Digital gets ever more
impenetrable – and controversial even. Not everyone is happy – see Letters
– that CD and the CD player are becoming sidelined, ageing technologies that
are seen as artefacts from the past even if they do still have much to offer.
We managed to get a CD player for review in this issue, an increasingly
difficult task because new ones are as hard to spot as Dodos. But as the
fabulous Esoteric K-05 demonstrates – see p22 – CD just isn't what it used
to be. The transport that spins the silver disc is now a side issue, a
mechanical contrivance in a world of software dominated by the wretched iPad.
I put it like that because in truth even those that complain
about the loss of CD do so from their iPads: I see irony here. The iPad
is an exemplar of the power of modern software and computing, where cogs and
wheels are finally eliminated. Just as steam power and things that glow with
satisfying warmth are intriguing anachronisms alongside an iPad, so are
proprietary mechanical technologies that once ruled our music world: think
Philips Compact Cassette, DVD and Blu-ray.
Nowadays you just need a digital file and software to read
it. And in this issue you will see where this is taking us, from Longdog
Audio's VDt1 DAC with valves – see p50 – to Lumin's streamer on p40 and
the Astell&Kern AK100 MKII digital player on p64.
An increasingly heavy emphasis on digital processing, plus
the prodigious processing power now found in chips like the ESS Sabre DAC, are
leading us rapidly into a world of esoteric digital processing schemes that
are almost worryingly complicated, as well as technologically impenetrable.
Whether a chip or DAC works well, and how to use it, few people understand.
Happily, at Hi-Fi World
we have the almost unique ability to measure high-resolution audio products,
giving our reviews real insight. And that insight shows just how sophisticated
modern digital audio products are becoming. I hope you enjoy reading about
them in this issue.
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