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.

(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.