"Adieu to the true audiophile"

Michael James -- Wed, 06/29/2011 - 19:37

While this was a very interesting article to read, what I found even more interesting, were the comments that followed and in particular something that the first commentator wrote...
He stated that part of the downfall of the market, stems from the audiophile magazines and the readers themselves. And I have to agree with some of his observations in this regard....

JLeeMD -- Tue, 07/05/2011 - 20:10

There NEVER were that many true audiophiles! Why do people aspire to own a Rolex or an Omega when a Timex provides more accurate time? The same reason people aspire to own a Porsche when one can drive a Chevrolet Camaro, which is just as fast, for a fraction of the cost: cachet, prestige, exclusivity. In the 70's, hi-fi was cool for this very reason. And why so many people bought hi-fi gear. Today, the iPod is the Timex, the Chevrolet. Sadly, I don't know anyone under 40 who aspires to own a high end audio system.

The purists, the cognescenti, are almost by definition small in number. There aren't that many people that buy an Omega because of the technical tour de force that is its Co-Axial escapement, or a Porsche because of its transparent steering feel and linear power delivery. The cognescenti do, however, greatly influence luxury buyers who want "the best." High end audio manufacturers need to understand this. They need to impress the cognescenti AND appeal to the luxury buyer. Therefore, their products need to look and feel the part (i.e., Burmester, Boulder, Classe, Focal, Rotel), be sold in elegant stores with sales staff trained to service the luxury buyer, and advertise in "lifestyle" media. Oh, and their products must perform at levels the cognescenti would approve; otherwise, you're just another B&O.

Mr Plus -- Fri, 07/01/2011 - 07:50

 This is a three year old piece on CNET. The world has been through a lot of turmoil since then and yet the audiophile world is still hanging on in there. Hmmm!
With three years of hindsight, it's interesting to see how the audio world has changed since 2008. Just three years ago, the audiophile market was still in deep denial about the impact of file-based audio, and products like the USB converter or the networked media renderer. Today, the concept is more widely adopted, in manufacturing, with the pundits and public alike. We've taken to the iPad as the remote to this new breed of device at unprecedented speed (for the audio industry) and genre-breaking products like the Arcam rDAC (capable of lossless WiFi data transmission) all serve to show the audiophile industry isn't just rolling over and dying or simply relying on a series of ultra-expensive products to ride out the economic downturn.
'Adieu to the true audiophile'? Not quite yet, and the true audiophiles of tomorrow are just as excited by music (and the sound it makes) as those of us currently carrying the baton. They will just approach it using different ways and means. We can look at this with no small amount of jealousy, because some of today's products deliver top-notch performance without the size, weight, heat, energy consumption or price tag of the previous generation, and it makes you wonder what the next iteration of products will be like.
We are in a time of great change in all things and audio is not immune to those forces. The map is being redrawn, and no-one knows what the new landscape will look like yet. I find that exciting!

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

Josh Hill -- Tue, 08/16/2011 - 20:40

Yeah, I'm afraid I have to agree as well. When I leaf through the ads in the audiophile mags, I sometimes feel like I'm in a time warp, because half of the stuff I see would have been familiar in 1980. The failure of the high end audio industry to move with the times is a source of puzzlement and some degree of sadness to me. It's often been reported that the crowd at audiophile shows is almost entirely over 40, and that's hardly surprising, given our tendency to stick to our vinyl, our tubes, and our big two-channel speaker systems. It's as if, when I was first learning about audio as a kid, Stereo Review had featured 78's and mono.
I'm optimistic enough to think that high end audio will regrow, but if it does, I think it will be second birth, springing from the digital, portable, and home theater-oriented technologies that appeal to the young, and the companies and retailers that focus on them.

chipz -- Mon, 08/22/2011 - 11:25

 I'm not sure there is such a thing as an audiophile.  Just what us the definition of audiophile?  If you go by a lot of the periodicals out there, an audiophile is a person willing to pay $$$$$$$ for sound that may be comparable to equipment costing $$$.  o me, the most important thing in a system is the music, not the equipment.  Equipment plays an important role, but I cannot get myself to believe that a $1200 cable can sound that much better than one that sells for a fraction of the cost.  Most people have lost some of their hearing by the time they reach their 20's, men more so than women so that affects their definition of audiophile sound.  To me, the audiophile sound is what sounds pleasing to me and wht I feel cofortable listening to.  Perhaps we spend too much time on reading and listening to specs rather than the music.  As long as the music sounds good to me, the specs don't really matter that much.


Brent Irvine -- Sun, 02/05/2012 - 12:49

High quality sound reproduction has never been cheap, but I have seen in the last decades a focus on the "cater to the rich" model which has driven the price of recognizable-name equipment to the stratosphere.  I suppose it is easier to sell a 20 $100,000 widgets than 20,000 $100 widgets...
For most people who are looking for a stereo - generally gets shocked at the prices of what the press (and us!) call "budget" equipment, speakers, etc.  An expense of $5000 for a audiophile setup would bust most entertainment budgets - and would have to be somethign the whole family would figure they would like even if it didn't break the bank.  Even the entertainment everyone can agree upon "big a** flat screens" have been driven low enough in proce that a home theater in a box + flat screen can be done for under $1500 ... so where does that leave audio when sitting around a kitchen table when there is band camp, soccerr practice, etc, to pay for.  And given the nature of a family with kids, when would people be in a position to really enjoy music?
Now ... I do see a lot of direct internet sales with gear that is thoughtfully designed and would likely sell well.  The only obstacle is the "leap of faith" required to take this plunge.  Do-able, of course, and also given the proliferation of headphones as a good alternative ... it does give me hope.
But, yeah, our hobby is rapidly becoming a playground for the wealthy.

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." ~Martin Luther King Jr.

Josh Hill -- Sun, 02/05/2012 - 14:37

That's an interesting point about the flat screens. I suppose you could compare them to the likes of home theater sound, but most of the mass market home theater systems seem to be so oriented to movies that they don't do a very good job on music.

I do think there's some great bargain stuff to be had in the high end, but even that is kind of pricey compared to something like a flat screen or even a DLP projector. I've been given to understand, though, that right now, the components that are selling are the super high end ones -- with the middle class stressed economically by the recession, it's mostly the rich who are buying.

blackfly -- Sun, 02/05/2012 - 18:13

 I am the only audiophile in my life.  The only one.  Everyone thinks I am weird but many find it "cool".  Once they hear it, they know.  But most cannot afford it.
I used to manage a moving/delivery company and here is my observation from seeing 20 people a day for 5 years:  most do not have the SPACE for audio to blossom, let alone affford it.  Equally, I was into freshwater aquariums for over 15 years and saw just as few aquariums too.  Most people are BORING.  FACT.  Audio appeals to the artist, perfectionist and scientist in all of us who are audiophiles; most simply don't delve that deep to get it.  I bet most people don't even listen to lyrics in songs.  I know my wife doesn't.
I am lucky.  I have a nice system with a dedicated, albeit smaller, room just for it.  But when people hear it when it is warmed up....  wow.  Most people can appreciate nice art; it is easy to do.  But the Buddhists say listening is an art.  I agree.  How many listen anymore.  How many sit and read?  We live in a society that is all go go go.  Who has TIME to listen anymore?
Of course, all of this is obviated by wealth, it seems.  But that is always the case with limited number items.  Aston Martins, Porsches etc... not as many of them either.
I do wonder what will happen in 20 years though.

Zach -- Thu, 02/16/2012 - 12:36

 It is a luxury market. 

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