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Hi-Fi Plus Magazine --  Hi-Fi+

April 2024


Oligarch-Grade Products Will Continue
Time is proving 'interesting times' and that good audio remains in people's minds.
Editorial By Alan Sircom


Hi-Fi+ April 2024


  Anniversary issues are always a time to look back, but it's also a good time to look forward and try to predict what the next few years will look like. Such predictions are prone to a lot of guesswork, and there are no spoilers, no giving away secrets, and no Tarot cards were harmed in the making of these dimly lit gazes into the near future.

In the high-end, the trend for oligarch-grade products looks set to continue. Whenever we think audio has reached its price ceiling, someone builds a longer ladder! Most super-high-end systems top out at somewhere around 1m-1.2m at present. I think in the next few years, we will see several systems that reach 2m, and possibly even more.



Moving out of the stratosphere, there does appear to be some divergence in design between the three main markets of the US, Europe, and Asia. While that sounds like the most sweeping of generalisations (what holds in one Asian or European country doesn't hold for them all), the broad trends remain. The US market is broadly more accepting of larger loudspeakers and tube amplifiers, European consumers are exploring smaller, and increasingly active loudspeakers, and the Asian market has seen a marked change in demographics in the wake of stringent lockdowns.


Hi-Fi+ April 2024


That last means basically 'all bets are off'. Some of the Asian buyers take what America or Europe does and runs with it. Other buyers are forging their own path. The Gen Z and Millennial Asian audio buyer used to be almost exclusively into personal audio, but since 2020, their listening tastes have expanded into home audio systems.

Here's a perfect example of that change. In Japan, a lot of traditional audio enthusiasts were turntable, tube, and horn loudspeaker enthusiasts... of a certain age. The love of music has not changed, but the nature of the systems is changing fast. Japanese enthusiasts still love their turntables, but an increasing group of new buyers are looking to smaller and more solid-state electronics.

Streaming is also pivotal here. The likes of Qobuz and Tidal still dominate the high-performance online streaming services, but it's hoped that ever-increasing bandwidth and memory means even better performance from Apple and Google services, and even YouTube; the video channel is to Millennials what MTV was to Gen X, and that is another trend on the rise in Asia.



While 2024 is proving 'interesting times' (half the democracies on Earth are in an election year, economic uncertainty and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine hardly instil confidence in people) it's clear that the interest in good audio remains in people's minds... and 25 years from now things might be very different!



Alan Sircom, Editor hi-fi+




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