In some respects, hi-fi in the 21st Century is all about diversity. We are now fortunate, because it's possible to get good sound from some remarkably low-cost components, it's getting easier to get better sound from some reasonably priced equipment and it's now possible to get the best sound ever heard from recorded music if you are prepared to pay handsomely for it. OK, so if you plan to shoot the moon, you need to have enough money to fund your own moon mission, but the great thing about this is the bar is being raised at every price point.
At one end, this is possible by engineering companies with sophisticated production engineering skills turning out good products at a range of prices. And it's time to wave the Union flag about this – the UK's position as the maker of the world's goods died off many years ago, but we're far from out of the manufacturing game, as companies like Rega Research in Southend ably demonstrate. And at the other end of the scale, brands like Constellation Audio develop designs beyond the pale by assembling a dream team of designers and engineers and giving them a ‘money no object' design brief. Between these two extremes all of hi-fi lies, covering an increasingly diverse (that word again) set of demands from its customers.
It's a small industry, but one that readily adapts to the changes in its surroundings. And one of the latest demands is for high-end performance without high-end price. Companies like Rogue Audio manage to deliver up a sound quality that would be impossible to create for £15,000 a decade ago, but do it for less than £1,500 today. Companies like Origin Live make a £500 cartridge that is only bettered by £2,500 designs and more.
It's easy to view this whole industry by its prestige pieces, because they are impressive and striking and sound great… and are just perfect for making the front cover of a hi-fi magazine. But beneath that prestige level, there are whole strata of exceptionally good pieces of audio equipment that more than deliver the goods at prices real people with real salaries can afford.
That the best gets better is exciting, but perhaps not surprising. What is surprising is everything else is getting better too. In the words of a dead prime minister, "You've never had it so good!"
Congratulations to John Howe of Wokingham, Berks, who is our lucky winner of a set of the excellent Ensemble Audio LUMINOSO and EXPRESSIVO cables.