Sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) famously said, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." And, for those of us who have been involved in hi-fi for a few decades – whether as an enthusiast, or a member of the audio industry itself – today's digital audio devices can do things we would have thought the stuff of magic when we started out.
Just trying to keep up with all the terminology shows just how far we've come in such a short time. Describing the functionality of many of the players and DACs in this current issue could be broken down into a couple of unreadable paragraphs of acronyms. But, in reality, this is something wonderful.
Why? Because although it's possible to feel like you are drowning in specifications, when the end result is in place, the interface quickly becomes invisible and completely second-nature. An app here, an Ethernet connection there, and you have finger-tip access to the entire musical canon, in whatever audio quality that takes your fancy. We've become so used to this, in fact, that even describing this seems patronising today.
This is, however, a glimpse of what's to come in audio: and it doesn't make for comfortable reading for audio's little guys. The companies making high-technology digital audio devices for the home know buyers are no longer prepared to put up with 'just a DAC' (even if it sounds wonderful), and what's needed to move an audio company into this brave new world is a new generation of digital experts in large R&D teams. And that costs money, the kind of investment smaller audio companies cannot make.
This seems to be particularly true among high-end devices. Rather than making ideosyncratic products, these top-end experts are now making true digital hub devices that have little in common with the simple USB-based DACs that dominate the lower end of the audio market. Perhaps this is to be expected as companies strive to find a niche in an increasingly contended high end audio market.
In our last issue, we inadvertently printed the wrong telephone number for Padood, the distributors for YG Acoustics. The correct number is +44(0)1223 653199. In addition, the price of the new YG Carmel 2 is £22,800 per pair. Our apologies for any confusion caused.
Finally, congratulations to Paul Gambon, Ivan Regan, Joe George, Larry Gorbet, Linda Spevick, and Jon Pylypchuk, who all win a set of Mad Scientist Blackpods. Well done!