Cain & Cain Noogi loudspeakers, a second look

Posted on December 6, 2011
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First impressions always count and the substantial packing create the Noogi arrived in certainly looked the part. There is always a much greater sense of occasion opening up a lovely wooden create than a normal brown card box. Once removed and installed upon the table the Noogi certainly look unique. I think they look great, as did the vast majority of visitors. I have had vastly more expensive speakers gracing my office but none have brought a smile to as many faces or have generated as much interest as the Noogi. As I said most people loved the looks, some, however hated them! But even those who despised the way they looked still made their scathing comments with a big grin on their face.

I replicated Malcolm’s listening environment by positioning the Noogi on a desk in the middle of my room and came to the same conclusion, good insight and detail but lacking the body to recreate the natural warmth and depth of types of music and voices. I then repeated the test this time positioning them close to a boundary, mimicking a desk positioned with its back to the wall. This certainly improved the balance adding a degree of warmth and weight. Voices gained body but still kept their finesse and vitality although not removing the slight nasal edge present on certain voices. While the extra bass re-enforcement gained from the close boundary positioning was welcome it was still not enough to get rid of the nagging feeling that these speakers would definitely benefit from the addition of the optional subwoofer.  Like their looks, the sound of the Noogi will definitely split opinion. If you like the integration and phase/ time coherence of a single drive unit I am sure you will love them and will probably be able to forgive their obvious weaknesses, if you are more accustomed to a multi unit speaker the Noogi will sound somewhat alien. As Malcolm stated these are definitely a Marmite product, but are worth a listen.

the decline of the UK hi-fi show

Posted on July 12, 2011
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The UK has long been considered a Mecca for audiophiles with its abundance of world-leading hi-fi manufacturers producing a fantastic array of superb equipment. The hi-fi shows of old with their mix of fabulous equipment and a genuine buzz of enthusiasm attracted visitors from all over the globe. I remember these shows being so popular that the hotel corridors resembled rush hour on the Tube (the London underground railway system). Visitors seemed truly excited to be there and the enthusiasm from the manufacturers was infectious. As a teenager walking round my first hi-fi show I remember being absolutely blown away by the equipment on display and its performance. If I fast forward 27 years and look at the Audio World (2011) show I recently visited my experience could not have been more different. Stuck around the back of the Heathrow Park Inn hotel, the corridors were empty (except for the hardcore show-goers I recognised from every other show I had been to over the last 10 years, and even their numbers are depleting each time). And perhaps I should I say corridor, as there was only one in use by the show. With the exception of a few enthusiastic manufacturers, who had spent some time and energy setting their wares up properly, the general level of performance, at its best, was only average.

I can’t pinpoint a specific time that the rot started to set in: it seems that the UK hi-fi show dropped off the radar for international visitor and youngsters at about the same time. Surely this must be a sign that what we are doing as an industry is not working.

The technical excellence and great quality from the UK manufacturers is still there with perhaps even greater variety and certainly a much wider price range. So in theory the products of today should appeal to a wider audience. Now I know some of you are going to put forward the case for hi-fi competing with the vast array of other products for consumers to buy, but I would hazard a guess that a higher percentage of households now have audio systems and there are more homes, so the potential market still exists. This does seem to be a UK problem as events like the Munich High End show, which has now become THE show to go to in Europe, taking the crown away from the Heathrow show, are getting busier not quieter.

I recall an article by one writer putting forward the suggestion that the audio industry could learn lessons from the esoteric watch market and I believe him to be partly correct. If you stopped a random selection of gents in any town centre around the country and asked them to name some upmarket watch brand most, if not all, would be able to reel off a number without too much difficulty: ask them to do the same with esoteric hi-fi brands and you would probably experience a few tumbleweed moments, apart from the odd mumblings of B&O and perhaps Bose, which is a world leader in marketing. The watch industry does an amazing job of self-promotion, and creating a desirable and aspirational image for itself. Yet when I recently donated a B&W mini Zeppelin iPod dock for the raffle at my children’s school, everybody, bar none, thought I was giving a BMW Mini in-car iPod dock, because nobody had even heard of one of our most successful hi-fi brands!

As an industry we have to have to look at the way we portray ourselves. And this needs to be reflected in the type of shows we put on/attend. We manufacture some truly wonderful and spectacular products, but they are not marketed in a way that makes the public at large aspire to owning them.

It would be interesting to see the demographics of UK show visitors over the last 10 years. I certainly did not see more than a handful of people under 25 at the last show I attended, and women… Hmm, let me think: if you took out the few working the stands I am not sure I would need more than one hand to count them. Why is this? Don’t men under 25 and women enjoy music? What a stupid question! Of course they do: every dance floor up and down the country and the vast majority of live gigs and music festivals will be filled with the two groups of people the UK hi-fi industry seems to have forgotten about.

So why are so few people interested in good hi-fi? What do we have to do to broaden its appeal? This is a question I have asked myself time after time and still cannot come up with a definitive answer. One thing I know for sure: we will never succeed when we continue to “Show off our wares” out the back of an airport hotel with cables strewn all over the floor, bubble wrap stuck on the walls, and playing the same music that we have at every show for the last 30 years. Answers to this conundrum on a post card please…

The Editor’s two penn’orth

In my opinion – and not, I am obliged to say, that of this website, its publisher or any other employee or associated individual or business – show organisers seem preoccupied with making money by selling ever more space to any manufacturer or ice cream vendor that will pay for it with little regard for the quality of the show they will produce or the added value in terms of interest that particular company will contribute. I think that the hi-fi show as we knew it is almost certainly dead in the UK, killed by unimaginative, profit-motivated event organisers.

I think the rot set in sometime during the last five years of the Hi-fi News show at Heathrow. For example, I visited one room where the manufacturer had won an award from Hi-fi News for ‘Best something or other’ at the Awards dinner – another guaranteed money-spinner – the night before. I asked if his UK distributor had review stock available. The manufacturer replied in very stilted English that he did not have a UK distributor! I hardly think people are interested in seeing stuff they cannot buy from a UK dealer so why had the organiser invited this company to exhibit?

A successful show needs ‘big names’ to make a visit attractive: say, the likes of Sony and Panasonic for the non-enthusiast, and Linn, B&W, and Naim for the hardcore types. Smaller companies will then be encouraged to exhibit: being in the same catalogue as the ‘biggies’ is far more attractive a proposition than being listed alongside a dozen other outfits that no-one knows exists because they only produce three pairs of ostentatious loudspeakers a year.

Exhibitors have to share the blame: I visit shows now and still hear the same old rubbish being played as I heard thirty years ago: Hotel Bloody California still rules in far too many quarters. Listen guys: that song sucked on the day of its release and nothing has changed since then. Send it to the old folk’s home and get some new music! Some bands, however, can survive the test of time: The Allman Brothers Band was a near contemporary of the Eagles (The Eagles formed while the Allman Brothers released … At Filmore East) but had the additional benefit of some absolutely fantastic players who were musically brave and inventive. Regardless, I have yet to walk into a demonstration and hear anyone playing, for example, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, a truly fabulous tune; or Jessica, which is probably better known as the “Top Gear” theme by those who prefer a Jeremy Clarkson rant to the Allmans’ improvisational artistry. Part of the trouble is that I doubt that fifty per cent of the people putting on the demonstrations have any real interest in, or passion for, the music they are playing. And how does a demonstrator who would much rather be propping up the bar engender any enthusiasm in the public in his room?

As the publisher noted earlier, this is a true conundrum: if hi-fi shows – in the sense of the hotel type events – don’t work for our industry any longer, what sort of show will guarantee a receptive audience for our manufacturers? Shows used to be worthwhile: they introduced a great many people to the concept of hi-fi. Once you were snared, they gave you a regular excuse for a day out with the lads to drool over what was new from Linn, to compare – in the broadest sense – that new Naim amp to the Krell, and the opportunity to hear those ridiculously expensive ‘flagship’ loudspeakers you had read about in a magazine. You could even get to talk to the people who designed and produced your gear, and gain extra insight into how to get the best performance from it. Finally, there was always a record or CD stall where you could empty your wallet, if you hadn’t already done so in the hotel bar.

If you have any especially bright ideas of how to effect a real change for the better and bring some new blood into the hi-fi fold, send them to us by Email


Cyber bullies and the grand digital cable debate

Posted on September 14, 2010
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If there is one audio topic guaranteed to cause hysterical postings on the forums it is that old argument do different digital cables make a difference I mean digital is digital, right(as the sceptics say)? The battle lines are drawn and both sides hurl abuse and insults at each other as if the fate of the free world depends on it. It seems that all rationale flies out the window as the sceptics lay into the believers with such malice and spite you would think they had a centuries old blood feud. While most posters are prepared to have an intelligent conversation with some witty banter flowing to and fro this tends to be undermined by the odd plebe who thinks it is fine to question ones parentage and issue death threats Osama himself would be proud of. I know some cable manufacturers, and I use this term lightly, have fuelled this particular fire with their spurious claims, (faster than light transmission, improving the data signal and manipulating electron energy) most of these companies have found a cable that just happens to work particularly well and try to baffle the public with semi technological terms or scientific sounding claims. The better option would have been to be truthful and stick to the facts but unfortunately some don’t think this is sufficient to justify the large sums of money required to purchase this wonder product.

If a person who enjoys their music and their Hi-fi notices an improvement in their system when they change a cable or component then great, who is anybody else to tell them they can’t or they are an idiot. It is down to the individual and if they are happy, then that’s what matters, why chastise them or wish them any harm. Whether you think the product is worth the asking price is irrelevant providing the purchaser judges it to be so. This can be applied to any product for sale, is that D colour F 1 carat diamond really worth 4 times the price of the F VS1, when it would take an expert with an eye glass to notice the difference, I mean after all it is only a piece of rock (don’t let my other half hear that!) , is that Ferrari 458 Italia worth £150000 more than a Ford Focus RS, and is that Panerai Luminor GMT really better at keeping the time than a £100 Seiko. These questions can only be answered by the person purchasing or looking to purchase the product, if they see the worth and value then the answer is yes it is worth the extra. What gives a product its value is what people are prepared to pay for it and how much pleasure they will derive from owning it. We all have our idiosyncrasies, different loves and hates so let’s not turn into the equivalent of an online football thug and attack others purely for indulging in their passion.

A colleague of mind was recently subjected to quite vicious and threatening attacks purely for stating what he heard when trying a different but still cheap lead in his NAS drive, while we can all take the usual… you plonker, sado jibes, some do go too far. I do find it amusing how your average Joe public can turn into a malicious and aggressive hater when hidden behind the anonymity of their Joe-grand-cajones-smith screen name. A recent ruling by a California Judge stated that threats of violence or death on the internet are not covered by simple free speach but can be considered to “be a serious expression of intent to inflict bodily harm.”

While I love the fact that the Internet is a great equaliser and everyone can have a voice let’s not all turn into a bunch of cyber bullies.

The ASA

Posted on September 1, 2010
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The Advertising Standards Authority is extending its remit to finally cover Advertising online.

According to the BBC news web site companies have until March 2011 to comply with the same strict rules as traditional media.

I am staggered it has taken them this long, it is amazing that up until now web adverts and websites selling products can make any claims they wish without any worry of reprisals. I do feel the Hi Fi industry will have to pull its socks up and look carefully at the content and claims on their websites. It is fine stating the possible advantages of a product but far to many give definitive statements… if you buy this you will experience euphoria, this cable will definitely improve your virility… For most it will be a simple wording change, in ours and our customers experience the mid range appeared more open and detailed rather than, use this and you will definitely get a more open mid range. What I find surprising is they are extending their powers to cover social networking sites as well, I wonder if this will encompass forums as well? I have spotted numerous manufactures pedalling their wares under various pseudonyms and this actually annoys me more than the odd spurious claim. Why hide your identity to try and drum up more business, I am sure the public would appreciate your honesty more and if you are truly passionate about your products this will come across in your posts. If we all were more truthful and open the ASA would soon be out off a job. Now where is my coherence device I need my guaranteed improvement in my well being…

The Hi Fi First Blog

Posted on December 12, 2009
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We felt that it was about time that there was a magazine devoted solely to keeping you informed about serious hi-fi with equipment news and reviews, information about the companies that make it, the people behind them, the dealers from whom you can purchase it, and the occasional dash of hi-fi related humour.

We felt that it was about time that there was a magazine devoted solely to keeping you informed about serious hi-fi with equipment news and reviews, information about the companies that make it, the people behind them, the dealers from whom you can purchase it, and the occasional dash of hi-fi related humour.

We felt that it was about time that there was a magazine devoted solely to keeping you informed about serious hi-fi with equipment news and reviews, information about the companies that make it, the people behind them, the dealers from whom you can purchase it, and the occasional dash of hi-fi related humour.