For us, this was a particularly
fascinating issue because of the problems we encountered with products under
Looking back on the action I do
worry slightly that we seem to be getting bogged down in digital issues so
complex and obscure, no-one could understand them. Are we unwittingly learning
to accept a degree of digital complexity that does not sit well with the
I can't help thinking about the rise and fall of the home
computer here: in the end the complexities and unreliability became both
absurd and intolerable. I knew of families who'd invested in a home computer
for themselves and their children and ended up being unable to use it.
Self-defeating technology no less: clever, but stupid too.
Being an engineer I tended to thrive on such stuff but
normal people do not. Long discussions with Sony, in particular, but also
Chord Electronics and Astell&Kern, gave me a twinge of unease. I just hope
hi-fi isn't going the way of home computers where there's been a mass
migration to the iPad, just because the thing works.
Downloading music files isn't
difficult and playing them on a portable player like the amazing
Astell&Kern AK240 reviewed in this issue (see p54) is relatively
straightforward. But here we encountered the novel issue of a plug the world
knows nothing of.
The Sony HAP Z1ES just would not
work for us under test, for another reason so obscure it defies belief (see
p42), and Chord Electronics Hugo DAC (see p16) had us puzzling over whether
the volume control was white, or blue and whether the sample rate light was
purple or light purple, and whether we were playing 176.4kHz PCM or DSD. A
night out in Blackpool would have been less confusing!
Happily, they were all great
products; progress seems to come at the price of complexity. But that is a
trend that ought not to continue or we will all end up abandoning modern
digital products in favour of wind-up gramophones. This'll keep contributor
Tony Bolton and reader Mario KopkeTulio in Portugal eternally happy, as you'll
understand from our Letters this month (see p27). If, like them, you are
interested in wind-ups, or DSD, please join the debate and write to us. In the
meantime, I do hope you both understand and enjoy our reviews.
here to subscribe to Hi-Fi World