Will high-resolution technical advancements finish high-end audio?

Will high-resolution technical advancements finish high-end audio?
Yes, and soon . . .
5% (7 votes)
Yes, but in the long term . . .
7% (10 votes)
Possibly . . .
9% (13 votes)
No, but it will change for the worse . . .
3% (4 votes)
No, it will get better . . .
42% (60 votes)
It's more complicated than that . . .
34% (48 votes)
Total votes: 142

Last week's "Soapbox" stirred up a hornet's nest of comments. Kevin Wilkinson postulated that high-resolution technical developments like DVD-Audio and SACD might spell doom for the High End. On the other hand, they could contribute to its rebirth. What do <I>you</I> think?

Andrew Johnson's picture

You can't really say that technical advancements will finish high-end audio! Just look at transistor amplifiers---they were supposed to (and did) cut down on distortion (a great technical advantage), but in the beginning they sounded awful. Even now, there are still plenty of tube amplifiers being developed. If transistors can't get rid of tubes, then DVDs and SACDs can't get rid of LPs. Although it will not be a rebirth. We'll inevitably see some monkeys turning higher-fidelity 2-channel into lower-fidelity 5-channel. If anything, it will cause a "birth" in surround-sound processors and, inevitably, home theater. RUN!

Justin Horvath's picture

When has technology EVER reached a peak?

Jeff Mulder's picture

As with the birth of CD, high end users were slow to realize it's potential, thinking that they're LP's were the only way to go when it came to HI-FI music reproduction. In the late 1990's though, CD has become a mainstay when it comes to recorded music. I believe that while audiophiles and the rest of the HI-Fi industry may be slow to embrace these new technologies, mainstream consumer electronics buyers will gobble DVD-Audio and SACD up, and eventually, so will we.

Tom McClure's picture

Speakers will take longer to replace than electronics.

I.H.  (Khorn) Zack's picture

Audio in the sense that we are discussing it can be likened to a chain. The consumer controls the last few links of that chain. Some consumers (audiophiles in this case) will always be willing to spend more time and money on components to attain higher-quality sound than the mass market. They therefore will end up with a superior end product; in this case, sound.

Tony Coughlin's picture

We are so very far from holographic sound capabilities. It will be many years of technocratic déjà vu all over again before we walk into the concert hall in our music rooms.

David Drew's picture

You could have made a similiar question with the introduction of CD. It has certainly helped high-end, but expansion of the user base.

Samir's picture

DVD-Audio and other digital improvements occur only at the source in our audio systems. Even if perfection can be achieved in the digital sources at a cheap price, this will remain far from true for the rest of the components. High-end is an art of details: cables, loudspeaker position, good amplification, etc. Digital is only one element of the story.

Greg Carlin's picture

It'll stay about the same.

Andrew Bacon's picture

I think it is all great for those of us already dedicated to a lifetime of the best we can get our hands on... For the new, green, and curious, it may just confuse...

W.  Earl Allen's picture

Like the Internet, general entertainment is becoming more visual. Strictly, AUDIOphiles will become an even smaller minority as digital bandwidth increases.

Todd R.'s picture

I'm sure any improvement would be great, but remember: CDs were supposed to be "perfect sound forever," and we've found out that wasn't true, didn't we?

ben tostenson's picture

If high quality front-end devices )such as DVD audio players) are available at reasonable prices it may force high end manufacturers to produce lower end devices. I don't see is having an impact on amps and speakers.

Gary's picture

DVD-Audio and SACD both represent significant advances with regard to the possibilities of reproduced sound. The High End will shine brighter than ever. Such systems will truly show the benefits of 24/96.

Gordon White's picture

Just as the compact disc brought more attention to the "quality" of sound (and thus high-end audio), so shall the higher-resolution DVD format(s).

Rob Davison's picture

There will always be audiophiles around whatever - my pick is growth from excellence - that's all part of the fun and challenge

Bill Bright's picture

Better performance isn't the only thing that drives high-end audio. Pride of ownership, exclusivity (I've got one and you don't), and just plain fun also enter into it. It may get much more difficult for the electronics people to survive, but the speaker world has a long way to go.

Ken kirkpatrick's picture

I have found that with really good high end stereo, the software is now the limiting factor. But, 24/96 or higher resolution software will most likely expose the limitations of many of these stereos. I think there will be a new drive to build even better speakers, preamps, amps, etc. that will take advantage of what this new software might offer.

Craig Copeland's picture

At a price, there will always be improvements available over the commonly available status quo, no matter how good the status quo gets. The question is how many will pay and how much will they be willing/able to pay for such improvements. There will probably always also be those willing to pay for things most can't afford, just to differentiate themselves from the crowd. So depending on how you define "High End," it would seem there would be a market for it well into the future.

Angel D W's picture

it would be wonderfulto be able to have uhjencoding frankly more bandwith and transient response one accomadates to

Jim Kain's picture

As long as there are people interested in high-end audio, there will be high-end audio. Even if major manufacturers were to suffer, smaller companies would keep up the market. It seems to me that more is going on today in high-end audio than ever. This interest in a wide variety of products and formats isn't going to just disappear.

Robert Borchert's picture

Digital technologies improve, but we are in an analog world. The High End will go through the same gyrations that the computer and photographic industries are currently experiencing. Of paramount importance to the stereophile industry is education: there is a generation of listeners out there who are missing the connection to the true bliss of serious audio. The CD, and a multitude of cheap, ever-improving recording methods, pose the threat of numbing us to the joys of real audio by presenting us with a convenient facsimile of the real thing. For example, how many kids out there have experienced a real jazz performance, a concerto, a soloist in an intimate club, or a symphony? Digital methods will indeed improve, but they will only continue to improve if there is a DEMAND for this improvement. DSP devices offer the possibility of re-creating the original performance, but unless our minds have the real thing as a reference, the fuzzy world of digital doctoring can be a real threat indeed.

Mark Landy's picture

People still need hobbies and will seek them out.

Ross Alderman's picture

This is just the shot in the arm that the High End needs. Look how CD has been developed; I sure implementation of the new formats will follow a similar path.

Peter Kaluba's picture

The public majority would not notice any difference between 24-bit and 16-bit due to the playback systems they use. The CD/DVD playback system is the secret to maintaining the high-end status.

Marc Phillips's picture

I think the trick here is to "keep it simple." As I sit at home and listen to LPs played through my brand-new Rega Planar 25, I could really care less about DVD-Audio or SACD. As long as audiophiles remember that it's about the music, I think that new technological developments will grow increasingly more meaningless.

Dana Alan's picture

As long as high-end audiophiles go on believing there are differences, then the high-end industry will continue to exist---real differences or not be damned.

Paul Foley, Whiteman AFB, MO's picture

It all depends on how the high-end companies handle it. High-resolution devices will bring new opportunities to tweak components or a system, and there will always be people to buy them. The world of the audiophile is small and getting smaller. I believe the High End must find new ways to sell its products to the public at a reasonable price. Sure, they will be able to sell the $20,000 component, but they won't be able to get the market share that they will need to survive. The average person is not going to pay $3000 or more for each component to build a system; their pockets are not that deep, and high-end audio needs that broader base. Some firms are going the direct-sales-to-the-public approach. This is a value-added method for the consumer to get a good component so they can build a system at a fair and affordable price. High prices are making high-end audio irrelevant, not the technology.

Janne Kuikanmaki's picture

. . . for us, who care about sound quality. By the time CDs were introduced, every audiophile damned these digital discs to hell, but soon, one after another, they have given up on it and admitted that, in the long term, it appeared to be a very good invention. Of course, there will be (and there already is) some so-called "hi-fi" equipment for these people who think that watts speak everything and not the quality. What I'm trying to say here is that, of course, there will be more of this pop hi-fi stuff and crappy home-theater systems, but allways there has been and always will be a good range of quality for the people who appreciate the sound and are ready to do serious sacrifices to get it. Thanks you and excuse my bad English, since I live in Finland and I'm still working on it!

Vernon Neal's picture

It is all a scam just to get everyone to purchase new equipment. I wish CD was never invented,although I listen to CDs 10 to 1 over LPs.