Published On: 9 Nov 2023Categories: Featured

November 2023

Black November or otherwise?

I see that some are now punting that Black November specials should be vetted for being ‘specials’. Who would have thought that a retailer in these tough times might be taking the mickey out of cash strapped consumers? Genuinely, I think that often the retailers are painted badly but there must be cases of taking chances that can cause the arousal of suspicion in the minds of those about to part with cash that is hard to come by these days.

Perhaps we should call for a commission of enquiry?

But it got me to thinking nonetheless about the concept of value. I came across a set of mono block Jeff Rowland Model 9’s with their battery packs in a store online in Japan at a price that even today makes ones nether regions tighten a little uncomfortably, in what I am not yet convinced is either a sense of desire, or foreboding. These are of course amplifiers that are some 25 years old and represented some of the highest of the high end back in the day (and quite possibly still do). However, just the battery tech alone represents fields of advancement that surely must have been improved exponentially over this period of time. And capacitors – these do have life spans and they do wear out. And so forth and so on.

I still want them because in my mind the value factor is so high.

Yet. Am I right? Given how good current kit is, most of it anyway, has the law of diminishing returns begun to reach a plateau in which modern componentry now can only eke out ever fainter degrees of improvement? Are we seeing the age of paying more and more for less and less until we’re paying everything for nothing? It’s a thought but it is fairly easily put aside when you consider what is happening. The quality is continuously improving and you’re getting way more. More features, more power, more control, more integration, more ease of use, more tech. More, more and more to the point perhaps where the almost incidental sonic improvements are taken for granted?

Purists will disagee and I agree with their disagreement. Purist componentry is part science, part art and part subjectivity. It’s almost always going to be controversial and it’s almost always an intense rivalry for a crown that is hard to define. It’s what drives progress in most cases – and the cynics can argue about regress to add fuel to the fire but at the end of the day it always, always and always comes down to one thing and one thing only – your understanding of value. Even if that means you will deliberately overpay for an overpriced item because it works for your ears the way you want it to, then that is value as defined by you.

In this Black November, remember that. Echo chambers in this wacky weird world of hi-fi can sometimes reverberate with those of regret and no matter what your brain might be telling you, it is your ears that will ultimately prove your choice.

William Kelly




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