelphi Gallery in London in 1922. Nicholson spent several years in Cumbria with his first wife, the painter Winifred Nicholson. The couple bought in 1923 Banks Head, a 17th-century farmhouse built over a mile castle on Hadrian's Wall. In 1939 he moved to Cornwall:
"Despite the geographical distance between Cornwall and Cumberland, both locations shared certain characteristics that were attractive to Nicholson at this time, to his taste and disposition and to the development of his painting...Both possessed a distinct quality of remoteness, an important sense of distance, far from the excessively cultivated and commercial metropolitan centre and from the predictably picturesque 'guidebook' imagery of the countryside popular in the years following the end of the Great War." (Ysanne Holt catalogue essay 2008)
Ben Nicholson: Coldfell (1922). Painted during his time in Cumbria with Winifred
From the early 1930s his work became increasingly abstract, geometrical and austere. In 1937 he was editor of Circle An International Survey of Constructivist Art. From 1939 to 1958 lived in Cornwall. In 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Nicholson and his family moved from London to St. Ives where they stayed initially with Adrian Stokes in Little Park Owles in Carbis Bay. Nicholson became a mentor and advocate for many of the younger artists living in the area, particularly Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost and John Wells. In 1943 he joined the St. Ives Society of Artists. He left it to found the Penwith Society in 1949, with Herbert Read as president.
Ben Nicholson & Barbara Hepworth
It wasn't until the 1950s that Nicholson won international attention. In 1952 he took first prize at the Carnegie International Art Exhibition in Pittsburgh. In 1954 he won the Ulissi Prize at the Venice Biennale. The next year he won the Governor of Tokyo's Award and was honored by the Belgian Art Critics in Paris. In 1956 he won the Guggenheim International Award.
In 1968 he received the British Order of Merit (OM).
Nicholson was married three times: firstly to Winnifred Roberts (married 5 November 1920 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London; divorced 1938) with whom he had two children, a daughter Kate in July 1929 (who later became an artist herself) and a son Andrew in September 1931. His second marriage was to fellow artist Barbara Hepworth (married 17 November 1938 at Hampstead Register Office; divorced 1951) with whom he had a son Simon in 1934 and third to Felicitas Vogler, a German photographer (married July 1957; divorced 1977).
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art owns a fine collection of paintings and prints by Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), one of the leading British artists of the twentieth century. That collection has now improved and expanded dramatically, thanks to an extraordinary bequest made by Felicitas Vogler, Nicholson's third wife. Vogler was a celebrated photographer, holding a major exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in 2006. Following her death later that year, she left the Gallery a superb collection of Nicholson's work, including ten paintings and carved reliefs and twenty prints and drawings. These works now join the works already belonging to the Gallery to form an outstanding collection of Nicholson's art, ranging from the early 1920s to the 1980s. The whole collection is on show in this new display, occupying the top floor of the Dean Gallery.
Nicholson: Green Goblet Blue Square (1961). One of earliest paintings after moving to Switzerland
Ben Nicholson Retrospective Exhibition Tour
Abbot Hall is the opening venue of the first major exhibition of Ben Nicholson in the UK for over fourteen years. Curated by Chris Stephens, Head of Displays at Tate Britain and a leading expert on the art of St Ives from the 1940s-60s, the show focuses on the artist’s years in Britain from 1922 to 1958. This new exhibition highlights those periods that earlier exhibitions have marginalised and reveals a view of Ben Nicholson quite different from the established one.
The exhibition looks at the landscapes of the 1920s, including works painted in Cumberland where he lived with his first wife, Winifred. It includes his time in St Ives, Cornwall during World War II, when his abstract and landscape works became central to the establishment of the modernist art community, alongside his second wife, the sculptor Barbara Hepworth. The final section of the show focuses on the Cubist still-lifes made by Nicholson between 1945 and 1958.
Nicholson: Still Life 1945 in the Continuous Line Exhibition
This project has evolved through a unique collaboration between Abbot Hall, De La Warr Pavillion ,Tate St Ives and draws on the Tate collection and the Ben Nicholson archive, as well as loans from major public institutions in the UK. Many of Nicholson’s finest works are still in private collections, and a number of these rarely seen pieces are included. There will not be a London venue. One of the central ideas behind the project is to link the works to be shown in a different context where each of the venues has a particular relevance.
Norbert Lynton: Ben Nicholson, Phaidon Press
Chris Stephenson: Ben Nicholson, Tate Publishing
Peter Khoroche: Ben Nicholson, Drawings and Painted Reliefs, Lund Humphries
Buying Titian for the Nation: Diana and Actaeon
The sale of Diana and Actaeon by Titian for £50 million is being negotiated with the Duke of Sutherland Here the painting is at the National Gallery in London being shown for 4 weeks as a part of the fund raising exercise. The visit was later extended as it was so successful.
Late August 2008 the Duke of Sutherland declared to the National Gallery of Scotland that he wished to sell Diana and Actaeon as well as another Titian Diana and Callisto at a later date. The Duke of Sutherland was prepared to accept £50 million for each of them. It is likely that they could fetch three times the amount on the open market. now if this sounds like a financial bargain for the nation one must remember that the tax payable on an open market sale would run into tns of millions of pounds.
As argued elsewhere the financial concerns should be set to one side, the key issue here is the dvelopment of cultural citizenship within the nation which requires high quality cultural products and services in order to achive this. Clearly the opportunity to acquire some 'Old Masters' by a canonical painter is extremely rare. The reason the Damien Hirsts can command such high prices is because there is a shortage of older work available for collectors. Any painting like this must be considered as an investment in lots of different ways. It is an investment in education for a start so that spurious argument about spending the money on schools is vitiated.
Having high quality art by canonical artists gnerates long-term wealth creation through tourism as anybody going around the main London galleries could hardly fail to notice. These visitors create a lot of tax as well as create a lot of employment. Nevertheless there are a lot of retrograde attitudes out there with many coming from those who ought to know better:
"Very few people will ever have heard of Titian, many will have thought he was an Italian football player. What is the point of wasting this money in this way?"(Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Davidson, the member for Glasgow South West)
Davidson's comment is both patronising and at the same time a strong indictment of the educational system!
Diana and Actaeon by Titian
The Scottish National Gallery
The Scottish National Gallery Complex
The Scottish National Gallery
At time of writing it sems that the deal is going through there are just some loose ends to be tied up so fingers crossed! This acquisition can only be of long-term benefit to the nations and their citizens.
Scottish Executive gives £17.5 million towards Titian. The Independent
January 26, 2009
Blu-ray Audio: The New Hi-Df Audio Format?
The talk about new formats and players is clearly being taken over by the release of higher nd Blu-ray players which will be able to give an excellent audio as well as video experience. Currently for those interested primarily in audio quality the lack of available software is going to hamper take up of the format in audio installations. The Trondheim soloists Divertimenti is the first blu-ray audio disc to be released. It won a Gramophone Choice in Nov 2008 and was well received by the BBC Music reviewer of the Denon 3800BD Feb 2009. The disc is actually a package of two one being SACD and the other Blu-ray as the formats are (of course) incompatible.
There are now a number of high-nd Blu-ray players bginning to enter the market place however they will be of little us to the audiophile until companies commit to recording in this format. Presumably there will be a load of "remastered" ons coming available although it is questionable how good these are likley to be.Sony could well do this as it own music catalogues spreading across a wide range of genres
The Denon Bluray player 3800BD for a cool £1700. Players like this will soon be replacing high-end DVD playrs in expensive AV installations
We can expct a plethora of Blu-ray players that will play CDs as well coming to the market from the likes of Pioeer, Marantz & Yamaha. These will probably people who are mainly focused upon the film reproduction aspects very happy however if this isn't a main priority I would hold fire on any purchase of on of these until there is some audio material to play. Th problem is that companies like BIS and Harmonia Mundi who have made a big investment in SACD may well be reluctant to invest in the facilities required for recording blu-ray audio.Hi-fi comapnies such as Linn are prioritising the high quality download market.
Marantz Blu-ray BD7003 at the mor affordable end of the market
Perhaps the market will be pushed from the popular end? Oasis in 10 channels anybody?
January 24, 2009
The Future of the (Classical ) Record Shop
The January issue of BBC Music had an editorial bemoaning the fate of the classical record shop noting the collapse of Zavvi and with a minor swipe at downloads. There was a touch of nostalgia in the article which thought that 'buying music shouldn't be a solitary affair'. The article suggested that a return to the listening booth and listening posts might be the way forward.
This all seems remarkably unrealistic and is mere tinkering at the edges of what seems to be a much deeper problem that was also alluded to. This is the fact that pop and rock accounts for 90% of all music sales! Assuming that this figure is right this means that Jazz, Classical, Folk, World and a couple of other genres are sharing a mere 10% of music sales. The issue here is not listening booths in the shrinking number of record shops but examining how it is that the populist / popular genre has come to dominate the marketplace despite / because of the unchallenging simplistic nature of popular music. A form which relies upon spectacle, celebrityand desire to self generate - A perfect example of Adorno's "culture industry"!!
A core issue surrounding classical music, in Britain at least, is that of class and the sociologist / social anthropologist Pirre Bourdieu puts a strong case for the concept of 'Cultural Capital' which effectively outlines what is important knowledge to have for power and status. For working class people to become enthusisatic about classical music requires shifts at the level of social structure. This means ownership of the music and a valuing of the music. This can only come through education and with the current dreadful skills based discourse driving the worst sort of ineffective education system there hasn't been much hope of change here to date.
That classical music doesn't have to be class-based was shown under the old Soviet system where many working class people could attend local conservatoires in the evenings after school. Currently the best model going is "El Systema" in Brazil which seems to be remarkably effective. Stirling Council and now I believe others in Scotland are moving towards it. Apparently Boris Johnson has asked for it to be considered in London as well. There are plenty of links below explaining the system and describing its successess so I won't go over this at present.
Gustavo Dudamel came through "El Systma" and now conducts the Los Angles Symphony Orchestra
What has this got to do with record shops you might well ask? Well, I think the issue is developing audiences in depth with a wide range of people who have knowledge. These people may well be performers, concert-goers and of course music buyers. With a much wider discourse of non-pop music within the culture I think outlets will start to look after themselves. The issue is to get to the roots of the problem in the first place.
There are other things which need to be considered which could develop new audiences. The built environment could be changed with a range of small venues properly designed for acoustics. These concert halls would be suitable for chamber music and would have the benfit of building audiences.With a cultural milieu recreated which has a broadbased audience it will matter less how and where people purchase their music but that they discuss the pros and cons of various recordings.
Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra at 2007 Proms
Gustavo Dudamel and Venezuelan Brass Ensemble
January 23, 2009
ECM Records 2009 40th Anniversary Year
I only recently realised that 2009 was the 40th anniversary of my all time favourite record label ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music ) which was founded by Manfred Eicher in Munich in the autumn of 1969. I didn't discover them until some years later in the later part of the 1970s. The range of interesting jazz musicians from The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, John Abercrombie, Jack de Johnette, Don Cherry,Gary Peacock,Jan Garbarek and many others was fantastic. There was a well-known committment to the highest possible standards of recording. The vinyl was top quality and the art work for the covers was both modernist but tremendously artistic making the whole package a work of art.
Much of the music was ethereal and more contemplative what many described as "chamber jazz". Over the years the catalogue and number of artists has continuously developed. The Wikipdia entry associates some ECM artists with the rise of "World Music" but this is to ignore the cross-cultural links positively sought by many Afro-American jazz musicians from at least the 1960s. Africa was inspirational to musicians such as Randy Weston and Pharoah Sanders who are just 2 examples. Nana Vasconcelas, Don Cherry and later Shankar are good examples of cross-cultural fusions on th label. I love them and have seen many in concert over the years. These musicians are explorative and on the whole I wouldn't describe the works as "World Music" as this term often seems to double as folk musics. No, these were cutting edge musicians out on the edge! One can also add Steve Reich to this as he too was strongly influenced by rhythmic patterns from Africa and Bali for example.
Thirty years later, it remains the most uncompromised and distinctive entity of its kind. Eicher still goes entirely his own way, beholden to no major corporation and allied with different companies only for the purposes of distribution. Jazz was his original impetus, but his catalogue now boasts a plethora of recordings from numerous other disciplines. (Richard Cook New Statesman on 30th ECM Anniversary)
Eicher has supported unusual composers such as Eleni Karaindrou well known for providing the music for the films of Theo Angelopoulos.
Manfred Eicher with Steve Reich (Right) from booklet of Reich's Octet 1980
ECM New Series
February 2009 BBC Music Magazine Building a Library recommends this ECM version of Beethoven's complete music for Cello and Piano
In some of the finest Beethoven playing I've heard from Schiff, he combines a melting piano sound with crystalline articulation. (Helen Wallace, BBC Music Feb 09)
ECM has engaged some of the world's leading classical musicians to play well known works but they also took an early lead in commissioning works by musicians who were at the time relatively unheard of such as Arvo Pärt from Estonia along with the work of another Estonian, Tüür:
Taking advantage of the breakup of the old Soviet Union ECM was also able to promote the work of Georgian composer Giya Kancheli.
Below: Audio interview with Manfred Eicher from 1985
January 22, 2009
Modalee.com the Fraudulent Bejing Based So-Called "Designer" Bag Company
Well it was the Xmas period and people slip up and make buying mistakes in the general excitement. A friend of mine was recently telling me how she was suckered by a fraudulent internet shop called Modalee.com which sells "Designer" bags Chloë, Balencagia, Hermes, Mulberry etc. at large discounts.
In reality these "discounts" are entirely unrealistic and things follow the old adage: "If it's too good to be true it probably is!"
Nevertheless the site is very convincing. Photographs of the bags are genuine ones presumably culled from the web. A potential customer can quickly convince themselves that these are overstocks bcause of recession, or slight seconds etc. As can be seen from the internet traffic measurement company Alexa below Modalee gains a lot of visitors.
The visitor numbers are hardly surprising as lots of people are bound to check out the possibility of saving considerable amounts of money on what they percieve to be top-quality products however if you search very carefully through the packaging and returns policy you will finally find a disclaimer about the actual products they send out to you:
Note: The products in Modalee.com are are produced by the dedicated manufacturer based in Hong Kong and they are not genuine. They were tested and inspected strictly and attain relevant quality standard. The products customer bought are the same quality with that in our website which customer intent to buy. Please contact customer service at email@example.com if there is quality problem in product that customer bought from Modalee.com.
These are some of the images drawn from the Modalee website:
The Modalee Image of a Bottega Veneta basket weave bag. RRP $3,540 but "discounted" to $531!
A so-called Hermes Birkin bag from Modalee
Here is a link to the real Bottega Veneta site . What appears to be the same bag is on page 109.
A Not Balencagia Bag..........
My friend had finally been tempted to a so called "Balencagia" bag. When the thing turned up it was immediately clear that it was nothing to do with a Baelncagia. The matrial dosn't ven seem like leather and the quality of everything is pathetic even down to the pretend storage bag which says Balencagia on the outside!
This company is clearly trying to mislead potential customers as much as possible. You can see that the returns policies are very bad and there are no real points of contact beyond an email address. One has no idea where the company is actually based - always a bad sign!
My friend is trying to get her money back but so far to no avail. What is particualrly disappointing is that Modalee is legitimised by the number of credit and debit cards it takes.Clearly these companies do not monitor whether the company they are dealing with is legit. Don't be fooled!!!!
I have suggsted complaining to her credit card company and possibly trying to claim insurance on the grounds of being defrauded - we will see.
In the meantime please pass on the message to avoid this site like the plague. Buyers will recieve a rotten product and they will have given credit card details to a very dodgy company. For all legitimate users of the Web every rotten apple like this reduces trust as well as citizenship rights. As can be seen from the figures below the prospcts on offer tempt many and undoubtedly many people get ripped off.
I have also noticed that there is a site called Kaboodle.com which appars to run a "community" which dals with various companies. They have one for Modalee and there are bag adverts on this page. Please beware as it is clearly an uncritical site.
The Alexa Web Information Site gives the following figures using the Modalee website
Modalee.com users come from these countries:
Modalee.com traffic rank in other countries:
January 21, 2009
Handel In Italy: Solo Cantatas - Emma Kirkby London Baroque SACD
The 2008 SACD (Hybrid) of Handel in Italy from BIS sung by Emma Kirby
The Arcadian influnced baroque painting by Claude Lorraine is the Landscape with Egeria and Numa which can be found in the Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte in Naples. (Wikipedia list of works available in the Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte)
I must confess that I'm no expert on Handel at all, however, as 2009 is a significant anniversary for the great composer (250 years since his death) this is a good year to find out more and I enjoy the Baroque period. I've always liked the singing of Emma Kirkby since I first heard her on various recordings from Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music in the early 1980s. There is an airiness and lightness of touch in her tone and timbre which fits the Baroque period very well.
Emma Kirky specialist Baroque soprano
There are 4 Cantatas in all on this SACD and just over 67 minutes of music. Emma Kirkby is accompanied by The London Baroque who have been playing Baroque chamber music for ovr 30 years.
Handel In Italy - Solo Cantatas
Notte placida e cheta, HWV142 (1707)
Un’ alma innamorata, HWV173 (1707)
Figlio d’alte speranze, HWV113 (1706)
Agrippina condotta a morire, HWV110 (1709)
Concerto a Quattro in D major
The first two cantatas are about unhappy love whilst the last two are about the loss of authority and claims to power.
Keates is illuminating on Handel's early journey to Italy as a keyboard virtuoso and budding composer. In Venice, he was sought out by an admiring Scarlatti, while in Rome he fell under Corelli's benign influence; he was ravished by the pifferari music played in the street by Abruzzi shepherds, which he later reproduced in his Messiah. In Rome, he encountered the cantata, a form he quickly made his own. (Independent)
For those new to Handel the Cambridge Companion to Handel is most useful
January 13, 2009
Is The Future of Recorded Music Downloading?
Call me a cynic, sceptic, neo-luddite if you like but so far I have not been impressed by the possibilities of music downloading. Perhaps surprisingly it is companies such as Linn Records and their larger Linn HI-Fi brother that have taken something of a lead in this area and they will be looked at as a leading model later. I say surprisingly because of the anti-digital stance originally taken by Linn in the early days of CD. Apart from the fact that you have no hard copy to back you up, unless you make them yourself, there is a lack of nice booklets which can tell you about the music and musicians of whatever musical genre. I do admit though that there is probably something of a generational thing here and as a student I would be aspiring to a music server.
Arcam FMJ Music Server MS250
On thing I have noticed as the internet has developed is the increasing ability of companies and institutions to pass expenses and time consuming jobs onto the customer. Skimpy little instruction books tell you to go online and print the full off for example. Adorno and Horkheimer discussed how people would work hard at their leisure time in their well known article on the Culture Industry. It seems to me that there is a danger of this happening here.
I do put most of my CDs onto iTunes which can be downloaded to my iPod but this isn't meant for high quality listening although investing in good headphones can dramatically improve the listening experience. If you want to listen to computerised music files in higher quality then they can be saved as FLAC files. However, even this loses out against a full surround sound SACD although Linn Records provide "Studiomaster FLAC" which is full surround sound. One might as well get the SACD and put it on some sort of music server if you want some convenience. The other thing is you can always sell the CD/SACD secondhand or give them to Oxfam etc. Second-hand CDs can be fun!
Advantages of Downloads
Linn Records give a list of advantages for downloading although I'm still happier to go for 'the real thing'. Here is a link to the FLAC website for those interested. I have to say I can see the commercial advantages for Linn records as much easier access to global markets could make a significant difference for them and/or other small record companies.
Being able to download invididual tracks is a big advantage if you just want to trial something. For the classical fan Classics Online run by Naxos records provides large numbers of CDs in downloadable versions. This gives smaller recording companies like BIS and Hyperion global distribution, however, there is currently only the option of downloading at 320 kbps which is the equivalent of CD quality. The downloads have the distinct advantage of being DRM (Digital Rights Management) free so you can put thm all your computers iPods etc.
For the Classics Online list of recording companies please click here
You can find BIS for example on a number of other download sites howver these are only available as MP3 files which aren't suitable for high quality reproduction of classical music. Here I strongly recommend you buy the CDs.
Problem of slow internet connections
With CD file sizes being compressed to around 300mb and presumably with full surround ones being significantly larger the future of music downloading is very much dependent upon the installation of high speed broadband services. Currently in the UK many people are struggling to get fast connectivity unless they are near an exchange. Another issue is that downloading masses of large files might incur extra charges from your ISP depending on your contract.
Well on the resarch done so far Linn is well ahead of the game as far as downloading is concerned. They appar to be the only company that can offer full surround SACD. This fits with the company Hi-Fi vision that the future is going to b downloads via high quality digital stream players. Accordingly they have produced a range of these players which go from relatively inxpensive to "high end".
The Linn DS (Digital Stream) Majik
As far as I'm concerned having back up is vital. Who wants to lose what could turn into terrabytes of music data? Perhaps companies like Linn will provide a back up on-line service for its customers? Despite my current scepticism I think that Linn is probably way ahead of the game as this will undoubtedly become the way in which people newer to hi-fi normally buy, store and play their music as so many people are used to downloading often pirated versions as quality and finance becomes available. But success on a global scale in the long-term is dependent upon hi-speed broadband.
January 10, 2009
Greening Hi-Fi Reviews & Magazines
"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.
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.
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.
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 could be forming a new model for ethically and environmntally aware hi-fi companies
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:
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.