17th May 2018
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From horns to huge wooden contraptions to sleek aluminium slabs, we look at home audio’s constantly shifting shape

Home music reproduction has come an immensely long way in a relative short span of time, not only in terms of its quality and accessibility, but its physical design.

To mark the launch of its intelligent wireless speaker range, Music, the audio specialists at Dynaudio asked us to explore the history of the hi-fi system’s design evolution.

So join us as we take a journey through the shifting shapes and sounds of hi-fi, from its origins as a scientific curio to the sleek futuristic forms of the present day.

The beginning: sound on wax

The history of mechanical music reproduction began in 1877 with the invention of the phonograph, one of many world-changing devices developed by Thomas Edison.

For recording, sound waveforms were physically etched as grooves on rotating cylinders coated with tinfoil and later wax. For playback, the cylinder was rotated again, this time with a stylus tracing the grooves, vibrating according to their shape and reproducing a faint sound that could be amplified by a dramatically flaring horn – the classic gramophone shape with which we’re all familiar.

As the technology developed, cylinders were replaced by discs rotated by turntables and the horn by electronic amps and loudspeakers, but its basic principles – groove, stylus, amplification – have remained largely unchanged right up to the present day.

Supreme separates

By buying a tailor-made system – turntable, radio tuner, pre-amplifier, power amplifier, loudspeakers and cabling components all purchased separately – listeners could create a setup to suit their room size, budget, even their preferred style of music. This approach has endured right up to today, of course, albeit with sleeker hardware, a far greater wealth of options and other components like cassette, CD, DAT and MiniDisc players, streamers and hard drives.

A burgeoning market of British-, US- and Japanese-made separates kicked into life in the 1950s, a period since dubbed the “Golden Age of Hi-Fi” by sonic historians. Records, previously monaural, became available with stereophonic sound, while imposing amplifiers like the Quad II delivered a warm, rich sonic experience, powered by the energy of softly glowing vacuum tubes.

The intelligent music system

Which brings us right up to the present day. Dynaudio has just launched a product that defines the near future of hi-fi: Music. With four models – the Music 1, Music 3, Music 5 and Music 7 – available in four colour finishes, this intelligent wireless music system exemplifies simplicity both in its shape and in its function.

With its striking custom cloth-clad low-poly design and small footprint, a Music system will fit just about anywhere around the home. And thanks to its RoomAdapt technology, it will continually adjust and optimise its performance to suit its surroundings, no matter where you decide to place it. Its NoiseAdapt feature, meanwhile, automatically adjusts tone and volume to compensate when the ambient noise in the room gets louder or quieter.

Then there’s Music Now, an algorithm that learns your listening tastes and habits and can automatically generate a bespoke smart playlist for you at the touch of a button. Listening to what you want to hear is now as straightforward as turning on a radio.

With connectivity made to suit a variety of audio sources – Wi-Fi, TIDAL, Apple AirPlay, DLNA/UPnP, Bluetooth, USB, 3.5mm and HDMI – Music can link up to smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs, home cinema systems, and any of your hi-fi gear that has a standard stereo output. It’ll work with your kit, no matter how old it is – or what it looks like.

To find out more about Music, Dynaudio’s new range of intelligent wireless music systems, click here.