I'd like to thank Steve Guttenburg for a great "As we see it" (AWSI) in the April issue. Steve's quite right that many (pop) recordings suck and are not good enough for high-end playback. What shocks me is how many are trying to do this. I've noticed over the years, in a competing (print) magazine, that the bulk of their monthly music selections are rock and pop. Nothing wrong with rock and roll...but is it a good idea to play this kind of music through a high-resolution music system ? And that's for any (historical) rock record - how about the ones made this decade ? Even *worse* for listening - unless you like zero-dynamic-range music.
Thankfully, we have many "audiophile" labels that care about quality - ranging from Chesky to Hyperion to JA's own recordings - great !!
And I agree with Steve that there are *many* reasons why high-end has fallen short of its goal. Starting with sources, remember Jon Iverson's AWSI piece about CD and LP ? "They both suck". He was right, because both are *still improving* after all these years. This bodes poorly for LP being that it started improving with the AR turntable, in the early 1960's !! CD began its journey in the mid-80's with Meridian's first player but not really until the late 80's with separate DACs and custom filters.
With (the best) CD playback sounding very close to hi-rez, then hi-rez downloads here to stay, we finally have sources that achieve a live mike-feed quality at home. No more complaining.
Then, wire. This area of audio has been improving rapidly. Michael Fremer wasn't blowing air when he stated that The Zero interconnect was a big leap in sound, a few years back. Power cords have leaped in performance as well.
Loudspeakers. If we are to believe many of the published reviews this decade, then horns are moving out in front and are doing things that direct-radiating speakers are not. Read Sam Tellig's review of the Klipsch LaScala. This design, BTW, was a "legacy" upgrade of an old product - never mind cutting-edge designs that may even go further. Open baffle (dipole) speakers are also getting positive press - something different and one more thing to consider in the future.
Finally, the acoustic format. It's pretty well accepted that "surround" is an advance over two-channel audio. But even if we don't have faith in the (surround) recording process right now or the titles available are scant, there's always the Trifield processor to help us bridge the gap.
So, progress. It's one of my two "laws" of high-end audio. First, everything matters....then, progress is slow. My second law requires patience, something I - for one - don't have !!