20 years of TV and multi-room tech later: we don't know how lucky we are

What Hi-Fi? Back Issues lead shot: March 2004 and March 2024 issues
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

“It was 20 years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play…”

I was a toddler when that album came out. Twenty years before I was born (and I can’t quite believe I am typing this), the Second World War had yet to end. I mean, that’s proper history. 

So you will, I hope, forgive me when I once again confess that I keep forgetting that 20 years ago is way closer than it used to be. In my head, the 1980s seems a reasonable 20 years away; sadly for me, the reality is that, two decades past, we were years beyond the time we were all fretting that the world would fuse with the onset of the Millennium Bug that never was at the turn of the century.

Anyway; the March 2024 issue of What Hi-Fi? Is just out, and in all good newsagents now. On the cover we celebrate the best TVs the world has to offer, in a technology – OLED (organic light-emitting diode) – that seemed destined to take over from the old-school liquid crystal diode (LCD) set. You will see, from the cover sharing the image with the current issue above, that LCD was an up and comer in 2004. 

LCD was on a mission to take over TV tech

March 2004 LCD TV Supertest lead spread

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We on What Hi-Fi? were only just beginning to be able to contemplate recommending these flat panels over the flat-panel plasma sets that were wowing consumers back then. Plasma, of course, is very much a technology of yesteryear now – expensive and power hungry. And the thought had been that LCD might follow suit; but the old format is kicking hard with impressive upgrades to the tech that are threatening to usurp the in some ways more limited OLED sets that have wowed us for the past decade or so.  

What Hi-Fi? March 2004 TV Supertest spread

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Looking at the LCD television Supertest from 2004, the most obvious thing that stands out is the price of the sets, which are all between 26 and 32 inches in size. The cheapest, a 26in JVC model would have set you back £2400; the most expensive, Sony’s 30in set, a whopping four grand. At today’s prices that is hugely expensive just in those raw figures; add in inflation and the numbers become eye-watering: £4600 for the JVC and – brace yourself – £7700 for the Sony. Economies of scale can be useful, I suppose.

Multi-room makes a move

What Hi-Fi? March 2004 Cyrus Multiroom LinkServer review

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Other pages in the magazine confirm just how much things have changed in two decades. The Cyrus music server was a 250GB hard drive that would allow you to enter the world of multi-room music and wireless networking. It was hugely impressive stuff that, of course, we now take completely for granted with our multi-room systems from the likes of Sonos, Apple, Audio Pro and more. The complexity of set-up and the number of boxes required certainly seems likely to have put off plenty of potential buyers, no matter the futuristic and fun result once your installer had done their thing.

Some things stay ship-shape and Bristol fashion

What Hi-Fi? March 2004 Bristol Show preview

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Many things, of course, change greatly in two decades. Some things, however, remain reassuringly the same. One other spread that jumped out of the March 2004 issue was the preview of the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. 

If you turn to page 26 of the current March 2024 magazine, you will see this year’s offering. And you can keep checking our online Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2024 preview, as we'll be updating the page with more teasers on what will be on demo as we edge closer to the show's start on 23rd February. What Hi-Fi? has been a supporter of this hi-fi industry institution for many years now, and as usual we will be demonstrating some of the latest technology you can see and hear, as well as attempting to answer any queries you might have about hi-fi or home cinema, and provide some friendly advice. Come down and have a chat – we would love to see you there. 


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Jonathan Evans
Editor, What Hi-Fi? magazine

Jonathan Evans is the editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and has been with the title for 17 years or so. He has been a journalist for getting on for three decades now, working on a variety of technology and motoring titles, including Stuff, Autocar and Jaguar. With his background in sub-editing and magazine production, he likes nothing more than a discussion on the finer points of grammar. And golf.