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Scarcity and technology development.

Vacceo

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Since this house hosts several technology developers, extremelly-well informed enthusiasts and professionals, I am super curios to ask for clarification at times of extreme uncertainty.

Music reproduction technology seems to progress very slowly on the side of speakers. From an outsider´s perspective, the development seems to be going at a really slow pace compared to other reproduction technologies, particularly for image (OLED, laser projectors, micro-led...). The most logical cause is that physics applied to the field are well-known and hence, you can only archive tiny increments on very, very mature technologies. The other aspect I can think of could be a matter of cost-benefit: why dumping a ton of cash on R&D when a massive pool of customers is happy with current speakers?

However, lockdowns seem to have renewed the interest on media reproduction gear. With energy prices on the rise, it seems like investing in stuff you can enjoy at home may rise, scarcity allowing of course.

From what I have been reading, Purifi seems to have taken a huge, huge step into hardware improvement. Perhaps I´m suffering from tunnel vision, but it seems both their amps and speaker drivers are the kind of step ahead that get you Benchmark-level amplification (and Hypex is not that far) while being more efficient and powerful. On the side of drivers, from Erin´s tests, they seem to trade blows with absolute monsters like Kii or Genelec for a potential fraction of the price. Both developments seem to potentially benefit the niche of car audio even further, as the difference over there between amp classes is clear (even when acoustics inside a vehicle are an absolute nightmare to work with) and speakers.

On the side of electronics, the implementation of HDMI 2.1 seems to be an absolute mess, same for Bluetooth 5.2, but that seems to have a lot to do with chip scarcity. For HDMI 2.1 the massive difference is for those who play videogames, while for sound is not that huge. However, I have never listened to the difference between a Bluetooth 5.2 and a 5.0, so the change may be more marketing than real metrics.

I imagine researchers and developers having a ton of test projects and designs on the bench and drawing board waiting for manufacturing and logistics to get a semblance of normalcy, but for us consumers, is it worth waiting for year, year and half to purchase upgrades on gear that, let´s be realistic, even if it replaces a decade and half old tech, will not make a huge improvement? And no, I´m not talking about going from something like a Q series from Kef to a Reference series (I use Kef speakers and I have listened to Blades, they esentially laugh at my humble IQ´s) or from a Sonus Faber Lumina series to a Olympica Nova series; because that is something I can do now, funds allowing.

So sumarizing, what would be your call for gear such as amps, speakers, av receivers/processors or headphones? Save and wait for 12 to 16 months or browse through current options?
 

Blumlein 88

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Good amps are so good nothing much is going to be better. Maybe more power, but we already have excellent highly powerful amps. Don't wait.

AVRs and pre/pro's much the same, but Dolby will of course trickle out improvements to keep you always needing to upgrade. So you can't wait for things to even out as Dolby won't ever allow that to happen. They'll come up with some new format or HDMI spec or something at least about every other year.

Headphones in general the industry is coming to terms with the work and usefullness of the Harman targets. The Harman target itself is being tweaked a little still. I'd get a phone that meets your needs, has tested well here on ASR and doesn't cost too much. Then maybe save and wait for an upgrade in 18-24 months.

Speakers I think are further along, and though there may be improvements in various aspects I'd go with a very good speaker, go ahead and spend the money now.

And of course there really is no such thing as an end all system. Aspects change, formats change, offerings improve or new ideas surface. You'll always have reason to upgrade at least every few years on almost any part of the gear.
 
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Vacceo

Vacceo

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Good amps are so good nothing much is going to be better. Maybe more power, but we already have excellent highly powerful amps. Don't wait.

AVRs and pre/pro's much the same, but Dolby will of course trickle out improvements to keep you always needing to upgrade. So you can't wait for things to even out as Dolby won't ever allow that to happen. They'll come up with some new format or HDMI spec or something at least about every other year.

Headphones in general the industry is coming to terms with the work and usefullness of the Harman targets. The Harman target itself is being tweaked a little still. I'd get a phone that meets your needs, has tested well here on ASR and doesn't cost too much. Then maybe save and wait for an upgrade in 18-24 months.

Speakers I think are further along, and though there may be improvements in various aspects I'd go with a very good speaker, go ahead and spend the money now.

And of course there really is no such thing as an end all system. Aspects change, formats change, offerings improve or new ideas surface. You'll always have reason to upgrade at least every few years on almost any part of the gear.
Thanks for the answers!

I guess the practical limit for amps´ benefits face basic thermodynamics (no 100% efficiency using electricity). I suppose any good class D (hypex or purifi) will be as good audibily as it gets now and in 20 years.

For the pre/pro´s my only concern is HDMI 2.1 as I play pc games. Denon/Marantz, Arcam, NAD, Mcintosh, Anthem and the usual suspects seem to have it done or almost there, so I guess I will not find a difference in this or that manufacturer other than features. Am I right to assume sound "as is" (no calibration) will be pretty much the same across all pre/pro manufacturers?

For turntable, to replace the aging battered Onkyo, anything will do and it will not be outdated. CD player? Nah, I use the PC with an HDMI, cheap and effective. If the DAC on the pre/pro is fine, the sound reproduction will be too. Same goes for streaming.

Speakers, I currently run a set of KEF IQ´s, so the margin to improve is quite, quite big. Perhaps it makes sense to buy last, as this purchase is probably the hardest. Kef R series sounds like a solid choice, same goes for Sonus Faber Sonetto´s or I can try to wait for more speakers to use purifi drivers (the Sointuva measurements gave me a really surprised face).

For headphones, I use a wired in ear out of pure comfort (a loooooot of online meetings for work) from Sol Republic. They were super cheap and the spinorama is probably all over the place. For wireless, I use a waterproof walkman (nice companion for swiming and powerlifting) that is probably terrible too. My hope was to get a good in ear from the likes of 64 audio or any other manufacturer that produces a flat sound. From there, it´s relatively easy to plug it to a cable or a bt receiver.

Last but not least, the room I listen to stuff is acoustically treated with a nice amount of Ikea´s Kallax, a ton of different manufacturer´s books, boardgame boxes mostly from FFG, thick wool rug on the floor, heavy material roller blinds over the windows and rockwool behind the plaster on the walls. I guess the best I could do is getting a good microphone to measure what is happening and adjust accordingly.
 

SIY

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Far and away, the biggest limitation is the stereo format. Even multichannel has significant limits. And we still have to play the recording in a room.

Speaker improvement is, as you say, at the incremental stage- we can make them sound different, go louder, work better in different rooms, but we’re at Pareto’s 20.

The electrical end is long finished. No sonic improvements are coming from that leg of the tripod.

Honestly, this is wonderful for consumers. We can get better sound cheaper and more efficiently than ever.
 
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Vacceo

Vacceo

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Far and away, the biggest limitation is the stereo format. Even multichannel has significant limits. And we still have to play the recording in a room.

Speaker improvement is, as you say, at the incremental stage- we can make them sound different, go louder, work better in different rooms, but we’re at Pareto’s 20.

The electrical end is long finished. No sonic improvements are coming from that leg of the tripod.

Honestly, this is wonderful for consumers. We can get better sound cheaper and more efficiently than ever.
So taking your quote from Pareto, the 20% cause for 80% effect of the sound is the speakers (and room interaction) and that´s trully what is worth investing time at.
 
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