As Wes Phillips recently reported on this website, CD sales are down and legal downloads of audio files are up. Stereophile has been criticized more than once for not paying enough attention to the subjects of MP3 and other compressed file formats, such as AAC, and for offering no guidance at all to readers about how to get the best sound quality from compressed downloads.
"Physical discs seem so 20th century!" That's how I ended my eNewsletter review of the Logitech (then Slim Devices) Squeezebox WiFi music server in April 2006, and it seems that increasing numbers of Stereophile readers agree with me. In our website poll of January 5, 2008, we asked, "Are you ready for an audiophile music server?" The response to that question was the highest we have experienced: 32% of respondents already listen to music via their computer networks, many using home-brewed solutions, and 44% intend to. We've published a lot of material on this subject in the last five years, and it seemed a good idea to sum it up in this article.
Looked at from one viewpoint, DVD-Audio and SACD appear to be exercises in sheer profligacy. In the case of DVD-A, why provide a maximum bandwidth almost five times what is conventionally taken to be the audible frequency range, and couple it to a dynamic-range capability far in excess of that achievable by the microphones used to record the sound? In the case of SACD, why provide a potential bandwidth in excess of 1.4MHz, only to fill more than 95% of it with quantization noise?
The advance of plasma-display technology speeds on, and the Pioneer PDP-501MX is at the front of the line. This is the first plasma monitor on sale in the United States that is capable of displaying high-definition images, making it the world's most advanced, commercially available product of this type.Squeezing almost 1 million pixels into even a 50" display (measured diagonally) is quite an accomplishment. As soon as I pulled the unit out of the box and set it in its unobtrusive tabletop stand, I connected it to Panasonic's high-definition tuner box and fed the monitor an over-the-air HDTV signal. Without so much as a hiccup, the set accepted the 1920x1080i signal and displayed a bright, clear, sharp picture that made me smile. All this from a big-screen set less than 4" thick!
With the reality of digital television now almost within our grasp, manufacturers of big-screen sets must feel like sky-divers in free fall. Until the 'chute opens with the snap of digital displays finally hitting the stores, the market for large, expensive, conventional rear-projection models might appear to be controlled by nothing but the force of gravity. In a highly unscientific survey, I asked a few dealers around the country whether big-screen television sales were down and whether consumers seemed to be waiting for the coming of the first digital sets. The answer to both questions was a uniform and unequivocal yes.
Time to 'fess up: How many of you actually read the "Measurements" sections of Stereophile's equipment reports and understand what's being measured, and why? I suspect that many readers skip over the technical assessment of the reviewed product and make a dash for the "Conclusion."
Slowly, painfully, high-end audio seems to be dying. We all know it but we're apparently unable to resuscitate the patient. US dealers are closing at alarming ratesit must be the economy. Women continue to avoid the High Endit must be the technobabble combined with male equipment fetishism. Younger people aren't hopping aboardit must be all those other things competing for their money. (Then again, it might be the High End's abhorrence of rock'n'roll.)
Loudspeaker Cables & Interconnects Editor's Note: Rather than place cables in the usual "Recommended Components" classes, we've just listed those cables that members of the magazine's review team either have chosen to use on a long-term basis or have found to offer good value for money. They are therefore implicitly recommended. Where a cable has been found to have specific matching requirements or an identifiable sonic signature, it is noted in the text. "Try before you buy" is mandatory with cables; many dealers have a loaner stock to make this easier.