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August 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Show Extravaganza As Product Launches Remain At All-Time Highs
Incredible growth brings luxurious sounds, and higher quality parts, to all.

Article By Steven R. Rochlin

 

Grphon Audio Kalliope DAC  Now that 2014 is more than half over, have been looking back at not just this year, but the history of our industry and the times they are great! Our review of the $995 VPI Nomad and other like-priced gear is mixed with the incredible-sounding reference quality $26,600 Gryphon Audio Designs Kalliope DAC (reviewed here). It is wonderful that today we have the widest selection of equipment to choose from within the history of high fidelity audio. Today, you can purchase outstanding advanced technology for only a few hundred dollars; or the same type of component with edge-or-the-art engineering for tens of thousands of dollars. We have so many choices available that many reviewers will readily admit there is no way to hear it all. In years past we'd have to wait months for January's CES / T.H.E. Show reports to see newly released products. Today, there are new products popping up in more places than I can ever recall. Add to that, manufacturers are doing everything from normal retail brink and mortar stores to Kickstarter and direct website sales. There seems to be an abundance of ways to get products out to market.

 

Shows And New Products
CAS Show CoverageThose of us who live within the USA can easily attend a show or two… or five! European and Asia shows have exploded and now virtually every major country has their own dedicated event(s). If a reviewer so desired, they could attend show after show traveling around the world and never need to go back home, since every week is yet another event someone around the globe! The shows themselves have become major events produced by first-rate organization and event attendance is expanding too. There has never been a better time to be a music enthusiast! Coming soon within Enjoy the Music.com are reports of the Capital Audiofest held in Washington DC a week ago, the upcoming California Audio Show in San Francisco, the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver and TAVES in Toronto. In 2014 we have already reported upon High End in Munich, AXPONA in Chicago, Salon Son & Image in Canada and both T.H.E. Show and CES in Las Vegas. PHEW!

Getting back to audio gear, nearly every day a new press release arrives within Enjoy the Music.com's e-mail inbox touting yet another breakthrough product that will change the way we listen to music. These press releases are not just from audiophile-focused companies, as mainstream companies like Apple, DTS, Marantz, McIntosh Labs and others are moving a broad range of people towards high resolution music, enhanced headphone listening and so much more. We also have audiophiles companies that sell top luxury equipment to dealers, yet also forming sister companies that directly sell lower-priced gear to customers worldwide. In fact there are now a few ‘social media professionals' who, instead of being the usual product representatives who help with dealer relationships, are instead hired to take an active role at helping companies sell their products in a variety of ways directly to consumers. It could be via Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or perhaps form a special website or mini-store on Amazon.com.

Think about it, have you ever seen as many DACs and headphone amplifiers for sale within high-end audio? New headphone companies and other supporting gear seem to pop up each month with products that are well thought out and fine-tuned via crowdsourcing. Every month is another new turntable and many newly released recordings on vinyl LP. Streaming music has gone lossless in Europe and will be available within the USA in the years to come. There are so many solutions to meet our musical desires that it boggles the mind! We have more ways to enjoy our music and every price point from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some solutions are, not surprisingly, now available for your smartphone! Perhaps the most interesting news this past month has nothing to do with an audio product per se.

 

New Parts!
Audio Note KAISEI CapacitorsWith the no longer available Black Gate capacitors, perhaps the best manufacturer of capacitors for audio gear, we will soon have a new manufacturer to fill the void. Audio Note UK has invested vast resources as they will be offering their new line of high-end audio quality capacitors! During Enjoy the Music.TV's interview with Peter Qvortrup a few weeks ago, he showed us early models of their upcoming audio grade capacitors that I have no doubt will exceed those of the no longer available Black Gate models. The first audio grade capacitors to be made available in September will be the standard Audio Note UK electrolytic audio capacitor, closely followed in October by the Audio Note UK KAISEI variety. The Standard Audio Note UK electrolytic capacitors are said to "represent the starting level in Audio Note UK's new range, and have found them to provide considerably better sound quality than any other currently available high voltage electrolytic capacitor, from any manufacturer. They achieve this excellent level of performance by combining a high quality electrolyte with the best available standard paper and a specially developed foil. The result is a 500 Volt capacitor of exceptional quality and price, suitable for use in any high voltage power supply application." Peter Qvortrup said they invested major time, effort, and of course funds to make these new capacitors a reality to fill the void left from the demise of Black Gate.

DACs, tubes and other bits are also experiencing tremendous expansion! For digital music lovers, each year brings us new DAC chips that perform higher than past iterations and yet cost about the same as previous versions. Tube lovers are rejoicing, too, as more vacuum tubes manufacturers are creating products that can compete, and sometime exceed, those fabled new old stock offerings. Machining costs have come down dramatically over the years and 3D printing is also starting to make its way into more products. Never before in the history of audio manufacturing have we enjoyed access to so many reasonably-priced, high precision manufacturing and high quality parts. Recalling my first and second cell phone, the $1500 Nokia/Radio Shack model followed by the Motorola 8000H brick phone, today's smartphones do far more for less than half the price (not accounting for inflation). In fact we are seeing more cell phones handling 192kHz/24-bit audio natively! Soon Apple will be releasing their newest smartphone models and rest assured they, too, will be improving on the audio performance and capability of their previous and currently available products. Apple has strong marketing ability and this could greatly push our industry into the limelight as we, too, have products that can seamlessly integrate with smartphones via both iOS and Android apps plus hardware that piggybacks on the smartphone's capabilities.

 

Times Are Indeed Great!
It is a great time to be a music lover and high-end audio hobbyist! No matter how you choose to listen to your music collection, or stream music and discover new artists, the choices available have never been better! I look forward to reporting on the many pieces of new gear being shown at upcoming events. Speaking of show reporting, there are more show reports posted online on more websites than I can ever recall. The print guys, who in years past you'd have to wait months to read their comments, are now providing daily show updates too! There is more information and reviews online right now concerning high-end audio than all print magazines combined offered from our industry's humble beginnings until 2005. Part of me wants to say these are the good ol' days, yet with the future being so wide open I see no slowing down of the momentum we are all providing in getting the word out about the high fidelity audio industry. The same great efforts are being put forth via crowdsourcing information within discussions groups too!

More shows + more parts + more products + more music + more discussion boards = many more ways to discover gear and enjoy your fave tunes. The Internet allows many people to become long distance friends and it is great to hang out with them at events as we all share our love of music and, dare I admit this, our gear fetishes. I look forward to meeting many Enjoy the Music.com readers at the upcoming audiophile events and will be hosting a few seminars, so stop on by and ask questions to myself or other panel members. These are not the good ol' days; we are only now beginning to scratch the surface my friends!

As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music (for musicians),


Editor and Creative Director, Enjoy the Music.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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