All this to compete with a turntable?
In response to Ted Smith’s video explaining DSD, a viewer posted a great remark that is the title of today’s post. I just couldn’t resist writing about it.
Indeed, when digital audio first came on the scene in the early 1980s, the intent of designers was clear. Outperform the turntable. From day one their goals were met in terms of fixing vinyl’s many weaknesses: degradation over time, mechanical interface, ticks and pops, surface noise, limited dynamic range, stunted frequency response, mechanical nightmare.
For most, the advent of the CD was all they needed to retire their vinyl collection. Few looked back with regret.
Of course, our sector of the market reacted rather differently. We were horrified with the one aspect most important to us. Sound quality. Compare an old CD to the same in vinyl and it’s easy to see why.
Today, the situation has flip-flopped. While vinyl’s still a great sounding medium whose popularity has soared once again, digital has long ago exceeded our expectations for sound quality. Consider that nearly every new vinyl release of the last few decades was recorded on a digital system before transferring to vinyl. That what modern purchasers of vinyl are hearing is a second-generation copy of a digital master.
Sometimes change happens without our even noticing it.
Is the day of the source over?
I will avoid getting mired in the audio source vs. audio output argument of which is better. Long time readers of my posts already know I believe the output end of things matters more than their beginnings (though both are important).
The question I have been pondering as of late concerns our move towards streaming music. Yes, I understand vinyl is a critical and wonderful medium—and so too are our silver disc collections—but over the next decade, I believe streaming will continue its inevitable forward march. The lure of a multi-million piece library is just too much to resist.
And if we follow this thread to its logical conclusion, what’s the chance that sources will even matter in the future?
We know, from our work on the upcoming Octave server and Memory Player, that it’s now possible to gather digital bits together in such a way as to render them identical to each other. That their source will increasingly become irrelevant if we handle them properly.
What that would appear to mean is the eventual elimination of the source as an equipment category. Our source might just be the pipe that connects us to the internet.
What might just emerge is a whole new crop of amazing output devices to enrich our lives.
That sounds pretty enticing to me.