Digital, Digital, Digital. It is everywhere and now every manufacturer across all HiFI verticals appears to be jumping into the fray regardless of their history/pedigree or lack thereof. There’s a line “fools rush in, where ….”

Let me take a step back a bit and address the need of the HiFi industry to put forward a category of products to meet the growing technological needs of the digital HiFi enthusiast who not  only wants to play hi-res and redbook quality digital files, but now wants to play and stream them from anywhere in their residence whether it be a house or an apartment.This void needs to filled, hence the introduction of the network player/streamer.

The terms are, but should not be used interchangeably. Semantically streaming has taken a hit over the years with regards to streaming over the Internet and playing digital files over one’s home network from room to room. Whether the latter is technically streaming is arguable, what is not is the fact that a fair number of actual technology issues regarding networks, bandwidth, traffic, interference, WIFI coverage and protocols (TCPIP, UPNP, UDP) need be taken into account. And of these listed above few HiFi enthusiasts as well as vendors are equipped to understand them well enough to deal with them.

Therein lies the rub: the digital line which should not be crossed, hence the title A Bit Too Far. HiFi enthusiasts spend a great deal of money after what should be a great deal of research and introspection to pull the trigger on a purchase decision. They rightfully expect that the manufacturer/designer of products know what they are doing and that industry reviews serve not only as a proxy for their own curiosity but also as a means of a check and balance to keep companies on their toes.

HiFi enthusiasts should not be required to possess a professional background in technology and networking, and my concern is that with the proliferation of network streamer/player products ostensibly remote controlled via smart phones and tablets, this has become the case. On principle, if a manufacturer has to start recommending networking gear and delineating that certain products will not work optimally with their product, there is something definitely amiss.

To go a step further, if in the course of a product review, a manufacturer says something to the effect ‘had we known you’re were going to be using THAT model or manufacturer of router, we would have suggested something else, or sent you a router which we know to work with our product’, this really crosses the line. 

There’s a reason why cigarette packs have WARNING labels on them. While not as life or death, I’d hate to see such labels on HiFi gear. That being said HiFi enthusiasts need to be protected.

David Blumenstein

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