The latter part of 2015 was auspicious for hi-fi. Chord Electronics announced their Mojo DAC based on a UK designed DAC chip that leads all others globally and Meridian announced MQA. Both events were held with panache in London's Shard tower too – not a faceless suburban factory. And the glitz was justified.
MQA is a digital file that assures the quality of the audio packed within. Whilst Meridian founder and digital expert Bob Stuart outlined it only in general terms at the Shard press conference, we are now told a separate company has been set up to market MQA to the music industry and outside world, headed up by Bob. Meridian the hardware company, as it were, continues selling hi-end audio of course, and developing product. It also has a fair amount of involvement in – and business with – Jaguar / Land Rover, specifying and supplying in-car audio, including a surround-sound encoding scheme called Trifield audio that was another of Bob Stuart's interests way back in the 1970s, alongside Ambisonics, to which it is related. If you buy a Range Rover Sport you get Trifield 3D surround technology, I was told by Richard Hollingshead of Meridian, when he visited us to talk about Meridian and MQA recently. He also explained how large JLR are and the effort they put into installing top quality audio into their vehicles: it sounded daunting. All of which is to get Meridian's new Signature Reference CD player we review on p58 into the broader context of the world from which it comes. It also illustrates UK audio isn't dead yet.
And that theme is repeated in Audiolab's new M-DAC+. This Chinese owned UK company ploughed a lot into the original M-DAC. No one is talking figures, but I can guess what it cost them (and why). Its designer, John Westlake, had a clear vision of what was needed to deliver great sound from CD and hi-res, and M-DAC was its incarnation. The whole point about M-DAC is you get top performance from the (other) best DAC chip in the world, at less than a grand. It's as simple as that. Recently, M-DAC had a makeover, becoming M-DAC+. It's still less than a grand and now even more complex and impressive. Don't miss our in-depth review on p15.
The Japanese have – and have had – their own audio idioms, and one is the great Japanese receiver of the 1970s, bedecked with meters, dials and knobs – an all analogue wonder. Boy, are they easy to understand and use, I was reminded by Luxman's gorgeous, Class A, heat streaming L-590AX MK II receiver - see p10. No digital up/down buttons or buried menus here: just sweetly engineered ease of use and loveliness of sound. Who could want more?
Well, we have plenty more in this issue – and I hope you enjoy it all.