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There are a few basic rules that all journalists understand and adhere to - most of the time. One is that whenever Microsoft releases a piece of software, several years are then spent fixing all the problems with it. Another is that when something's so stylish it wouldn't look out of place in a central London penthouse apartment, it's bound to be expensive - and rubbish to boot.
That was certainly my first impression upon pulling the delicately made Ferguson Hill FH007 mini-speakers out of their rather large boxes. Here's a product that just screams "style over substance": a stereo speaker consisting of two fruit-bowl clear acrylic horns, two football-shaped clear acrylic mid-bass speakers and a big, beefy sub-woofer in shiny iPod homage white livery.
The whole lot is powered by a cube-shaped amplifier with just two inputs - one 3.5mm input for your iPod (or other stylish pocket music player) - and another pair of phono sockets for a proper hi-fi component, like a DVD or CD deck. It looks fantastic resting on a table, desk or speaker stands, and costs an appropriately expensive £750 for the set. But before you lose all hope or roll your eyes in exasperation, stop and reverse your expectations; the FH007s turn out to be pretty good value for money too.
How can that be? After all, £750 is a huge amount of money to spend on a desktop speaker set that a) isn't portable, b) isn't surround and c) doesn't have enough inputs to serve as a speaker set for your main hi-fi or AV system? A clue to the answer lies in the speakers' origins. Ferguson Hill is no ordinary speaker manufacturer. Its main focus, in fact, lies in rather esoteric, high-end audio. This is a subject that's close to my heart, but one that inevitably leads to extremely high prices and a large amount of crippling debt. The FH007s are basically a miniaturised version of the only other speakers that Ferguson Hill makes - the FH001 and FH002 - and these man-sized speakers require an investment of considerably more than ten grand - £12,512 to be precise.
So let's put the FH007s in context for a moment: here, you're getting a slice of high-end, non mass-produced audio art for under a grand, and benefitting from the research and design experience of a company that normally plies its trade in the rarefied atmosphere of high-end audio. That's something that's not to be sniffed at.