Magazine article Gramophone

The Best of a Year of Audio: If the Hi-Fi Industry Is Struggling, Clearly No One Told the Hi-Fi Industry

Magazine article Gramophone

The Best of a Year of Audio: If the Hi-Fi Industry Is Struggling, Clearly No One Told the Hi-Fi Industry

Article excerpt

Every year, it seems, we hear that this will be the one in which the hi-fi industry implodes, as consumers opt to stream their music to loudspeakers direct from their tablets or smartphones, and streaming music services hammer the final nail into the coffin of the CD.

Well, 2014 wasn't the year in which that happened. Instead there was plenty to interest the audio and music enthusiast, and thankfully there was never a point where I found myself struggling to find product for these pages. Instead, my main problem was trying to find a way to cram in everything I wanted to cover!

However, it took until this issue to be able to test one of the year's most eagerly anticipated products. Mu-so by Naim is the Salisbury company's latest arrival and its most innovative on many levels. An all-in-one network music system with wired and wireless network streaming, aptX Bluetooth, AirPlay and Spotify Connect, it's also the first Naim product not to be made in the Wiltshire factory.

Instead it's assembled in China under close supervision from the people at Naim, and uses six drive units powered by 450W of amplification, all controlled by Digital Signal Processing to allow mu-so to deliver the kind of sound you might only expect to be available from hi-fi separates. If there's a star product of the year, mu-so is it.

Back at the beginning of the year, another all-in-one system was featured in these pages, and from another celebrated British name. The ATC SIACD combines a CD player, digital-to-analogue converter and amplifier to create a 'just add speakers' system in a compact form but without compromising performance. If you want something more than a run-of-the-mill micro-system, would like your system to be handbuilt in Britain and can afford the high-quality speakers with which the ATC deserves to be used, this is an excellent space-saving solution.

In the same issue I looked at just the kind of speakers to make the most of the system. Neat's Motive SX1 floorstanders are no larger than a pair of compact speakers on stands and yet deliver a sound that's both big and rich, and entirely captivating.

In March I was very taken with the little Roth OLi-RAl speakers, which combine a bargain price with a sound that's honest and involving. If you've bought a compact system and want to improve the sound, they're a perfect quick fix--and they'll only set you back 100 [pounds sterling]. …

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