Warp back twenty five years ago, and we were just a couple of years in to the Compact Disc revolution. Remember how everything in the shops seemed to have 'digital' emblazoned on its fascia, even if it was not?
Amplifiers were 'Digital Ready', even though the digital sources we used actually supplied a signal as analogue as grandma's old leather-bound Roberts radio. Cassette decks had the super new Dolby C noise reduction for 'the higher dynamic range of CD', but worked just as well with vinyl. And all those trendy tuners, pulling signals out of the ether just as they'd always done, came bedecked with digital frequency displays.
These days, modern hi-fi seems less troubled by such gimmickry. One reason is that the Japanese manufacturers have, to a large extent, left the two-channel specialist hi-fi market completely. As
they were the arch offenders in the silly marketing stakes, things feel quite different now.
Indeed, the Esoteric X-05 SACD player [p10] shows them in their modern role. Whereas Nipponese electronics used to line Laskys like teabags in a Tetley factory, Japanese goods are no longer mass market. Instead, they've moved resolutely upmarket, producing beautifully made machines with specialist technology inside, to a quality that most of the rest of the world can't match. Those naff fascias emblazoned with acronyms have gone, replaced by superlative engineering depth at a commensurately serious price.
The gap left by the big Japanese manufacturers has opened up the market up dramatically, and we're seeing a range of specialists appear from all around the world, doing things a little differently. Britain's Cambridge Audio has taken the budget end of the market with no small success, and their superb 650BD Blu-ray player looks set to continue this [see p34]. Roksan is now an established name in high end turntables and the new Radius 5.2 [p100] shows why. Germany's brilliant new Vincent SV-236MK amp [p24] is positioned right where the Japanese used to be, and deserves to succeed. Moscode's 402Au [p56] is an interesting American interpretation of that old audio icon, a 'battleship' power amp.
In 2010, we live in a more diverse world, with a hi-fi a far more specialist pursuit. The products and marketing have moved on to reflect this. Enjoy this issue!
David Price, editor
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