I have had a long relationship with Bowers & Wilkins. The first B&W speaker I spent serious time with was the DM-6, the infamous "pregnant kangaroo," which was reviewed by Allen Edelstein in December 1977 and which I borrowed for a while after interviewing the company's founder, John Bowers. Ten years later, when I met the woman who was to become my third wife, she already owned a pair of B&W Matrix 801s, a speaker reviewed by Lewis Lipnick in December 1987.
Now that we've entered a world of post-disc audio (sorry, AnalogPlanet.com), audiophile streaming and file-playback products have appeared by the hundreds, and many companies are on their second, third, or even fourth-generation models.
The Chinese company Auralic Limited has been pushing bits around for seven years, releasing a half-dozen streaming and network devices. Their newest, the Altair, combines in a single package the functions of a DAC, streamer, and headphone amplifier with volume control, allowing it also to operate as an all-digital-system preamplifier. Just add power amp and speakers.
On February 16, Universal Music Group and MQA announced a multi-year agreement that will encode UMG's huge catalog of master recordings in MQA. In the language of the press release, the agreement promises "to make some of the world's most celebrated recordings available for the first time in Hi-Res Audio streaming." UMG's labels include ECM, Interscope, Geffen, A&M, Capitol, Island, Def Jam, Decca, Verve, Blue Note, Virgin, and EMI.
This year is not only one of fallout from the most divisive political campaigns of our time, but will also one of competing audio shows too close for comfort. Southern California will see dueling audio shows three months and 35 miles apart, and New York City and Washington, DC will host shows on consecutive weekends. While a proliferation of audio shows potentially presents plenty of opportunities for audiophiles to hear new gear, such conflicts ultimately limit which manufacturers can exhibit where, and can render some shows a poor value.