About Magazines

At the very least, magazines are useful because they alert you to the existence of products which you're not aware of. So when you go off to make your next purchase, you have a larger selection of items which you can audtion before settling on your final purchase.

There are so many magazines out there, and I can't claim to have read all on a regular basis (another reason to visit your friendly hi-fi dealer -- to read back issues of hi-fi magazines :)) Personally, I buy Stereophile every month and Hi-Fi choice about every other month from ComicsMart at Serene Centre. They are a great shop and bring in any magazine you request them to and sell them at the lowest prices.

Stereophile (S$11.50 from ComicsMart)  --$9.90 at Tower Records. Whoops!

Might as well get over with it and mention probably the most 'influential' (note my careful choice of words) Hi-Fi magazine in existence. Sold incredibly cheaply in the US (with a free CD for subscribers) but at ridiculous prices everywhere else in the world. Their recommended components section is probably the most influential list in Hi-Fi today. Pretty OK music review section as well. Things to note:

  • Retain sanity by ignoring comments such as "I could hear that the hall had curved rear walls"
    Read between the lines of the reviews. At least Stereophile reviewers do mention the weaknesses of certain equipment (but not necessarily the magnitude of the weakness :))

What Hi-Fi? ($9.65 from Comicsmart)

A UK subjective-review magazine that focuses mainly on low and mid-fi. Generally champions British products, or Japanese made products designed in the UK or whatever. Rates equipment on a 1 to 5 star system (an overall ranking as well as different components such as "sound", "facilities", "build" etc). Reviews are often very short paragraphs and not very useful. Ranking system strange because price is an integral part of the rating, which means that a 4 star CD player costing a mere 20% more than a 5 star CD player may actually be better than the cheaper one, despite the very common comment "beats CD players costing $XXXX more!"

They do have negative reviews, so they're not totally biased :). They've even been less than Enthusiastic about certain Marantz products before, even though Marantz advertises on the rear cover like every month.

However, one major point to note when reading reviews is that they listen to a lot of trashy pop discs (in fairness, mirroring what most of their readership listens to) Because of this, the Sony X-3000 gets only 4 stars and is accused of "here's one to have you dozing off at the wheel" type of sound when the analogue filter was used. Read these comments having in mind they listening to some mainstream pop. Examples abound of fine products like the Audio Note Oto SE, the NEW P-3/A-20 [egads!] getting 'only' 4 stars (IMHO - no difference between 4 to 5 stars - all worthy of auditioning).

Buy it once a while as 1/3 of the magazine is the same every month - the summary of previous products reviewed! Further, now they're only printing the 'overall' star rating rather than all the components.

Hi-Fi Choice (S$10.45 from ComicsMart)

Another UK based subjective-review magazine. Considerably thinner than What Hi-Fi, but it contains about the same amount of (substantive) content. Whereas What Hi-Fi emphasises quantity of reviews, Hi-Fi Choice emphasises more in depth reviewing and more importantly, in every issue, there is at least one blind test (coupled with lab test results). And yes, they did a blind test and were able to tell the difference between CD players. Only problem seems to be that they conduct the tests on a rather laid-back system that isn't the ultimate word in transparency. In a recent test, the Stereophile class A Meridian 508.20 was criticised as having bass that was "thick and plummy" (hmm...) and not one of CD players was criticised as being "harsh", "strident" or "forward'.

Also, the magazine reviewers are Mana addicts and they seem to review all their equipment on Mana supports.

Still, the articles are interesting. Recommended, even though in Singapore in costs as much as the much thicker Stereophile.

News: They now have a webpage up! Check out Robert's Hi-Fi links for the address. Theres a discussion board and Alan Sircom takes the time to reply.

Hi-Fi News and Record Review

A higher-brow magazine that loves tubes and vinyl (even Stereophile writers use HFNRR's test record). Maybe for the smaller English listening room, low power tube amps are a very good choice. Anyway, I don't really notice Krell and Mark Levinson ads in What Hi-Fi? , but in this magazine, they're everywhere. Does show reports. Unfortunately quite thin, so only a few reviews. Nice music review section. (alerted to Michelle Shocked's new album thanks to this).

It appears that Martin Colloms and Ken Kessler are given freerer rein here to criticise high-fi. Would have to say that this is one of the more honest magazines. MC writes for Stereophile too, but you can see the differences in the words chosen.

Magazines that Audio Enthusiasts should not bother with.

Stereo Review

Despite its title, its more of a mass market consumer electronics magazine.
Absolutely no help whatsoever to anyone interesting in decent Hi-Fi.

Web Resources

For internet based Hi-Fi magazines, the 2 best on the web must be:
Audio Files.

Audio Files is the Web edition of the hi-fi column of the Star Newspaper which is a Malaysian newspaper. They have superb top quality reviews archived as well as regular monthly issues. A really entertaining read. Note: No advertising whatsoever (yet...).

Soundstage is a monthly internet only magazine. Quite interesting to read. Good show coverage, reasonable reviews, though one must take into account the fact that its new and heavily dependent on advertising. Beginners should ignore a series of articles called "The Entry Level" which is really no help to anyone.

Secrets of Home Theatre and High Fidelity is another interesting resource. The only one I've seen so far to really pan stuff! :- Teknasonic - nope, doesn't work..., Power Conditioners -- limiting dynamics etc.

Then there are personal webpages of audioenthusiasts. Their links can be found in Robert's Hi-Fi pages.