I am excited to be able to introduce myself to the readers of eCoustics. A few of you may have heard of me but I am sure most of you have not. I run a YouTube hi-fi review channel entitled “A British Audiophile.” I am a Brit writing for an American publication. The British Empire rises again.
I would like to share with you a little about my journey, how I became an audiophile, and how I became “A British Audiophile” on YouTube.
Well, I suppose I should start at the beginning. I am of Indian descent. My father came from Kenya (long story) to the U.K. in 1961. It was over a decade later that I was born. We grew up in a household which always had music playing. Both my parents loved music, but it is really my father that was keen on having the system playing, be it jazz records, Bollywood cassettes or Indian classical CDs.
I remember the first hi-fi system we had was one of those all-in-one consoles that were very popular in the 1970s. I can’t recall the brand, but it looked a bit like this.
When I was eleven, my parents saved up enough money to move to a bigger house in a better neighbourhood. I was fourteen when my father decided to get a better hi-fi system. He took me with him to the local stereo shop. I am old enough to remember the days when every neighbourhood had one. I suppose it was just like the mobile phone shops that are pervasive all over the country in 2021.
We discovered that the owner of the shop was also an Indian from Kenya. Not only had he come from the same town as my father, but he had also gone to the same school. My father was a few years older, so they hadn’t been there at the same time. In any case, they had an instant rapport. That is where it all started.
It is fair to say I was hooked from the moment I first walked into that stereo shop. All of the equipment that was on display mesmerized me; I was like a kid locked inside some seaside amusement park with the entire place all to himself.
Because it was the 1980s, the system reflected the changing of the guard; my father purchased a Nakamichi CD player, Aiwa cassette deck, Marantz PM40SE amplifier and a pair of Tannoy DC 2000 loudspeakers. In fact, my parents still have the same speakers to this day almost 35 years later. They were into vintage audio before it was even fashionable.
The stereo shop had a corner dedicated to records and CDs. This included a small collection of Indian classical CDs. It gave my father and I an excuse to pop in every couple of weeks and pick out a CD; my mother probably thought we were hiding from her in some pub watching football.
Over the years we built up a rather sizable collection of music. For anybody interested in checking out Indian classical music, a good place to start would be Hari Prasad Chaurasia’s, Written on the Wind (Audiorec Classics, 16-bit/44.1kHz, Qobuz). You can find it on some streaming services. They are long pieces of music that take their time build. Largely improvised, a bit like Modal jazz, they invoke a certain mood or emotion.
Indian classical music became surprisingly popular in parts of northern Europe. Therefore, there are many high-quality recordings from the ‘80s and ‘90s that cater to discerning listeners interested in world music.
All that time spent during my childhood in the stereo shop, led to me working there any opportunity I could. Weekends, holidays throughout my teens and early twenties were spent surrounded by stereo equipment. The opportunity to conduct demonstrations for customers and learn from their own experiences were invaluable to me; and one of the most enjoyable periods of my life.
When I graduated from university with a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, I did briefly try to pursue a career in the audio industry. I worked for a small manufacturer for a few months. In the 1990s, many audio manufacturers in the U.K. were small cottage industries. I suppose the working environment was a little too claustrophobic for me being fresh out of university. I went on to pursue a career elsewhere.
I am now a Physics teacher and enjoy being able to create the next generation of engineers and scientists.
Over the past 30 years, hi-fi has remained a passion in my life. There have been times when making my way in the world, parenthood, and other commitments have meant it taking a back seat. But it has never gone away. I have tried to build on those experiences in my teens and twenties and learn as much as I can about the hobby.
Science and Engineering are in my DNA so they naturally play a part in the way that I indulge my passion for hi-fi and produce my videos. I have also maintained my ties with a number of colleagues who are audio industry professionals.
It is a shame that stereo retailers have struggled and are disappearing from high streets. Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t all been positive. I could tell you some horror stories from retailers that have no place being in business. I guess I just miss being able to pop down the road with a friend and listen to some music on hi-fi gear that interests me. The best retailers make you feel welcome and let you just hang out (for a while) to share experiences as well as listen to new gear. I hope those who do just that, figure out a way to keep going.
I can’t speak for the N. American experience, but it’s becoming much more difficult to find stereo shops in the U.K. at a time (putting aside the lockdowns from the pandemic) when there has never been so much affordable high-end audio equipment for consumers to try. British manufacturers like Rega, Fyne Audio, Cambridge Audio, ProAc, Spendor, Wharfedale, and KEF have never been busier.
Time stands still for no one. Through social media, you can be part of a virtual community. That is one reason why I created “A British Audiophile.” To share what I know (and sometimes what I don’t know) through a video format. A community has been built around the exchange of information through the comments section. I have regular viewers who are new to the hobby, seasoned audiophiles and industry professionals. It is a great source of joy for me to be part of that community and to help educate the next generation of audio enthusiasts.
I called the channel “A British Audiophile” because that it simply what I am. It is about time we reclaimed the word “audiophile” from the hi-fi snobs. My definition of an audiophile is someone who is passionate about music and who cares about sound quality.
It does not matter if all you can afford is an £80 Edifier system or if you have a £100,000 Naim/Focal system (I know people in both categories). For me, being an audiophile has given me immense pleasure and helped shape who I am. If you feel the same, you can find my “A British Audiophile” videos on YouTube and please check back each month for my latest column here on the website.
Some of my recent videos: