ROBERT HARLEY: The proliferation of music servers designed for sound-quality. A good example is theBlue Smoke “Black Box” server ($6995) that looks like the first turnkey server to offer uncompromised sonic performance.
JONATHAN VALIN:Things are getting better folks, sonically speaking—better than I’ve heard in nearly forty years of listening to hi-fi. The show was a testament to this. The noise and colorations we’ve grown so used to over the years—and which we reviewers are geared to talk about—are going down or away in the very best products, making the job of audio criticism a lot harder to do, and making an audiophile’s life a lot better. Now if the economy will only cooperate, some of you may get the chance to hear the stuff I’ve heard and see for yourself that we’re entering a new Golden Age of High Fidelity.
NEIL GADER: An emphasis on value—particularly less expensive speakers based on flagship technology. Witness theSonus Faber Liuto, Joseph Audio Pulsar, and Verity Audio Finn.
ALAN TAFFEL:High resolution DACs, and controllers supporting the new hi-res Blu-ray formats. Finally, we have the means to play “HD music” via downloaded files, music servers, and even Blu-ray Discs.
CHRIS MARTENS: The resurgent popularity of vinyl—especially among younger listeners. Vinyl’s tangible and intangible benefits (sound quality, plus the simple pleasure of spinning discs) foster deeper, stronger ties to our hobby.
DICK OLSHER: Raising the speed limit! The continued march toward greater transient speed via beryllium, titanium, and magnesium alloy cone drivers.
STEVEN STONE: Digital music servers and products designed to support hard-drive-based music libraries. In 2009 servers arrived big-time. By 2010 any audiophile without a music server in his system will be way behind the times.
JIM HANNON:The sound at CES was never better, aided by terrific turntable systems, reel-to-reel units playing Tape Project tapes, and high-resolution digital front ends.
(For full audio coverage of CES 2009, see the next issue of The Absolute Sound )