Well, what a month! A new Led Zeppelin movie shown at the local cinema, then the three crazy days of the Audio & AV Show in Sydney, with our Awards dinner presentation right in the middle of it all, and then the Zeppelin movie out on Blu-ray.

And since the second of these joyous events resulted in, among other things, a particularly powerful set of surround speakers being temporarily in residence, I was able to enjoy the last with rather more clarity and certainly higher pressure levels than the first. Hoyts has been running a series of music movies at selected cinemas since October, ‘for one night only’ — there was the Zep, a Queen gig, The Doors, Jesus Christ Superstar, etc. (It’s a bit late for me to be telling you this now, apologies, but we did list them in advance on AVHub.com.au.)

It was great fun — watching a concert movie in the cinema took me back to the days before video, when the only way to revisit the visuals of ‘The Song Remains The Same’ was to attend the twice-annual screenings at the local cinema, which would also arrange late-night showings of other music movie classics — ‘Genesis In Concert’ filmed in 1976; the 1973 concert film of ‘Yessongs’ (recently ‘restored’ not awfully impressively for DVD/Blu-ray release).

But the sound at the Zeppelin Hoyts showing was distinctly average — not the worst imaginable, but flat and stodgy, and way below reference level... we did all indulge in a few calls of ‘Turn it up!’ at the beginning, which is traditional at these things, innit, but it was quiet enough for me to hear the guy a few rows behind singing quietly along to songs (and he could probably hear me). In any case, we settled into the sound of the room after a few songs, with ‘Black Dog’ and ‘In My Time of Dying’ so blisteringly brilliant as to make any consideration of sound quality a sad second to the overall celebration.

So a good time was had by all. Of course, this Awards issue is all about getting yourself a superb hi-fi system or a mega AV experience at home. But there’s certainly a unique experience to be had in an auditorium where everyone is a fan of the band. Outside the live music arena, it’s rare these days to be able to share your favourite music with so many like-minded others.

The Australian Audio & AV Show was another such event where like-minded people came together to listen and chat, often with some shyness, about their systems and particularly their love of music — I’d say there was at least as much exchange of music and jotting down of stellar dem tracks as there was talk about the hi-fi itself. While much of the time I was on nextmedia’s stand or preparing for the Saturday night Awards spectacular, by Sunday I was able to clear time to sit in front of systems for as long as possible — and great thanks to all those who showed me around, especially those who let me just sit there and quietly listen.

I’d still be quite exhausted from all this excitement if the adrenaline hadn’t resurged just this very evening when I collected the bonus (but late) Zeppelin rehearsal DVD from my local record shop (yes, I still have one!) and discovered it contains an entire Shepperton Studios production rehearsal in a single two-hour unbroken camera shot, with great sound — it’s a whole new gig! I can hardly breathe.

I hope this Awards issue and the recommendations within may lead you to an equally high level of thrills from your own favourite music and movies. Don’t leap straight to our Products of the Year — remember that the Highly Commendeds may also have some unique reason you’d prefer them; all the products in this issue are superb performers.

Remember also that, with a few tricky areas like headphones, we’d still say that the proper path to any good audio or AV system is to make a shortlist, then find a good dealer and listen before you buy. You’ll get a better result than buying blind (or deaf) from a list of specs and recommendations.

Then once you’re sorted, go get yourself the Led Zeppelin Blu-ray. Man, it’s good to see them blowing so hot after all these years.