What HiFi – the "ultimate" review!
... inspired by the latest issue and another recent post with a similar heading...
... not to be taken completely seriously...
While ‘fanboys’ and ‘haters’ continue to bicker about the merits and flaws of What HiFi, one important question remains – who is it actually for? Well, we bring you the ultimate review.
After all, here’s a magazine that’s essentially a consumer magazine that seems to be better than an all-gadgets-and-gimmicks rag, yet is also a bit limited to be considered an audiophile magazine. WhatHiFi would argue that’s exactly the point – WHF won’t replace either, but exists in its own market segment. Now I have read the latest issue, I’m inclined to agree: What matters isn’t what WHF doesn’t do, but rather what it does do.
So, let’s have a look at this and start with the specs. The latest issue has 172 pages. Of these:
Information about the magazine or the issue itself – 12 pages or 7%
Advertisements – 63 pages or 37%
Buying guide – 35 pages or 20%
Advice – 4 pages or 2%
News, Reviews, Tests, Temptations – 54 pages or 31%
Music, video, games reviews – 2 pages or 1%
Looking at this, one may say it is full of adverts and buying guide that is mostly re-printed from the last issue. Yes, but the adverts are essential for the mag as a business and just have to be accepted and I personally do not mind this ratio. The buying guide, even if largely repeated, is still quite useful. It is, after all, a summary of key info and star ratings.
The real devil is in the further detail, though: Out of the 54 pages of the most useful content – the one we, the hifi enthusiast readers, read eagerly every month – 60% is nothing but artistic portraits of the gear. Which leaves about overall 15% only to the text itself. Hmm… That puts it into perspective. OK, at the end of the day, we are after quality more than quantity and even pictures of the gear reviewed are essential (even if almost never to scale or from the back), but unfortunately, I cannot call all the text the last word in concise descriptive writing either. It is rather a mix of neutralised marketing-style phrases and good practical information with the ratio variable from review to review. OK, that may be, once again, the necessary prescription for the market segment mentioned above, but I think it may be getting close to borderline.
What did strike me most in the pages inventory is a complete lack (or almost complete if we count the brilliant ‘I remember when’ on p. 170) of any articles on the subject of industry, gear, music - or anything else. There is no text covering trends, issues, debates, opinions etc. It is just not there (at least in this issue)!
The build quality, presentation, design, extent of market coverage and desirability are all top notch. And if you take all those grumbles on board, and understand that WHF is not an audiophile magazine or an all-gimmicks brochure, but designed as a glossy magazine that fits between the two, it is easy to love. Sure, if they ever slide in the gadgets direction (highly unlikely) I might think twice before buying in the future, but it fully justifies the price tag for now.
WHF (middle-ground consumer/hifi/video magazine with high circulation)
GBP 4.40 (retail)
Beautifully made, influential international publication with extensive market coverage. Good practical buying guide.
Can be thin on technical detail and industry debate
A good (and I would say essential), if a bit light and short, read on our favourite subject. Watch out for trends, though.