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The Front End

Posted 19th November 2012 at 05:26 AM by rjm
Updated 22nd November 2012 at 06:18 AM by rjm

The most disruptive audio technology since the CD, since the advent of stereo actually, is ... the iPod. You can lump in mp3, iTunes, and digital distribution in there if you want, but itís the iPod, the physical device, which has more than anything re-defined what we think of as an audio system in the twenty first century. Shelves of physical media and a playback unit, or, if you preferred, broadcast content, has been displaced by a handheld, personal, portable jukebox. The audio component system of the 1970ís (media, sources, preamp, amp, speakers) has faded into obsolescence, replaced by powered speakers, headphone amplifiers, desktop audio, compact ďspeakers+amplifierĒ systems the ubiquitous "dock" fronting a traditional amplifier-speaker system.

Audio is missing the front end.

Because it isnít an iPod, Iím sure of that. Its day is done. No, it's pretty clear to me that the front-front end of the future is settled: Its the internet. The cloud. Networked storage and distribution.

The front end, therefore, amounts to the magic wand that sets data stored up there playing down here.

It's all quite exciting. We are still at baby steps, though. Anything to do with the television is a complete and utter mess. Computers are still mostly large, loud, unsightly, and extremely stupid. And donít get me started on DRM.

There are bright spots, signs of progress: Google is doing a lot, Apple is doing a lot. The audio industry is doing ... not a heck of a lot. Unfortunately high fidelity is still largely MIA. Even though 24/96 support has been baked into consumer hardware for six years or more now, and storage and bandwidth are no longer real limitations, the internet still runs on compressed, low bit rate audio. Thatís changing, but at a glacial pace.

Hi fidelity in the cloud. Thatís the next front end.
Total Comments 2


  1. Old Comment
    KMossman's Avatar
    Could not agree more with the substance of your blog, yet remembering my youth, AM radio was the place to go.....

    The question is whether or not 'this' generation will mature [acoustically!].

    I dare say that ours did. So perhaps all hope is not lost.

    Cloud? Well, with 20 years in the IT industry, to me, the concepts are really old but the access, in the broadest terms, has advanced considerably making it more a commodity.

    I see many issues with Cloud which are largely ignored - typical with the fads that zip through the IT industry.

    My little rant................. ipad, iphone etc [at least in Asia] is largely driven by ego. They buy a 7,000rmb ipad when a 3,000rmb Asus tablet is better, faster, and more open. And I have ONLY seen them play silly games, or watch movies!
    Posted 5th February 2013 at 12:38 AM by KMossman KMossman is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Max Headroom's Avatar

    HQ Music Downloads...

    I believe that project is underway...downloadable 96k/24bit audio files. Pono Music - high-quality music initiative from Neil Young.

    No prices or availability yet !.

    Posted 20th March 2013 at 11:37 AM by Max Headroom Max Headroom is offline

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