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Issue 132    February 2016
AThe Importance Of Music To Us All
Editorial By Alan Sircom


Hi-Fi+ Magazine132 February 2016


  In the cabin of the 747, back from Las Vegas after CES, taxiing to the Gatwick gate, everyone's texts went off as we turned on our phones. The reason: it had been announced a few hours before that David Bowie had died. By the time we got to the baggage reclaim carousel, people were already looking stunned, and were sharing stories. Like many, Bowie's music and persona had a profound influence on me, and he will be missed.


What Bowie's passing showed me was just how important music is to so many of us, and it's something that isn't really understood at CES any more. Yes, the 'specialty audio' rooms get it, because they are run by people who got into the business out of a profound love of music. But, even a short walk through the halls of CES shows just how devalued music has become in an increasingly gadget-driven world. It's long been a riot of noise in Las Vegas, but it's telling that many of us used noise cancelling headphones and CIEMs after the event just to clear the aural palette. Thinking back to Bowie again, would he have so significant an impact had he started today, or would his signal been drowned out by the noise?


The theme of this issue is amplifiers and the variety of models we cover will help give you a chance to see how our world is reacting to this sea of noise. The tonal balance of amplifiers seems to be ever-changing, and moving inexorably (with a few notable exceptions) into forward, brighter, and cleaner sounds. In part, this comes down to fewer people actively listening to live, unamplified music in an acoustic environment now; not just because fewer people are listening to musical genres that are inherently live and unamplified, more that it's ever harder to find a venue that doesn't rely on some kind of back-line PA, sound reinforcement, or even active DSP room treatment. These systems have improved exponentially over the years, but still do not recreate precisely the same experience as the truly live, unamplified event.


It's refreshing to hear amplifiers turning back from designs that emphasize the leading-edges of notes and detail, while seemingly ignoring timbral or tonal consistency. But more importantly, what is really inspiring is just how good a modern amplifier is now. Building them to the higher tolerances demanded by international certification raised the audio industry's game, but in the process sound quality took something of a step backward. Recently, though, it seems designers have learned how to make products that pass increasingly stringent compliance testing without sacrificing performance in the process. That's something worth shouting about! 



Alan Sircom, Editor Hi-Fi+




































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