Remember 1999, and the feverish fin de siècle mood of that moment? Amazing isn't it, to think that we're now ten years on from talk of 'millennium bugs' and MP3s?
Back then, all the media talk was of Napster and the menace MP3 presented to the music industry, whilst Dixons started stocking the Diamond Multimedia Rio, with a whopping 64MB of memory!
Quirky as all this sounds now, life ten years ago wasn't so dramatically different, and nor was hi-fi.
Lest we forget, the vinyl revival had already started by 1999, but ten years on it's just taken for granted. At the same time, some super new analogue products are now out using sophisticated materials, like Origin Live's Enterprise C tonearm [p100] and Lyra's Titan i MC cartridge [p107], raising vinyl's sonic bar higher.
Digital's got better too, with cooking 16bit CD players sounding very nice thank you very much, but the real headline news is the arrival of 24bit FLAC downloads. As the distant cousin of MP3, but offering obviously superior sound, they've taken the baton from that pesky little compressed file format and run with it...
Ten years ago, valve amplifiers were slowly coming back into the mainstream, and now that's precisely where they live. It's no longer trendy to have one; you just buy them to do the job. Meanwhile transistors are striking back, with great powerhouses like Digital Do Main's B1-a FET power amplifier [p10] and Musical Fidelity's pure Class A behemoth, the AMS35i [p25], both of which give the top tube amps something to break out into a sweat about!
Likewise, loudspeakers have evolved into altogether finer things, but there have been no fundamental new developments. The ribbon tweeter, something of a favourite in the nineteen seventies, is back and speakers are all the better for it, as our supertest shows [p15]...
So nothing earth-shattering to report in the last month of the first decade of the new century, then. Hi-fi hasn't changed dramatically; it's better without a doubt, but I suspect the next ten years to be an altogether more profound transition. Get ready for fully networked houses with wireless hi-fi systems, running digital resolution that will make today's state of the art 24/96 FLAC files look like those early 128kbps MP3s. Bring it on!
David Price, editor
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