Somewhere along the road to high-end audio, we lost sight of 'affordability' This is perhaps understandable as, by definition 'high-end' does not imply 'low cost'. But there is no direct correlation between price and performance. Although you often get what you pay for, some of the most expensive products fail to shine compared to cheaper models. In this edition of Hi-Fi+, we have gone for the more affordable and attainable parts of high-end audio.
Nothing is compromised here. We called this 'affordable excellence' for a reason. We took those products that don't cost a King's Ransom, but sound like they should. Note that 'affordable' is not the same as 'cheap' or 'budget'. Save for a few exceptions, the products in our list are not products you can pick up for peanuts on eBay, but instead work to that mandate of 'excellence'. They deliver the sonic goods and a price that makes them more high-value than high-end.
What is also truly fascinating about this part of the market is its flexibility. A lot of very inexpensive equipment is fundamentally limited by the cost of its parts; if the something is so cheap the price barely covers the printing on the side of the box, it's probably not designed for state-of-the-art sound.
At the other extreme, high-end equipment is often hide-bound by the demands of those who have upgraded and upgraded. Such people are frequently inherently conservative because they have been re-buying the same components (in better form) for decades. Those 'affordable excellence' products can break the mold, because they are the kinds of products bought by people starting out or starting afresh.
It's no surprise then that this round-up of affordable excellence should include active loudspeakers with DACs, complete systems in one box, innovative headphone designs, streaming amplifiers built into streamers, and DACs designed to revolutionize mobile listening. As well as conventional audio components that sound great!
Congratulations to Antony Davis of the UK, who won a Plato media system, and to Philip Chung of Portland, Oregon, USA, who wins a superb Riva Turbo X.
Gremlins broke into the last issue of our magazine while we were not looking and changes the price of the Kennerton Odin. The real price is £1895. Our apologies to all concerned.
Hi-Fi+ was saddened to learn of the passing of audio engineer and full-range driver pioneer, Ted Jordan. He was 87.