Welcome to the first issue of 2017, which shows us the future is upon us! We're already past the era of Back to the Future II and only a couple of years before Blade Runner. OK, so hoverboards weren't quite as impressive in real life, and there aren't any Replicants in attack ships on fire off the Shoulders of Orion, but in our own little way, the future has taken some unexpected turns.
The idea of Hi-Fi+ having a themed issue on the topic of personal audio would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, but such is the impact and importance of headphones, earphones, CIEMs, dedicated headphone amplifiers, DACs, and related equipment, the call of the topic is beguiling.
Even the most curmudgeonly of audiophiles and audiophile brands are waking up to the notion that headphone listening is more than just the preserve of iPhone users commuting with white ear buds lodged in their ears. Of course, at first, many traditional audio designers scoffed at the idea of creating dedicated headphone-based products, then some of the more cynical thought they could make a fast buck by 'churning out' a basic product dressed up in a fancy case for too much money. However, they soon found out this was a more discerning market than they expected, and either went back to the drawing board, or gave up the idea and wished personal audio would just go away. It didn't.
Meanwhile, the new generation of headphonistas began to make fantastic new products in their respective categories, moving the personal audio market ever forward, and in the process raising the price and performance bars while elevating the game. All of which brings us to today.
Things have come full circle now. The best audio brands are beginning to see little distinction between the best in loudspeaker-based and headphone-based audio – the technologies might be different, but the enthusiasts have the same goals, and they are every bit as discerning. We are now seeing the second round of traditional audio companies entering (or re-entering) the personal audio 'space', this time with truly legitimate audio products of a performance that bespeaks of expert listeners in the engineering departments. This means better quality products all round. And that means we all win!
Our congratulations go out to Peter Scott of Norfolk who wins the excellent Echobox Audiophile Starter Kit, and Martin Albreht of Slovenia who wins the Purist Audio Design 30th Anniversary USB cable! Well done!