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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.