What changed in hifi in the last 5 years?


Hello there

I discovered the world of hifi in 2014 when I bought my first speakers & amp: KEF Q700 & Rotel RA-12. I was using a Mac mini 2014 with Audirvana Plus, at that time.

I kept all this 4 years then I moved from Dublin to Singapore and bought in 2018 some KEF R300 & Teac AI-501, with a Mac mini 2018 & Roon.

When I came back to some audiophile forum to buy new speakers and get some info, I found out that nothing has changed, much: it was the same discussions, and the same topics like “cables can change sound quality (even USB cable, apparently)” & people fighting over the same topics over & over. It seems it’s always the same brands and I don’t see any innovation on hardware: basically it seems a speaker uses the same components as 30 years ago.

Also I was surprised by the prices & the fact that everything is made in China.

So apart from Roon, what has changed & have you seen innovative products or technologies that is worth checking out? Either software & hardware.

And finally what is next?

(Geoff Coupe) #2

The only thing to have caught my attention is the likes of active speakers with built in DSP, e.g. the Kii 3 or Dutch & Dutch speakers. They might give my 40-year old Quad ELS57s a run for their money, and would bring a simplification of the Hi-Fi chain to boot.

(Robert ) #3

Digital streaming and such is light years ahead of where it was five years ago, and who knows what lays ahead in the next five years. Lighter weight planar magnetic headphones, and personal high end IEMs have made great advances as well. Roon to go would be a big step once developed.

(Mr Fix It ) #4

at the risk of being shot…MQA is pretty new on the scene in the last 5 years.

I’ve been using active speakers for 15+ years… with Analogue Signal Processing (ASP) and DSP more recently - but prefer the ASP still.

Room correction has come a long way in the last 5 years.

High Res digital source material also up there of recent times.

HeadFi has taken some leaps and bounds too. Multi driver IEM’s and planar OTE’s come to mind.

Speaker manufacturering in designs and materials have improved distortion levels, frequency ranges and SPL levels.

Digital amps (D class, ICE power, etc) also good advances.

Wireless music (Bluetooth) transmission also many improvements.

so a lot has improved but the basics still much the same.


the future will be HQ muzak pushed by algorithms. Spotify (podcasts), Apple (fakeNews), etc. And it’s all ‘on demand’ (OD)?

(Henry) #6

The main change is streaming of lossless and HD music from the internet. Essentially access to massive libraries without the need to ‘own’ a single CD or LP as long as your tastes don’t stray to far from the mainstream. The rest has only made step changes at the previously recognised points. Long Play, Stereo, digital and now streaming.

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(Tony) #7

Ownership of many classic British hifi companies has changed dramatically, though perhaps not in the last 5 years. I think many are foreign owned now. Naim, Quad, Kef, Audiolab, Wharfedale, Mission and many others. A lot of manufacturing has moved to China but items that sell for high enough to generate decent retail prices are still UK made in some cases, with cheaper items being off shored.

For me, streaming has gone from something I wouldn’t entertain (mp3, are you kidding!) to a viable option with Tidal/Qobuz in HD audio.


Thanks for your answers. It appears that is somewhat SW related for all innovations.

What about the market itself, as a whole? Is there new actors, new brands? Is it growing or is it only driven by headphones? Anyone has info on that? I’m wondering what changed from a business perspective…and prices.

(Scott G) #9

Roon demonstrates the power/beauty of the digital front end. Great signal out and amazing way to farm the metadata. LPs are even made from digital masters now.
IMO, USB out from the computer and into the DAC is on borrowed time. It is convenient, for sure. But it’s noisy. My bet is on ethernet inputs into the DAC being the way to go. Cleaner and likely to get much better and cheaper. The ‘rendu family’ does this well as an intermediary, but some DACs have network renderers as inputs.

(Reader of the Internets) #10

The modern world is built with SW, to a degree that’s not often appreciated. From automobile engines to music. Many things continue to look the same as they did in the 1940’s, either for functional reasons, or simply not to alarm people, but inside are completely reworked.

Perhaps the most intriguing modern artifact is the cell phone, a lump of hardware that’s basically a “powered exoskeleton” for thousands of software loads. It has managed to replace dozens of previously distinct artifacts with a standard set of generic hardware components and carefully written software.

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Upton, Sonore, SOtM, not really new but pushing forward. Higher quality clocking, much cheaper. Importance and development of power supplies. Rpi endpoints/Hats. Cheaper computing helping room correction.

(Pim) #12
  • Since the Devialet D-Premier was introduced, there’s been a lot more emphasis on high quality all in one ‘super integrateds’ (DAC/Amp/Pre-amp)

  • As stated above, active speakers are definitely the future. At the moment there’s still a bit of push back from the higher priced manufacturers because most do only speakers OR electronics. It’s only a matter of time and they will have to conclude that you either go with the flow and innovate or get left behind.

  • Do I need to mention Roon? :wink:


For me the Devialet Phantoms were a game changer and it seems B&W with their B&W Formation Suite are following the concept. Higher quality sound at lower price and without cabling fuss.


Dare I mention Meridian without waking up the anti-MQA mob? Digital actives since 1989.

(Armin Kern) #15

It is a shame!
The biggest part in music consuption is via mono speakers!
We all need to educate the people to listen to Stereo again!


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(Mike) #16

More and more reliance on DSP: making cheap components sound better by adjusting the digits, rather than designing things right! What good is a lossless path if DSP skews it beyond recognition anyway?


I think the rise of DSP is inevitable. While I understand the point, designing things right can get a lot more expensive and room characteristics are outside the designer’s control. What’s the point of a lossless path if your room skews it beyond recognition?

(Yiannis Kouropalatis) #18

I do see DSP appearing in some HiFi products (excluding AVRs and AV equipment which always had it) and that is wonderful change in my opinion. I love good sound but at the same time I live in the UK where apartments and living rooms are tiny. I did try to set up speakers properly and it ended up taking up a good portion of my tiny living room while also looking like I live in a recording studio. Not good. DSP is what I need to create a good compromise between HiFi and living arrangements. I would love to see more HiFi components with DSP or at the very least a full parametric EQ. Dirac is being added (see NAD M10, the upcoming Arcam SA30 etc.) but many (most) hifi components don’t offer it. In that respect, the HomePod is amazing (auto-self tuning) and horrible (no manual control). Roon’s DSP is absolutely fantastic but I would love the hifi components to offer DSP so I can used them for Spotify, youtube music, etc without the horrible boomy bass that is inevitable in my case.
Fingers crossed for more DSP coming my way :slight_smile:


Ever considered a Dirac box as a separate, MiniDSP do them. I recently acquired a DDRC-22D box and it’s made me very happy. Even the TV gets the treatment now…

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(Yiannis Kouropalatis) #20

MiniDSP is a fantastic solution for the main HiFi for sure although it adds and extra box and cables :slight_smile: I am also considering other rooms where a smaller solution is needed (e.g. kitchen, bedroom, study, etc)

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