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Was 2010 a good year for high end audio?

Was 2010 a good year for high end audio?
Both HD downloads and vinyl have held their ground, and new equipment continues to pour forth at an astounding rate. But in the overall scheme of things, has this past year been a plus or minus in the audiophile ledger?

Explain your choice in the comments.

Dr. Spivey's picture

A lot of great new gear at all price levels. In this economy, what more could we ask for?

WillWeber's picture

hard to answer, such an open ended question, many possible parameters.
But it was a great year from my perspective, I am back in the high end game and really enjoying great music and great sound.

It appears that some trickle-down tech has really helped the lower and middle "ends" even though the exotic is outrageously priced.


tcrik's picture

Not all that impressed with the new gear, the continuing mad rush into digital (What is and how long is the signal path from your hard drive to your speakers?), and "Stereophile's" 'Vote' section went from weekly to ???
- Mike Molinaro

Stephen Scharf's picture

I put down it's been an okay year...primarily because I still see prices rising in an economy that is still in decline. Something is out of joint.

On the plus side were the Oppo BD83-SE and second generation HRT Music Streamers, both of which are amazing value propositions for what they do, and really increased the "listenability" of digital file, especially the higher than Redbook CD specifications, e.g. hi-res digital files and XRCD, SACD, DVD-A and Blu-Ray A.

soulful.terrain's picture

...the weak economy, not a bad year at all.

I would like to see focus put back into the tangible Cd and vinyl format. Gear is getting too computer based IMHO.

michaelavorgna's picture

Endless amounts of great new music, tons on vinyl (my preference) and you can sample most of it for free online before you buy. Add to that the overabundance of gear in all price ranges and I'd have to ask - what more could an audiophile want?

struts's picture

Options for downloading/streaming audio have increased hugely and great new music has never been more readily available. Finally, breakthrough products based on fresh, novel designs (e.g. Devailet) show that the high end is alive and well.

jazzfan's picture

Lots of new statement products and progress on the redbook and high resolution download front but....

no breakthroughs on more affordable equipment other than the Squeezebox Touch

while several record labels are now making available reasonably priced (as in under $10) redbook quality digital downloads the cost of high resolution digital downloads is still much too high (as in above $14).

It's also nice to see new vinyl becoming more available.

Coverage of computer based audio is still dominated by non-audiophiles and needs to be addressed from the bottom up.

Will 2011 bring us computer based multi-channel audio?

John P.'s picture

I made no substantive audio purchases in 2010 due to lack of monetary resources. Damn, rotten luck. But wait! My home-rebuilt 3-way speakers with 12" woofers are still pumping out joyful noises in the living room. CDs and LPs still both exist, and each in proper playback sound wonderful. The goofuses who believe digital streamed audio is the future of all recorded music continue braying. A select few computer-based devices and delivery systems deliver the hi-fidelity goods for real. Lots of interesting good new audio products and bad new products hit the market. Audio magazines kept publishing, and readers kept writing to them. Most "New Music" continued sounding like I've heard it somewhere before. Vacuum tubes remain abundant, as does tube gear at every level of price, quality and vintage. Snake-oil cables and tweaks are still omnipresent and overpriced. Cheap, 90% effective tweaks can be had at Wal-Mart and Home Depot anytime you please. Rich boys still build gloriously satisfying and expensive audio systems. Clever middle class guys still assemble systems as good or better for a fraction of that cost. Still more clever old school DIY goats keep building amazing gear out of spit and baling wire. There are still a handful of bricks and mortar audio shops who treat customers as royalty and stand behind their products like a rock. Online, I still see bargains galore of audio equipment. There is no lack of information and comedy in audio blogs and forums. All those prognosticators who have been predicting the disappearance of high end audio since before I became a self-admitted audio bug are still waiting for its end to occur. And many times every day, I listen to beautiful music in my home, in my car, at a concert hall, in a club, at the movies, in a store, on the telly, on the 'puter, wherever it emanates. Yes, 2010 was a great year for high end audio in the ear of the beholder.

tmsorosk's picture

I expected to see the price of mid to Hi end equipment come down a bit . Lots of good low priced stuff now . Like to see a column for hi end only gear , hint , hint , nudge , nudge .

DLKG's picture

It's been a great year for vinyl anyway. There are way too many records to buy!

AVnerdguy's picture

The mid priced market equipment was improved by the trickle down effect from the high end/out of my price point equipment. It's never been harder to choose between the excellent selection of electronics and speakers in the reasonable price range. I purchased components with a much higher level of sophistication and audio quality this year than I ever could have in the past.

300Binary's picture

It was terrific :)

I bought a pair of Panasonic 8" fool range drivers.

They sure fool me.

Happy New Ears!


Jerryg's picture

The reviewing community in general is living in a glass bubble and has lost touch with reality. What you review is either nose bleed or a reasonably priced Chinese import. It took a very public beating in a survey last year for you even to become conscious that you were not the Audio Profits that you had so arrogantly crowned yourselves. Can anyone on your staff spell trade defecate?

The country is poised precariously on the verge of economic calamity and you as reviewers continue to promote imported goods without any regard of the economic consequences.

That is as sad as the nose bled only philosophy that you traditionally have followed.

I hope to replace my receiver and DAC this year and will forsake some of the features that would have attached me to certain products in the past, so that I can buy quality "Made In America" products.

All in all most of the Audio Kingdom sadly seems to be drifting aimlessly.

The question is are Audiophiles unselfish enough to buy "Made in the USA" or will they continue to drift back into the Frasierite self delusion that has presided over the last 15 or 20 years? Just substitute Stereo for Wine and the shoe fits.

vinyl1's picture

Equipment quality seems to be getting better. Vinyl creation is going well. Music is still the king.

jhm3's picture

While there was a plethora of new equipment, more vinyl available and some really cost effective ways to enjoy music, we lost two major high-end retailers in the Atlanta area and that tempers our satisfaction with the year just past!

Bluesbob's picture

I got an ipod, now I'm waiting for a digital dock to arrive from Japan.
Plus, the new Maggies are out. I want a pair, but I don't know yet if it will be the 1.7's or 3.7's.
The only thing that makes it good but not great is the prices keep going up, up, up with most stuff. But the Maggies seem like a bargain.

Metalhead's picture

I submitted a good year for my pick based upon the number and quality of the vinyl re-issues I have purchased this year. I would have picked great if I could get some early Jethro Tull (Benefit) and some obscure others on vinyl.

I am already pretty much set on the equipment front but glad Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, Magnepan, and other great US companies are still producing wonderful gear. Also Rogue and Zu seem to have a great product/price performance ratio going on.

Lots of great new music if you search. Overall, a very good year.

neyropdolo's picture

Истинно свежая мыслишка промелькнула. Одобрям!

Ola Harstrom's picture



And it will continue for as long as the industry behaves like a "niche"and survives as one.

I am alone among my friends to have spent more on playback equipment than on my TV, and it has nothing to do with income, "loving music", convenience or the way we live our lives. 

I have yet to know a single case where the chain of people designing, building, selling and delivering really good audio equipment has done so in a way that would install confidence, trust and joy in anyone outside the hobby.

Most of the people I spend time with enjoy music as least as much as I do, and all of them comment on how much fun it is to listen to it in our home. But none of them could be bothered to go through the process of buying a system.

Perhaps time to wake up?