THE CHANGING FACE OF HIFI HOME THEATER
It may seem that music is being left behind in the rush to cram every conceivable piece of electronic gear, reproducing every format the corporate marketing wizards can conjure up into the "home entertainment room". Certainly music and fidelity have been casualties in the early days of home theater.
However, the clear trend is back to superb music. This may be happening more by accident than by design but over the next few years, the reproduction of music in the home will be dramatically enhanced by a number of technical advances.
Number one is the digital chain (link). This is here now in the form of the Tact amps and preamps with DSP crossover and room correction. In combination with excellent drivers and the correct radiation pattern, (digital technology won't correct for everything!) a huge step forward in fidelity is guaranteed for any system. Being in the digital domain, prices can only go down and performance can only go up. With the Tact's superb current level of performance, it is safe to say that although prices will go down dramatically with digital advances, performance will increase in only modest increments.
Newform had wanted to produce our own system by this time but the delays at the major chip companies plus the arrival of the OEM/DSP crossover capability in the Tact amplifiers has allowed us to go digital now with a level of sophistication we could not have achieved ourselves. Ditto Onkyo and Emotiva.
The second major breakthrough is the arrival of affordable, high performance front projectors. Many great hifi systems have had their musical potential severely reduced by the addition of large rear projection TVs in between the main loudspeakers. Read "The Acoustic Advantages of Front Projectors" for a more detailed discussion but front projectors restore the acoustics of a hifi only room to pre-RPTV levels. You can now have both superb music reproduction and great video capability in one, no-compromise, system. Upgrade your video capability and get your music back for free.
Looking at these small, light video projectors, one really has to wonder just what they are going to cost when the factories really crank up production. Ditto digital amps and processors. Future cost may not be precisely definable but the trend is certainly clear. Advances in many areas are converging to make the reproduction of music in the home better, easier and cheaper. High fidelity strikes back!
Not to be forgotten is the music itself. While media focus has been on the new formats, SACD and DVD audio, the lowly CD has come a long way as well. Recording techniques are improving rapidly and so is our understanding of how to get the most out of the 16 bit, 44kHz format. Up sampling, time correction and buffering are all producing large improvements in sound quality to the point where the higher resolution formats may almost be caught from behind. Not quite maybe but the best CD material will raise a light sweat on the forehead of any of the new formats.
Our buying advice has really not changed in the past 5 years. Due to the imminent arrival of the digital chain, don't spend more than you need to on conventional technology. Since the imminent has actually arrived in the form of the Tact system and affordable front projectors, continue to pick your spots with an eye to the future when buying. It is now possible to clearly see the trend of future developments in both audio and home theater.
You can take your time and get it right because technology is driving the changes in high fidelity in the right direction. Delays in decision making will result in better available choices when you do decide to commit. Just like buying a computer. By the time you decide to get down off the fence and do something, a faster model will pass you before you can turn the key in the ignition.