How much has the SQ of gear improved in the last quarter century?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Ilusndweller, Nov 23, 2022.

  1. Ilusndweller

    Ilusndweller S.H.M.F.=>Reely kewl. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    I decided to delete what I wrote and just see where this goes. Assume (and I realize this is a big assumption) that the 25 (+/-) year old gear is in "proper working order/up to specs". Thanks! :agree:
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2022
  2. Helom

    Helom Forum member

    Location:
    U.S.
    Not much, if at all. Inexpensive gear is better than ever, however, it’s my opinion that the “mid-fi” and upper mid-tier stuff doesn’t really outperform gear from 20–30 years ago.

    Class D amps are the big exception, though most of them are still lame AF.

    A few examples:

    My ~20 year old Parasound A21 outperforms the new A21+. It’s quieter and smoother than the latter but sounds just as powerful.

    The early 2000s Epos speakers were better built and sounding than those of the company’s twilight years.

    Spendor used superior tweeters and crossover components in the early 90s, relative to what they employ today.

    Many prefer older Sonus Fabers to the new designs.

    ^ Same for Exposure amps.

    Audiophiles still seek out DACs with old Philips and AD chips.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2022
  3. Tim 2

    Tim 2 MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Location:
    Alberta Canada
    Ten fold.
     
  4. Francois1968

    Francois1968 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Netherlands
    I do agree with Helom that it's mainly the mid end and even low end that has improved. With the exception of streaming devices, new technologies, upper mid end and high end has not seen much improvements. At least not in the result of much better sound quality. These days a $700 costing DAC or CD player can sound as good as a $3500 one from 20 years ago while a new expensive piece of gear does sound different, but not necessarily better.
     
  5. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    Not much. The spread of digital has done a lot for quality, but that's due to formats not gear.
     
  6. Khorn

    Khorn Dynagrunt Obversarian

    Agreed. And quite substantially.
     
  7. BruceS

    BruceS El Sirviente del Gato

    Location:
    Reading, MA US
    I feel that the SQ of powered speakers is one place where SQ has improved over the years.
     
  8. Ilusndweller

    Ilusndweller S.H.M.F.=>Reely kewl. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    I figured there would be a wide variety of answers/opinions. :agree:

    What about breaking it down further into components (or not)?

    Digital (in general or be specific)
    Speakers
    TT (in general or break down further- cartridges, pres, etc)
    Preamps
    Amps
    etc

    Thanks! :)
     
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  9. shug4476

    shug4476 Nullius In Verba

    Location:
    London
    My thoughts:

    - Assuming equivalent technology, high quality kit of 25 years ago will tend to outperform good kit today of equivalent price. This is because the basic components of kit design have not changed, but the cost of inputs has risen higher than the wider economy and average earnings.

    - However, the aggregate quality of kit has IMO been improved substantially in the past 25 years because of the widespread availability of high quality measurement technologies for almost every element of music reproduction. These were difficult to obtain, and very difficult to operate, 25 years ago. Today, it is possible to almost entirely automate bench testing for most kit - i.e. it is harder for manufacturers to make engineering mistakes in design and production without these being correctly detected. If one reads the excellent Stereophile of HiFi News bench tests, it is very rare today to find poorly designed equipment.

    - The exception to the above is DAC design. Silicon has gotten cheaper, more computationally capable, more power efficient, smaller, allowing much more sophisticated mathematical intervention in filter design than was possible 25 years ago. It is also easier (and more accurate) to measure the in-band effects of DAC design than 25 years ago (again less margin for error). Couple this with the widespread availability of hi-res music, and this is the one area where it is possible to do 'more for less' than 25 years ago.
     
  10. Ilusndweller

    Ilusndweller S.H.M.F.=>Reely kewl. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    Very insightful, thanks!

    One of the reasons I ask is bc my gut feeling is that if I were to calculate the average age of all my gear(a lot :uhhuh:), it would be about 25 years old. Much of it is from around then as well.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2022 at 10:24 AM
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  11. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Go Padres!!

    Location:
    San Diego
    And Burr Brown.
     
  12. Ilusndweller

    Ilusndweller S.H.M.F.=>Reely kewl. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    Im enjoying the sound of my NAD 5300 CD player, 1989 with Burr-Brown PCM54HP. :agree:
     
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  13. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Go Padres!!

    Location:
    San Diego
    Me too. McCormack preamp, Adcom DAC and Mirage speakers all from the 90's. Adcom 535 amp still perfect from 89 in bullpen roll now. Equivalent performing gear would cost 2-3 times the price today.
     
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  14. Tim 2

    Tim 2 MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Location:
    Alberta Canada
    One only needs to listen to an amp from 25 years ago and compare it to a similar amp today built by the same manufacturer to hear the improved detail and clarity.
     
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  15. Ilusndweller

    Ilusndweller S.H.M.F.=>Reely kewl. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    More detail and clarity than my 1989 Forte Model 3? :confused:

    Not doubting you, especially since I havent heard any newer amps. :shake:

    But that amp seems about as clean and detailed as clean and detailed can get, to me based on my experiences as least. :)
     
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  16. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Go Padres!!

    Location:
    San Diego
    Exactly. And the older amps were designed to last decades. Can't say that about a lot of modern stuff. Class D is about the only new tech in amps and that gets mixed reviews.
     
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  17. Ilusndweller

    Ilusndweller S.H.M.F.=>Reely kewl. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    I would really like to hear a current offering Nelson Pass amp (he designed the Forte Model 3) to from an opinion for myself. I would not be surprised if I concluded that his current offerings are "next level", which really is a "fractional/very small improvement", but I also feel a "fractional improvement" can result in much more that a fractional improvement in perceived SQ, to some at least. And about as good as amps will ever sound.
     
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  18. Ampexed

    Ampexed "Ampexed Tape Is Professional Tape"

    Location:
    Santa Fe, NM
    Performance has improved in ways which make for slightly better measurements, but mostly there is no difference in sound quality. The low to middle end products have benefited the most with good performance becoming cheaper to implement.
     
  19. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Go Padres!!

    Location:
    San Diego
    Forte, Adcom and Threshold! Pass for the masses!
     
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  20. Ilusndweller

    Ilusndweller S.H.M.F.=>Reely kewl. Thread Starter

    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    Yes, but I would not consider Threshold a "for the masses brand". Im a huge fan of those amps as well...from 25 years ago when Id take my DAT masters into HiQ Audio near closing time. Those amps paired with Vandersteen speakers were my favorite. :edthumbs:
     
  21. Tim 2

    Tim 2 MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Location:
    Alberta Canada
    I had 5 generations of Mark Levinson amps, all were great but each newer amp was better than the one that came before.
    The first ( 20.6 monos ) had the most bass though.
     
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  22. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    Yes, lots of improvements, particularly in affordable speakers.

    But I'll say this: If I had to walk into a hi-fi store circa 1985 and put together a system? I'd be very happy with that system.
     
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  23. Ampexed

    Ampexed "Ampexed Tape Is Professional Tape"

    Location:
    Santa Fe, NM
    I'd wager that you could also walk into a HiFi store circa 1965 and be just as happy. :cool:
     
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  24. Carrman

    Carrman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Let me put t this way, analog was trying to be digital and digital is trying to be analog.
     
  25. kundryishot

    kundryishot Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wales
    I'll take my old British built Audiolab Amp over the modern China-built gear they now produce.
     
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