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Hi-Fi World
September 2009
Downloaded Music Hits The Charts
Editorial By David Price


Hi-Fi World September 2009  In these days of rampaging unemployment and swine flu, I find myself curiously immune to the news. Maybe it’s just the human instinct for self-preservation, but I now find I can take a full half hour of BBC 5 Live without so much as batting an eyelid...

But one thing stopped me in my tracks the other day, stone dead. I might as well have been shot with a tranquiliser gun normally used to render wild African jungle beasts unconscious. News came that Florence and the Machine’s new single, "Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)" had made number 12 in the charts, despite selling just 64 physical copies (i.e. CD singles)!

How times change. In 1999, I remember my suggestion that MP3 (as we so quaintly used to call them) was the future, produced mirth and malice in equal measure. Now in 2009, no less than 97% of all UK singles are sold as downloads...

So where does this all leave hi-fi? In a transitional phase, I'd say. Amazingly, on one hand we have ever more vinyl releases and new turntables to play them on, as the new Inspire Eclipse [p100] and Claro Clarity 09 [p108] show. On the other, we have a great many people still buying the old 'silver Frisbee' that is CD. That’s why this month’s group test [p15] features some superb affordable DACs which get the best from an ageing digital disc spinner, and interestingly provide a bridge to the brave new world of downloads too; most have USB inputs so you can play out the music on your computer hard drive direct into your hi-fi.

Then we have products such as Illustrate’s Rip NAS [p86], which is a twenty first century digital transport by any other name. You feed it a CD and about four minutes later it spits it out, but with a very high quality uncompressed copy now on its internal hard drive. It will store about 2,800 albums, and is expandable to well over ten times that. The unit then plays the music via your home network, out through a Linn DS system, Squeezebox or suchlike, to your hi-fi.

So music's on the move, hi-fi is changing and a new generation is growing up who regard the LP record with the same air of mystery as I would a wax cylinder. We live in interesting times! As for me, true to myself, I did not download ‘Rabbit Heart’ from iTunes, but trogged down to my local specialist record shop instead, and walked out with Florence and the Machine’s new ‘Lungs’ album on vinyl.


David Price, editor


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