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The future of music and sound reproduction

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The future of music and sound reproduction
 It is an age-old question: Short of attending a live concert, how much do you have to pay to hear the “absolute sound” – or the nearest thing? My parents’ generation was awed by the gramophone. One of the popular ones in Uganda was a black box, resembling today’s carry-on luggage, that housed a goose-neck-like thing that was the tone-arm, at the end of which was attached a speaker and a little hole into which one attached a stylus that we called a needle because it was, well, a real needle.  


On the side was a Z-wrench that wound several times to power the motor and turn the platter. A fragile record made of clay, resting on the platter would start spinning, at first slowly, then accelerating to seventy-eight revolutions per minute (78RPM), followed by a very gentle delivery of the needle into the record’s groove. The marriage of the needle and the grooves would produce a magical sound. That was my earliest introduction to what would become a lifelong passion.  


A lot of improvements on the idea have occurred during the last 60 years. Some of the latest equipment look like spaceships. Other stuff is so expensive that one wonders about the sanity of one who is willing to pay that much in his quest for the absolute sound. Yes, his quest, for it is almost always men in the audio asylum where the inmates are forever hungry for better sound than they have. 


As we enter the age of auditory challenges, we may find that the sound of the gramophone and that of these contraptions worth six-figure prices in dollars is hardly distinguishable. In any case, one’s listening may begin to suffer interruption by irresistible urges for mid-morning sleep and thoughts about doctors’ appointments and such.  


My real interest, though, is the future of sound reproduction. How long will these contraptions survive in a very mobile world, where miniaturization of everything is the now and the future? Will my great-grandchildren make sense of photos of these rigs that, to them will appear to have been  dangerous to anyone who dared approach them without donning steel armour?  My prediction is that sixty years from now, music reproduction will be so miniaturized that it will be delivered through a tiny probe programmed to ……….. no, let me not even try. My parents could never have imagined what sound reproduction would be like in their last days on Earth. I will not try to guess either. 



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