We were about 10 days into this issue, when the reality began to sink in. Barring awards issues, Best Of... round-ups and online Buyer's Guides, the issue you hold in your hands has the highest 'purse' of any in Hi-Fi+ history. If you were to buy every product featured in this issue, it would top a million dollars. OK, so everything in this issue is unlikely, but the million-dollar issue is a landmark, all the same.
It's easy to get upset and annoyed by that figure, especially as a disproportionate amount of that sum is taken up with just two sets of flagship loudspeakers. And yes, it does suggest the top end of the high-end of audio is a never ending game of poker where the stakes keep raising. But this is more than ‘if you build it, they will come', in that both these flagship loudspeakers represent the designer's best possible design and that is realized in both product and its performance. Two different designers, two different takes on the best possible, and both have elements of being absolutely correct in what they strive for. We could add a number of additional sans pareil designs that do the same, too.
What is the point, though? Each one of these flagship products is, by its very nature, a limited edition. Dozens of such speakers will be sold by each company during the course of their product life cycle, and while that's great for those few dozen, it doesn't really benefit the common man. These aren't the kinds of speakers that end up on eBay a few years later, and although there is some proven 'trickle down' effect in place, that doesn't trickle down to budget hi-fi!
Well, actually it does... sort of. Ultra‑high-end designs like this ultimately become a proof of concept, a glimpse into what is possible from audio when the normal constraints are removed. And once something thought impossible is found to be achievable, it's not long before others achieve it. In 1954 Roger Bannister was the first human being to run the four minute mile and it was an achievement that appeared on the front page of every newspaper on the planet. Today, that's a standard achieved by any decent middle-distance runner, and the record is just over three minutes 43s.
Imagine what tomorrow's more affordable loudspeakers will sound like when they work out how to emulate what the best are doing today!
Our congratulations go out to Kevin Hodgson, who won a Callia DAC in our superb Prism Sound competition. Mr. Hodgson has chosen not to disclose his location, but even so, well done Earthling!