Digital Music System
I have a 2 channel audio system with 50 year old designed speakers, old
valves and a single box DAC... yet a large part of the equation is
unobtainable from the traditional hifi dealer
As much as it grates (some more than others I know) I have thrown a fair
few quid in Apple's direction for what is a err hifi?...all of this
historically would have gone into the back pocket of Mr hifi industry -
So how can that be right? Believe it or not I would actually prefer to
support the Industry rather than Steve Jobs
The big manufacturers IMHO have been pretty slow getting there multi
interface DAC's out on the market although its certainly changing with
what now seems to be a new DAC popping up by the hour in an effort to
grab a slice of the market. The big digital players (Esoteric, Wadia,
dCS etc) seem to be getting picked off with new brands half of which
I've never heard of bringing out what looks like very promising products
at very attractive prices. Obviously the demand for DAC's with every
interface possible is exactly what we want but is more of a knee jerk
reaction to falling CD player sales? So I have my nice new DAC but what
about the rest of it?
Its perfectly reasonable today to expect superb quality digital sound,
complete access to your whole collection at your finger tips, streaming
to various other locations around the house all using devices that
perform faultlessly, can be neatly tucked away, make no noise, require
A lot of what we connect to our DAC's has remained pretty much
unchanged...get into this game and it's a MAC/PC/Transporter/Squeezebox
etc...as far as I'm aware there seems little desire from the audio
manufacturers to compete on this side of the fence and hence the dealers
subsequently have little interest in providing a complete package
So what do the dealers say in all this? What are they demo'ing these
days?....."Here's you new Speakers, Amp and DAC Sir....and a shopping
list if you could pop along to the Apple store on the way home.." It's
an odd one and maybe one reason for sure why the traditional audiophile
is instantly turned off at the prospect but whats the alternative but
nip down to PC world and pick up a Mac or squeezebox and then baffle
over the best way to set it up?
Obviously the wam and other forums are invaluable here offering advise
and experience and hopefully avoiding some of the pitfalls and
frustrations but we've kind of been ahead of the game here for some time
now as a small, growing bunch of enthusiasts have discovered new ways of
getting great sounds and freely offering others advice how to do
so....I've set up a system half of which is based on learning from
various source material on the web non of this has come from a
manufacturer/dealer...maybe this will start to change who knows.
It will be interesting to see how things evolve....Unfortunately for
many if the industry starts to produce solutions that offer what can be
done with a bit of pain and "PC shop" interfaces that they don't sell it
will come too late, probably far too expensive and obsolete in a month.
Anyway I'm sure all this digital streaming, iTunes, transporter based
malarkey will soon blow over as a passing fad, its just kidz stuff after
all and not for us serious audiophiles...Obviously I'd like to think
it's a deliberate well thought out strategy but then again...
Do small-medium Hi-Fi manufacturers have the financial clout to produce and keep up with the IT/PC industry though? especially when you consider their returns will be pretty small due to the niche market of 2ch Hi-Fi.
They probably think it's safer to let the big companies plough the money into this side of things and let them deal with it, I certainly wouldn't want to be a 'Ted in his shed' trying to knock up a viable MAC/iTunes/Amarra alternative!!
It takes a considerable amount of knowledge and R&D to design and manufacture a decent DAC. The company has to decide what the market size is (which is small for traditional stereo), barriers to entry, which part of the market to aim the product, how to differentiate it and more importantly for the shareholders how to recouperate the R&D expenditure and of course make profit. Now DACs are a niche market and you either come up wth a cost sensitive one without spending huge amount of R&D effort and cutting out expensive parts or you go out for a high quality product that takes time to design and it costs more to manufacture. With the current economic climate, only few companies dare to take on a full R&D cycle and most of the products will come out of companies that are large enough or small start ups that think they have a niche positioning within the market.