Since Enjoy the Music.com's Editor Tom Lyle is on vacation, it is my honor to be scribbling down some of my feelings about this issue, with a bit of industry info and looking towards the future rounding things out. The Review Magazine's September issue once again brings our annual Blue Note Awards, as we celebrate the many great products we reviewed within the past year. With each passing year one can't help but be impressed with the progress of high fidelity audio and the ways in which we can enjoy music. During audio shows it is becoming normal to see turntables and reel-to-reel units along side the latest digital gear. Audio and video via Ethernet could be the connection of the future along side new wireless protocols. The upcoming Bluetooth specification has plenty of data transmission for Hi-Res Audio. Yet what does the future hold and how can we grab a bit of that magic today?
It is my honor, and humble pleasure, to have a great team at Enjoy the Music.com taking a more prominent role. Our annual Blue Note Awards showcases many magnificent manufacturers within our industry. In 2014 our Blue Note Awards we chose 13 products, in 2015 it was a mere 11. There are thousands of truly great pieces of gear and over the years we've reviewed many of them (see our archives), yet being the overly critical types that we are, and avoiding exceedingly long lists with rating, we prefer the less = more. This year we are proud to see the industry as a whole bringing brilliant designs to music lovers, and so our annual Blue Note Awards gives special recognition to 15 fabulous products! Be sure to check it out and see if one of your components made the cut.
Today we have streaming music in both lossy MP3, Tidal's CD quality and a small handful of niche' sites streaming Hi-Res Music. DSD streaming is possible, too, yet has not gone 'mainstream' at the time of this writing. As an industry, we've been there at the edge-of-the-art and always striving to push the envelope of performance. As we handle the hardware side of things, the record labels and music industry have been working diligently to bring audio to the 'next level' with each passing decade.
While audiophiles are well-aware of the latest developments, we are right now at the cusp of Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music becoming household terms. The really big push forward, (perhaps) by Apple Music, will bring what we've already known for many years. And that is the immense joy brought into our lives via today's highest quality of recorded / remastered music. While some might not immediately hear the difference between MP3 and Hi-Res Music, if I were a betting man I'd give it a year or two for music enthusiasts to intrinsically 'get it'. From acoustic music with very subtle cues to the latest pop tunes, the joy we feel and how we interact with our fave tunes is moreso in higher resolution.
The Trend Is Your Friend
Hi-Res HD Vinyl LPs Redefine
What Is Possible Via New Hi-Tech Solution
Many of us remember in the 1980's the then new CD format sounded, well, not all that particularly great. Sure it was easy to use and very portable, yet audiophiles still loved their vinyl LP because it sounded better. If we follow the same train of thought, we are right now at the beginning of Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music. Just as the CD sounded in the 1980's, perhaps what we hear with 24-bit/192kHz and DSD today is 'as bad as it gets', and many agree these formats do sound very impressive right now. If i were a betting man, there'd be a $1,000,000 bet that ten years from now we'll be discovering things within our Hi-Res Music we never quite heard before as audio hardware evolves. DAC chipsets will be processing at multiples of what is possible today and clock accuracy will become less of an issue too. There is no doubt we'll be eclipsing what we theoretically felt was possible today.
Audio personalization will play a role. What I mean is that your audio system and music will indeed be a closer reflection what you want to hear within your listening environment. At home, on-the-go portable, your automobile, yacht, etc will more closely reflect not just the songs you hear, but in the way you hear it. Without going into deep-thought details, it is along the lines of decades ago when I was with Bill Burton, technical editor of the then leading car audio magazine, and I bounced off him my idea about active adaptive bass DSP due to the changing airspace/environment within cars. Not just the obvious convertible car with top up or down, but with sunroof and when you open a car window, and by where and how much that opening is in how it alters the listening space. It is really nothing that magical to employ DSP that seamlessly adjusts to environmental situations to ensure a human's perception of audio. Your music playlists and 'radio stations / channels' will be far more intuitive and personal.
So how much more personal can audio get? Very! There is so much untapped possibilities that have yet to be implemented given even today's digital processing and algorithm usage, let alone what technology will make available in the future. Today we are barely scratching the surface in personalized sound quality and fluidity of enjoyment of music within our ever-changing life on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. Sure we've come a long way since the Edison cylinder, yet we still have a long way to go.
Humans always seem to cherish things of the past, just as there's always a renewed versions of classic audio gear, old video game system formats becoming newly re-released in smaller case designs, etc., yet what will our music experience by like in 2020, or 2040 and beyond? And what will we make of virtual and/or augmented reality to the point in which it, too, becomes seamlessly customizable? Go ahead and enjoy Dave Brubeck at the Lincoln Center playing the latest pop tunes, or Daft Punk at CGBGs, or... At some point the music we choose to enjoy will seamlessly blur between what is real and whatever it is you can imagine. Welcome my friends to truly personalized audio.
"We are the music makers,
Ode by English poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy, originally published in 1873.
As always, in the end what really matters is that you...