High-end audio is alive and flourishing
Thursday, 24 May 2012 18:01

"The World's Best Audio System, TWBAS for short, is an exploration of the absolute best in high-end audio equipment.” Jeffrey W. Fritz, Editor-in-chief of the prestigious online magazine ultraaudio uses these words to describe this exciting concept. But how is such a system to be configured and in what environment will it be best demonstrated? Furthermore, without being able to compare with others of similar ilk, what factors lead to an objective conclusion that the resulting sound is really the absolute best? Finally, how does playback correlate to musicians performing in real acoustic spaces?

Attempting to answer some of these intriguing questions in late March 2009, Jeff assembled a dazzling array of high-end audiophile equipment and their manufacturers along with a cast of illustrious contributors to the magazine. They gathered in his famous Music Vault located literally on the banks of intra-coastal waterway, Wilmington, North Carolina. This was to be the first ever practical demonstration of his hypothesis.

The event was extremely successful, the subject of many feature articles subsequently published in the magazine. These included one by me on April 01 of that year and a second in November. This was written after I had been to Maine to pay a brief visit to Rockport Technologies, the loudspeaker manufacturer chosen to display its premier brand at TWBAS 2009.

Three years later, TWBAS 2012 was launched at the Las Vegas Edition of the Consumer Electronics Show, CES on January 10. This year’s event will also take place at Jeff’s Music Vault from March 28 to 31. None of the companies showcased in 2009 is featured this year but this does not mean that they have fallen from grace, as Jeff would no doubt reveal in due course.

The total retail value of the hardware will be a mere USD$500k compared to USD$360k in 2009. In addition to eight articles already written describing their technical profiles, there will be several more specifically relating to why these components were chosen and more importantly, the sound of the configuration itself. This, of course, will trigger healthy debate from audiophiles the world over.

I will be making the pilgrimage to Wilmington in order to see and hear for myself while comparing notes with those taken in 2009. A feature will be written detailing my own subjective and objective opinions of TWBAS 2012 for subsequent publication in ultraaudio. One way or another, from the interest that has been generated to date, it is clear that the high-end audio industry is most definitely alive, evolving and flourishing even in the wake of a shrinking global economy.

Simeon L Sandiford
Managing Director