What do you think future hi-fi will look like? Rory Buszka Product Manager – Dayton Audio at Parts Express

"The stereo receiver was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that; dead as a doornail. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing can come of the story I am about to relate." So might begin a chapter in a modern history of hi-fi. The stereo receiver is a dinosaur, with its multiple analog inputs, internal heat-producing Class-AB amplification, and boxy form factor. It's the antithesis of simplicity, with its many buttons and many-buttoned remote control. Da Vinci wrote, "simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication", and by that same measure, the stereo receiver is a profoundly unsophisticated piece of audio gear.

Of course, we deal in kilobuck and megabuck component hi-fi systems on this forum - most of the time. But "ordinary people" who don't have our kind of financial resources or set such a high priority on sound and component quality also buy hi-fi, albeit at a much lower level. But the paradigms of the high end filter down to beer-budget gear eventually. And one thing that everyone at either end of the income spectrum can appreciate is the value and sophistication of simplicity. So I think that everyone in the audio industry ought to take note of the new category of units, Powered DACs, that is rapidly on the upswing. These units combine DAC circuitry, a volume control, (in some cases) source switching, and compact class-D power amplification into a compact and usually very stylish chassis. Most of them entirely omit legacy analog inputs, but only vinyl and tape formats require those inputs. Some, like NAD's new D 3020 unit, entirely eliminate any DAC stage, feeding a level-adjusted digital signal directly to a digital PWM generator in the amplifier. Other notable makers of powered DACs include Wadia and Devialet.

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