Magazine article Gramophone

How the Audio Industry Keeps on Reinventing Itself: For All the Doom-Laden Predictions That Hi-Fi Is on Its Last Legs, the Past Year Has Seen a Remarkable Range of Exciting New Products

Magazine article Gramophone

How the Audio Industry Keeps on Reinventing Itself: For All the Doom-Laden Predictions That Hi-Fi Is on Its Last Legs, the Past Year Has Seen a Remarkable Range of Exciting New Products

Article excerpt

Hardly a month seems to go by for me without reading somewhere that hi-fi is a thing of the past, overtaken by music streamed to smartphones and tablets and listened to using tiny ear-bud headphones. We're told that no one's buying big, old-fashioned amplifier, speakers, players and the like in fact, no one's actually buying music anymore, but rather just summoning it up on demand as the fancy takes them.

That's not the impression I'm getting when I talk to some of the UK's leading manufacturers. Instead I hear of product demand exceeding supply, of new ranges having many months of production capacity snapped up by distributors and retailers worldwide even before they're revealed to the public, and of even big-ticket models startling their manufacturers by attracting so many buyers. If that's an industry in decline, then I am sure many others would love to be in so perilous a situation!

Both in these pages and elsewhere, I've enjoyed listening to some remarkable products in the past 12 months, and have had the usual rather pleasant problem of trying to fit as many of them as possible into the limited space I have available. Some have been missed, for which I apologise, and more are lined up for the coming months --the only problem is that really exciting products just keep on being launched.

For example, in recent months I have attended the launches of some remarkable loudspeakers, including the reinvented Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond models, now being made in an equally redeveloped factory down in Worthing, and the massively ambitious--and hugely clever--Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90, complete with 18 drive units, 18 amplifiers totalling 8200W and a massive amount of processing power on board.

Those are just some examples of what's happening at the upper end of the market, and in a sector many would suggest is just about the definition of a mature technology. Surely everything there is to be done with loudspeakers happened many years ago? Seems not ...

Meanwhile, down at the lower end--and yes, with an eye to those buyers storing, streaming and playing their music on smartphones and tablets--there's the arrival of the really rather magical little Chord Mojo digital-to-analogue converter/headphone amplifier, selling for a very affordable 399 [pounds sterling]. It draws on the innovative technology of the company's rather more expensive digital products and, as I suggest in the review on page 118, doesn't just set new standards at its price but also challenges its pricier stablemates. …

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