AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE
The State of Sound is turning one. Over the last year, this blog has become as much yours as it is mine. More and more of you have embraced its different perspective on HIFI and have expressed an appreciation for its independence. Thank you for your fidelity! A blog without readers is an empty endeavor.
It was just one year ago that I decided to put up a web page listing French HIFI manufacturers. It was a page that had to be updated week after week in order to fully keep up with the industry’s richness and diversity of players. As a result, it represented a unique opportunity to uncover the brands, companies, and people that make up the French HIFI world, as well as the challenges that exist in the industry and the market.
The year in numbers
This first year can be described using a few figures: more than 70 posts were published, and there were 140,000 page views. Page views are currently at an average of 3,500 per week. Many of you also responded to the survey. The extremely wide variety of responses and expectations shows that the reader pool is vast and contains far more than just veteran audiophiles. Here is a short summary of the results of that survey.
Did you say, “Made in France?”
This question is particularly relevant because, although almost all manufacturers now find themselves having to import certain items or parts from abroad, we still can talk about products being assembled in France, even if more and more brands assemble most, or even all, of their products in Asia. For example, the vast majority of speaker manufacturers assemble, at the very least, the cabinets for their starter models and low-end models in other countries.
Since France is clearly not an island, I am occasionally sorely tempted to bring up the practices of some of the companies of our European neighbors—manufacturers that also offer high-quality products but that have similarly been drawn in by the allure of delocalizing production. However, in Europe, there are companies that manufacture their products domestically, and it would unfair to completely ignore them. However, this situation raises the question: when purchasing HIFI equipment, is it better to buy from a French company whose products are 100% “Made in China” or from an English or German company whose production is local? I think you can guess my answer from the way I phrased the question.
Very soon, I will be attending the Munich High End Show, which will be the perfect opportunity to check out some of the shining stars of the “responsible” European HIFI industry. In a later trip, I will be traveling to England to visit a key player in the European HIFI landscape: Naim.
Time and caution
Many of you requested more sound system tests. Unfortunately, these tests take a lot of time and can be a bit complicated because, to me, it seems crucial to share my opinion of complete sound systems rather than individual products that occur out of any sort of real context. In my opinion, such tests yield little useful information. As a result, I really appreciate your patience. It isn’t always easy to borrow the equipment I need, especially since not all manufacturers are willing to participate. Some have already clearly understood that loaning me equipment does not necessarily mean that I will subsequently publish a glowing review. Indeed, several electronics and speakers have been sent back to their respective companies without any mention of them whatsoever being made in the blog.
It isn’t always easy to pick your way through the world of HIFI. There are so many conflicts of interest that consumers are justifiably nervous at the prospect. There are sales outlets that push certain manufacturers or importers, journalists who are also salespeople, and a media that is forced to sacrifice its objectivity at the altar of advertising revenues. The traditional HIFI market has shrunk by two-thirds over the last 10 years; clearly, competition is brutal in an industry that witnesses the birth of a new brand every day. It is a sector where there is immense freedom of entrepreneurship (which I think is great), but just reading the list of French manufacturers is enough to make your head spin. Over the last few years, we have been told that we are entering into a new era, an era in which we will witness the death of the CD, the absolute dominance of digital music, and wireless speakers becoming the new norm. So many so-called trends that are only maintained by intense advertising campaigns aimed at giving a shot in the arm to a listless market. It just adds to the confusion consumers are already experiencing. Therefore, the solution is to be more cautious than ever and always ask yourself the only question that matters: what is the quality of the object under consideration?
This blog will continue to explore the whole sound reproduction chain, starting from the moment a sound is recorded to the moment it reaches our ears, always keeping in mind the element that has brightened our daily lives for centuries: music !