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 …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Stop

    Sigh,,,

    CD player, DTT receiver, amplifier, two speakers.

    Sorted.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      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.

      1. kmac499

        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..

      2. tin 2
        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.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          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 :(

          1. Kristian Walsh

            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).

          2. cswright

            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.

            1. asdf Silver badge

              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.

          3. goldcd

            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.

      3. dan1980

        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.

  2. hokum
    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.

    1. Tom Betz

      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?

      1. DanDanDan

        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.

  3. 45RPM Silver badge

    Old Skool FTW

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

    1. A Twig
      Coat

      Re: Old Skool FTW

      Yeah, Go NADS!

      Sorry...

  4. Roger Greenwood

    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.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      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.

      1. andreas koch
        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          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.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            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.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              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.

              1. andreas koch
                Thumb Up

                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.

              2. MJI Silver badge

                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.

                1. J__M__M

                  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...

                  1. MJI Silver badge

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

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

                    1. AndrueC Silver badge
                      Thumb Up

                      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.

            2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

              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. :(

              1. MJI Silver badge

                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.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          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.

          1. Jess--

            Re: @ Simon Harris - This new stuff looks boring

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

      2. unwarranted triumphalism

        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.

        1. andreas koch
          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).

        2. AndrueC Silver badge
          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.

        3. Anonymous Blowhard

          Re: This new stuff looks boring

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

        4. AlexS

          Re: This new stuff looks boring

          Arcam Alpha 2. That is all.

  5. Jim 59

    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.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      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. :)

  6. jonathan keith

    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.

    1. NogginTheNog
      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!

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        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!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          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.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          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.

      3. intrigid

        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.

        1. Fazal Majid

          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.

          1. AlexS

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

            Classy earplugs? That would not be as the artist intended. Most of them are deaf already.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: " live music necessitates earplugs"

          Not so - I've been to several gigs in the past couple of years where the volume has been quite acceptable (something I'm personally conscious of since developing mild tinnitus from too many loud gigs in my yoof!). Of course it depends who you go and see, but my experience suggests plenty of the shall-we-say more mature artists seem to be preferring quality over volume in their live performances.

          I think it also comes down to the monitoring used by the performers: in-ears allow the overall onstage volume to be much lower, meaning the front-of-house system has a lot less to compete with.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: " live music necessitates earplugs"

            "Not so - I've been to several gigs in the past couple of years where the volume has been quite acceptable (something I'm personally conscious of since developing mild tinnitus from too many loud gigs in my yoof!)."

            No, it's because your deaf mate, courtesy of those thrash metal gigs.

      4. Tom Betz

        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.

    2. intrigid

      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.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        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?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: hi-res audio bullshit

        So why do they use them in recording studios?

        Oh yes, head room, dynamic range and less issues with quantisation when processing the signal.

        Harmonics are also a factor.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      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".

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        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...

      2. Jim 59

        Re: hi-res audio bullshit

        The source was pretty much perfected in the mid 80s with the advent of CD. My lovely Goldring-Lenco turntable, though infinitely more graceful than a CD player, changed overnight from being a piece of state-of-the-art engineering, into being merely a thing of beauty.

        The amplification problem was pretty much solved in the 60s with solid state amps. The early designs were poor, but once they got it right, there wasn't much more audible improvment to be made.

        The speaker has long been the bottleneck. And it is likely to remain so, when you think of all the dirty reality it has to deal with. As a rule of thumb, for the most natural sound, buy the biggest loudspeakers you (and your family) can tolerate.

        1. Dave Bell

          Re: hi-res audio bullshit

          Valve or solid state, the problem when they're in the mass-market is poor design, and some elements of that aren't the same as cheap design. And since the speakers add far more bad things than a good amplifier does, that's the place that rewards careful thought.

          Some things, like soundbars, can be an easy upgrade. The speakers built into a TV can, for various reasons, be not very good. There are better answers. Much better.

          There's a bit too much fashion in some of the stuff people are swooning over, there always has been.There's a place for a Bluetooth connection, but some things sound more than a little silly. It's fashion.

    4. simonb_london

      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."

      As with most science, there is always a possibility that there is more than meets the eye, or in this case ear...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultrasonic_hearing

      Enjoy!

  7. Simon Harris Silver badge

    "traditionally separates would be swapped out over time"

    I can't be very traditional then - original turntable and speakers still going strong after 31 years, original CD player still fine after 27 years. Things have got added, but the only thing swapped out was an amp that went bad.

  8. James Boag

    RE traditionally separates would be swapped out over time

    When amps go bad, Did it start playing Justin Beeber ?

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: RE traditionally separates would be swapped out over time

      Fortunately not, although the amp I replaced it with is about the same age as him.

      1. Fihart

        Re: RE traditionally separates would be swapped out over time

        Good point Simon Harris. The 70s Kenwood stuff in the pic may still be working somewhere and much of it sounding good.

        My personal best for an old amp is a US spec (110 v) Kenwood budget model found in a car boot a couple of years ago. I remember this model's Trio (UK) equivalent belonging to a friend in the mid seventies when it was already a few years old.

        Car boot find works perfectly after cleaning some switches -- it was low spec (15 watts ?) bottom of the range kit so never sounded the bees knees but it's acceptable. Particularly like the fake wood printed steel case and champagne coloured alloy fascia.

        Presently listening to impressive 1980s Quad 405 Mk 2 and preamp, elderly Marantz CD player and 1970s B&W DM2s -- some found in charity shops and dumped in street.

        I have no reason to change that system.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: RE traditionally separates would be swapped out over time

          Nowadays, charity shops in the UK normally won't accept electrical items, which means that it gets taken to the tip more often than not.

          I'd love to know where to get a pair of Quad 405's in a charity shop or dumped on the street!

          All my kit was bought new, with the exception of the NAD 7020 which I bought on Ebay.

          Project Debut II, NAD 7020, Kesonic Kubs, JVC KD720 tape deck, and some anonymous Technics CD player that I can't remember the model number. All budget kit, but still quite acceptable. Mainly used to play vinyl.

          (If I got a set of Quads, I'd definitely have to replace the amp!)

  9. Matt_payne666

    All this wireless Bluetooth stuff is fine... but there is certainly a need for real audio equipment..

    A nicely setup home AV system does not benift from being wireless less regs needed for burying cable in walls and under floors, once its setup its there... the current trendy stuff also has a distant lack of inputs... I've only ever really seen one or two, and currently 6 switched HDMI sockets are not enough on my big THX AV amp......

    1. MJI Silver badge

      I need HDMI switching, hence my looking at new receivers.

      Got 4 already and liable to go to 5 quite soon.

      Getting surround sound out to the receiver is currently a pain, using both optical and coax on DVD input, TV input goes through a horrible looking optical switch.

  10. oblivion
    Meh

    Why bother?

    Like most people who are not just starting out, I have accumulated components over the last decade or two. If I was furnishing a new "media room", I might bite and get a Sonos or similar. But I have 4 really good sounding speakers that I've had for years, and just upgraded my receiver a couple of years ago with an Onkyo unit that looks "traditional", but offers streaming audio from a multitude of services, DLNA (over my home network, not Bluetooth), HDMI source switching, USB, and optical inputs. It does what I want, sounds decent, and doesn't tie up bandwidth on my WIFI to interface with its other components or add yet another set of signals to the already cluttered local airwaves. My only complaint is that I have to use Ethernet to connect it, but this isn't a big deal to me. (the manufacturer's proprietary WIFI adapter is crap) I don't mind a few wires around. I hook up equipment with cables and they're "paired" and not likely to require troubleshooting very often, if at all.

    While I appreciate Bluetooth and other modern technologies (and I should, as I work in the tech sector), when I see someone vainly struggling to get their phone, etc. to pair with some other piece of kit that is incommunicado, I'm reminded of old movies where someone is frantically trying to hand crank a stalled Model T to life. For all the progress we've made with computing and networking, I still sometimes feel that we're where the auto industry was about 50 years ago in sophistication and reliability. Sorry for the rant, but the nice thing about "traditional" audio kit is it "just works".

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Why bother?

      I have a little 4 port ethernet hub under the TV and all ports are now full, I think a 6 port next.

  11. RonWheeler

    Meh

    Spotify from line out PC to back of 20 year old amp and 35 year old speakers. Sorted. All this other stuff - poorer quality sound for big money? No thanks.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: Meh

      I've got all my stuff on flac, played by Foobar out through USB into a MusicSreamer II DAC and into an 1980s Mission Cyrus II amp (with matching power supply) over van Damme cabling then out into a coule of half-decent Whardales (again VD cabling) and it sounds good even though the speakers will be upgraded later when I can find a nice cheap pair of Rogers speakers.

  12. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Marketing driven, not technologically

    Streaming

    Multi-room

    "Compact" speakers and "soundbars"

    Blue-Tooth interfaces

    The picture is clear - the target audience are people for whom an audio system is needed primarily as a source of background ambient noise or guest entertainment.

    Their perception of audio quality will be determined by how loud the sound can be and how much bass they can squeeze out of it. The convenience of putting on a randomised track-list and forgetting about it would be more important than any audio quality consideration.

    That does not mean that all these "innovations" and "soundbars" represent any advancement in the technology of audio reproduction, in fact, it's quite the opposite, sound-wise. It is just aimed at people whose priorities lie in something other than the quality of the sound.

    This is as old as the world, actually. Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Jamo - they were in this market for a long long time. They are helped by "genres" like rap, dubstep, house etc where the less fidelity your system has the better they sound.

  13. Truth4u

    multiroom

    you can usually do this with 2 speakers by turning them louder

    1. Jon Double Nice

      Re: multiroom

      This actually works very well. When I were lad I actually had a 'multihouse' system which my neighbours didn't really seem to appreciate quite as much as I did.

  14. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    They sell this as an improvement?

    I think I'll be sticking with my late-1970s homebrewed four push-pull ultralinear KT66s feeding similar-era battered-but-heavy homebrewed speakers made from inch-thick MDF [I hand-wound the coils in the crossovers, measuring and matching the resultant inductances and capacitances to within 0.1% in the University physics lab], and my mid-1990s Philips CD-player, if you don't mind.

    No "oxygen-free copper, directioonal" speaker-cables for me either - I find 4mm twin&earth mains-cable works just fine.

    [Now, if someone could find me a pair of Quad electrostatics at a sane price....]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They sell this as an improvement?

      "[Now, if someone could find me a pair of Quad electrostatics at a sane price....]"

      Depends where you live. In the UK your best bet is to buy an unrefurbished pair of Quad 57s on Ebay, and then take then to One Thing Audio in Coventry. The speakers should set you back about £600 for average condition. New electrics, new treble panels, clean & test, plus refurb and repaint of the grilles will be about £650, and a pair of proper stands will be another £200. They'll even do grilles in a range of fancy paint or cloth colours if you're into fashion statements.

      I inherited a 40 year old pair of 57s in rather poor nick, had One Thing work their magic, and they now look and sound the dogs nads. If you want 63s or later the same route of buy secondhand and refurb makes sense, but the costs of refurb rise significantly because you've got more treble panels.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You'll have to speak up!

    I doubt they'll be much of a market for audio equipment for people over 30 soon, most of them will be deaf by then judging by how loud they play their MP3 players. I've still got my 8000A amp, transmission line speakers, SL1200 and 3 head cassette deck - haven't used it for 10+ years....

    1. Just Enough

      Re: You'll have to speak up!

      The next big leap in hifi will be injecting "sound" directly as electrical current into your brain, bypassing the ears completely.

      It will remove at a stroke all the hassles of acoustics, hearing loss and fidelity. Although I'm sure someone, somewhere will be selling gold plated vinyl earplugs to mugs, proven to improve the quality of the music in your head by eliminating cross contamination with a truer analogue wave form.

      1. Truth4u

        Re: You'll have to speak up!

        The deaf can already benefit from Cochlear implants whereby the signal from a microphone is amplified and sent to an electrode by a nerve in the Cochlear. It works.

        Trouble is, microphones work very differently to the human ear, which is really quite an intricate organ. And so what you hear is recognisable but very different, music sounds crappier, but you can hear and understand speech, which is the point of these devices.

        Sound engineers put a lot of effort into choosing and setting up microphones to record different material, with this hearing aid system, you are essentially condemned to compromise with a single small microphone. Maybe a direct injection of source material could work better, but then quality is all about inexact things like where you place the electrode, maybe more than one would be better? Or worse? Maybe you could do everything with one by modulating the signal somehow? Someone might be researching this, hopefully they are but it will take decades.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You'll have to speak up!

        "bypassing the ears completely."

        Well, that would certainly remove the major source of sound imperfection, irrespective of the price of the audio kit creating the sound. The ear is appallingly non-linear...

  16. Roger Varley

    Not another latest and greatest

    You can replace my 12 yr old Denon seperates when you can prize them out of my cold, dead fingers.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Not another latest and greatest

      You can replace my 12 yr old Denon seperates when you can prize them out of my cold, dead fingers.

      That was exactly what I was about to post.

      I love my AVC-A1D despite the increasing awkwardness of it not having HDMI. Coupled with CLD-D925 its pure movie bliss especially with DTS soundtrack. And it is just as equally at home with music.

    2. AOD

      Re: Not another latest and greatest

      I wish my last Denon separates had lasted 12yrs plus.

      Our supposed reference grade DVD-3930 player curled up its toes after less than 3 years due to a crapped out laser. Bear in mind that this puppy was retailing for £1,000 when it launched (we didn't pay anything like that when we purchased it in 2007) and it lived in a dedicated equipment cabinet so overheating shouldn't have been an issue. Can you imagine how I would have felt if I'd been spanked for the full price for one of these?

      More recently, our SR7002 AV amp from Marantz (another part of the Denon empire) died having reached the grand old age of 6 years old. Not that impressive as again the unit was well looked after and also kept in an cabinet away from tiny fingers etc). It didn't get a huge amount of use and when looking for a replacement, I studiously avoided any Denon/Marantz offerings and went straight for a Yamaha instead.

      The fact that Yamaha will back their stuff up with a 3 year warranty speaks volumes for their faith in the kit. Sure some other brands go even further (eg Bryston will warranty for 20 years), but those items usually carry genuinely eye watering price tags.

      In terms of the whole hi fi busted lark, at the end of the day, it's up to the individual how they spend their money. If you can hear a difference and can afford it, then by all means. If you can't hear a difference, then why bother spending the extra?

  17. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    It's wonderful...

    It's wonderful that speakers and headphones are now utterly and absolutely perfect. Engineering attention can now be turned to addressing the other major flaws in the system, such as nanoseconds of 'Jitter' in the D/A's clock.

    ;-)

  18. Cynical Observer
    WTF?

    The benefit of being slightly tone deaf?

    A wallet/Credit card that suffers far less abuse.

    Will admit - I just don't get the fascination with uber expensive audio kit!

    Sometimes it is easier (cheaper) to just "make do" with something that still allows one to enjoy the music/artist and not get so wound up in determining if the sound has been clipped/distorted in one of the many rooms that it could be conceivably be piped into.

    ...... Unless it has a volume knob that goes to 11 - then I might just be tempted :-)

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: The benefit of being slightly tone deaf?

      I'm inclined to agree, though I put my limits down to age and Massey-Ferguson. But a decent amp and speakers makes a difference I can still hear, and that is what matters. I don't want to throw money at the problems without thinking, but I can hear the difference spending a few quid more on the speakers can make.

      Some of the stuff they're selling these days is a rip-off. Like everything, the bottom end of the price range has to be almost zero-cost to cover the sales and distribution cost and leave a profit. I'd like some of my money to be spent on my ears.

  19. Suricou Raven

    Bah.

    My entire audio rig consists of some headphones I got for £25 at Asda, and I've always found it quite satisfactory.

    1. Roger Varley

      Re: Bah.

      If that is your entire rig, it must renders John Cages 4' 33" perfectly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bah.

        > If that is your entire rig, it must renders John Cages 4' 33" perfectly.

        You scoff but I bet he gets months on one set of batteries.

      2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Bah.

        I doubt it. Some setups have a lot of noise on the line...

  20. cortland

    What you mean "we", paleface?

    My 1970;s and 80's stereos work just fine, thanks, and a license-free FM transmitter serves the whole house. Even better, at 70 I don't NEED 20 KHz audio (can't hear it, in fact).

    So F Off, you vendors. It's used CD's 'til I die!

    Sons of toil and plunder

    Will you knuckle under

    Or bow down to RIAA?

    (apologies to Rudolf Friml)

    http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/s/songofthevagabonds.shtml.

  21. Colin Ritchie
    Windows

    Go NADs indeed.

    I attached my Mac Pro 3,1 to my ancient NAD 3020e via an optical cable and an ARCAM rDAC.

    The Rogers LS2a speakers (also venerable) sound fantastic fed this way and I will happily pass the speakers and amp to the next generation when I'm too deaf to enjoy them.

    Tell me about this sound bar malarky again, none of them I've heard are a patch on the £250 worth of ebay audio amp & speaker combo above.

  22. Irongut

    "multi-room", a sector created by Sonos?

    I had a multi-room Hi-Fi back in my student days some 20+ years ago. My amp allowed two sets of speakers which could be played individually or at the same time and I had a pair mounted to the roof in the bathroom as well as those in my room. Dark Side of the Moon is great in the bath and, when it was time to turn the record over, I had voice control - shouting my flatmates. :)

    Created by Sonos? My arse!

  23. Alister Silver badge

    Shop Asst: Hello, can I help you Sir?

    Customer: Yes, I'd like to buy a gramophone please.

    Shop Asst: A WHAT?? (sniggers)

    Customer: Erm......a gramophone.

    Shop Asst: (sniggers more)

    Shop Asst 2: (sniggers as well)

    Shop Asst: (sniggers) Right, well, we don't sell gram-o-phones here grandad!

    Shop Asst2: (sniggers more)

    Customer: Oh, right, well erm, what's that over there then?

    Shop Asst: That's a Trio Automatic Capped Direct Drive Turntable unless I'm much mistaken.

    Customer: Well what's the difference between that and a gramophone?

    Shop Asst: About 30 years and a plastic cover to you chief!

    ...

  24. D@v3

    2 main problems with this fancy wireless audio gumpf

    1) Does it not need a power cable? Therefore, not wireless. In fact, exactly as many wires as my 'wired' speakers require. I can have either of my two floor standers, or 5 of my 5.1 (sub needs mains) where ever I want, at worst, I need some longer 2core cables, all running off the power provided by my amp.

    2) How much do these damn things cost? My 5.1 Onkyo set-up a few years back was, if I recall about £250. For 6 speakers. 1 of these damn 'wireless' speakers cost significantly more than that. As people have mentioned above, I get round the multi room 'problem' by turning the damn thing up to 11, or unplugging my Pure DAB with rechargeable battery and carrying it with me.

    There are many other things I could grump about when it comes to audio / hi-fi set ups, but I'm not quite that old and grumpy, yet.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: 2 main problems with this fancy wireless audio gumpf

      For all honesty it's poor marketing, but it's the marketing that works for the majority. They market the big numbers, over the "reality".

      A Sonos is a mini wireless hifi. It's not really there to replace a speaker setup. It's for ease of install on either a PA system (great for just wifing music around, change tracks, change zones etc) or for a few systems where you may wish to link them together at times.

      No idea about the others, but each Sonos can stream it's own music, work as a morning alarm, works are a repeater to the other speakers and lots more.

      So they are not priced the same as an input only wireless speaker, their trying to compete with that old CD hifi. I'd not use them as a stereo pair (though they support it) but as a replacement to a FM radio.

  25. Mage Silver badge

    GiGo

    Garbage.

    Speaker wire for 6 speakers is easier to install than the mains power. Only two really at the back, the centre and sub Woofer channel are easy.

    All the wireless speakers and sound bars I've seen are junk anyway. No way round having a big sealed box yet for a speaker.

  26. dotdavid

    Bluetooth audio... pah

    I'm waiting until Monster release a Bluetooth audio cable.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Bluetooth audio... pah

      No. They'll release Goldtooth.

      Blutooth uses the air to transmit imperfect wireless signals. For the true audiophile such as yourself, you need to be using the equivalent power of gold contacts and oxygen free cables.

      Hence Goldtooth. Instead of using the sound deadening oxygen in the air to transmit our radio signals, we transmit in the less crowded helium band. As there is so much less helium in the atmosphere, we have to use much larger antennae, but this is a small price to pay for audio perfection.

      The name comes from the fact that it's helium which give the Sun it's distinctive golden hue at sunset.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Bluetooth audio... pah

        That's ok, they already sell gold plate ended optical cables...

        http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ultimate-Optical-TOSlink-Cable-Mountain/dp/B001P9TCYU

        (Oh, and big name brands do it too. I'm certain they KNOW what they are doing...)

  27. Mad Dog Mungo

    More marketing BS

    Using a 7.2 system in a soundproof media room.

    Consists mostly of ANCIENT components that still sound absolutely AWESOME.

    JBL 5120 Speakers at the 6 part of the speaker equation.

    BIC center channel rated top of the line....20 years ago that makes speech completely intelligible in movies.

    2 Pioneer powered subs. The beast,. an ancient 15 inch down firing sub along with a 10 inch for higher frequency bass..Yes there IS a difference. A sub should be able to go as low as possible to re-enforce the sub harmonics

    Power comes from a 3 year old Pioneer Elite 500wch receiver with less than .01% THD. Had to replace old working Elite that only had analog inputs and needed HDMI after replacing the TV with a Samsung 75 inch and adding Xboxes both 360 and XBone.

    More Ancient Tech. Panasonic VCR with soft tape handling fast rewind. Pioneer laser disk player that can play both sides and auto changes. Yes, I STILL have a fairly large VHS and LD collection. Pioneer receiver upscales them quite nicely. RCA upscaling DVD player.

    Raspberry Pi running XBMC. Now the workhorse handling all my streaming video needs.

    This system can literally blow your sox off! When there's an explosion in a movie you can FEEL the air concussion. Try THAT with your puny little 5" sub! It's ALL about the clarity and amount of air that can be displaced. I use 10 gauage wiring for current capacity 'cause JBL's were never known for their efficiency.

    I've listened to a lot of "new" audio tech and frankly, most of it sucks dog crap. Most consumers today have listened to horribly distorted bandwidth limited compressed crap for so long you can't tell the difference if it's good or not because the source material is absolutely crap.

    Yes, I DO know the difference. I'm a certified Pro Tools engineer who specializes in surround mixing and mastering for movies. Once I master up a soundtrack I'll play the movie from a direct feed to this system to check audio quality once it's perfect through the studio monitors also not coincidentally JBL networked speakers.

    Apparently "new" doesn't make it better. See a Monster ad for reference.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proper stuff

    Thorens TD160, Shure M75ED, SME 3009 Mk2, Nad amp, NAD tuner, Celestion DITTON 15's with ABR's, Sanyo cd. Sounds wonderful int the kitchen from the middle room where it lives. Not top notch. perhaps, but has anyone actually listened to these "sound"bars for any length of time? Excruciating.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Proper stuff

      Systemdek 2X2 with Roksan Artemiz Zi arm and Ortofon MM cart, Magnum Dynalab FT-101 with 5 ele beam in loft aimed at Sutton Coldfield with a big attenuator, Lumley valve preamp, Revox B77 high speed half-track, Monoblock valve PA's 120W 4x6550's in each, Musical Fidelity transistor Power Amp, Martin Logan electrostatic hybrids and REL Storm with a pair of Stax earspeakers and energiser for analogue playback.

      Digital is an old Sony DVD/CD HDD recorder into an XTC DAC along with SPDIF feed from the iMac and digital out from Pioneer DAT deck. Digi out from DAT into iMac for audio capture with Adobe Audition with iTunes and Spotify.

      Cinema - 45" Sony TV with cheapo Yamaha 5.1 surround system. No multi-room - CBA.

      No interest in soundbars - don't do it for me. No silly £15,000 cables and the rest of the "high end" BS. Most of the time it's MP3 of the iMac through the surround system, but for critical listening, the main system gets powered up and sounds very sweet :)

  29. earl grey Silver badge
    Devil

    you kids get off my lawn

    While i'm listening to my old Yamaha analog receiver, JBL 100's, and my BIC turntable and Tandberg tape deck. Digital? Oh, you must mean my fingers.

    1. The humble print monkey

      8 not 3

      Had months of fun tuning up eight monitor audio ceiling speakers, destined for instal in a gallery. 4x100w zonal amp connected to 4pairs of speakers over a redundant drum of cat6a. Each pair tuned with boxes of various sizes, to create a system that I never managed to get above 6.

      (Zonal amp auto monos to avoid stereo anomalies when moving between zones, resolved by separating left bank of speakers on input 1 and right on input 2).

      Result was a sound system that kicked ars3, even by Brixton standards. Sadly the speakers were eventually installed in the gallery, and my print finishing room feels decidedly quiet. Ebay is being scoured for replacements - Bose electrostatics of particular interest.

      That said, when its time to close opening nights or parties, I have the ultimate room clearing options - Overkill, streamed from my phone via airplay (amp input 3, only I have the password), racked up to ten, or Amy Macdonald.

      Then time for something more mellow direct from a redundant mac mini that lives in the same rack as the amp and video distribution. Layout of the gallery and offices means I have multi room sound available, and if I open the windows, I can continue to listen out on Electric Lane, but only before/after the office staff are in.

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: Bose electrostatics?

        Not in this universe

  30. Trollslayer Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    A nice piece of op ed

    But frankly rubbish.

    You are going on about one demographic and using that to push a point of view.

    It is mostly listing equipment which is pointless.

    There will always be different market segments yet you are trying to ram one down everyone's throat.

  31. Dan Paul

    Mine's better than yours is....

    Why the nyah nyah na nya nya? Feels like grade school...Okay, I'll play.

    Yamaha RX-773WABL Receiver 100 watts RMS @ 7.2 channels converted to 5.1 w/ BiAmped Polk Monitor 70's for the front and 50's on sides, 25 for center and two Polk 100 watt powered 10" subwoofers on right and left sides. Samsung BD & CD Player and Denon Turntable. Makes any of these soundbars or "wireless" speakers sound like the overpriced toys they are. Reciever Does Wifi, Bluetooth, Network, Pandora etc, everything but wipe up. No it's not perfect but I got the whole thing for under a grand new. Ya gotta hear a movie though, just like the theatre only home!

    Alot of audio quality is related to the source so resolution DOES play a part, but modern technology covers up alot of problems. With a decent system it's hard to tell the difference.

  32. tentimes

    I'll stick with my floorstanders and WAV/FLAC

    Crappy speakers with MP3 quality sound may do it for some people, but I like my banging bass and full definition floorstanders with my Marantz amp and proper quality audio.

    I could never go back to MP3 after buying my stuff on WAV this last while.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do any of the wireless BlueTooth speaker systems work well?

    I've been using wireless headphones for a long time due to renting (900 Mhz type). I wouldn't recommend them, but some are ok. They always work at least, because there's no syncing, and they have powerful transmitters overcoming thick walled apartments, than equivalent Wi-Fi / USB Media Streamers or BlueTooth devices.

    But every time I consider switching to BlueTooth I inevitably pull back due to sync problems or interruptions or breaks in the sound... So how are they for audio these days?... How much do you need to spend? For example, If you buy this budget set, are you actually dead in the water... :-

    https://www.aldi.ie/en/specialbuys/hurry-while-stocks-last/

    1. Jess--

      Re: Do any of the wireless BlueTooth speaker systems work well?

      if you want to try a cheap bluetooth set of headphones try the logitech h800.

      They won't blow you away with sound quality but what they produce is not harsh, I tend to use them on the computer when I need to hear something but can't fire up the speaker system (someone else on the phone in the office) or for long train journeys.

      I have NEVER had any issues with syncing or gaps in the sound etc

  34. Christian Berger Silver badge

    What will you do in 10 years with it?

    I mean your typical component stereo system is not only much cheaper (when you use used components like speakers), but is also rather future proof. Analogue audio is like the text files of electronics, it just works and every device can speak it. Even SPDIF is widely used and understood by many vendors. Contrast that to some wireless solutions which depend on complex, sometimes even proprietary, protocols.

    So the way those wireless multi-room systems are built today they are just suitable to extract money from hipsters.

  35. Robredz
    Stop

    Life in the old dog yet

    For music a good [air of floorstanders, even the old Tannoy Dual Concentrics powered by a valve amplifier will sound better than many modern systems, fed from whatever source.

    a Sheffield Labs Gold CD on a Cambridge or other decent sounds as good as a 24 bit 96Khz sampled file from a device to many. A sony Mp3 player sounds OK also played through a valve amp and decent speakers, certainly better than many of the other sound systems.

  36. Shell

    Tea cosy

    Would love a multi-room set-up, but then remember my Edinburgh flat is so bloody small I can hear data dribbling from our backup drive in the living room everywhere in the flat. Bigger flat, then fancy sound system...

    We recently bought a Sony KDL 815 TV which came with a Sony soundbar. The TV's great, but I'm not overly impressed with these soundbars. We stuck it on the spare TV in the bedroom. Sure, fancy features (bluetooth, RFID, USB & optical), the the sound quality is... well... a bit like sticking your head inside a tea cosy (shh, I'm being English) - which I have to admit is marginally better than the 15-year-old hi-fi it was previously connected to - but no great shakes. I've still got a pretty good amp & 'proper' Sony speakers on the big TV in the living room. Those are 10 year old too. Vastly superior without the feature overload.

    Between the AppleTV, Mac Mini, PS4, iPhones, iPads, smart-TV apps and various MacBooks in our flat at any given time what I need is really good headphones, not another hi-fi device.

  37. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    Blatant Tolling

    Is that what this article is?

    I too could list my HiFi components and, in considerable detail, describe why they hugely outperform this new kit in almost every metric you can imagine (and there's a LOT of metrics), except perhaps portability.

    Hi resolution? Multiroom? Wireless control? Have you tried simply using JRiver from a HTPC or laptop feeding a decent DAC? No need at all to replace superior speakers and amplification, and the results I've got are simply staggering, and amazingly flexible.

    Also, there's no need to rely on ongoing subscription costs for inferior quality streamed music... Sure, use it to preview things that you might like, but even having lossless (FLAC) copies of CD's is massively better quality, and any proper high resolution content that you may have (if your DAC can handle it) is a bonus.

    Is it just my perception but every new 'advance' just seems to detract from my concepts of quality, ownership and control. I'll stick with what I've got, and you can ram your soundbars up your flange tunnels.

  38. Nathan Brathahn

    I feel so old

    looking at my Mission 762 speakers from 1989

    1. Christopher Reeve's Horse

      Re: I feel so old

      It's not how old they are, but rather, are you still happy with them?

  39. wyatt

    Interesting, I've a squeezebox setup at home going into an amp/speaker setup in 2 rooms. I have no need to listen in every room, only having a few! I also have little time to listen to what I have so wouldn't be purchasing something that I wouldn't need and wouldn't sound as good as what I currently have.

  40. Nosher

    What am I missing?

    What I don't get about Bluetooth or other wireless speakers is... don't they still need power? If they need power, don't they need wires? If they need wires then, er, why not just wire them in to the source and solve power supply and latency in one go. I suppose I get that some people might prefer to plug in a power brick locally for each remote speaker (with all the wasted stand-by energy that implies) rather than having wires run all around the house, but unless you happen to have pre-wired mains sockets right next to where the speakers want to be then you still have a trailing wire problem.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: What am I missing?

      There is a is distinct hole in the market for network speakers with either 1) Built in data over powerline 2) powered but takes Ethernet input 3) Power over Ethernet input.

      A quick google gives me... No products or companies for "ethernet speakers". Nothing, nada. Wow. I'd have thought that would be easy.

      But the real problem of networking over powerlines is for a multi room, PA system and similar, you cannot guarantee that each room (think office or shops in addition to homes) will be on the same mains ring. So if you have to add some networking ability, a wifi antenna and chip is probably the same price as a socket and Ethernet chip, but 100% guaranteed to have a range.

  41. Dakers

    Tony Andrews speaks to my soul more often than not. This guy has spoken more sense than lots of journalists/reviewers.

    Having heard various Turbosound and now some lovely Funktion1 systems, I'd let him chime in some more:

    Bad sound is a vexation to the spirit http://youtu.be/gL92nlCR8cY

    http://youtu.be/2HCVB4ZYeI0

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The noughties *started* it... "say goodbye to the second half of the 20th century"

    The "traditional" style HiFi setup- which dominated from the 1960s onwards- had already seriously declined in terms of dominance and cultural importance by the second half of the noughties, as people had moved to the iPod or listened to music on their computers.

    Remember the trend for cheesy iPod-only speakers and devices? Yes, that in itself is a passe and dated concept now, and the devices themselves are probably gathering dust, unused. (*) Similarly, the iPod era itself is mostly past. *That* is the device that represented the decade, and one that would justify saying "Goodbye to the Noughties", since the iPod is a shadow of what it was, and streaming is overtaking even its "holding your own music model".

    But the point is that even then- by the end of the noughties- both were still post-trad-HiFi devices aimed at people who wanted to listen to music at home and didn't have- or want to use- a traditional hifi setup.

    It's true that the current decade has seen this trend spread more widely from audio hifi to video separates et al, and streaming become normalised. But the noughties were still the beginning of the present post-HiFi age, not the end of the previous one.

    In short, it's been going on longer than you think now.

    (*) And deservedly so- anyone with half a brain could have predicted this (and I did), since any system specifically designed around one manufacturer's trendy device du jour (i.e. the then-current version of the iPod back when a new one came out every year) was obviously cheesy ephemeral tat, regardless of its inflated price tag. The irony of these post-physical-medium-centric devices being even more closely tied to a specific physical MP3 player...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The noughties *started* it... "say goodbye to the second half of the 20th century"

      We still sell hi-fis, some old, some new, with built in ipod/iphone docks. No offence, but it's a certain "no buy" from me.

      A universal adapter, wifi/bluetooth or phono connector or get out! :D

  43. dz-015

    No need to compromise on sound quality to get a straightforward modern setup. I have a pair of Epoz Aktimate Blues - hi-fi quality "active" speakers with built-in amp and DAC. My Mac mini connects straight to those via USB so I can play from Spotify, iTunes, etc. There's also the added benefit that I can fire audio straight at the speakers via Bluetooth from tablets, smartphones, etc., which is very convenient. A great-sounding system - simple, flexible, modern.

  44. Twilight Turtle

    A million different

    bells-and-whistles sound bars, wireless gadgets and all sorts of other largely pointless things, yet I can only think of a single company making sub-£250 powered desktop speakers that aren't utter shit.

  45. john devoy

    It's sad but most people today seem to have given up listening to quality music in favour of convenience.

  46. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Boffin

    Dynaudio Xeo active wireless speakers

    I've recently come across these and I'm liking them very much based on the specs and reviews.

    Audition time soon!

  47. J__M__M

    Is this a joke? There is something new in the universe?

    What do they say about a flawed premise? Ripping up pappy’s hi-fi handbook (or his pappy’s hi-fi handbook) doesn't change what was in them.

    ____________

    General Electric calls this new idea Home Music Distribution System. It works like this:

    Each of the consoles has a tiny FM transmitter built into it. Your regular household wiring carries it's signal. The portable speaker above is your receiver. Simply plug it into any standard outlet. You'll enjoy radio or phonograph music-- directly from the console-- in amy room you choose. - from LIFE Magazine March 9 1963

    ____________

    This is not an article in Popular Science, it's print ad in in LIFE Magazine from over 50 years ago. Mutli room via power line networking was available from your local G-E dealer's "Accent on Value" Audio Products Department while JFK was in office.

    It probably wasn't new then, either. So yes, a joke. There is nothing new in the universe.

  48. ecofeco Silver badge

    The age of gimmick eletronics

    I once had a home sound system that was dirt simple.

    2 Panasonic 3 way speakers. (honest to god tweeter, mid range and bass in each cabinet)

    1 100 watt amp/receiver

    1 Technics strobe turntable

    1 jukebox DVD player

    Stereo input on the amp for TV

    All connected by RCA jacks or straight bare wire into clips. (yes, RCA jacks and bare wire clips)

    I have never heard sound so clean outside of a studio nor could I EVER turn the volume up past halfway.

    EVER. You could hear the song clear as a bell 4 houses down just at halfway. And by clear I mean, CLEAR.

    The speakers were vintage 1980. The turntable was somewhere of that era as well. The amp was a newer department store special made by one of the Japanese brands (forgot who. the old amp/recv had finally lost one channel). The DVD was a Phillips.

    NONE of it fancy or special. And it sounded better than most of today's bars, theaters and car systems.

    Have you ever heard sound so clear you could talk AND be heard while it was still playing very loud? Yeah, like that.

    Screw the gimmick crap.

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