More Recent History
Since the early eighties when Hi Fi was the third most important purchase for most after a House and a car, TV technology beginning with the VCR, has taken what money people set aside for media. The market for hi end, as it is called, Hi Fi probably collapsed in 1997 as the wealthy bought expensive AV based, multi room systems. Some Hi Fi manufacturers were able to cash in on this boom, but not able to keep pace with falling prices and developing technology, so continue to contract, although the wacko tweak brigade has consolidated, collared the specialist market, grown a little and will probably be around for some years yet, albeit in the margins.
In 2001 Apple’s resurgence began with the announcement of the iPod. Heavily ridiculed at the time, it quickly became a design icon and now, nine years later, over 250 Million have sold as have 10 Billion music downloads! It’s a story of staggering success and, although Hi Fi types would howl in protest, an iPod sounds a great deal better than virtually any separates system made today. All anyone has to do to see this for themselves is either buy some good quality headphones or simply hold the standard Apple ears buds firmly in their ears, so no air escapes past them and enjoy a full, rich and detailed sound that just isn’t possible with most hi fi. In truth vast numbers of people have realised this and so it’s not surprising that the Headfi forum has about ten times the membership of a typical flat earth one.
Having recognised these developments, we stopped production of CD players in June 2006 and the rest of our separates in September the same year. Instead we concentrated on developing a system that could not only compete with the best headphones, but also one that did not require multiple boxes, not even one box, just a pair of speakers.
People today are much more discerning, more interested in style and fashion and most have immaculate homes. They don’t want more than the essentials, which usually means a computer, TV set, the option of music/games/video in one or more other rooms, but no wires and everything small and unobtrusive. The solution was easy and electronics are sufficiently small to do it. Build an entire hi fi system into a pair of speakers including the DAC and remote controlled preamplifier so that anything capable of outputting a digital signal, be it a computer, a DVD/PVR, a PS3, Xbox or TV could be the perfect source for a better and real world priced hi fi system.
It has been accepted since the early days of two and three way speaker systems that “active” (crossover before amps and one for each driver) was better, but complicated and expensive and probably not necessary for most. However all that changed in the seventies when the first audio integrated circuits (Op-Amps) appeared and compact systems were possible. Active immediately became the standard for PA systems and for studio monitoring and it might have been the same for hi fi because good models were available, but they got stymied by the then dominant subjective brigade who insisted that everything had to have it’s own box and cost a fortune. We owe them a lot because thirty odd years and little or no progress later, we were able to play catch up and introduce our ADM9.1s that benefit from the better drivers and electronic components available today.