Amplifiers are a pivotal part of the audio system, and arguably represent the most diverse and wide-ranging set of components in the hi-fi firmament. Where else other than the bit between the source and the speaker could you have a state-of-the-art Class D streaming integrated amplifier rub shoulders with a valve power amplifier, passive preamps, using balanced, single-ended, or a raft of different inputs and outputs, in a range of power options?
The problem for audio is that is the best example of potential bewilderment around. The number of permutations of amplifier in broad terms are almost limitless, and with each successive month, those options multiply.
Of course, they multiply a lot faster around this time of the year. Suddenly, May and June have become the ultra-busy show season, with AXPONA, Munich High-End and – more recently – the Los Angeles Audio Show all falling within a few short weeks of one another. In fact, this issue was virtually bookended by two of these events –Munich and LA – and that barely makes it possible to get an issue out. We apologise in advance for any crazy errors in this particular issue as a result. Where normally we try not to play chicken with our printers, this issue was virtually written as the presses rolled.
This might not be a good thing for sleep patterns, but it does show an element of excitement in audio that has for too long been lost in a sea of bland. Excitement was reintroduced by the combination of headphones and turntables attracting a new generation of music lovers to the audio world, and some of those people are rediscovering what their parents and grandparents knew about just how good music can sound when handled properly. If ever there is evidence of this, it's in the many halls of Munich. Audio always used to be a 'lads and dads' thing, where fathers used to take their sons along to hi-fi shows, to see the latest elements of their hobby.
Until recently, the only 'lads and dads' element was the aging son pushing his ancient father round as a break from the twilight home! That is changing back, and Munich this year had young fathers turning up with teenage sons, as well as wives and girlfriends, all to look – sometimes in wonder, sometimes just to laugh – at what hundreds of audio brands can bring to an occasionally wet weekend in Munich.
It might be the sleep depravation talking, but sometimes it feels good to walk in a demonstration at a hi-fi show and raise – rather than lower – the average age of the listeners!!