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Going ’round the bend: DAR turns 7

DAR turns seven years old this month. That’s seven years of turning up every second day (or thereabouts) with thoughts on the world’s best audio gear. The name might read Digital Audio Review but turntables and vinyl are welcome.

This past year has seen a stronger focus from yours truly on products that build a bridge from the audiophile world to the mainstream. Products that have the potential to save the high-end audio world from sliding into a niche as relevant to contemporary culture as model trains or coin collecting.

Here’s a reader responding to my ongoing enthusiasm for one such product, the KEF LS50 Wireless:

“Hi John, I’m far from an audiophile. I was looking for some new speakers to replace my Focal XS speakers for my Mac. I find using iTunes and Apple music etc.. in my my home office is where I listen to much of my music. The more I researched the more confused I became. I happened across your review of KEF LS50 Wireless speakers and I couldn’t be happier. Thanks for mixing audio-expert tech to a level that we can all understand. Needless to say I’m loving they sound and the ease of use. Now if I could just figure out Audirvana and the benefits of Tidal etc… Thanks again for a great review and helping me find the perfect fit for my needs. Keep up the great work!”

Other products that offer convenience at the outset but whose sound quality will scale according to better digital inputs include the Devialet Phantom and Sony MDR-1000X, both name-checked in March’s Future-Fi Now! op-ed. Convenience and looks are the hooks that draw us closer. Selling audio gear to the broader market isn’t only about sound quality.

Here’s another reader e-mail:

“In response to your recent article, “FutureFi Now,” I just want to say: Right on! Amen! Hallelujah! Hell yeah! Kick ass! And so much more. This is simply outstanding. Thank you for sharing that very necessary perspective with your readers.”

And here’s one more:

“I’d like to be the first so register for the DAR-sponsored Future-Fi trade event!!!!!!

All joking aside, your essay this morning was the best f*cking piece of audio journalism I’ve seen in….well….forever. You’d already convinced me that DAR posts were the best written (and with super-human frequency), but this last piece caused me to re-read it twice (and more times later today). You’re feeding us a, perhaps, too addictive drug with your writing! And with all the recent dust-up re: Stereophile and “obsolete” Schiit gear, DAR is growing in importance and necessity to the community.

BRAVO, John, BRAVO! Have an awesome vacation and I look forward to continued DAR posts and to meet you in person at RMAF this year.”

Alas, I’ll be sitting this year’s RMAF out.

I’ve been dialling back DAR’s audio show coverage of late. Why?

Partly a reaction to the abundance of show posts hitting this site in 2016.

Partly because an audio show’s unfamiliar room, unfamiliar music and an absence of A/B comparisons makes it impossible to offer insight into sound quality.

Partly because I’d prefer to cover shows often untouched by the bigger US mags; after all, audio shows are cultural events, especially those taking place in non-English speaking countries. For the back end of 2017, CanJam Europe and The Warsaw Hifi show get the nod to ensure the continuation of DAR’s international standing.

But mostly it’s because a recent DAR reader poll told us quite unequivocally that you’d prefer to see more reviews than show reports. Fair enough.

Reviews are the most requested post type from readers. Reviews are what manufacturers request. And home-based reviews are the only truly reliable way for a subjectivist review like yours truly to assess audio gear.

This reader seems to agree:

“I know I’m late to the party, but I wanted to take a moment of my time, and yours, to thank your for your reviews of the W4S modded Connect and the Purple Flare power cord. I replaced my stock Connect with a W4S modded version, and then purchased the Purple flare power cords for both the Connect and the Amp (feeding B+W in-wall speakers in the kitchen).”

“My point is that your reviews and assessments are, to my ears, precisely correct and accurate. The W4S mod is remarkable, and the PC adds a smoothness that is undeniable. Curiously, the PC into the Connect makes a bigger difference than the PF into the Sonos Amp. But no matter; it is an improvement there too.”

“I also appreciate your comments on ‘ordinary’ red book FLAC quality, and the importance of music availability over fussing about hi-res sources. Personally, we use Deezer Elite (FLAC) most of the time, and it goes via Coax into a Devialet 220 Pro and with Analysis Plus Oval 9 cables into Lawrence Audio Violin SE speakers. Not that it matters but there is the complete story.”

“It is easy for people to write and complain, disagree, or criticize, so I wanted to say ‘thanks’ for the valuable reviews and you’ve created.”

Reviews take far longer to write than any news story or show report. My insistence on running self-shot photos of the gear in situ in my listening room piles more hours on to the review process. Next up is Chord Electronics’ Hugo 2. You can keep track of upcoming reviews here.

As I’ve opined on numerous occasions over the years, we should ignore those who obsequiously claim that being an audiophile is “is all about the music”. The hardware with which we listen to music is extremely important. It’s part and parcel of being an audiophile. However, here be demons. The hardware obsession goes too far when it dictates exactly which music should be listened to (and which should not). This line of thought begat another recent op-ed on being a Music-First Audiophile.

For this commentator, good sound isn’t simply a hobby. In the same way that higher quality ingredients are fundamental to a healthier diet and therefore our physical well-being, better sound quality can nourish our happiness and mental health.

Finally, a round of thanks: to John Grandberg whose writing I have admired for several years and who joined the DAR review team this year; to Srajan Ebaen for his front-of-house KIH series and backstage advice; and to DAR’s sponsors whose generosity keeps these wheels in motion.


Let’s end this birthday missive with a slice of humour – a joke – in which we see Bob Stuart slipping yours truly a €5 note at IFA 2017 in the hope that I might say nice things about MQA.

Written by John H. Darko

John H. Darko

John is the editor of DAR, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR

CONFIRMED! FLAC support coming to the iPhone (sort of)

Top of the pops: Chord Electronics’ outstanding Hugo 2