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back to article Say goodbye to the noughties: Yesterday’s hi-fi biz is BUSTED, bro

In case you hadn’t heard, someone has ripped up your pappy’s hi-fi handbook. Seismic shifts in just about every area of music technology have fundamentally changed the way we use home entertainment. Kenwood vintage hi-fi separates from 1976 Kenwood audio from 1976: traditionally separates would be swapped out over time but is …

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Stop

Sigh,,,

CD player, DTT receiver, amplifier, two speakers.

Sorted.

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Meh

Re: Sigh,,,

CD player, DTT receiver, amplifier, two speakers.

I ditched the CD player a long time ago when I bought my Slim Devices Squeezebox but otherwise, I agree. Multi-room doesn't make much sense to me. I only have one living space and frankly the music travels from there into the bedrooms fairly well anyway since it's a typical modern house. Squeezebox does offer some kind of synchronisation through the server so I could do multi-room that way (I have two of them) but have never bothered.

My SB3 is in the study for when I work from home. The Touch is the primary player for the living room.

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Re: Sigh,,,

Room casting kit is just so damned expensive at the moment I've got..

In the TV room a new soundbar with Bluetooth replacing a monster 5.1 theatre system that if I ever turned it up full would need the ceiling replastering..

In the kitchen a cheap Bush DAB\CD player with Bluetooth

Out back in the conservatory a small samsung hi\fi that also plays DVDs DAB with Bluetooth,

and for 'roaming' a Tesco special Bluetooth portable speaker. It cost a tenth the price of a jawbone and is much more than half as good.

The really useful bit is the Bluetooth everywhere for Internet-Radio\Podcasts\Spotify of my tablet or phone. The next gadget is a bluetooth->headphone adapter to enjoy stuff while I'm walking the dog..

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FAIL

Re: Sigh,,,

I bet Logitech are very glad they were intelligent enough to get out of this dying market!* (I have 10 squeezeboxes, and they still delight me, most days)

* actually, I don't think they even realise that they were in it, nor that they got out of it. Seems to have management that's on another planet to the rest of the company. Huge shame.

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Unhappy

Re: Sigh,,,

Logitech. Le sigh. Le BIG sigh.

MX 700. The best mouse I've ever owned. Wireless, rechargeable and takes two AAs so when the batteries finally give out you..just..buy..new ones. Discontinued.

Harmony One. Best remote I've ever owned. First one sucumbed to budgie excrement. Second was v2. Charge doesn't last as long. Ironically it goes to sleep to conserve power and has to be shaken awake before use. Discontinued.

Squeezebox. Discontinued.

Such a shame indeed :(

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Re: Sigh,,,

Squeezebox user here too... SB2 in the office, and a Touch in the livingroom, mainly bought because unlike the SB2 it'll accept 192k/24bit data.

I'm baffled by the point the author's trying to makie in this article, though. There's nothing here that "traditional" hi-fi didn't offer before (even multi-room); all that has changed is the length of the analogue path. Before, conversion was done centrally, and distribution was analogue high-current to passive speakers, now the "speakers" are actually receivers with DAC, amp and transducer all in one.

Also, the source end of things has been declining. AptX is a good codec... for portable speakers used for casual listening, but it's not exactly "high fidelity"..

Separates remains the best way to get the best sound (best being the sound that fits with your living space), but you need to buy carefully, and use your ears, not your reading eyes.

And if the author baulks at €1100 for a pair of headphones, he should stay away from Stax's line of electrostatic headphones (Stax.co.jp).

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Re: Sigh,,,

I recently had my MX1000 Laser Mouse die after 12-14 years of continuous use. I had even replaced the rechargeable battery once. For me, that was the best mouse I had ever used. I am now using a Logitech Performance MX. While it has all the same functionality and then some, it still doesn't feel right. The tilt wheel doesn't move side to side like I want it to.

Le Sigh indeed.

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Re: Sigh,,,

I know this is probably sacrilege but I got a Logitech G9X laser myself and though pricey when I bought it I adore the thing still. Originally I got it for gaming but after deciding I should stick to console gaming to keep from embarrassing myself I still don't regret buying it, so I understand the love. A mouse like a comforter IMHO is not something to go el cheapo with. You will appreciate it everyday if you don't.

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Re: Sigh,,,

Sigh indeed.

Sonos make great stuff but the flexibility of those Squeezebox units is unparalleled. You've got IR remote, front-panel control (for the Boom and Touch) and wireless via any number of options, like tablets, phones or PCs/laptops. As you can control them via telnet directly or HTTP commands through the server, you can even write custom interfaces with very little work.

You can also control one unit from another, allowing me to go from the kitchen (Boom) to the bedroom (Touch), sync the playlist and then tun off the kitchen player - without needing to use a phone as the remote.

Little bit more restricted with the alternative systems!

And none of this is really a big change, anyway.

You still have music coming from one or more sources, piped to an amplifier and then to speakers. The only real change with much of this is that the amplifier is inside the speaker enclosure, which is really not that odd at all, or even that new.

What has happened is that all the technology has progressed to a point where all-in-one streaming systems are now small and affordable. And that's excellent - really. The only important measure of a music system is how much enjoyment it brings you and these systems are just great fun (once setup!).

For some people, though, their enjoyment comes from a more traditional setup - sometimes born from the pursuit of ultimate sound quality, other times simply because they love having quality, well made gear. Music is an emotional experience and the method and process of playing it should not be discounted.

I have both - a quality, separates, system in the lounge fed by a CD player but also with a SB connected up and streaming through the house. Sometimes it's a random-all selection on the SB, other times it's a full run through a CD, chosen after many minutes of consideration, and listened to in a darkened room, positioned on the couch dead-centre for best imaging.

The point is that these systems don't replace 'real' hifi systems - they compliment them. If they replace anything, it's more likely they replace the lower-end all-in-one systems and cheap micros that people without audiophile leanings buy.

Sonos knows this, which is why they offer their other units to connect to existing systems as another source.

The only thing missing from the Sonos range is a battery-powered option. There wasn't one in the Squeezebox line either but I get around it by using SqueezePlayer on a phone piped to a Bluetooth speaker. The 'walled garden' the is Sonos offers good consistency and quality but means you've got to wait until they decide to implement a function or fill a need.

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You can pick up a replacement battery for a fiver on Amazon

which restored 'harmony' in my house...*hangs head*

Still Logitech have massively slid over the last couple of years. Recently had a paid of Ultimate Ears 900s (sound wonderful, fall apart soon as look at them) pack up on me. Logitech's warranty was previously a joyful experience (rep phoning me up the next day to check I was still happy with a setup issue I had with my first Harmony).

Now - I'm sorry, we can't honour any claim made on goods bought via ebay, where I'd brought brand-new and sealed etc. On the bright side Squaretrade were great.

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WTF?

They want how much?

I'm not surprised at the age range of a typical multi room user. Look at how much all this stuff costs, setting up a Sonos system is damn expensive for a bunch of speakers with networking.

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Re: They want how much?

Multi-room can be pretty cheap, at least in most of the US. Don't know how UK law would treat this solution.

$80 to connect a decent low-power FM transmitter like the FS CZH-05B tuned to a locally-unused frequency to a PC (I dedicate an old refurb PC that uses my living-room TV as a monitor), and whatever you want to spend for whatever FM receiver you want for every room you want to cover. With a couple of remote-control apps on my smartphone I can control the PC from anywhere in the house.

I've got an inexpensive stereo receiver and some 70's vintage Marantz speakers in the bedroom, a couple of Sangean WR-11 radios (again, $80 a pop) in smaller rooms where I care about the audio quality and some 70's vintage garage sale radios where I don't particularly. Works great. I added a cheap Sony Bluetooth receiver (from the Bluetooth Headset SBH20B kit) to the PC so I can stream from my smartphone if I want to. Not what you'd want to use for critical listening (I have that kit in the living room, and it can play a different source from the PC or the same source, as I choose, so I have essentially a two-zone system), but for MP3s and streaming audio apps, what more do you need?

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Re: They want how much?

FM? To transmit audio in any sort of decent quality? Are you serious? It's maybe not as bad as just turning the music up louder so you can still hear it through the walls, but not much better.

There are a lot of ways that multi-room audio can be done on the cheap - this ain't one I'd like to use though.

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Old Skool FTW

I think I'll stick with playing with my NADs, thank you.

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Coat

Re: Old Skool FTW

Yeah, Go NADS!

Sorry...

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This new stuff looks boring

Needs a LOT more knobs to tweak, flashing lights etc.

An app on a smartphone just doesn't cut it.

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Re: This new stuff looks boring

I thought the number of knobs and flashing lights on hi-fi equipment was inversely proportional to the audio quality.

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Boffin

@ Simon Harris - Re: This new stuff looks boring

The formula you're looking for is QS = (PxW)/(NB x LOC), where QS is Quality of Sound, P is price paid, W is weight, NB is number of control elements on the front panel and LOC is Lines of Code of any Software used to control the unit.

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Re: This new stuff looks boring

Pretty much. And it's distracting, too.

A single LED - to indicate its power status - should be quite sufficient.

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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

"The formula you're looking for is QS = (PxW)/(NB x LOC)"

You need an exponent in there somewhere, and I'd suggest it must involve brand. As in all techy male interest fields, brand is everything. Audiophile sound quality is no different. Sony can make things as heavy, costly and button free as they like, and it'll never cut the mustard. On the other hand Mark Levinson could rebadge a Raspberry Pi and the true believers would worship it as the second coming.

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MJI
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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

Brands would be interesting Bose as an example, most people would rate as shite, some as wonderful. I am of the opinion of marketing over technology.

As to weight, I need to replace my receiver some time, saw one in a Sony centre - first test, lift it up was it heavy. (it was)

Only other AV stuff locally shops have gone bump, or stuff is cheap shit, or there was a Bose in above Sony centre.

Can't find any other branded AV kit locally any more, No Pioneer nor Denon.

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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

"As to weight, I need to replace my receiver some time, saw one in a Sony centre - first test, lift it up was it heavy. (it was)"

My mention of Sony wasn't really about my own opinion, mainly about the "audiophile" acceptance. I have a very heavy (if now rather old) Sony receiver for surround sound - works and sounds fine in that context, and at volume you can feel the subwoofer a hundred yards from the house, but there's far too much trickery and multipurpose compromises in there to trust it driving the electrostatics for real music. Electrostatics in any event have quite a tricky load for amps designed for cone speakers, but I'm sure I'd stick with a dedicated stereo amp even if I were just listening on a pair of LS3/5a.

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Unhappy

@ unwarranted triumphalism - Re: This new stuff looks boring

While you have a point, I loved the VU meter on the front of my Pioneer M90; sounded rather nice with a pair of Pilot ST 505's (had to sell it due to move - sniff).

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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

Sony's ES (TAN77, great speaker control) series amps used to be rather good, even for audiophile ears.

And yes, Bose is the Marmite of HiFi.

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Meh

Re: This new stuff looks boring

A single LED - to indicate its power status - should be quite sufficient.

For a home theatre system there needs to be something to indicate the source format, but otherwise I agree.

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MJI
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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

I know exactly what you mean.

I buy by quality & price.

I use my DVD player as a music source as it is the best I have. It plays CD, SACD, and DVD-A, so I am sorted. Pioneer as well!

I have an old 5.1 Sony receiver, is very good but getting input issues (not enough), finding something similar but newer is no picnic.

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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

I've just calculated that an ancient Garrard deck with a crystal transducer coupled to a valve amplifier driving a pair of 1960s Wharfedale speakers, with no preamplifier to give toner or volume controls, has NaN quality of sound. If you add an on/off switch, it's still a very big number indeed.

I think this formula needs some work.

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Re: @ MJI 'Sony stuff is heavy'

Sony are known for putting lead weights in their products...

I agree, good kit is usually made out of solid and good materials (thus usually heavy unless your using aluminium of similar :P ). But some go way out of their way to confuse customers. :(

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Re: This new stuff looks boring

You forgot to mention it should be a blue LED; red LEDs are so last millennium!

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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

I have an old 5.1 Sony receiver, is very good but getting input issues (not enough), finding something similar but newer is no picnic...

The only new you need is a good soldering iron if you don't have one already...

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Re: This new stuff looks boring

Arcam Alpha 2. That is all.

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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

You wouldn't happen to mean the trusty wharfedale Linton 3XP's would you

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MJI
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Re: @ MJI 'Sony stuff is heavy' Lead Weights

I have been inside some of these things and there are no lead weights, aluminium chassis, heavy power supplies, decent heat sinks, all weigh.

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MJI
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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring (Soldering iron)

Not to add HDMI switching, That is what I really need!

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Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring (Soldering iron)

I have an Onkyo 507. Not top of their line but pretty good and great for the price at the time. It has four HDMI inputs and as of last month I'm using them all. Luckily you can modify input assignments so now I have DVD/BD, Cbl/Sat, VCR (actually my Freesat box) and Port for my media server. I have one optical in for my Sky HD box (they didn't used to support 5.1 over HDMI) and the other for my Freesat box (same problem I think) with my Squeezebox Touch feeding in through coax digital.

When I first got my PS3 it sometimes didn't sync video and needed restarting but a firmware to the PS3 eventually fixed that.

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Hi-Fi

So in summary, the Kellog loudspeaker continues happily after over 100 years and into the foreseeable future.

The solid state amplifier continues happily after 50 years and into the foreseeable future.

The 16 bit CD still wears the crown after 30 years and into the foreseeable future. Many people now copy the data to other places too.

Oh and at a recent publicity event, Dennon announced it now offers a range of non-hifi items which may nonetheless make interesting additions to your home AV environment, and interface well with modern non hi-fi services to which many happily subscribe.

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Re: Hi-Fi

It's all true.

Though I could see changes to speakers at some points. There are some really interesting ways to generate sound in the natural world. Insects for instance can out roar a lion at times. :)

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hi-res audio bullshit

I'm royally sick of this hi-res audio crap that manufacturers are now flogging - and "audiophiles" are buying into . As has been discussed in these pages previously, the science *proves* that as a *playback* format 16 bit 44.1kHz can't be improved upon. "Hi-res" audio belongs solely in the studio, not in the home.

Fuck these people. If you want to listen to great-sounding music, badger the studios to engineer their recordings properly, shoot anyone who insists on compressing the shit out of the master to make it sound louder, buy some half-decent speakers and ignore the snake oil.

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Happy

"If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

To be honest, if you want to listen to truly great sounding music go and see it live! You get the buzz of seeing it performed right there in front of you, and the quality of modern PA systems is pretty much hi-fi nowadays... but with MUCH better subs than anything you'll get in your living room!

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Happy

Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

But unless you have teenagers, the queue for the bathroom is usually longer at a live show!

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Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

There is a problem with that - concert halls with good acoustics are few and far between.

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Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

"There is a problem with that - concert halls with good acoustics are few and far between."

I didn't notice that problem at the Upton Jazz Festival, where people were making and enjoying good music in tents, in the street, in pubs, on boats, and even under a road bridge. Admittedly you'd struggle with a string ensemble or full concert orchestra outside of a decent hall, but the large orchestras seem to have that sorted.

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Re: hi-res audio bullshit

Agreed - these 24-bit/192khz systems are targeted at the same people who buy 500 megapixel cameras and 30 speed bicycles.

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Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

For any reasonably sane person, live music necessitates earplugs, which pretty much immediately destroys any possibility of sound quality.

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Re: hi-res audio bullshit

>Agreed - these 24-bit/192khz systems are targeted at the same people who buy 500 megapixel cameras and 30 speed bicycles.

And professional producers and engineers, *none* of whom use 16/44.1 at work.

But what do they know, eh?

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Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

That's so true. This was really brought home to me recently when I heard a local orchestra play Ligeti's Concert Românesc. No recording I can find of it does justice to the rich harmonic content of the fourth movement. There is so much music, especially in the modern classical idiom, for which this is the case.

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Re: hi-res audio bullshit

" As has been discussed in these pages previously, the science *proves* that as a *playback* format 16 bit 44.1kHz can't be improved upon. "Hi-res" audio belongs solely in the studio, not in the home."

Nyquist theorum is good for reresenting analogue signals, but if phase representation is critical then it has problems above a single n/4 stage (which would put the cutoff at 11kHz)

After a few stages of that, phasing can become rather bothersome. 16bit 44.1kHz is (mostly) good as an end-format(*) but not for recording/mixing, etc.

(*) The encoding system on CDs is hugely inefficient, but that's a result of its 40-year-old design heritage. Having said that there were simple compression algorihms available even in 1980 which would have worked on the available hardware.

There's a shedload of wanking on about how XYZ amp or preamp sounds better than ABC, but what makes more difference than everything else put together is the quality of the speakers. When "acceptable" speakers have 30-40% Total Harmonic Distortion and "Good" ones still have 10%, every other distortion of the original signal introduced along the chain is of virtually no consequence.

I like LPs for their sound but I have no illusions that they're "hi fidelity", given the amount of preprocessing that has to go into the chain in order to get any kind of acceptable output, plus there's the small matter of variable distortion across the record introduced by the changing angle of the tonearm to the record as it tracks which can only be eliminated with a linear slider (most implementations of which are utter crap) or a 2 metre long tonearm - which would introduce its own sets of problems by acting as a sounding board for any audio source in the room. It's bad enough keeping most setups acoustically under control at highish listening volumes - speaker vibrations do feed back into the tonearm unless they are in seperate _well_isolated_ rooms

Phase reproduction is more important than people give credit for, but every aspect of speaker design is a compromise - and besides - at the end of the day, the human ear is vastly non-linear and there's a surprisingly large amount of processing going on between the ears that allows suboptimal noise to be interpreted as music. I've only ever heard a couple of systems which I could honestly describe as "just like being there", even in high end studios, but I've heard a lot of systems which are good enough to listen to most music on and a lot more which are "good enough for background burble".

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Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

"There is a problem with that - concert halls with good acoustics are few and far between."

Good musicians adjust their performance to cater for the poor acoustics. I know because I've watched (listened to) them do it.

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Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

You can buy musician's earplugs like Etymotics to reduce sound levels without altering the frequency response.

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Re: hi-res audio bullshit

>but what makes more difference than everything else put together is the quality of the speakers.

Would have to disagree, particularly if the source is digital; the Digital-to-Analogue-Convertor (DAC) makes a huge difference to the sound (although audiophiles who are good with a soldering iron will also make some other associated component changes to a top end deck, which together take the sound output to another level. But yes having made the effort why would you use cheap speakers...

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