How far has audio advanced in the last 20-30 years?

How far has audio advanced in the last 20-30 years?
Major improvement
48% (123 votes)
Some improvement
35% (90 votes)
Subtle improvement
9% (24 votes)
No improvement
3% (8 votes)
We're backsliding
5% (12 votes)
Total votes: 257

Have we come a long way baby, or are we still struggling to get out of the chute? Do you think audio reproduction has made much progress in getting listeners closer to the real thing in the last 20-30 years?

Trym Atle Lien - Norway's picture

If the "Real Thing" is 100 miles ahead of us, we might have advanced an inch or two!

Jim Merrill's picture

Speaker fidelity has made great strides.

Robin Cook's picture

It's too bad that it is easier to find excellence in hardware than in software. I feel that, if the quality of our software were consistantly better, we would not have so many variations of hardware design to compensate for it. The more acccurate and revealing the system, the harder it is to listen to typical recordings. Slap in a good recording, though, and nothing matters for a while!

I.M.  Outthere's picture

Of course! Speaker development has made a significant step forward in the last ten years alone. Couple this with better engineered CDs and improved DACs, and it's a no-brainer. In fact, simple two-channel improvement has been enough to keep me from wasting a lot of money on the latest whiz-bang techno fads of the past three years (SACD, DVD-A, et al).

John Adams's picture

I can't hear the difference between the SACD and Red book layers of an SACD disc when compaered an a Sony 777ES player. So what was all the work for? Oh, I know -- copy protection!

Claude Whiting's picture

All you have to do is mention the compact disc . . . enough said!

Tim Bishop's picture

Speaker technology in particular is miles ahead of the low-rez speakers of the 50s and 60s. Amplifers have been a mixed bag -- some improvements in older basic designs have proved better than newer ideas (single ended for example). CDs have definately improved over the screech boxes of the mid 80s.And analog is only getting better. Turntables have better stability, tonearms are designed to the max, and cartridges truly are better. So, yes, much, much, much, better!

Rodger M Bishop's picture

the major inprivements in amps and spks have been leaps and bounds ! for cd no but the sacd and dvd-a wow!

Joe Hartmann's picture

I am speaking of analog. What I get from 22 year old Linn with a fifteen year old LVII and a new Arkiv is beyond what I thought was possible ten years ago. I have just started to listen to CD updates some major improvements in the last 3 years. Which makes me wonder how much is still to be found in these formats. All this with fifteen year old speakers???

Lee Moore's picture

Sonic improvements in all areas have been astonishing. And there have also been significant gains in performance per inflation-adjusted dollars. Still, good sounding components are far dearer than the average non-audiophile would dream of paying. As long as low cost, mass-market gear is around, and most people remain oblivious to the high-end, this will remain the case.

Graeme Nattress's picture

Dig up that old Quad system from the 50s and it sounds great. Or I can plug in my 60's Stereoscope into my Lowther horns and have great music. Modern record players are better than ever and I can finally listen to CDs without getting a headache, so that's where the improvement lies -- in the source!

TABACA's picture

YEs the new digital playback d/a converters and the new strides take in analog playback have come a long way. And I feel that the progress has been made at no substancial additional cost to the consumer. Between the technology and the competition, the higher end audio products have benefited the mid priced equipment with lower priced components. Such as d/a convertors having similar chip sets in mid priced unit that may be found in a ultra expensive unit. One example that comes to mind is the Arcam 9 CD player vs. the Elgar dcs a 1600.00 peice vs. a 12000.00 piece. The sound quality differences can't justify a 10000.00 difference. Speakers look at the Paradigm Reference 100 series for 2000plus vs. some speakers at twice the cost. There is a difference, but to the average user implementing these in a primary home theatre scenerio, the dynamica nad range are there. And turntables, jeez for 1200.oo you can get a Rega Planar25 that practically \ overshadows it's own flagship Planar 9 at about half the cost. So yes I belive we finally have a spectrum of audio gear that is available in most price ranges that will satisfy most any dicrimiating ear and satisfy that particular pocketbook with a justifiable investment.

Henry's picture

Some improvement indeed, but still much improvement needed to get closer to live music.'s picture

My belief is that as a whole, we've narrowed that gap between live compared to reproduced music- but we are still holding on to our first pair of bronzed shoes; baby steps, my friends, baby steps! This is not to say that there haven't been great technological attempts and improvements (digital audio and solid state, respectively), but a majority of these attempts have not always been to serve the holy grail of the music-listener connection. So, have we advanced as far as possible, given the current state of the audio union? My opinion is a humble, "no." But I also feel that, ironically, the advancement in the last 10 years of two very mature technologies- analog LPs and single ended tube designs- have been the biggest steps in the right direction, with SACD technology and digital amplification close seconds. If you were to pose the question, "Where would I like to see audio go in the next 20-30 years?" Ah- I bet that would get some interesting responses, indeed!

Anonymous's picture

Recently tried to recreate a system equal to what I had 25 years ago, a relatively good setup at the time;- it was a disappointment,- mid-fi by todays standards!

Buck Maxey's picture

Look at CD. Everyone who hears "old" vinyl on a good (not even great) stereo thinks it sounds better. I hope all the hype about DVD audio and SACD is not just more of the same.

Dallas, TX's picture

The sound quality is unquestionably better and the equipment undeniably more expensive.

Peter de Zinger's picture

Stil a lot to improve

Rob Cornelson's picture

As far as technology goes, I'd say we've come a long way. The upside of the home theater trend is that nobody wants five crappy channels. Speaker technology alone has made huge improvements. Now if only we could fix the greedy bastards holding the music.

tony esporma's picture

Well, CD was a step backwards, but SACD and DVD-A take us forward. But then, so was the Elcaset in its own time. Digital amps are getting better, but most of today's music sucks.

Ren's picture

I am still using two-channel stereo. Just this weekend, I expressed my joy at the sound of our bedroom system, which was our main system in the early 80s. This demonstrated that musicaly pleasing systems have been availaible for a long time. So far, I have not heard a system that can reproduce the live event, and I am not even sure it's possible without all the other clues like heat, smell, and touch of the live venue being reproduced as well.

bob's picture

I think audio advancements are large and now you can get a decent system for much cheaper than 20-30 years ago for the same price.

Stephen Curling's picture

big improvement but only in last 10 years. CD, DVD, HDCD, fiber optics etc...

john foster's picture

pcm digital aside audio playback has improved quite a bit. pcm must die or high end will suffer.

Dimitris Gogas's picture

The really good news is how much more affordable quality audio has become. But I'm afraid the manufacturers know that too, so watch out.

Rock/Solid/State's picture

While the CD has improved listening for the masses, there is still a long way to go in radio reproduction, and speaker technology.

Jared's picture

The audio cassete was the worst invention of the twentieth century. The CD has its good points, as well as bad ones. It's relativly small, it doesn't warp, it's portable, it is a lot harder to scratch than an LP, and with reasonable care, you will never have to clean them. The CD recorder is a huge improvement over a cassette deck. I still think that a GOOD turntable sounds better than a CD, though.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

IMHO, speaker technology has taken the biggest leap forward since I was a boy. Oh, my dad's [now my brother's] old Bozaks still sound decent, but designers are producing some really good products with the assistance of computers and new materials.

macksman's picture

If you actually remember the old Bozak speakers with all those drivers or the loud old Klipsh corner horns, you must recognize there's been improvement. At the same time, the Macintosh gear that was driving everything at the high-end shop I frequented in Dallas still sounds wonderful. My best friend has a whole Mac set with Cornwalls today and his house is a fun place to listen to music. The biggest gains are at the source. New cartridges and turntables are light years ahead of the old ones. Linn has finally made CD playing musical. FM antennae no longer require towers to work very nicely. The gains are huge.

Sherri Lee's picture

Actually, measured against 30 years ago, there has been a great deal of improvement in some areas. But measured against 50 years ago, the record isn't so good. Audiophile-oriented CD recordings and speakers have improved in the past 10 years though. But the anti-technology attitude of the recording industry is a sad story.