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2022 Year in Review: Technology & The Future of Hi-Fi Publishing

2022 was a wild year and we have some thoughts on what transpired and where we are headed in the months ahead.

eCoustics 2022 Year in Review

‘Twas the night before Chanukah, and all across the land, the cold wind swept snow put a damper on my joyous session with Levon and the Band. As hard as I may try to put a bow on a pig, it was a period of great sorrow — the man in Moscow should rotate on a MiG.

Bob Dylan called. He wants his pen back.

Some reflections on the past 12 months are probably well overdue as we hunker down to overdose on latkes, Chinese food, and a rather thin list of new releases in theaters on Christmas Day.

Having already seen “Devotion,” “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Violent Night” — I’m not entirely sure what else there is to watch.

James Cameron’s sequel is a visual masterpiece worth viewing for the artistic elements alone, but nothing about it captured my attention from a storytelling perspective.

The “family” aspect felt hollow to me; and I say that after a very difficult year when it comes to that topic. We lost a few members of our own recently, and my own father is battling Parkinson’s Disease.

I’m slightly cynical. Not James Cameron’s fault but I walked out of that extremely long film feeling zero connection to the one onscreen.

Netflix Studio Complex in Fort Monmouth New Jersey Artist Conception
Artist Rendering of new Netflix Studio Complex to be built in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey

There Goes the Neighborhood

We’ve covered Netflix rather extensively over the past 12 months and it’s often hard to keep up with what is really going on inside the world’s largest video streaming platform.

Netflix can’t seem to make up its mind how it feels about ad-tiers, Disney+, questionable content that airs on the platform, and what business is its core.

The biggest Netflix story of 2022 affects me directly because I live down the street from what might become the largest TV/movie studio east of the Mississippi with the announcement this morning that Netflix is moving forward with its plans to develop the former Ft. Monmouth military base on the Jersey Shore into something will impact my way of life.

Investing $900 million USD into a piece of vacant property 1.8 miles from my front door and creating a media hub on 300 acres that will attract some of most innovative creators on the planet (television, movies, gaming) is going to turn this area that is quiet until the summer crowds arrive into something that has me very excited.

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As a creator, screenwriter, property owner, and long-term resident.

An interesting way to end the year.

Music?

During my 7 hour trip to pick-up our eldest from college last week, we broached the topic of “best music of 2022” and much to my amazement she agreed that 2022 was a terrible year in the world of pop, hip-hop, and rock.

I was stunned that a 20 year-old (who contributed to our music section this year) who owns 2 turntables, 4 pairs of headphones, 3 Dongle DACs, and a pair of Kanto TUKs that I lent her for college — couldn’t recommend anything outside of SZA and Milky Chance.

“Taylor Swift?”

“Utter garbage.”

I’ve raised her well.

We will be covering our favorite albums of 2022 next week; rest assured — Taylor Swift didn’t make the list.

Q Acoustics M20 HD Wireless Speakers Front Angle in Black, White and Walnut
Q Acoustics M20 HD Wireless Speakers ($499/pair)

Technology

Over the past 12 months, I have had the opportunity to listen to a lot of Hi-Fi components at home, trade shows, dealer showrooms, factories, and private listening events.

2022 was a really good year for those looking at the network amplifier, receiver, and integrated amplifier categories; there has never been an easier time to assemble a true high-end system with some great options as the hub.

As someone who loves cars, I’m the first to admit that I was very jealous when eCoustics Editor-at-Large, Chris Boylan, flew to Italy this year to test drive the Maserati Grecale Trofeo SUV through the Italian countryside listening to a state-of-the-art Sonus faber system designed specifically for the car — it was supposed to be me but some health issues got in the way. 

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Will I get that opportunity again? Probably not but I was fortunate to spend hours in traffic inside the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer experiencing McIntosh’s assault on reference caliber car audio.

Wireless loudspeakers took huge steps in 2022; products like the KEF LSX II and LS60Dynaudio Focus SeriesTriangle Borea BR03 BT, and the Q Acoustics M20 HD cover a wide range of price points but all deliver a far superior experience than what has been available in the past. 

That’s a good thing because it is another opportunity to attract younger music listeners into the audiophile experience. 

Note that I didn’t say audiophile “community.”

I think we need to focus less on that and more on creating better music listening experiences for people.

Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier Front
Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier ($349)

Affordability 

There are a lot of excellent affordable high-end products right now. Certainly the most in the 24 years I’ve been writing about the industry for SoundStage!, Big Picture Big Sound, Digital Trends, Gear Patrol, eCoustics, and The New York Times. 

In the CI market, mid-tier projects are suffering the most as consumers either go for cheaper entry-level projects for the home or very expensive systems for the entire home which includes home theater and multi-room audio.

I’ve spoken to a number of very successful custom integrators who have told me that the middle is dying for them. 

Is that the direction that high-end audio is headed? 

We look at entry-level from the perspective of $500 turntables, amplifiers, CD players and loudspeakers. If you spend that much on 3-5 components and cables, you might already be approaching $1,200 to $3,000 for a high-quality entry-level system. 

That’s a lot of money for most people. Perhaps not to those willing to waste $3,000 on a single power cord, but it represents more than 95% of the population.

It will be noteworthy to see which categories continue to grow in 2023; we’re betting on wireless speakers and headphones, CI multi-room audio and video, and network amplifiers.

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We’re also noticing that “vintage audio” components are not lasting long on specific websites and that prices are climbing significantly.

Sellers are calling the shots if you are looking for vintage McIntosh, Marantz, Mark Levinson, Krell, Sonus faber, and high-end reel-to-reel tape decks.

We’ll have more to say about the last category in January as we pay a visit to an intriguing company in Brooklyn doing some great things in the space.

Our 2022 Sponsors

eCoustics 2022 Sponsors

None of what we do would be possible without the support of our growing list of sponsors. We can’t thank them enough.

Ace in the Hole

The media world experienced a lot of change in 2022 and there is more to come.

As a smaller publication that is in a period of “growth,” and starting to take market share away from our competitors, we recognize that we have to evolve with those changes but not lose sight of what makes us unique.

We have a lot of work to do on the video side but we’re also not abandoning what makes this publication different — its diverse group of contributors, our focus on affordable high-end audio/video solutions, and our daily coverage of the industry and the people that drive it.

That means that we will be doing two things to sustain that growth; producing even more written content across multiple platforms and creating people/company focused videos and not becoming YouTubers.

We will be launching a Substack version of the magazine in 2023 as part of a pilot program and a lot of that content will be subscription-based. We’re appealing to a wider audience and cross-promoting with other writers and artists on that platform.

The publication has made some enormous strides over the past 12 months; we finally crossed some important thresholds on social media that alter how we are able to monetize our work.

The eCoustics podcast has really grown and we’re excited to announce that it will become a weekly feature starting in January. Starting with our 7-part Vintage Audio Series that launches on December 28th, the eCoustics team will be broadcasting from trade shows and other events in 2023.

Expect to see us at more trade shows and private events in 2023; Tampa, CanJam NYC 2023, Montreal, and T.H.E. Show are already on the calendar.

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Our unique visitor traffic in 2022 rose by over 200% compared to 2021 and a significant percentage of those monthly visitors were new readers.

Welcome to all of you who come to us every single day now and read our thoughts and expertise on some rather dry topics.

This is a team effort and it’s almost impossible to explain how many hours we spend every single day creating new content that is meant to educate consumers and help move the needle for the industry.

Do we always succeed? Probably not.

Do we get everything correct? We do our best to get the most accurate information from manufacturers and public relations people who often play footsie with the details.

Our “comments” section will remain open and our policy of not being heavy-handed will continue because 95% of you are civil. Act like a child — and your comments will end up in the trash where they belong. This is not Twitter.

A huge thank you to our growing list of contributors and editors who make my days and nights very long — but never boring.

Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas & A Safe New Year!

Ian White & Brian Mitchell

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