On the day this issue went to press, the British
Phonographic Industry was gearing up for its annual Brit awards. Aside from
the glitterati attending the event, the BPI also announced that – for the
first time in history – revenue generated from online sources matched the
income generated from physical media. The bulk of this new source of cash for
the music biz came from streaming sources like Spotify, which showed a 40%
year-on-year growth and were pivotal in returning the record companies to
profitability. While there remain some doubts over how much of the revenue
generated from streaming companies filters down to the artists themselves,
this is generally seen as a positive step in what has been seen as a moribund
and lossmaking industry. Vinyl sales also continued to grow, with the senior
format now representing two and a half per cent of total album sales.
All of which means, while many of us might mourn the
downturn in CD as a digital medium, it's clear the fortunes of the music biz
is not inexorably tied to the polycarbonate disc. And that's a good thing.
Naturally we will still review CD players, as and when companies launch
them... it's just that currently means we have a tiny handful lined up for
the next 12 months. However, the increased interest in non-physical media is
reflected even in the balance of hi-fi products shifting ever further toward
devices like USB DACs, media renderers, streamers and digital hub products
from all points. Change does not come easily to our little world – we were
the keepers of the vinyl flame when it was all but extinguished everywhere
else and we still love our valves, half a century after almost everyone else
consigned them to history.
What doesn't change is the need for good loudspeakers; even despite a strong trend for headphone replay, loudspeakers in the home remain a vital interest for music lovers of all ages. And in this issue, not only do we have one of the most important high-end loudspeakers ever as our lead feature, but we also are offering one lucky winner the chance to own a unique pair of Wilson Benesch Square Series 2 Square One loudspeakers, custom finished in white with the Hi-Fi+ logo discretely placed on the speaker cabinet. This is a limited edition of just one pair... and they must be won – just turn to page 43!