Had I been writing this twenty years ago when
Hi-Fi World was born, the audio landscape would look so different to now. These were the glory days of mid-price separates hi-fi, when every major Japanese manufacturer had a CD player, integrated amplifier and speakers for you, from £399 upwards. Bucketloads of kit was sold - providing it was a mainstream Compact Disc player, integrated solid-state amplifier and bookshelf speakers, invariably housed in a black painted box!
But an awful lot of kit that's common now was unavailable then. Phono stages were practically non-existent, whereas these days they're everywhere. The selection of turntables and tonearms on the market has mushroomed too. Digital convertors, obscure then, are fashionable now and many come with USB inputs and/or network music functionality which was science fiction in 1991.
Back then, valve amplifiers were the stuff of dreams for a few deranged, heretical individuals, or the lived reality of ageing audiophiles who'd never got round to upgrading their nineteen fifties or sixties systems. Now they're everywhere, at every price point - from iPod dock money upwards.
As portables went, Compact Cassette was still king. MiniDisc and DCC were still a few months away, and iPods a full decade or more. Nowadays, for millions of people in this country and beyond, these are normal everyday possessions. Cassette, back then the mightiest music carrier ever in terms of sales, is now a faint shadow of its former
Loudspeakers have changed enormously too; twenty years ago it was still variations on a theme of nineteen eighties-style boxes, big bangers with lots of drivers and/or small two way bookshelf designs, most using plastic drive units. These days there's so much more choice; driver technology has improved vastly and there's a movement away from conventional drivers with the use of ribbons and/or electrostatic panels all the more affordable.
It's been a fun twenty years watching things unfold; meanwhile inside this issue you'll find everything that epitomises the best of hi-fi 2011-style, from wild single driver egg shaped speakers to slick digital streamers. Enjoy!
David Price, editor
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