Well it’s that time of year again where it is fun to look back at what 2016 ended up throwing at us but firstly both Wendy and myself would like to thank everyone again for your tremendous support throughout 2016 it really is much appreciated as this year has proved another year of growth for HiFi Lounge and Highend Headphones and we are more than aware that without our brilliant customer’s we wouldn’t be having this much fun :-)
A look back at 2016!
Just reading back the first paragraph, I said it is ‘fun’ to look back but perhaps ‘fun’ really wasn’t the right word as for music lovers 2016 will be remembered forever as the year where we lost some of our most loved and influential artists, for me the loss of David Bowie followed so quickly by Prince at the start of the year was a real body blow as along with Bruce Springsteen and Elvis I have now lost 3 of my favourite 4 artists, but if that wasn’t bad enough there was also the loss of Glenn Frey, George Martin, Scotty Moore, Pete Burns & Leonard Cohen to mention just a few, a very sad year indeed.
As for HiFi though, it was a bit of a strange year as many of our brands brought out a lot of new and excellent products but nearly everything was a revision on what had gone before, Devialet brought us their new Expert Pro range and the Amazing Gold Phantom, Rega gave us the new Planar 1, 2 & 3 turntables, how after all these years they keep making their decks better is beyond me, Bryston gave us their new ‘Cubed’ amps which were quite literally stunning, again I thought the SST2 amps were a tough act to follow but Bryston made the jump so big that many people ended upgrading to the new Cubed design, then PMC graced us with their new Twenty5 Series of speakers, again I thought it was impossible to improve on the original Twenty Range but with the help of the new laminair technology and new drivers the upgrade was considerable giving a really effortless speaker that really did disappear, then just last week OPPO finally released their much awaited UDP-203 4K player, these really have been flying off the shelf and finally Naim announced the new Uniti Range which will be un-leashed early in 2017, I had a preview recently and they really are a beautifully designed piece of HiFi, I am expecting big things from Naim here.
So as you can see there really was a lot of refinement going on here, for me the 2 products that really stood out as bringing something new to the market for 2016 was Musical Fidelity’s Encore range, giving a powerful one box design with the Encore 225 that will rip, store an play CD’s but also has analogue and digital inputs + a powerful 225 WPC amplifier to be a true one box solution and also the Focal Elear and Utopia Headphones really got the phone ringing, I can honestly say I never seen so much excitement over new products in the headphone community and I have to say a special mention to the Utopia, with its Beryllium dome drivers it really did bring something new to the Headphone market and for me is the first headphone to challenge the mighty Stax SR-009, they really are that good, So all in all it was another excellent year for HiFi.
On a personal note, I had a brilliant year chasing Bruce Springsteen around the world seeing him 10 times this year, now going over 80 Bruce gigs since 1985, I’m not sure if it was spurred on by the passing of both Bowie and Prince but I have always wanted to see Bruce in his hometown of New Jersey so this year I just thought sod it and had a trip of a lifetime to see 3 Bruce gigs at the Meadowlands New Jersey which are already going down in history as 3 of Bruce’s best show of all time, night 3 was just beyond all expectations, we even got to meet Little Steven backstage :-) The other notable Bruce gig this year was Rome in an old chariot racing stadium, what an atmosphere, possibly the best concert I have ever seen.
Best album of 2016
I wouldn’t say this has been the best year ever for music but for me there are 2 albums that stand head and shoulders over everything else, David Bowies final album ‘Blackstar’ and Nick Caves ‘Skeleton Tree’, both albums tinged with an air of sadness, obviously with Bowies passing and the loss of Nick Caves son in such tragic circumstances, you can almost hear Nick Cave crying on the album, I have never heard such anguish with heartfelt and harrowing singing put into an album before, it really can be quite tough going but really is quite absorbing. Which is the best album? It really is impossible to say to be honest, to think that Bowie put out such an amazing album as a final farewell is quite incredible, it was almost as if he saved some of his best material over the years for his final album, amazing stuff so I think this year will be a draw between David Bowie and Nick Cave for me and if you haven’t listened to either of these albums I really would strongly recommend it.
I am sure there will be some amazing new HiFi to sing lyrically about throughout the year but 2017 looks set to be a big one for HiFi Lounge as we are expanding, basically we have taken on 2 more barns which are in-between HiFi Lounge and Highend Headphones so the builders will be in early next year to knock through to make it all one big HiFi Toy Shop which I am really excited about, the idea is that we will have a dedicated Naim room and a Highend Room, we also have some exciting new brands coming early next year such as Wilson Audio, Audio Research, DCS and Quadraspire, please see a couple of pics below as the rooms are now.
There is an amazing amount of work to be done yet but if all goes to plan the launch event will be April 1st, yes that is no Joke, and the idea is that Naim will be bringing along their Statement to partner up with a pair of PMC MB2 XBD’s so please pencil that date into your diary but keep an eye on the website for confirmation.
Well I guess I should wrap it all up really as I could talk forever but really again I would like to thank everyone for their support over the last 4 years really as we are now in our 5th year, where did that time go and Both Wendy and Myself would like to wish everyone a great Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Look forward to seeing you during 2017 :-)
Paul and Wendy.