What's gotten better, what's gotten worse, what's about the same.

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
If there's a forum that can have this discussion without angst and drama, its this one. THERE'S NO RIGHT ANSWER, its just a stereo and its enjoyable however you like.

But why not just have a discussion that gets right at it? What do you think has improved in audio over the years? What's lost the plot and gone astray? What hasn't really improved?

I think its interesting how varied the opinions on this subject are...which tells me audio is as much about personal preferences as it is about any "absolute sound" that has some objective right or wrong.

Personally I think speakers are on another planet compared to where they were pre-2000s. I think moving magnet cartridges were better in the early 80s than today. LOMC? Better now than the late 70s (depending on which one we're talking about). I think digital has improved greatly since the early 1980s but not much in the last 10 years, for sound quality. As for how its delivered, I think that's changed a lot...for the better. I think tube amps from the 1950s/early 60s can sound as good as some solid state amps made today, if in good condition and with some parts replacement. I think that the good solid state amps are far better today than 20 years ago, and way way way better than the ones from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I don't know that I'd want to own a solid state preamp made before the early 1990s, but I'm sure there are exceptions (like the Klyne and Audire units I had, which just predated that).

I think phono preamps are much better today than in the heyday of vinyl, which is one thing that really surprised me over the years.

This isn't to have an audio fight, its to discuss preferences. And its all just, like, our opinions man.
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
If there's a forum that can have this discussion without angst and drama, its this one. THERE'S NO RIGHT ANSWER, its just a stereo and its enjoyable however you like.

But why not just have a discussion that gets right at it? What do you think has improved in audio over the years? What's lost the plot and gone astray? What hasn't really improved?

I think its interesting how varied the opinions on this subject are...which tells me audio is as much about personal preferences as it is about any "absolute sound" that has some objective right or wrong.

Personally I think speakers are on another planet compared to where they were pre-2000s. I think moving magnet cartridges were better in the early 80s than today. LOMC? Better now than the late 70s (depending on which one we're talking about). I think digital has improved greatly since the early 1980s but not much in the last 10 years, for sound quality. As for how its delivered, I think that's changed a lot...for the better. I think tube amps from the 1950s/early 60s can sound as good as some solid state amps made today, if in good condition and with some parts replacement. I think that the good solid state amps are far better today than 20 years ago, and way way way better than the ones from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I don't know that I'd want to own a solid state preamp made before the early 1990s, but I'm sure there are exceptions (like the Klyne and Audire units I had, which just predated that).

I think phono preamps are much better today than in the heyday of vinyl, which is one thing that really surprised me over the years.

This isn't to have an audio fight, its to discuss preferences. And its all just, like, our opinions man.
I'd say you hit things pretty much right on the head. Improvements can be either tech-driven or come from market forces.

In terms of the phono-pre/pre-amp improvements I'd say the clear improvements have come from improvements in both design and available tech. I wouldn't be surprised if improvements in speakers and sources hasn't also powered this push to a degree.

Ditto speakers, partly due to changes in the available computer-based systems for design, partly to easier precision building techniques. The huge number of inexpensive older speakers in the market has also forced builders to up the ante in order to get people to actually buy the things.

In terms of carts, I think the situation is very much market-driven at this point. The number of available MM carts and the general quality is indicative of the general move up-market of vinyl reproduction from the days when it was the dominant, most common means of listening to recordings. MC carts keep improving as more people are simply willing to spend more on that part of their chain than was often the case in the vinyl-dominant days.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Also, economies of scale are quite different now. Fiddleye, you and I both use top-flight direct drive motor units from the late '70s/early 1980s...the kind of things you just don't see anymore, because they're not economical to produce. The Technics SP-10R is about their only modern equivalent. What a large company making thousands of units can do in the heyday of vinyl, as opposed to a small company in the much smaller turntable market of today can do, while making a profit, are totally different. A small AC motor driving a platter with a belt is something that, I believe, is as much dictated by market realities as it is by sound quality. Its just easier and cheaper to make a belt drive that sounds great...even if, I believe, you can make a DD that is as good or better.

But then I look at what Rega is doing with a lightweight, yet extremely rigid, chassis ...and I feel ok, that's new. That's different. That's not using a belt because its cheaper, but because it works within a very focussed theory of how to tackle resonance and vibration.
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
I like to see materials like wood, brushed metal, and linen deployed in clean, modern design. And while there's plenty of contemporary manufacturers catering to my preferred aesthetic, I think most gear post-1978 or so is ass-ugly.

I appreciate that form often follows function, but I think high-end speakers in particular seem prone to some rediculous design excesses that make them inharmonious with any environment I can imagine myself using them in.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I like to see materials like wood, brushed metal, and linen deployed in clean, modern design. And while there's plenty of contemporary manufacturers catering to my preferred aesthetic, I think most gear post-1978 or so is ass-ugly.

I appreciate that form often follows function, but I think high-end speakers in particular seem prone to some rediculous design excesses that make them inharmonious with any environment I can imagine myself using them in.
That's been my challenge. I love how modern gear sounds, I don't like, at all, how most of it looks. Though my 10 year old Leben integrated looks 50 years old, and the mid-2000s solid state amp I use is a beautifully simple chrome box. I sold my Levinson 432 because it looked like a mid-90s Dell computer. My Harbeths look old, but sound new... its this straddling of two worlds that has kept me with a foot in vintage, though honestly I do not like anymore how almost any of it sounds.
 

Celt

Peanut Head
Electronics have come a long way in price point, performance and durability. My vinyl rig sounds way better than it did in the 70's...no comparison. :)
 

Ilusndweller

Junior Member
Mike - Must be nice having the same crystal oscillator for multi channels. Im guessing youve made (after the fact on a computer, not a realtime mix run through a mixer/ soundboard) 4 channel mixes “old school style” as well with sources from 2 different dats. Line up the bits perfectly and readjust as needed as the clocks drift apart. If memory serves in the mid/late 90s there was one dat deck that did 4 channel mixes. It was the Nagra and cost like 20k (maybe more). I need to pick up a mini>RCA cable and am really looking forward to listening to your recordings.
 
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kirk57

Junior Member
- I think digital sources in general are better than what most people were able to get out of analog, analog just being too fussy about setup to deal with.

- Server based music streaming (not including streaming services here) in my system sounds excellent and lets me access my library in ways that could only have been dreamed about previously.

- While the quality of loudspeaker drivers and components have undoubtedly improved, I'm not convinced that modern speakers built with them are always as listenable as some older designs. I think that designers may have lost their way a bit in pursuit of imaging and detail resolution, which is understandable since improvements in those areas are now possible to a greater degree.
 
I think the biggest change today (for the better) is affordable access to all music (old and new) via popular streaming sites and access to affordable stereo gear from companies like Elac, Schiit and many others.

There is a great thread on AK that asks for opinions on the best modern system with a total price under $500. There are many creative setups there. Some are using your phone as the source, good and cheap DAC, good speakers discounted to crazy prices during holiday promotions and bluetooth equipped amps.

And it may not be the best quality for guys with high-end systems, but streaming services like Amazon Prime Music offer a huge library of music at a very affordable price.

That's where I see the most positive change in recent years effecting the largest number of people.
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
That's where I see the most positive change in recent years effecting the largest number of people.
Compared to the 80s and 90s, there seems to have been a democratization of high fidelity, similar to the wonky DIY-era of the 50s and 60s. It's no longer the Levinson / Krell / Audio Research / Wilson pantheon of Ultimate Truth and Beauty (tm). For example, streaming is huge - especially given the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi-based streaming solutions that are now available and extremely affordable. Likewise, it's possible to build a fantastic phono stage like the HypnoToad HQMC for a little over $150 that will hang with some extremely vaunted gear.

(@JohnVF, I might have to humbly agree to disagree on regards to pre-2000 preamplifiers - you can have amazingly good preamps with extremely musical and accurate phono stages built in the 70s and 80s, but in order to hear them at their best, they will definitely need to be serviced, with op-amps, if used, replaced by quieter modern equivalents)

I like to see materials like wood, brushed metal, and linen deployed in clean, modern design. And while there's plenty of contemporary manufacturers catering to my preferred aesthetic, I think most gear post-1978 or so is ass-ugly.
For whatever reason, now I've got a vision of an amplifier with a chassis made of linen a la Christo stuck in my brain. 🤣
 

Prime Minister

Site Owner
Staff member
What's improved? Pretty well everything. I can't think of any area of the hobby that sound quality wise that is worse now. Maybe MM cartridges? Hard to say. Tough to compare a 30-40 year old cartridge to a new one.
 

TubeHiFiNut

Administrator
There is a great thread on AK that asks for opinions on the best modern system with a total price under $500.
In case our newer members have not yet found it, we have a number of similar conversations underway here in The Doorway. :)


What do you think has improved in audio over the years? What's lost the plot and gone astray? What hasn't really improved?
In my opinion, high end audio has given us better components, from a technology perspective, but not, in many cases, from the perspective of getting me closer to the music.

I can certainly appreciate all the new stuff and respect the preferences and opinions of my friends who gravitate to newer gear.

If I had to pick one path, my preferences and opinions would probably lead me to high efficiency horns and single ended amps.

Believe me, though, that I could be (and have been) just as happy with the M-L CLS, Quad ESL57 and 2-way British monitors (Rogers LS3/5A and Tangent RS2). Honorable Mention to the Snell Type A.

All of the above driven by appropriate electronics - mix of old and new.

Turntables? Definitely living in the past. Same with tonearms and phono carts.

Digital got better but seems to have plateaued for some time - with the exception of streaming services and technologies which continue to improve.

I do have an issue with how complex things have become. Simple and direct seems to get me closer to the music.

Anyway.....just my opinions. :)
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
What's improved? Pretty well everything. I can't think of any area of the hobby that sound quality wise that is worse now. Maybe MM cartridges? Hard to say. Tough to compare a 30-40 year old cartridge to a new one.
Maybe quality of tube amplifier iron? Direct-drive turntables for sure (since nobody is making them anymore).
 

dogscanskate

Junior Member
In spite of all the technological advances, they don't make vinyl records like they used to. I would also add that cd's have regressed because of the over compressed medium it has become. I don't want to touch a post 2000 cd, they just don't match the level that electronics have. The medium had potential that was never unearthed.

Sometimes I wonder why we even bother having exquisite electronics to drive a signal that Muzak would reject. We are still listening to old school music to appreciate the advancements in technology. This is weird and I will admit that there are some exceptions but mostly we have to deal with mediocrity. I wonder what Marantz, Harmon, Kloss, Vilchur, Hafler.... would come up with today's high end (not necessarily audiophile level) components.

Main stream music nowadays is mediocre at best, they are not pushing the envelope like it was done in previous generations. There are such great talents that have no idea just how good they could be if the music industry did things correctly. I admit that even back then, they did use compression so music could be heard in noisy cars. That is one of the biggest blunders ever made to hi fidelity and music. We have fast food, repeatable junk. Creativity is not being rewarded. Artists haven't sold out, I think they are not aware of how much better they could do things in the recording studio.

It doesn't really matter where we are but at least we can be hopeful that someone, somewhere makes advances in the reproduction of music. I want it all to be at the highest level that it deserves to be.
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
I'd say the two best direct drives ever made are currently in production. Both by Technics.
Perhaps so, or at least one of the two. I'm sure from talking to a couple of friends who own the new 1200 that it is excellent, but still comes with some of the same limitations as the previous version. The SP-10 is really something. The price tags are pretty high, but understandably so.
 
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