Saturday, November 05, 2016

AUDIOPHILE | Ten years of Hi-Fi – not bad at all

THE MANILA TIMES ON DECEMBER 1, 2013

THE NOVEMBER HI-FI SHOW—AN ANNUAL GATHERING OF AUDIOPHILES FROM LO-FI TO HI-FI—CELEBRATED ITS TENTH YEAR IN SHOWCASING THE BEST IN THE AUDIO INDUSTRY.

What started as a simple swat meet of gears and music media among audio enthusiasts a decade ago, the November Hi-Fi Show is now one of the most anticipated audio and video events of the year.

Although I can’t remember the particular time when they started occupying the entire two floors at the Dusit Thani, I’ve been going to this event in the plush Makati hotel for several years now to check out all the wonderful audio equipment on display—both old and new; not to mention bargain hunting for other gears, including CDs and vinyls. Yes, those long-playing records are back! (although, vinyls never really went away, it just hid behind the CD until people started getting tired of digital music; and if you hang out in places like the basement of Makati [Cinema] Square, you’ll get the idea.)

Turntables and vinyl albums are regaining their popularity in the audiophile arena, particularly among the newbies, which led the lead organizer Tony Boy de Leon to fly in an expert in the name of Michael Fremer, to discuss everything about high-fidelity music. Fremer is a renowned music analog guru who has his own audiophile blog called AnalogPlanet, a popular website for anything Hi-Fi.

What makes the November Hi-Fi Show different from other audio and video exhibitions is the presentation. Paid exhibitors have their own hotel room where they can show off audio equipment in a controlled environment, without the unwanted noise and other distractions often encountered in an open space like for example a mall or an appliance center. Literally speaking, each exhibitor has its own listening room.

Perfect for any audiophile. Plus, the presence of Fremer, who did a turntable workshop, made it exceptionally worthwhile for many fans of this year’s event.

So, what is an audiophile? Simply put, an audiophile is a person enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction—a general description as old as your grandfather but still very much true today.

But what used to be reserved for the moneyed elite, high-fidelity music for the past several years has trickled down to a larger part of the population. Like high-tech gadgets, high fidelity has been “consumerized.”

Nonetheless, Hi-Fi, despite now being affordable, is still a niche market. Yes, hi-fi gears and hardware are very expensive, especially for brands that target the high-end crowd. There was a pair of speakers on display at the event that go for $94,000 (yes, US dollars) or even a headphone for P90,000! Still, some audiophiles share that you could own a Hi-Fi system for less than P50,000.

Almost the price of an expensive high-end smartphone. In all practicality, that sounded good enough.

Nowadays, there’s a notion that you don’t really have to spend too much (unless you can afford it, of course) for a great audio (or even video) system. Like music itself, sound is also an acquired taste.

Some people like the music loud on the bass, others like their highs more, or some would have the middle frequencies up front, while most audiophiles would rather keep it flat, the EQ that is.

Then, there are people who like their music delivered by big speakers, others are contented with the smaller bookshelf ones, while some would rather go for headphones for that immersive feel. So basically, to each his own.

But for most audiophiles, nothing beats a well-configured audio system setup. It may cost them millions or just a few thousands, but the perfect combination of the audio hardware—may it be a vintage vacuum tube or modern solid-state amplifier, a well-maintained media and music player, a good-sounding balanced speakers, and even the use of proper cables and clean electric power ñ always makes sense.

At the Dusit Thani event you could see all the familiar names in today’s audio hardware; including A/V systems, since home theater is very much in demand, most of the well-known major toys-for-big-boys brands were there. Hardcore audiophiles were also present to exchange ideas, sell, swap, and of course, exhibit their wares—Do-It-Yourself (DIY) vacuum tube amps, turntables, and speakers included.

Rega, Audio Research, Definitive Technology, Bowers-Wilkins, McIntosh, Focal are just some of the Hi-Fi names one will encounter in this extraordinary weekend event.

If you think Bose is already high fidelity for you, then obviously you haven’t been to a November Hi-Fi Show. I suggest you catch the 11th in 2104.

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