A few years ago, some parts of the audio industry noticed a marked change in the way people were buying separate audio components. While the best components for use in systems don’t necessarily come from one brand, many today do take a more systemic approach to component selection. Paradoxically, whether that system is from one brand, or put together with care from different brands is unimportant.
What we mean by this is people are buying complete systems in one hit, and then not coming back for more. Where in the past, an audiophile might upgrade every component in their system over the course of a few years, and then go through the whole process again and again, there seems to be a return to buying a complete system and enjoying it for years without a single change.
This doesn't hold universally, and there are still many people who choose to build and rebuild their systems, almost creating a 'Ship of Theseus' paradox in the process (often called 'Trigger's Broom' in the UK after the character in the BBC sit-com Only Fools and Horses, who won an award for keeping the same broom for 20 years, despite it having 17 new heads and 14 new handles). Put simply, if no parts of your original system remain, is it still your original system?
While for many enthusiasts, this is a paradox they can well relate to (the only thing that remains from my original system is a power distribution block, which isn't used in the system anymore), for others it sounds like a peculiar hell of ever-changing priorities. And it's to those people that buying a system in one hit is a fine idea.
Audiophiles are often keen to dismiss such a way of choosing a system as indescriminate and lacking nuance. However, even the top-end of the audio buying public are tending to buy from the same brand now, at least when it comes to electronics. OK, so at the upper regions of audio, many still buy products from ultra-specialists in their specific field, but it no longer needs to be that way.
The idea of a company having just the one centre of excellence seems to be going away. Instead, 'making great sounds' might just be a centre of excellence in its own right.
As we went to press, we learned of the passing of the reviewer Alvin Gold. Alvin was a mainstay of the UK reviewing scene for several decades, including working for Hi-Fi+ a few years ago, and we'll miss his dry sense of humour, both on the page and private. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.