The majority of people in the business world subscribe to relevant subscriptions to stay abreast of trends and developments.
For me that subscription list includes a few architectural and interior design publications – not because they cover our products, but because it gives me an insight into where we are trying to place those products.
The look and feel of our living environments has changed considerably over the past few decades, and, with few exceptions, I believe the audio visual industry has failed to keep pace. Most of the industry is trying to sell the same systems we sold thirty years ago into environments with very different aesthetics. The modern living room is sleek, uncluttered, and airy. There is very little allowance given for a rack of electronics and large floor standing speakers. On a daily basis we hear that much loved systems have been relegated to the garage, or worst still, to the council clean-up, by décor conscious better-halves.
Unfortunately in many instances this has resulted in a knee-jerk reaction, with great sounding, but visually out-of-place systems being replaced by aesthetically pleasing, but sonically compromised alternatives. We are witnessing a proliferation of Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi enabled multi-room systems. While they are inconspicuous in design, simple to use (in most cases), and relatively inexpensive there is a chasm in terms of performance between what they offer and a proper Hi-Fi system. This leads to the unfortunate compromise between performance and design, with the latter winning out in most cases.
There is obviously a place for this current trend to digitally based wireless systems. We understand and respect the fact that not everyone has the inclination (or the time) to be involved in their music at an involving level (more the pity). For many their musical interests only forms part of the background fabric of their lives. These systems are ideal for this market.
However, if you are used to enjoying music on a fine system there in no need to compromise if you need to declutter. There are a number of companies which have recognised that the demands of today are different to those of a few decades back and have reacted accordingly. We are now seeing a growing number of companies produce high performance electronics that incorporate everything you need for a quality system in a single discrete chassis. These single box, just add speakers solutions offer the same level of performance as the more traditional multi-component alternatives, but are more discrete in design and far simpler to integrate into modern environments. This has been aided by the advent of high-performance (CD quality or better) streaming services. For many all that is now needed is a streamer, a good amplifier and a pair of matching speakers.
The trailblazer in this area is Naim with their Uniti series. Their relatively inobtrusive high-quality streaming amplifiers offer performance in spades in a package that can easily slip into the most fastidious of interior designs. These, and many other products like them, offers an audio quality far exceeding the now familiar wireless offerings.
Another great example is the M33 from NADs Master Series. This one-piece offering has a lot going for it. Consider:
- 200 watts/channel amplifier
- Built in streamer based on NADs excellent BluOS
- Multiple digital and analogue inputs, including
- Voice control
- Touch screen
- HDMI input – connect your TV and the results will be markedly better than using a conventional
- Dirac room correction. One of the most critical elements affecting the performance of any system is the room itself – Dirac correction goes a long way to eliminating
All of this and more in a single component – just add speakers. This is a large amount of quality technology in a single package –which again can easily be incorporated into the most difficult of living environments. Plus – almost all of these companies also incorporate associated wireless multi-room solutions for those other areas of your home where the performance is not as critical.
This trend has been helped by the growing number of very high performance speakers with small footprints. Companies like B&W from the UK, Sonus Faber from Italy and Australia’s own Serhan & Swift are getting remarkable results from small boxes.
So – you still have a love of music – but your living aesthetics no longer accommodates the type of system you aspire to. Before you compromise and invest in a lesser technology have a look at the above alternatives. We think you may be surprised at how good some of these one-box solutions can be. You can still ‘feel’ the music, be aware of the emotional impact the artist intended – you can’t do that with the alternative.