Counting backwards. ‘Twas easy enough to pick nine – soon to be ten – favourites from the year all but gone. The only (self-imposed) criteria were that I keep it honest and live by the dictum so often doled out readers: that “there is no audition like a home audition”. News announcements and/or show experiences alone weren’t enough for an item to qualify; it had to be heard at home, with my own ancillary gear and my own music selections.
DAR’s favourite bits of 2016 were also chosen primarily for their mainstream crossover potential. Hardware and software that carries the conversation about better sound out of the audiophile ghetto over to people who have yet to reach their fortieth year on earth, to women and to those for whom aesthetics and the physical intrusion matter. A hifi system can seriously impact the look and feel of a living space and only the very fortunate (?) few have access to a dedicated listening room.
If there were only one word to summarise DAR’s frame for 2016 retrospection it would be elegance. That meant dismissing the workarounds and kludgey hacks endured by our kind. Rubber-strapping DACs/amps to phones would be show the door. Android-only fixes for gapless playback on the Google Chromecast got the red card. Sayonara to third party music players. Auf Wiedersehen to the potentially endless “What if?” tinkering and the tyranny of choice enjoyed/endured by vinyl die-hards?
Do the mainstream not dig stuff that ‘just works’ and does so without qualification and (some degree of) physical discretion: like Sonos; like Bluetooth speakers and headphones; like set-and-forget turntables?
Audiophile manufacturers beating a path to the mainstream are fewer than we might expect: Audeze and their Apple Lightning connecting Cipher cable; Roon’s visual elegance with Tidal integration and network extensibility; Peachtree Audio’s attempt to drive down box count and wrap the outcome in an über-attractive shell; AudioQuest’s DragonFlys and their gauntlet throw down to DAPs.
In my 2016 overview, penned for 6moons, I discuss how many of DAR’s favourite bits of 2016 are taking moving the ‘better sound’ conversation forward, toward a more mainstream audience that now streams more than it downloads or with which it gets physical.
In other words, my picks of 2016 discussed in a broader context and with one eye on the future.
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