Will the era of downloads and streaming also lead to an audiophile resurgence?

Will the era of downloads and streaming also lead to an audiophile resurgence?
Yes, and here's why
57% (70 votes)
No, and here's why not
43% (53 votes)
Total votes: 123

Both the vinyl LP and digital CD formats and their players proved fertile ground for audiophile tinkering and paved the way for new companies and technological innovation. Will the era of downloads and streaming also lead to an audiophile resurgence?

xanthia01@gmail.com's picture

Of course it will, because new equipment is required (in the form of DACs and streaming equipment). This new and exciting hardware leads the resurgence.

Audio_newb's picture

This is a no-brainer as it's already here in several different forms. First, like in the video world, audio technology is becoming more digital than analog and is thus affected by Moore's Law and the insane pace of technological advance. This means everything from transmission standards (USB advances) to more powerful DSPs and more sensitive switching amplifiers. Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that higher quality (24/96 and up) downloads will continue to become more readily available. And while this trend will take a long time to reach the majority of recordings, it will hopefully lead to a refocus on the fidelity of the original master recording itself (a much more important improvement than end-user audiophile tinkering could ever hope to achieve).

CharlyD's picture

High-resolution audio digital downloads can deliver a significant step up in quality and convenience over LPs or CDs. Obtaining optimum performance out of a computer-based source, however, can be a complex task, and audiophiles taking this route are faced with the uncertainty of possible changes in the computer platforms they use. Microsoft and Apple could care less about the impact that audiophile use of their systems would have on their bottom line. The vendors need to start introducing products that will not require frequent updating and that can be run as appliances for years.

Dominique's picture

Better quality of reproduction, no more mechanical gear affected by vibrations, plus unmatched ease of use: a few TB on a hard drive instead of feet of shelves in the room!

Fernando Nogales's picture

The increases in hard-drive capacity and secure downloads already mean that there will no need to get compressed music for our high-end systems. We will inevitably have the latter for our iPods, but will insist on the real stuff for the living room experience. And wait for true audophile headphones to appear for the iPod walks.

dismord's picture

What percentage of audiophiles has access to cheap, bandwidth-unlimited broadband downloads? Until and unless all do, this revolution will be a slow starter. In my location in rural Australia, such downloads would overrun my monthly download allowance, costing me a fortune. More, in fact, than going out and buying the CDs, let alone SACDs. Besides, I'm addicted to packaging and can be found sniffing the liner notes of LPs when no one's looking, so I'm a hopeless case.

Prithviraj Vedpathak's picture

Take, for example, the Linn DS technology: It has changed the way we listen to music—it just sounds far better than the original CD. The FLAC files, played through a DS player, are sure very easy to use and better. But the LP still rules, come what may.

Antonio G.'s picture

Have a listen to a Linn DS solution and you will be convinced!

S.  Chapman's picture

No, and here are three reasons why not: 1) Audiophiles still like collecting and playing physical media too much; 2) Mainstream audiophile manufacturers can't keep up with the new kids on the block: Slim Devices/Logitech, Sonos, and Sooloos; and 3) It's not about iPod—.audiophiles still rail against iPods and manufacturers release iPod docks, but the real action in streaming media has moved well beyond that stage.

David's picture

People are into convenience and price for the most part. If iTunes was to offer 24/96 download at the right price, many people would pay for them, since hard drive space is less of a issue now.

T Smith's picture

Because I'm not the only one who loves vinyl!

Corbey's picture

No, because most of these products are still too difficult to set up and use for the average listener. You need to be able to set up and troubleshoot a wireless network, rip and tag CDs, back up and maintain your files, etc. Also, many of the products don't really fit into a two-channel audiophile system, and most of them would require an external DAC to meet audiophile standards. The Sooloos, for example, looks like an interesting gee-whiz product, but with its disc drives and LCD monitor, I really wouldn't want it sitting on the same rack as my turntable.

Andre''s picture

Access to better quality recordings which you can purchase by the song, if needed.

Walcascar's picture

Oh yeah. Try to buy a good USB DAC at a regular audio store. You'll probably have to wait for weeks—all sold out. Computer-based audio is the future.

Paul S.'s picture

About 99.9% of the population is perfectly happy with how their low bit-rate MP3s sound. Even older people. In their minds MP3s beat vinyl played back on cheap players or the cheesy 8-track tapes and cassettes of yesteryear (again played back on the cheap). It's sad, but low bit-rate MP3 is the new "audiophile resurgence" for the majority of population. As for the niche audiophile market, I don't see how downloading 1s and 0s is much different than playing them off a CD, so I don't think it will make a difference.

craig's picture

Quantity not quality is the goal. And further, many people cannot appreciate the difference between just acceptable sound and really good sound. What they seem to think is that louder means better. Have you been to the movies lately? That proves my point.

Mikael's picture

Digital media have endless possibilities. We ain't seen nothing yet! Imagine 50 channels streamed at thousands of kbps at 128-bit resolution. Analog probably has a limit. The digital limit is mostly theoretical!

Jimmy's picture

The RIAA & the major record companies will continue to frustrate consumers.

audio-sleuth@comcast.net's picture

No, just more wannabies and another freakin' format war. Only better sound is better, and better sound is what will save the High End. If it's not better than LPs, it's just going to be obsolete by the time it starts to sell. This is not the answer.

Nodaker's picture

I say yes, but likely only in the DAC and music server areas.

Pete's picture

It's only a minority of listeners who are saying they hear anything different comparing MP3s to lossless formats, so why expect they'll want anything better than improved earbuds for their iPods? The deafening effects of rock may have been genetically transmitted.

Johannes Turunen, Sweden's picture

The high-end audio industry has always tried to develop mainstream components into something more musical. So the story will definitively continue.

Louis P.'s picture

Having an entire collection on disk means running a small IT shop. That includes having a disaster recovery strategy, and migrating to a new computer every few years. Then there are hardware vendors that go out of business, software that goes off support (except that you need a new computer to support the current version). I do this stuff for a living. Audio is supposed to give me a break, not more of the same.

Alvaro Velasco's picture

If nothing else, because it goes with the times. IMO, new generations will more likely embrace music that is in a more recognizable and validated format, especially if it is also cheaper.

TweekGeek.com's picture

It's already here!

Will's picture

In spite of the vinyl resurgence, most (not all but most) younger generation music lovers prefer computer-based audio. As the audio companies (Linn, Naim, Meridian, and especially Wadia) provide high-quality digital, a substantial number will adopt these HQ downloads.

Tim K's picture

Current cultural trends favor quantity over quality. Ask 100 people under the age of 40 if they would rather have a cheap iPod with 10,000 MP3s or a nice CD player or DAC and 98 will choose the iPod—especially in a tight economy—because they feel they can get more music. When iPods can do hi-rez and the typical listener can hear the difference without paying $10k to get there, then we can talk.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

I might be wrong, but you have to: 1) really love music and 2) be exposed to the benefits of the high-end before you join in. I think some excellent digital/storage processing equipment will become available that will merge servers with systems, but I'm not sure that will lead to too many expensive purchases of ancilliary gear.

Christopher Martin's picture

Potentially better quality than CD,eg Linn Klimax DS and the new wave of DACs. As computer audio, it should be accessible to iPod kids.

Brankin's picture

Certainly! In many cases, it is the audiophile companies that take the mass market technology and make it listenable. Then the quick buck guys come in, talk a bunch of trash that become "the facts" and turn everything silly again. Then we argue about it in web forums.