Are you ready for High Definition Audio? Here’s what you need to know before making a decision to buy any new audio gear. OK....so….what I’m about to say isn’t going to win me any friends among other OEMs.  It’s better not to talk about the elephant in the room, especially with outsiders.  HD audio has arrived and conventional audio can’t reproduce it.  Oh, sure, it’ll “play” the music, maybe even resolve some of the improved detail, but HD’s huge increase in Dynamic Range is beyond its reach. Let me put this in perspective; I’ve been at this for some thirty years.  As a speaker designer, the last time we faced a challenge to our product’s dynamic capabilities came in the 1980s, when Compact Disc arrived. Dynamic Range, DR, is engineering speak for the ratio between the loudest and softest sounds your stereo should be able to deliver.  Vinyl records were rather limited with a best case DR of 75dB. Transducing that was not difficult. Then, when CD raised the bar to 96dB, or about one hundred times, meeting the test was a challenge. We pushed the available technology as far as we could and, pretty much, more or less, our best efforts came thru OK.  But just barely. It was a stretch. A good portion of the industry came up short. Dull, lifeless sounding stuff. Customers noticed, and the most astute among them sought out the most successful products. I think that my company did better than most, and may thanks to those of you who have owned and enjoyed our product. Since, this has pretty much been the state of things. But now, thanks to the higher data density of HD Audio, we have a technically possible DR of 140dB.  So now we can match human hearing’s range of about 120dB with room to spare.  In practice, 110dB, or so, meets our needs for realistic music reproduction. Problem solved on the source side. But that does pose a serious problem on the reproduction side: 110dB is more than 20 times CD’s 96dB, which had already tested the limits of conventional tech. Is it possible to squeeze out that much more?  Nope.  NOPE. Not even close. A new approach is needed. Happily, the needed advances are at hand. At Meadowlark, we’ve been working with them for several years. Multiple, NCore amplifier modules and high bit rate Digital Signal Processing combined with the latest thinking in transducers. Here’s my point: our industry will respond to HD Audio with next generation products, some sooner than others. So, if you’re even toying with the idea of buying conventional, last century style audio gear, my advice is: don’t. And please don’t fall into the trap of adding an HD source to your conventional system, only to find you’re not getting much more out of it. That’s like trying to watch 4K video on an standard def TV. To get the most out of HD Audio, you’ll need next gen speakers. Speakers that can handle it.
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