November / December 2022
Editor's Lead In
And just like that, you are about to tuck into the last Australian Hi-Fi issue of 2022. It's been a year of recuperation for much of the world following the disruption of You Know What, though price hikes are seemingly everywhere you turn and, for many industries including hi-fi, supply hasn't fully recovered — as hi-fi dealers across the country are bearing witness to and determinedly grappling with. Fingers crossed that 2023 will be a year of more 'normality' in that respect. This year hasn't exactly been bereft of good times for the industry, mind you, or indeed of progress.
'Better from smaller' has lately become something to strive for, as many manufacturers are realising (and smartly adapting to the possibility) that to survive in the future, at least some of their products may have to be more domestic-friendly. That's what makes new and innovative engineering methods such as KEF's Uni-Core interesting. (For the uninitiated, the driver arrangement gets around the notion that you need big drivers and big boxes to produce big bass outputs, essentially by having two drive units built as a single structure and sharing the same motor system, as opposed to each being traditionally arranged inside a cabinet with their separate chassis and motor systems.) Uni-Core has debuted in fairly high-end kit so far, though other technologies with similar goals could well materialise in more modest applications in 2023.
After all, earlier this year Sonos acquired Dutch Audio startup Mayht, whose Heartmotion transducer technology was developed to enable the creation of speakers "ten times more compact, flatter and lightweight without any compromise to sound quality", so the first fruits of that labour are surely on the near horizon. Are we on our way to popularising invisible, transducer-toting stereo systems for our homes? An accessible two-channel version of the Elementi Audio Fire home cinema system (page 38) does sound pretty appetising....
I'd argue, too, that the streaming amplifier market has reached a maturation in the past twelve months — not just in terms of choice or even software support but also, and importantly, in their calibre of sound quality. I'd be the first to recommend building a separates system to those who can accommodate and afford it, but these nifty designs are making hi-fi accessible and — hopefully to new as well as existing audiences — attractive.
Rather ironically, we are increasingly seeing progress being wrapped up in pastime too, as modern engineering has formed a new marriage with old-school aesthetics, particularly in the speaker market, feeding our innate cravings for nostalgia. They say crisis provokes nostalgia, so perhaps this trend is pretty timely. It might be just this that has caused a (modest) regain in popularity for CDs, in a year in which the format turns 40. On page 48, one of this publication's contributors pays homage to the compact disc and backs its continuing relevancy today, an opinion I share too.
Of course, streaming still leads the way in music consumption these days, and higher quality is there for the taking for those who value it. Whether or not that higher audio quality will be embraced by the masses hangs on how compelling Spotify makes its 'HiFi' or 'Platinum' (or whatever it's going to be called) streaming tier, which at the time of writing is yet to materialise but will surely — surely — arrive at some point next year.
Thanks to other streaming services serving up better audio quality, a continuation of the increased availability of compact DACs, the emergence of a new aspirational breed of premium wireless headphones, and now even the existence of an on-the-go Roon library (page 10), portable audio is better than it has ever been too. That said, the race is still on for truly portable high-fidelity wireless transmission… so here's to its fruition in 2023, alongside evermore advanced audio experiences and that necessary settling of stock stability.
Have a happy and healthy end to 2022, Aussie Hi-Fi readers, and thank you for your continued support. Until the new year....
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