"In terms of streaming audio technology, the UK is responsible for more product than any other country. While many of these high-end brands do a lot of their business aboard, they also do a significant amount of business in the UK, selling to a cognoscenti of customers that have adopted new media."
It's ironic, he notes, how some of the oldest names in the business, such as Naim and Linn, now represent the cutting edge of high performance electronics. "Another one of the UK's most venerable manufacturers, (turntable specialist) Rega, is still one of our most popular," he reveals. "Rega has a wide range of turntables but they're also now successfully digital devices."
Perhaps the ultimate UK example of precision engineering and hi-fi vision is Chord Electronics. The brand creates audio hardware more reminiscent of fine art than traditional hi-fi. Hand-built to order in the company's Kent factory, Chord's casework is machined from aircraft-grade aluminium billet by local specialists.
No one wants to be involved in a bun-fight over lower-priced goods. At the high end people are prepared to spend money, but buyers have become increasingly sophisticated – they want to be futureproofed
Electronics UK sales manager Colin Pratt told Tech Radar that sidestepping the commodity music market makes a lot of sense. "No one wants to be involved in a bun-fight over lower-priced goods. At the high end people are prepared to spend money, but buyers have become increasingly sophisticated – they want to be futureproofed."
He believes the hi-fi of tomorrow isn't just about technology; it's about the user interface. "People are less tolerant of having to deal with different source components these days, so we need to make it easier.
Currently we're doing a lot of work looking at how to deliver high resolution DSD music files over Ethernet. The user can then have all their music on a hard drive; they don't have to pick and choose how they play it." While audiophiles are increasingly falling in love with DSD as a format, it can currently only be played from a local USB device or connected laptop.
That has to change, says Pratt. "Not too along ago, audiophiles would have three separate high-end players just to play SACD, DVD Audio and CDs. If you can wrap all that technology up into one source component then you're just offering better value. This is the kind of technology that will bring in new hi-fi customers."