Published On: 16 Oct 2023Categories: Featured

October 2023

The war of the formats ala continua…

We haven’t had much to say in recent times over the war of formats. It’s the ongoing unstoppable object meeting the immovable force debate and as long as there is audio there will be format wars. Even industry standards agreed to by everyone are subject to format wars and there is always ongoing tension over which delivers better or worse, which format compromises, and which does not.

At the heart of it all is the subjective trial of what it is that we hear. Sarel and I delved into this in some detail a while back and how we hear physically vs how we hear emotionally is perhaps something that is ascribed as being unique to each of us as our fingerprints. It is all too easy to get stuck into a position that X is better than Y because the math says so. Being an advocate, highly, of mathematics ruling the world, I have to confess that audio is one my great joys in discover that math has far less to do with my enjoyment of music that it might first appear to sway influence and that sometimes a little distortion – Shock! Horror! Heresy! that is deliberate can be part of the musical experience in and of itself.

I am not saying that inferior irritation inducing acoustics now get a free pass on claims to audiophile Nirvana – don’t get me wrong. But I am saying that my ears trump my mathematics and I enjoy that sometimes my math, although superior on paper, gets done it by the listened experience. Formats will come and formats will go and format wars are generally an enduring aspect of the audiophile game in one shape or another. Streaming perhaps is the most interesting one currently as the lossless streamers become mainstream now and, this, being a good thing to bring more people into appreciation of fabulous quality music equipment that they might otherwise simply not been aware of, is of course an importantly contested area. Tidal’s MQA vis Deezer’s lossless for example, and Qobuz simply all but impossible to get in South Africa are talking points for all the right reasons. It’s about ‘better’ and ‘improved’, and all of it is good if your ears are set as the reference for your own digestion and enjoyment of the audio feasts that streaming offers.

There is one area of course where mathematics does rule the audio world – and it is hard to argue with power. Lots of power. Proper unadulterated wattage has a sense of appeal that is hard to assuage with less. I may not NEED 405kW in my car, but knowing that it is there and every now and again letting it rip is one of life’s true joys. And so it goes with amplification and the NAD C298 that was on review does not disappoint.

William Kelly




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