It all began at the 1968 Hi-Fi Show in the Hotel Russell, Bloomsbury, London.
I was sales manager at Mullard Electronics Limited where work was proceeding to mass-produce solid-state products for industry. Previously the company had built its reputation for making valves (vacuum tubes) used in radio communication during the war and, increasingly, in post-war domestic radios and audio amplifiers.
At the Show, listening to British brands such as Leak and comparing them to amplifiers from America (such as Marantz) roused my interest in high-fidelity music reproduction in the home. I splashed out on an Akai open-reel tape recorder, a Leak valve amplifier and a pair of Wharfedale speakers and I was smitten!
In 1969 my wife Gisela and I emigrated ‘down under’ as ten pound Poms where I worked as marketing manager for RCA Electronics. Later the company in Australia pulled out entirely from the audio market. My personal interest, plus evidence of the world-wide mass production of domestic audio units, was the inspiration to create the first magazine devoted to hi-fi ever published in this country. Gisela and I and our friend David Paul jumped into the exciting world of magazine publishing!
The name ‘Australian Hi-Fi’ was the obvious choice; up to that point the only magazine that included any editorial (and advertising) for domestic audio equipment was the long-established Electronics Australia which primarily catered for DIY enthusiasts, publishing circuit diagrams and projects so they could build all kinds of electrical gadgets.
The first issue of Australian Hi-Fi Magazine, which featured an Elac Miracord 50H turntable on the front cover, was entirely black and white, except for four pages of full-colour editorial on popular stereo systems available at specialist hi-fi stores.
The reader response to that issue was immediate and overwhelming. We printed 21,000 copies of that issue, a number I remember vividly because the printer went on strike the day printing finished, and David and I had to bind every one of those 21,000 copies by hand! (We never printed there again.) The magazine was a complete sell-out and we knew we had made the right decision.
Soon after the first issue of the magazine appeared we met Gareth Powell (publisher of magazines such as Pol, Chance and Surf International) who suggested we’d be better off printing in Hong Kong, using the colour offset process. We printed there with Dai Nippon and also Toppan Printing for many years.
The success of Australian Hi-Fi Magazine encouraged us to stage in 1971 the first-ever Australian Hi-Fi Audio Shows in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, based on what I had experienced at the Hotel Russell shows in London.
The first Australian Hi-Fi Shows comprised displays in the exhibition area, brand by brand, of all the latest models. Working demonstrations were also available on a continuous basis in individual hotel rooms, each one dedicated to a particular brand.
Admission to the Australian Hi-Fi Audio Shows was free, which resulted in massive attendance numbers of ordinary families who were able to experience hi-fi in a setting similar
to a room in their own home instead of at a sometimes
overwhelming hi-fi store.
To help new hi-fi enthusiasts set up their sound systems at home we produced the Australian Hi-Fi Checkout LP, written and directed by Ralphe Neill, with commentary spoken by me.
It was obviously a product that assisted a lot of people to set up their new hi-fi systems as the LP sold steadily for a great many years. Then, with the increasing popularity of audio cassettes, and the introduction of top-quality cassette players, we produced the Australian Hi-Fi Checkout Cassette, which was made in-house at Australian Hi-Fi Magazine using the latest Nakamichi 1000 machines).
As the variety of audio brands marketed in Australia increased during the seventies, we also published a pocket-sized magazine titled ‘Stereo Buyers Guide’. Each issue concentrated on a particular product, so buyers could choose between ‘Amplifiers’, ‘Speakers’, ‘Turntables’, etc. Each issue contained product reviews and detailed listings of all the brands, models and prices available in Australia.
The Australian Hi-Fi Shows expanded to include Adelaide and (in conjunction with Hal Wallis of Arena Distributors), Perth. We even ran a show in Townsville to raise funds for the local Lion’s Club, which received all the profits from the event.
That trip to the ‘Deep North’ inspired me to move to the tropics and I built an amazing beach house at Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island. For a while I commuted between Townsville and Sydney but when the opportunity arose to sell the magazine, I decided it was time to begin a new phase in my life and bought a farm on Magnetic Island and became a mango farmer.
Over the years the quality and content of Australian Hi-Fi Magazine has improved incredibly under the guidance of Greg Borrowman and I am extremely proud that he has ensured that the magazine has reached its fiftieth year of publication. # Gary Cutler