by Anthony Kershaw
‘Dealers are stuck in the 80s’, so says a designer of high end speakers during a visit we had last month. ‘We have to market as “lifestyle audiophile” if we are to survive’. These comments echo the continual doom and gloom I hear from designers, prospective advertisers, dealers and consumers. The old chestnut that the iPod (specifically, iTunes) killed music (and by association, audiophiles) doesn’t always ring true.
That said, Audiophilia is still read a lot. Many thousands of individual visits a day. We’d like millions. And, the internet is choc-a-bloc with high end sales sites. But, I’m not sure our avocation will ever attract those numbers. By their nature, audiophiles sneakily like the exclusivity. C’mon, you know who you are! It’s not that they don’t like to share. Just listen to the answer after a ‘civilian’ asks an audiophile his opinion at a show.
With the shrinking numbers of bums in seats and cash in relation to the number of designers and manufacturers, I found it interesting that mass market King, Future Shop (come and buy our ‘tower speakers’!) are selling top high end speakers from Martin-Logan. Electrostatic speakers to boot! (I know, denizens, hybrids). My initial reaction was an obnoxious and dismissive shrug. My apologies. But, on retrospect, I began to think that the ‘advertisement’ of high end projected among the population was a good thing. By all accounts, we need it. The general public’s view of audiophiles can be *interesting* at the least.
Maybe my friend was right about the dealers. The 80s model does seem to be dying in broad terms — come in, listen (with requisite Stereophile in hand), kick the tires, scrape up the money, sell the gear, pray for no buyers remorse or returns. I’m starting to see designers produce, and dealers stock, servers, ‘lifetsyle’ designed audiophile products (sound as important as style), and creative ways to get the gear into the home. I know many dealers who, ten years ago, would have shrugged at much of what is (or should be) happening today. But, money talks. And many are hurting.
As such, this may be a Brave New World for audiophiles. This week, Linn proclaimed the CD dead! The LP has been dead for years, right? Of course, both obits are ridiculous (there are over 100 high end turntable manufacturers compared with about 30 during vinyl’s heyday). So, we can keep our vintage cars, we can polish our Edsels, we can bias our tubes (Never Gonna Give it Up), but the revolution is here and is being accepted or is about to drop on laggards like a Monty Python weight.