I don't like to start these editorials with a personal apology, but this issue has one heck of a lot of me in it! Far too much for my liking, it must be said. The reason for this is that we wanted to bring you the latest amplifiers straight from Munich. Many of those arrived during one of the hottest months on record in the UK, and many of our regular stock of reviewers took the opportunity to soak up the sun instead of pump up the watts. Holiday season has never been so holiday-filled!
Interestingly, for reasons I cannot entirely fathom, the notion of reviewing a hot-running Class A or valve power amplifier didn't meet with the same chorus of approval in the height of summer as it does in February. In fairness, the visions summoned up by one reviewer (who will remain nameless) in turning down such a device cannot be unseen: cleft sweat!
Working through a representative sample of the latest in new amplifiers does give one a sense of perspective about how this industry is doing (I would say 'takes the temperature of the audio world', but we've had enough of thermometers). And the trend is very positive indeed. There are several products here that shift the goalposts for what can be done in audio, or at least redefine what can be done within a given price point in audio. There are also products that challenge the received wisdom in audio, especially surrounding Class D amplifier operation.
The truth is that we are getting some of the best performing, best sounding audio products ever at this time. The combination of ever-more sophisticated electronic design programs, coupled with an understanding of the importance of an iterative design-build-listen-repeat process, and extraordinarily consistent modern production techniques makes the amplifier world of 2018 something to be proud of. Normally, in any given year, a reviewer might happen across one or two products in a category that help redefine what we can do in audio; this month I think I encountered at least four of those products in the same amplifier category.
Reviewers all have their own little internal dialogues ('would I recommend this to a friend?' being the most common) but several times this month, I've found myself questioning the equipment I use regularly, and questioning the need to spend more. It's that degree of shifting the goalposts that makes me think audio is in a very good place at the moment, and getting better.
That said, after reviewing so many products this month, what I really think is "I need to get out more!"