There was a thread recently on Audio Asylum recently that claimed that the "Golden Age" of audio was sometime in the past. Some posters put the GA in the 50's, some in the 60's, others in the 70's or 80's. Having lived through most of these so-called "Golden Ages" I beg to differ. We are in the Golden Age right now.
Don't believe me? OK. Name a vintage headphone, speaker, DAC, power amplifier, preamp, or turntable that offers superior measured and audible performance to current top-performing components. It will be a VERY short list...and then there's computer-based audio. Many audiophiles have mothballed their CD players and transports because they can get better sound from a CD that's been ripped into a computer than from playing back the original CD.
What about audio quality for "the masses" Is an iPod better than Walkman? Is the audio quality available over Spotify or MOG better than what you could get from FM radio? Does a 2012 "entry-level" system perform better than what you could find in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's?
Except for the FM radio comparison, I feel that what's available today in the way of hardware is worlds better than what we had in the past. No, I don't include 128 BPS MP3s as part of the rise in audio quality, but I would rather listen to a 320 BPS MP3 than a Dolbyized commercial cassette recording.
Never before have audiophiles had more high-performance components to choose from and never before have the prices for high performance (not high-end) audio gear been lower.
So, as far as I can see you haven't missed a thing. We are in the Golden Age of audio right now, so enjoy...