With spring soon upon us it’s time to think ahead to the reviews we’d like to do. Reviews of course form the backbone of any audio site. To date we’ve had a self-imposed limit of £1,000 per item, the sort of device that might fit into a £2,000 system. Which has become a little restrictive, after a while all budget streamers tend to blur into one for example. So, put simply, we’re going to relax the limit. Say £1,500 per item, systems up to £2,500. Occasionally more. 

A few reviews are inked in. Acoustic Energy’s AE500 standmounts are already here, looking resplendent in gloss white. Then there’s iFi’s Go-Link dongle DAC, plus several power related products from Audioquest and Isotek. We’ll also have updates on the travelling REL Tzero III subwoofer, last seen providing oomph to a Ruark R410 all-in-one in Dorchester.

Talking of which, we’ve set our sights on reviewing Ruark’s R810 radiogram, whose looks alone have us salivating. Is it real Hifi? Frankly who cares, there’s a place for it in the market (I can think of one friend for whom it would be perfect).

We’d also like to try Q Acoustics’ floorstanding M40 speaker; will it follow in the footsteps of the M20 HD standmount that was one of our Products of the Year in 2022? And then there’s the WiiM Amp, which looks a really attractive proposition if its sound quality is up to snuff. A slam dunk? What HiFi didn’t think so.

Beyond that we’ll be following a few specific themes, answering the questions we think Hifi Starters are asking. Including but not limited to: –

Digital

    • WiiM has redefined what you get from an entry-level streamer. Is it worth spending more?
    • Likewise, what does paying more for a DAC get you? Or do they all sound the same anyway, as some people argue? Expect to see models in the keenly-contested £500 – £1,500 range.

Speakers

    • As the most important component in a system it’s worth sinking more of your budget into your speakers. So £1,000 standmounts and £1,500 floorstanders are perfectly appropriate for the Hifi Starter. But which to choose? The £999 AE500 is first up, there will be more. 
    • How much do you need to spend for proper bass? REL’s Tzero III subwoofer does a good job. Might spending a bit more be worthwhile though? So a REL T/5X review is being arranged. We’ll try £700-£1,000 subs from other manufacturers as well.

Analogue

    • Pro-ject’s Debut Carbon EVO showed what a £500 turntable can do (here). Rega’s P1, part of the System One review (here), also justified its £300 price. Does stretching the budget get you demonstrably better performance though? We’ll put some circa £1,000 turntables under the microscope to find out. 

Headphones

    • If you want a taste of high end on a vaguely-sensible budget then headphones are a good option. £250-300 certainly buys you some top models. What if you really push the boat out though? Maybe Meze’s 109 Pro at £770. The wireless Focal Bathys for £700. A meaty Grado or two. You get the gist.  
    • Ditto headphone amps, maybe a nice Schiit or Topping (the original £400 Schiit Jotunheim is still here and hard to beat). We’ll be trying a few. 

Accessories

    • Cables are probably the first thing most people look at to tweak their systems, but how much to spend? We’ll be taking three cables (interconnects, speaker cables etc) from a single manufacturer to see how much difference they make. A sort of good/better/best approach. Where should the Hifi Starter begin?

Industry insiders – what do they listen to at home?

    • Finally, a variation on the Readers’ Systems theme. What do reviewers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers use themselves at home? If we can arrange it we’ll go listen to a few systems and report back. 

So that’s the plan, which in reality will keep us going well into autumn. Does it whet your appetite? Have we missed any key questions you’d like answering.? Are there any specific pieces of kit you’d like us to look at? Let us know please, via email (hello@hifistarters.club) or comment on our Instagram posts. All suggestions are welcome.