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No. 226 March 2023


(Krakow Sonic Society)
translation Marek Dyba
images „High Fidelity”

No 226

March 1, 2023

Or the 1st anniversary of Russia's attack on Ukraine

Since February 24th 2022, a full-scale war has been going on in Ukraine. Attacked by Russia, doomed to fail, thanks to the incredible sacrifice of the Ukrainian people and the help of the West, it is on the right track to drive the aggressor out of its borders. Слава Україні!

OU MEAN YOU WERE YOU THERE, AT THE FRONT?" – that’s a question I heard one September afternoon from a friend, when I told him that the war in Ukraine had a great influence on me and my thoughts. From his perspective, only direct contact with the horror of war can cause a strong and lasting change in a person. It's hard for me to agree with this approach, because since February 24th last year I have observed the reorientation in my thinking on numerous topics every day. The war behind our eastern border pulled me, and in fact most of the Polish and European society, out of a false sense of security and complacency, forcing me to face growing doubts, demanding answers to topics that - as I thought - I had already thought about.

⸜ The only Ukrainian brand present at the Munich High End Show 2020 – Copra Acoustics Systems and Hydra loudspeakers

One of the questions that was bubbling in my head almost from the very beginning of the Russian aggression was: "Why do we need high-end at all?". Subsequent reports straight from the horror factory, first from Bucha and Irpin, then from eastern Ukraine, made me think about what's the point of chasing high-class sound if in the country we border people are being raped and castrated, tortured and kidnapped, and finally murdered, and their only fault is living in what the American historian Timothy Snyder once dubbed "blood lands".

All audiophile disputes (digital vs analog, CD vs files, class A vs class D, ribbon vs tweeter), once so exciting, seemed ridiculous and empty. In the hurricane hail of shells falling on houses, blocks, and critical infrastructure, we won't hear many differences between different editions of Santana's debut album, we won't compare speaker cables costing tens of thousands of zlotys per meter.

And yet, after a year of deliberations conducted in wartime conditions, i.e. with a broadened perspective gained after the Russian invasion, I came to the conclusion that high-end (understood in general, but for the needs of "High Fidelity" readers I will limit myself to talking about music playback equipment) in times of crisis, it not only does not lose its importance, but becomes even more important, it gains in value. Why?

Shortly before writing this article, I had the opportunity to read two books built around the advice list formula; by the way, I’d like to recommend both of them - On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, already mentioned, and Rules for Chaos by Tomasz Stawiszyński. After reading them, I decided that I would try to answer the problem of "high-end in times of chaos" in a similar fashion. So let me present four short rules, which - in my opinion - can be followed to your advantage when dealing with high-end audio equipment, thus proving that we do not have to feel bad about investing so much energy, time and money into seemingly unnecessary items.



IN THE AGE OF THE "END OF HISTORY", the nationality of the capital was supposed to be irrelevant. The war has clearly shown us how wrong this impression was. By purchasing items from specific manufacturers, supplying our homes and factories with gas from certain sources, we financed the purchase of tanks, planes, rockets and guns, which were then used in the attack on Ukrainian civilians and the army. Suddenly, it turned out that the source of a product can have a real impact on the reality that surrounds us. Although the choices made by the mass consumer are of the greatest importance, as lovers of good audio we cannot run away from responsibility.

⸜ The organizer of the Audio Video Show 2022 exhibition offered Ukrainian producers a fee-free participation. Due to the war, only two companies responded, including Sound Design Atelier – on the photo.

I will say even more: our decisions in the case of the high-end should be more conscious, better motivated, made in a calm and balanced way. Since we spend so much time and money on the equipment of our dreams - we read about it, we discuss the sense of buying it with friends or on forums, we watch advertisements in the press - then we can put a little more effort into reflecting on the place of origin of a given device.

Therefore, let's check the companies that we want to suport often with a large amount of money. Another important thing - let us not limit this approach just until the conflict ends, as it will one day, even if it is currently hard to imagine. When it happens lets stay vigilant and keep avoiding those enterprises that will go back to doing business as usual, as if nothing had happened, i.e. to the practice that caused us to wake up with our hand in the potty.


POLAND IS NOT A BAD PLACE to live. Sure - the weather could be a bit better, it's dark for half the year, the public health service is in a state of perpetual collapse, and wages, although record-breaking, still do not look as enticing as those in Western Europe. And yet we are a country that does not have to face the onslaught of an insane aggressor, heat flows to houses and apartments, we do not worry about blackouts or anti-aircraft alarms - from this perspective, even sub-zero temperatures and a modestly stuffed wallet seem to be minor obstacles.

Poland is also a great place to be an audiophile. It is difficult for me to describe in a few sentences how much the industry has changed over the last dozen or so years. Currently, we produce top equipment representing almost every components needed for a system: from analog and digital sources, through tube and transistor amplifiers, to cables and anti-vibration accessories.

Domestic manufacturers successfully cope with foreign competition, receive prestigious awards from the press, are presented at numerous specialist exhibitions, including the Munich High End. At the same time, we do not mindlessly copy solutions developed by others, but we have our own idea of sound AND of how the audio industry should function.

Not enough? Let me continue. There are more and more sophisticated record labels in Poland (just to mention AC Records cooperating with "High Fidelity"), we also successfully caught on to the black disc boom, which resulted in at least several fantastically equipped shops/salons/boutiques with all kinds of records.

It is also worth remembering that it is here that one of the largest and perhaps the coolest (i.e. attracting the most diverse crowds that know how to appreciate good sound: young and old, men and women, enthusiasts and laymen) shows is organized here - of course, we are talking about the Warsaw Audio Video Show. What's more, although audiophile hobby is not the cheapest, it's hard to resist the impression that it is quite easily available here. Some of the high-quality Polish products are priced much cheaper than their qualitative equivalents from the West, and the number of valuable hardware-related events organized by magazines, showrooms and manufacturers invariably surprises me.

And those people who think that these are just tales of a young man and naive wishful thinking, let me encourage you to read the article Some Polish hi-fi discoveries and delights, which was published in "Stereophile" (more → HERE.) - it contains an enthusiastic report from the last edition of the Audio Video Show. I truly believe that we are not fully aware of what we have - and this is something that the audiophile world envies us. It's worth remembering.


IN THE REFERENCE BOOKLET (I call it that due to its volume, not the weight of the ideas presented) „On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from Snyder's Twentieth Century”, we find this advice (twelfth in order): Make eye contact and have casual conversations. The American historian develops his thought in this way:

In the most dangerous times, it is usually those who know trustworthy people who manage to escape and survive. As a last resort, you can turn to old friends, and making new friends is the first step towards change.

In "interesting times" (or let's call it what it is: in hard times), the presence of good people in our lives takes on a special meaning. One of the ways of cultivating old and making new acquaintances may be activities focused around a common interest, in the case we are discussing - audio equipment. It doesn't matter if we want to present a new purchase to a good friend, or whether we belong to informal associations and audiophile societies: let's appreciate the moments when we can share our passion with others.

Let's use the equipment to be with the other person for a moment and establish a connection with them, let's argue (within reason) about "funny and empty" things, as I was kind enough to characterize them at the beginning of the text. If in the pursuit of perfect sound we reject people, we will condemn ourselves to a miserable life, like the hero of Joris-Karl Huysmans' book À rebours: no stranger to high-end excitement, he chose solitude, which exposed himself to attacks of degeneration and madness.

At the same time, audio may prove to be a grateful starting point for getting to know people from Ukraine, their history, language and culture. It is true that we are witnesses (and co-builders) of unprecedented good relations with our eastern neighbor, but we must not stop here. For years, we have been courting the West, today it is worth giving our approach a slightly different direction: let's get to know Ukrainians and let them get to know us. And if we do it in the company of high-end audio, all the better, right?

˻ 4 ˺ REST

In the last point of my mini-guide I have to recall a short excerpt from the editorial to the issue of "High Fidelity" from March 2022 (SO WAR!, No. 215). Wojciech Pacuła wrote there:

I will say more, this is the time to listen to music and read literature. Culture relieves anxiety and minimizes stress. And sowing fear, scaring us is the main goal of all those f...ers, all autocrats of this world. Let's not give them that satisfaction. Let's do our job, let's live - as much as possible - normally, not forgetting about Ukraine and Ukrainians. After successive crises, this is another one where music can save us, at least when it comes to our psyche. So let's listen as much and as often as possible, we will be stronger because of it.



The book The Captive Mind, published for the first time in 1953, is concluded by its author, Czesław Miłosz, as follows:

When, as my friend from Warsaw says, I’ll stand before Zeus […], I will more or less be able to justify myself. Many people have spent their lives collecting postage stamps, ancient coins, and growing rare tulips. I am sure that, however amusing and useless these manias may be, Zeus will be kind to these people if they put all their passion into these pursuits.

Let's not part with the high-end, let's explore its nooks and crannies, let's argue about seemingly trivial things, let's convince more and more people about the value of good sound. There is only one condition: let's put "all our passion" into it. After we die, let us stand before the thundering god and, without a shadow of regret or hesitation, let us proclaim: "We lived a good life."


WOJCIECH PACUŁA, „SO, IT’S WAR!”, „High Fidelity” № 225, March 2022,


BARTOSZ PACUŁA is an anthropologist of history, a member of the Krakow Sonic Society. In March, Krakow's Znak Horyzont publishing house publishes his book High-End. Why we need perfection. More → HERE.

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"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

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