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Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
May 2002

Audio, European Style

A few weeks ago I received copies of two European audio magazines. Even though I couldn't read any of the articles, which were in French and German, the magazines nonetheless revealed a great deal of information about the products under evaluation and the vibe of high-end audio in Europe. Each review was accompanied by no fewer than four pictures of the component, often taken as extreme close-ups or from odd angles that emphasize the idea that fine audio equipment has a strong element of artistic design. I've seen a good many of the products pictured in the flesh, so to speak, but the pictures captured them in ways that I never noticed them.

I then began to think about how differently we here in North America portray the equipment we review: in a rather matter-of-fact way. We use front-on shots, which are sometimes augmented with pictures of the rear panel and the component without its top plate. We emphasize the inner workings, the technology, the functionality, not the outward grace and beauty. We often comment on these, but it's the performance that readers want to know about, and we often treat this as the only concern.

This month Doug Schneider and Jef Fritz travel to Frankfurt, Germany to bring you our live coverage of High End 2002, Europe's premiere audio show. As in past years, I'm sure Doug and Jeff will make some great discoveries of equipment we here in North America haven't encountered. Last year it was Brinkmann, a company that makes just about every kind of audio product available, and each shows a level of craftsmanship that would have you believe the company specializes. Other European discoveries include Amphion, whose speakers we have now seen at CES in Las Vegas and Son & Image in Montreal, and Orpheus, whose technologically advanced electronics are now distributed by Globe Audio Marketing, the distributor of the French Audio Aero line.

Each year after Doug returns from Frankfurt, I get to hear stories about the liveliness of the European audio scene. Doug speculates that the Frankfurt show is three times the size of the Montreal show, which itself spans three hotels. Any show so immense is worth the effort to cover it, as it may be the largest consumer-oriented audio show in the world.

And this points out the main reason we cover it: we're a worldwide publication, not just one that caters only to our piece of the planet. Yes, we have a distinctly North American slant to our coverage, but the Internet has no borders, so it's important for us to honor this by writing about equipment from companies whose products are lightly distributed in the US and Canada -- or not distributed at all. This month you will find reviews of Zanden and Opera components, from Japan and China respectively, along with a German Clearaudio turntable and two Canadian goodies: Dahlquist speakers and a Blue Circle preamp. And then there's an amplifier from venerable American maker Conrad-Johnson.

So keep an eye open for our coverage from Frankfurt, which will begin on May 10, to get a sneak peek at products you'll read about in our e-pages in the months to come. And as always, you can send us your suggestions for review products, and we'll see what we can arrange.

...Marc Mickelson

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