From 2003 and Martin Pipe's look at an early streamer – Yamaha's MCX-1000 on page 51 – we move on to streaming today in 2017 and – well – Yamaha again with the WXAD-10 reviewed on p63. We aren't trying to promote Yamaha over others here, so much as show how far and how fast this whole streaming thing has come in the last 14 years.
And as streaming gets ever more popular the competition for your pound heats up: I've just received a press release for the first hi-res streaming service: from French music provider Qobuz.
To date, Tidal has been the provider of choice for those who want to listen to full CD quality files over the internet. They run at a higher data rate (1.4Mbps) than those from most streaming services, who use lossy – as in loss of quality – compressed files, Tidal potentially offering better quality, if not by much. The reason is old 16-bit digital (CD) had limited resolution in the first place; distortion and noise lurk in the background.
You have to go to 24-bit to eradicate these evils – and even lossy compressed 24-bit (AIFF) is better than 16-bit I have found. Qobuz are now offering 24-bit files losslessly compressed by FLAC (free lossless audio codec) for streaming. Until now you had to download to get hi-res digital sound; now you can stream it with all the benefits of having access to a vast library of songs. At this point I don't know whether the higher data rates of hi-res digital will cause problems on slow networks, especially Wi-Fi links; hopefully we will be able to tell you more soon.
If you know little about the benefits of streaming services and streaming itself, we explain all in our feature this month on page 54 – in simple, jargon free terms. It's difficult to simplify a complex subject – and digital is getting ever more complex – but I believe beginners will have no difficulty with our carefully written piece.
Over in a parallel world LPs keep spinning, to produce the pure analogue sound that hi-res tries to replicate. And what a world. McIntosh recently released their MP1100 tube equipped hybrid phono stage that pulls out all the stops in terms of complexity. Don't miss our review on page 83.
I hope you enjoy our in-depth coverage in this issue of high fidelity's breathtaking technologies. The world doesn't stop.