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Paul Messenger 1949 – 2024

Paul Messenger RIP

Gentle giant and hi-fi guru

Paul Messenger was my mentor and the man that got me into this game when he was draughted in to edit Hi-Fi Choice magazine in 1987. That was the year the title changed from being a quarterly A5 publication to a monthly A4 magazine, Paul handled the transition seamlessly because he had more  experience than most in the publishing world having been both editor and publisher at Hi-Fi News. He got his first break in hi-fi in the seventies when he worked for Spendor building loudspeakers on the production line and ending up owning a pair of BC1s which he kept as a reference all his life. The original A5 Hi-Fi Choice magazines were where group tests were done to a previously unheard of scale, Paul would review 25 pairs of speakers in one group and the results of these tests would be added to those of previous groups where the product hadn’t changed. Those magazines were bibles in buying guide guise.

Paul wrote for Hi-Fi Choice, Stereophile, Hi-Fi Critic where he was also editor and was in great demand as a freelance writer for many publications throughout his career. When I joined ‘Choice one of my first tasks, and the one I enjoyed more than most was to set up speakers behind the ‘blind listening’ curtain for a panel of listeners in his house. Fortunately he had enough space to keep 25 pairs of speakers in the entrance hall, I would lug these in and out so that assembled industry ears could give their opinions without knowing which products they were hearing. Paul used his Naim Armageddon power supplied LP12 with Aro arm and Naim amps as the main source for these tests and was a Salisbury man for all the years I worked with him, albeit having a very good relationship with Roy Gandy of Rega who gave Paul one of the first Naiad turntables.

Paul was a music enthusiast first and a hi-fi nut second, he always sought out equipment that communicated what the artists were trying to say and was one of the pioneers of timing as being a fundamental quality that audio gear should be able to deliver. He had a fabulous record collection with a strong emphasis on the Grateful Dead but which included all sorts of genres and vintages, the speaker tests would include everything from the Kings Singers to Massive Attack with a bit of early Hot Tuna for good measure. Paul was also an ardent vinyl enthusiast, championing the format throughout the dark days of the nineties when all but the dedicated enthusiasts had switched to CD, the revival of the format’s fortunes over the past decade must have pleased him immensely.

He also appreciated that measurements had their place in reviewing and always took frequency response test sweeps with a microphone in different positions around the listening area to find an averaged response. This was done in the listening room rather than in an anechoic chamber but Paul’s familiarity with that room meant that he could interpret the results with a considerable degree of accuracy.

The listening panel was always well attended because Paul was such a great host, obsessive about coffee before it became fashionable he is still the only person I know who roasted his own beans, so you could rely on a quality hot beverage as well as a decent pub lunch. There was some concern that results after lunch may not have been quite as accurate as the listening before. but Paul always backed up the panel’s findings with extended auditioning on his own.

Paul will be remembered as being the warmest and most intelligent of reviewers, a man for whom a T-shirt with a VU meter next to the legend ‘Bullshit meter’ was most appropriate and who was both an excellent communicator and had a great sense of humour. He was one of a kind and I was very fortunate to have known him.

Jason Kennedy

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