To what extent has the sound quality of hifi improved in the last 30 years?

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lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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CnoEvil said:
... I was wondering whether TT technology had stalled along with its relegation to the specialist market....not enough sales to justify the investment. Cno
Direct drive turntables are complex to design and expensive to manufacture compared to belt drive turntables. Idler drives are more expensive to manufacture than belt drives too. For the small to medium sized companies that are still in the hi-fi business it's much easier and cheaper for them to design belt drive turntables.

Also in the 1970's you had the big Japanese corporations that sold millions of units to the mass market and liked to have statement products at the top of the range for prestige. To avoid losing face, these statement products had to sound good.

There was also a decently large market for radio broadcast turntables which doesn't exist any more due to the radio stations switching over to digital storage for convenience.
 

oldric_naubhoff

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Mar 11, 2011
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dannycanham said:
Manfred Schroeder was already a well-known and revered figure in the worldwide community of acoustical and electrical engineers for example.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manfred_R._Schroeder

Some of the most intelligent minds in audio are behind the development of mp3.
I guess that sentence explains well why new ideas pushing limits of musical reproduction even further and the best sounding hi-fi equipment is usually conceived by music lovers and not by people with well established reputation in engineering circles. :rofl:

on topic; IMHO last decades were most benefiting to speaker development. new enclosure materials in some cases eliminate enclosure resonances completely. drivers are less distorting and can handle higher power loads. they also work better outside of their frequency range (i.e. contribute less distortion), which benefits greatly in that shallow slope x-overs or no x-overs can be used without any penalties.
 

oldric_naubhoff

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Mar 11, 2011
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lindsayt said:
CnoEvil said:
... I was wondering whether TT technology had stalled along with its relegation to the specialist market....not enough sales to justify the investment. Cno
Direct drive turntables are complex to design and expensive to manufacture compared to belt drive turntables. Idler drives are more expensive to manufacture than belt drives too. For the small to medium sized companies that are still in the hi-fi business it's much easier and cheaper for them to design belt drive turntables.
hey Lind. I guess what you write doesn't answer the question. DD TTs may be more complex to manufacture but that doesn't make them superior constructions. BD TTs with decoupled motors (Clearaudio like constructions) are virtually free from motor resonances. at least it's hard for me to believe that a silicon string can transfer quite a lot of motor vibrations and that's the only point of contact. besides, it's quite rare to see any todays high-end DD TTs. and I don't think the reason for that is cost savings since most of TTs sold retail for well into 4 figure prices.
 

dannycanham

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May 5, 2009
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oldric_naubhoff said:
dannycanham said:
Manfred Schroeder was already a well-known and revered figure in the worldwide community of acoustical and electrical engineers for example.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manfred_R._Schroeder

Some of the most intelligent minds in audio are behind the development of mp3.
I guess that sentence explains well why new ideas pushing limits of musical reproduction even further and the best sounding hi-fi equipment is usually conceived by music lovers and not by people with well established reputation in engineering circles. :rofl:
Actually it is usually conceived by people with both qualities.
 

dannycanham

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May 5, 2009
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nopiano said:
From the legacy of mp3 we seem to be approaching a new 24/192 era, but I am far from confident that anything downloaded today will still be playable in 30 years (unlike my LPs, and even cassettes) or even 10. Alongside it all we still have great symphony orchestras, soloists, bands, opera houses, and so on, though they have evolved too, but are still the reference.
Tape? The format not expected to store well beyond ten years

http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub54/1introduction.html

Vinyl? The format that requires its own grading guide.

Ten years of regular playing and a large percentage of vinyl and even larger percentage of tape will drop well into audible degradation. Admittedly some vinyl will last well for 100 years. If the three formats were compared for amount of difference to source after 10 years more often than not high bit rate mp3 would come out the better.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
This is a very interesting topic, and one, I fear, almost impossible to answer. Firstly, the question 'would a £2000 system bought today be better sonically than a £2000 system bought in 1981?'. To which, I'd say, no. However, would a £2000 system bought today be better than a £500 system (£2000 with inflation losses) bought in 1981; I'd say probably.

Put aside the strides in manufacturing tolerances, material choices (kevlar cones, anyone?), CFD and computer prototyping, I'd say that equipment on sale now is far better value for money than that on the market 30 years ago; as for whether it's better built, more musical, more wooden, that's open for debate.

Personally, I welcome with open arms the digital revolution, and now 90% of my listening is streamed FLAC files over wi-fi.

I still spin up the old (c1981) Techniks SL-10 turntable now and again, though.
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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oldric_naubhoff said:
hey Lind. I guess what you write doesn't answer the question. DD TTs may be more complex to manufacture but that doesn't make them superior constructions. BD TTs with decoupled motors (Clearaudio like constructions) are virtually free from motor resonances. at least it's hard for me to believe that a silicon string can transfer quite a lot of motor vibrations and that's the only point of contact. besides, it's quite rare to see any todays high-end DD TTs. and I don't think the reason for that is cost savings since most of TTs sold retail for well into 4 figure prices.
A good dd turntable will have a crispness to the sound that BD's struggle to match.

You can also take absolutely locked-on pitch accuracy and stability for granted with a good dd turntable, which is not so easy to find with belt drives.

Good dd turntables have excellent signal to noise ratios. An extreme example being the Pioneer Exclusive P3a which had a signal to noise ratio of 95dbs! It's a belt drive marketing myth to state that direct drives suffer from motor noise or resonances. Cheap direct drives might suffer from it, well engineered ones don't.

Modern turntable costs are hamstrung by low production volumes.

If a company wanted to introduce a new direct drive turntable to the market, the design and development costs would be hugely expensive, unless they copied an old design. It would take them years to recoup their investment if they sold them for four figure sums. So you'd be looking at five figure prices for a newly designed modern direct drive turntable.

As well as costs, the other reason for belt drives being so ubiquitous these days is the marketing job done in the early 1980's promoting belt drives at the expense of idler and direct drives.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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speckyclay said:
This is a very interesting topic, and one, I fear, almost impossible to answer. Firstly, the question 'would a £2000 system bought today be better sonically than a £2000 system bought in 1981?'. To which, I'd say, no. However, would a £2000 system bought today be better than a £500 system (£2000 with inflation losses) bought in 1981; I'd say probably.

Put aside the strides in manufacturing tolerances, material choices (kevlar cones, anyone?), CFD and computer prototyping, I'd say that equipment on sale now is far better value for money than that on the market 30 years ago; as for whether it's better built, more musical, more wooden, that's open for debate.

Personally, I welcome with open arms the digital revolution, and now 90% of my listening is streamed FLAC files over wi-fi.

I still spin up the old (c1981) Techniks SL-10 turntable now and again, though.
Hi SC

I'm glad that the topic intrigues you enough to have your say. My intention was to draw out different angles and engender debate.

Cno
 

lindsayt

New member
Apr 8, 2011
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speckyclay said:
This is a very interesting topic, and one, I fear, almost impossible to answer. Firstly, the question 'would a £2000 system bought today be better sonically than a £2000 system bought in 1981?'. To which, I'd say, no. However, would a £2000 system bought today be better than a £500 system (£2000 with inflation losses) bought in 1981; I'd say probably...
I agree that it's very interesting to adjust prices for inflation and comparing vintage against modern.

Does anyone have a list of all the retail prices of hi-fi equipment in 1981? As I'm not sure what I could buy for £500 in those days. Would a Pioneer PL71, Denon dl103 with Heybrook HB3's and a Marantz PM4 amp come in under £500?

Looking at the high-end, I have a system based on 1960's and 1970's kit that adjusted for inflation would have cost about £30,000 in todays terms when new. I was able to compare this against a single make modern £30,000 system earlier this year. I found the sound of the modern system disappointing. It was probably the speakers that let the side down most in the modern system.

Maybe someone can come up with a £30,000 to £50,000 modern system that will sound better than my vintage system?
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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lindsayt said:
I agree that it's very interesting to adjust prices for inflation and comparing vintage against modern.

Does anyone have a list of all the retail prices of hi-fi equipment in 1981? As I'm not sure what I could buy for £500 in those days. Would a Pioneer PL71, Denon dl103 with Heybrook HB3's and a Marantz PM4 amp come in under £500?
Lindsay, I can't do prices from 1981, but here are some from 1987 that I started a thread on:
http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/hifi-prices-from-1987
 

nopiano

Well-known member
dannycanham said:
nopiano said:
From the legacy of mp3 we seem to be approaching a new 24/192 era, but I am far from confident that anything downloaded today will still be playable in 30 years (unlike my LPs, and even cassettes) or even 10. Alongside it all we still have great symphony orchestras, soloists, bands, opera houses, and so on, though they have evolved too, but are still the reference.
Tape? The format not expected to store well beyond ten years

http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub54/1introduction.html

Vinyl? The format that requires its own grading guide.

Ten years of regular playing and a large percentage of vinyl and even larger percentage of tape will drop well into audible degradation. Admittedly some vinyl will last well for 100 years. If the three formats were compared for amount of difference to source after 10 years more often than not high bit rate mp3 would come out the better.
Yes, I guess over 10 years, I'd go with something digital, were I starting from today. But my point is I have been playing Lps recently that have been in the family for up to 40 years or more, and they still sound great, and are replayed in essentially the same way - TT, cartridge, RIAA curve, amp, etc.

If you had an mp3 file on a hard disk or iPod today, do you think it will still be accessible in 10, 15, 20 years? How many copies and back-ups would you need, whereas I'm still playing the exact same LP!

I'd never choose a cassette for archive mind you, but am still astonished that they work at all! A similar issue arises with digital photography. My parents have pictures from WWII and the 50's still perfectly viewable, but will baby snaps taken in 2005 still be usable in 40 years, unless printed out - or will they be lost forever on a crashed hard drive?
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
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oldric_naubhoff said:
on topic; IMHO last decades were most benefiting to speaker development. new enclosure materials in some cases eliminate enclosure resonances completely. drivers are less distorting and can handle higher power loads. they also work better outside of their frequency range (i.e. contribute less distortion), which benefits greatly in that shallow slope x-overs or no x-overs can be used without any penalties.
Oldric, I think I agree with this, though, a bit like Lindsay, I miss the bachelor pad "proper" sized woofers, in an infinite baffle design.
 

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