December Blog

Moorgate December Blog

Mass production techniques and the quest to make things smaller and cheaper have their advantages but in the World of consumer electronics those things have done most of the population no favours.

Back in the 70’s ownership of a hi-fi system was the single most important thing after house and car. A hifi system was relatively expensive but pretty good. Manufacturers like JVC, Sansui, Trio, Technics and NAD (amongst others) were making pretty decent equipment and fidelity was considered to be important. Equally important was the fact that hifi was visible on the High Street. Shops like Lasky’s might have been the forerunner of Curry’s and Dixons but they stocked good equipment from Japanese AND British manufacturers. Analogue was king and the record player was the main source for most people.

December Blog

In the 80’s the “rack system” and “midi-system” took hold of the public imagination and brought prices down but standards also fell with it. The public were encouraged to buy a “one brand” solution and this normally incorporated pretty dreadful speakers. The Japanese have never made decent speakers but they sold plenty of them with their systems and not so many people were given the opportunity to listen to better.

In 1982 with the arrival of the CD player this trend continued. CD sounded pretty poor when it was launched but you’d not have thought so if you took note of the advertising campaign which promised “perfect sound that lasts forever”. No mention was made of the poor sound quality nor the fact that CD’s did not have the capacity to store all the data from the master tape and so compression was used to make it fit. Audiophiles stuck to their record players and manufacturers tried extremely hard to get the format to sound good; with varying degrees of success.

Is it a stereo or a microwave?

As the 80’s continued the midi-system became the mini-system and that progressed to the micro-system. Of course these got smaller and smaller and correspondingly worse and worse. It is easy to see why it was considered better to make stereo equipment smaller. For a start it took up less room which left more for useless furniture, candles and useless bits of frippery and also freed up space for the eventual arrival of television sets so large that they plunged their owners into permanent twilight.

Towards the end of the 80’s Lasky’s closed after being purchased Comet. 59 stores became 11 Comet stores and Hi-Fi disappeared of the High Street and became a pretty meaningless term to 95% of the public.

The 90’s saw the arrival of Home Cinema. Strange one this; anyone who works in a hi-fi shop will know how hard it is to get a pair of decent sized speakers into the average British lounge and yet here came a format that required 5 of them and a sub-woofer to produce cinematic bass. As the market grew again an unusual thing happened; it got worse. Speakers got smaller (so they’d go into the average lounge without causing divorce) and electronics got cheaper and cheaper and poorer at producing good sound. Of course many people are fooled by quantity over quality and assume that more is better. So of course 5.1 speakers MUST be better than 2 right? Actually no! Most home cinema systems sound worse than monkeys sprinting round you in a circle banging tin trays together. And for playing music; forget it!

Many hi-fi retailers threw the baby out with the bathwater and became home cinema specialists. Some still exist and do a great job. If you spend a massive amount of money you can get a true cinematic experience but I can almost guarantee you that it will require a dedicated room or the compromises will be massive.

Most people had a budget that would have just about allowed them to get a half decent stereo system but instead that went on an extremely average AV receiver and 5 speakers so small that they were more at home in a car than in a decent sized rooms. Sub-woofers gave the bass but the quality of the bass was so poor that it droned on and on like a passing lorry and made music sound like the rhythm section were on the wrong sort of drugs.

People who purchased these systems avoided divorce but lost their love of music. Of course they did; their system sounded so poor that you could barely play music on it without sticking your fingers in your ears. But crikey those speakers are so small and discreet!

Around this time the telly became the alter that everyone worshipped on. They got flatter and then bigger and bigger and BIGGER!

People are visual and could see that spending money on a bigger telly made a difference. This was easy to justify and it was a purchase that would benefit the whole family. A big telly was for everybody whereas better quality sound was the rather selfish domain of the man of the house.

The answer to this was to initially make speakers smaller and then cleverly bury them all in one little box that sits under the TV and “projects sound” magically around the room!

If you don’t believe how far sound has been relegated think of how poor flat TV’s sound. The pictures are bigger (not necessarily better) but the sound is infinitely worse.

And of course the prices fell so much that for most people the TV became the domain of the supermarkets with vast out of town stores selling own branded tellies of immense size for extremely cheap prices.

In audio (I shan’t use the word hi-fi) Apple began its dominance by launching i-Tunes. Apple’s i-Tunes compresses everything you rip and also everything you buy and I am sure most people either don’t know or don’t care. The first worries me immensely and the second worries me so much I can’t sleep at night. This IS NOT progress.

I worry because music you own and have already paid for and music that you buy has been sold to you in a somewhat reduced form. It’s like ordering a painting from a catalogue and discovering that they’ve cut the top, sides and bottom off with no explanation. Many people probably assume that they can’t tell the difference. In the 34 years we have been in business we have never met a person yet who can’t hear the difference in quality between good and bad. That includes people who have poor hearing. Don’t fall for it!

It is ingenious to make things small if they improve your life immeasurably. Carrying around 40,000 songs might be considered an improvement but wouldn’t it be better to carry around 10,000 that sound remarkable? Or are you happy for music to be delivered up to you like margarine? Of course if you’ve only every been told what butter tastes like but never actually tasted it you might be happy with margarine.

So everything is getting worse but smaller and lot of the quality is being squeezed out of it; but at least its cheap.┬áIs this a conclusion you’re happy with?

We don’t sell equipment like this. We choose speakers that will do the job properly and we can demonstrate them to prove it. We don’t sell speakers that are too small to make music because we believe that you and your music deserves better. We stock a wide range of turntables and equipment which has got better and not worse. If you want to stream or listen to digital files we can show you how to do so in such a way that you’ll hear EVERYTHING and enjoy music without compression. You deserve better.

We care about our customers because they keep us in business!