Investigation

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Johnny Black  |  Jun 15, 2021
Johnny Black on the creation of the iconic artwork for Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon

Apiece of art that can today be found in 45m homes around the world was kick-started by a simple, none-too-detailed instruction to 'do something clean, elegant and graphic'. The instruction came from Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright, and was given to Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, the founders of Hipgnosis, a London-based art and design group whose first sleeve design had been for the Floyd's 1968 album A Saucerful Of Secrets.

Ken Kessler  |  Jun 04, 2021
Looking for albums that will challenge your system's strengths but which are musically rewarding too? This month Ken Kessler recommends a score of must-own titles on vinyl

As with my list of Top 20 CDs [HFN Feb '21], choosing 20 LPs from my collection of around 12,000 is tough. But there is one rule I stick to, no matter what: I do not listen to LPs for their sonic worth alone. With this selection, each is a release I cherish, and though my logic for choosing these 20 may be shaky, here goes...

Barry Fox  |  May 28, 2021
Barry Fox brings you his pick of the books that offer insights into audio

There are enough books about rock and pop music to capsize a cruise liner. So for this third part in my series on good books that connect music to hi-fi I have picked a few of the lesser-known reads. Arguably the best starting point for pop industry insight is George Martin's 1979 biography, All You Need Is Ears in which Martin shares his jaundiced views on the Apple organisation (unrelated to Apple computers, of course), which The Beatles set up in the mid '60s.

Johnny Black  |  May 04, 2021
Johnny Black on the creation of the iconic artwork for the sleeve of The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's

The real story', said Paul McCartney in 1995, 'is that I was coming back from America on a holiday trip. I was in a very laid-back mode and dreaming away, and I started imagining this idea of The Beatles as another band, to be liberated, as liberated as I felt on this holiday'.

Johnny Black  |  Apr 05, 2021
Johnny Black uncovers the unlikely beginnings of celebrated songs

Many moons ago, raking around in a secondhand book emporium, I came across a dog-eared but irresistible tome called Inspirations. Written by Michael Randolfi, Mike Read and David Stark, it offered up the inspirations behind popular songs, including the taxi cab accident which inspired Leo Sayer to write his 1974 hit 'One Man Band' and the phone call behind The Cure's 1997 single 'Wrong Number'. As someone who loves to know what songs are about, I plunged in with delight but, fascinating though it undeniably was, very few of the inspirations really surprised me.

Barry Fox  |  Mar 09, 2021
Barry Fox on books with insights into the personalities behind the podium

Before my local bank branch closed, someone in head office came up with a cunning plan. Shut half the counters and pipe in classical music to soothe the nerves of customers seething at the longer wait for service. Played just loud enough to be recognisable, but too whispery to be enjoyable – like the tizzy spill from someone else's headphones – the noise just simply annoyed.

Ken Kessler  |  Mar 03, 2021
Ken Kessler turns to his pile of permanently on-hand CDs to bring you his pick of the discs that will shine a light on your system's performance

Like asking to choose your favourite food or movie, narrowing down 15,000 CDs and SACDs to a mere 20 is torture. The brief was to cite those I use regularly for reviewing purposes and which can reveal the qualities of a component or system. That said, this is also the stack of CDs which never gets filed with the rest, sitting there ready for action.

Tim Jarman  |  Feb 09, 2021
Tim Jarman on the tools and techniques you'll need to restore classic kit

In the early days of hi-fi it was common to make one's own equipment, either as an economy measure or as a matter of pride. Today's equivalent may be repairing and restoring vintage hi-fi units at home, a potentially rewarding endeavour which can make the subsequent listening even more satisfying.

Barry Fox  |  Feb 02, 2021
Barry Fox on the music books that bring insights into audio

Polymath Humphrey Lyttelton not only played as he pleased, he wrote as he pleased in many excellent books on music, once appealingly disparaging sound engineers he suffered on tour as 'Marconis'. The reason? They couldn't stop fiddling with the controls, so destroying the natural balance of his live band and adding electronic distortion.

Ken Kessler  |  Jan 12, 2021
Ken Kessler brings you his guide to the best secondhand buys...

While it's true I am obsessed with open-reel tape, I am constantly reminded – not least via our postbag – that 'getting back into tape' is costly for both hardware and software. There are no current decks being produced besides the Ballfinger at £15,000+, brand new pre-recorded tapes start at £200, blanks ain't cheap for those who want to record their own music, and buying vintage pre-recorded tapes requires a sort of fortitude akin to driving in the London-to-Brighton veteran automobile rally.

Steve Sutherland  |  Nov 03, 2020
Steve Sutherland on the vinyl treats arriving on 2020's Record Store Days

Launched in America in 2008 as a way of encouraging collectors to frequent their local independent record shops and keep vinyl alive, Record Store Day is now an annual event offering rare, limited edition releases which will not only tickle the fancy of uber-fans but, like other works of art, accrue value as investments.

Ken Kessler  |  Oct 02, 2020
Ken Kessler brings you his definitive guide to buying reel-to-reel tapes, new and secondhand

For any format, whether new or revived, it is the availability of pre-recorded music that determines its health. That's why the LP came back like gangbusters, and the otherwise-hugely-impressive Elcaset withered away. When it comes to the growing interest in reel-to-reel tapes, three routes exist for feeding the machines, and each has its adherents, while many users will adopt all three when building up a library.

Johnny Black  |  Sep 22, 2020
As more groups turn to touring to generate revenue, Johnny Black casts an eye over the more innovative ways some bands are winning over fans

It used to be so simple. Back in the day, music artists recorded albums and then went out on expensive tours, often making a loss, in order to promote and sell considerable quantities of their LPs. The big money then was in the vinyl, and that vinyl was largely under the control of a handful of major international music corporations, such as EMI, CBS, Warner Bros, Polygram and their ilk.

Christopher Breunig  |  Jun 26, 2020
Christopher Breunig recommends the best classical audiophile recordings

When I first heard a demonstration of stereo records, given at a local department store all those years ago, I came away thinking I'd heard mostly distracting surface noise. If this was 'high fidelity' I'd stick with my old Pye Black Box! But soon, of course, I was on the upgrade path avidly taking up recommendations in Hi-Fi News and Audio Record Review magazines, and reading Thomas Heinitz's regular columns in the now defunct Records & Recording.

Mike Barnes  |  May 21, 2020
Mike Barnes unpicks the story of the 180g vinyl reissue…

On October the 3rd 1996, after a concert by Steve Reich And Musicians at The Royal Festival Hall to mark the American composer's 60th birthday, this writer presented him with the LP sleeve of his 1978 album Music For 18 Musicians, and asked him to autograph it. This prompted some amusement on his part. 'I haven't seen one of these in a while,' he said chuckling, 'have you borrowed it from a museum?'

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