I’m a late adopter of social media, having only recently conceded that it’s a must for brand building and networking. I joined LinkedIn back in August, and started posting to “the ’gram” (jeff_hifi) in November. For me, LinkedIn was the real eye-opener. One of my most striking discoveries was just how small the business side of high-end audio is. The number of people directly involved in the making, marketing, selling, and reviewing of audiophile gear is nowhere near the countless crowds involved in many other high-tech industries. Being involved in high-end audio is somewhat like living in a small town: you get to know just about everyone, at least on some level.
Regrettably, one’s reputation in the small world of high-end–audio is as fragile as it is in a small town. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear or see online some criticism about one industry figure or another, some magazine, distributor, manufacturer, or PR firm. I don’t normally partake in these conversations, but they always leave me in a state of introspection. They are a reminder we all should heed: how you treat people matters. Deceit, arrogance, condescension, disrespect—it’ll quickly get around. Did I mention high-end audio is a small world?
A case in point is the unflattering comments I recently heard about a certain industry professional. That in itself wouldn’t have been so shocking—I’ve become inured now to hearing such criticism—except that these comments were about me. Whoa. It came from a friend of mine (an industry professional) over coffee in my hometown of Hampstead, NC. At one point during our conversation, he mentioned, somewhat off the cuff, that at an audio show some months earlier he was talking with a friend (an acquaintance of mine), who said something, um, uncool about me.
I was deeply disturbed by what I heard and completely baffled—that fellow at the show, my acquaintance, had always been great with me; we had had nothing but positive interactions. I asked my friend to contact that man as soon as possible and arrange for me to call him. To make a long story short, I did eventually call him. We had a long, amiable, meaningful conversation and found much to agree on, from high-end audio to life in general. The point of discontent was cleared and put to rest.
I don’t mean to sound preachy, I hope I don’t, but the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is something we can all reflect on as we enter 2023. My wife and I attempt to model this rule daily for our kids.
I will be attending at least three audio shows in this new year. I want to be able to walk the halls, listen in the demonstration rooms, and eat in the cafés without having to avoid anyone. Voicing opinions in public is bound to displease some; you can’t make everyone happy all the time. I know this as well as anyone: as a reviewer of high-end products, I pass judgment on other people’s “precious babies” regularly. But I’m always mindful not to let judgment and criticism, the essence of my professional life, spill into my personal conduct—affect how I treat people. I hope it never does.
High-end audio is the lifeblood (and livelihood) of industry professionals and the passion of hobbyists. Playing and sharing music is a beautiful thing, and the pursuit of perfection in music reproduction is a noble endeavor. Cordial civility, from all involved, would keep it so. I, for one, am going to try to be the best reviewer and the best person I can be in 2023.
Let’s go 2023!
On December 15, 2022, SoundStage! Ultra published “Jeff’s New-Speaker Wishlist for 2023.” Some of the loudspeakers mentioned there will undoubtedly be released this year; I know the new Magico S3 is slated for review—am I ever excited about that! But there’s a lot more I’m looking forward to hearing in 2023.
I’ve been toying with another idea for a while: having a super integrated amplifier anchor my reference system. I have written about a number of these units over the years. Way back in March of 2008, I reviewed the original Gryphon Audio Designs Diablo, probably the most significant entry to date in the super category of integrated amplifiers. Then, in March of 2016, I fell in love with the Devialet Expert 1000 Pro mono integrated amplifier. February 2018 saw me review the beastly McIntosh Laboratory MA9000, and in May of that year, I reported my findings after listening to the ultra-precise T+A Elektroakustik PA 3100 HV. My last review in this category was in March 2019, when I wrote about the beautiful Luxman L-509X. Having covered so many integrated amplifiers of the super category, it was high time for me to have one of my own, and I now do: the Rotel Michi X-5, which I added to my Compact Reference System.
My love of super integrated amplifiers has only grown stronger since the Michi came into my life. In fact, I’m now getting ready to embark on an audition of a super integrated amplifier for my Ultra Reference System. Yup, you heard that right. The Vitus Audio SIA-030 is on its way from Denmark as you read this. On January 15 you’ll see a feature on how this extraordinarily ambitious integrated amplifier is built. It retails for an Ultra-worthy $46,200.
To the SoundStage! Ultra readership, I wish a healthy and happy 2023! I appreciate your interest in our articles and videos and hope to have your company for many more years to come.
. . . Jeff Fritz