Lossy compression, piracy, and poorly compensated artists aside, it would be hard to make the case that, overall, the Internet has been bad for audio. Hearing new recorded music used to involve traveling to a store and buying a physical disc. Now, you can instantly access almost any music you want via streaming. In the case of Tidal HiFi -- and soon, possibly, other services -- you can also stream it in a compressed high-resolution format. Having such a vast library at your disposal has the side benefit of encouraging exploration: In the past three years, I’ve discovered more interesting new music by browsing streaming services than I had in the preceding 15 years, when my only choices were physical discs or downloads. (Legal downloads, that is; I never did the Napster thing, and I’m sure you didn’t either.)
One news item to come out of the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show that got little play in the otherwise exhaustive show coverage on SoundStage! Global was the announcement that Tidal would begin streaming Hi-Res Audio (HRA), effectively immediately. The announcement was made at a Hi-Res Audio Pavilion arranged by the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) and located not at the Venetian, but at the Las Vegas Convention Center, amid booths filled with camera accessories, VR headsets, and drones. Statements made by other companies at the event indicated that we can soon expect HRA streaming from additional services, including Pandora, Napster (formerly Rhapsody), and HRA download site HDtracks.
The 2017 Consumer Electronics Show was arguably a bust for perfectionist audio, but there were still loads of interesting products to be found if you looked past the typical model of separates plus passive speakers. In retrospect, integrated products with wireless/streaming capability were the norm rather than the exception, indicating that such functionality has become a standard feature in the product lines of many companies. It was also the first audio show at which I saw high-end manufacturers tap Amazon’s voice-controlled Echo Dot to help conduct demos (“Alexa, play us some Norah Jones . . .”). Technology marches on.
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