Essay bashing Primedia, Stereophile - and Audiogon
For those of you who like their blood stirred a little bit before the weekend, take a look at an essay by Chip Stern, in which he finds some answers on who is to blame for the demise of high-end-audio. In part, it's Audiogoners! http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue9/csdy.htm
"The emergence of Audiogon is emblematic of where all of this marginalization has brought us. Hobbyists no longer participate in a living, breathing marketplace, but whore out trendy, here-today-gone-tomorrow products that have no lasting value, undermining the market for new, lasting-quality gear by reallocating money that usually went to retailers in the form of profit margins and trade-ins to haggle dubiously amongst each other (then adding insult to injury by wasting manufacturers time with endless queries as to the latest internet bargainvalidate my decisions, reassure me that Ill be happy). Never mind customer service or warranties, having a store and a company stand behind said services and products, or dealing with qualified people who understand that a great audio system, like fine cuisine, is not simply a matter of having the fanciest ingredients, but of knowing how to harmonize all of those elements into something greater than the sum of its parts."
According to this article I'm a whore, waste manufacturer's time, and don't know how to match components. Okay, I admit it, I'd be happy to be paid for physical encounters with attractive members of the opposite sex. There, I feel better. As for wasting people's time or not knowing enough to put together synergistic systems, I strongly disagree.
The time's they a-changed and it seems the author isn't in favor of sites like AudioGon. Sounds like a bitter dealer who want things just like they were before the wide-spread use of the internet. In the words of Tom Cochrane, you can't turn back.
"""These legions of Mini-Me?s dutifully parrot the language and jargon originally expounded by such tribal elders as Harry Pearson and J. Gordon Holt to communicate nuances of resolution, then emulate and promulgate the received wisdom of other elitist wannabes in a gigantic circle jerk on Audio Asylum, Audiogon, and sundry chat rooms. ***
This guy is a complete idiot.
***This tendency to argue for one style of reproduction while marginalizing another reinforces the kind of silly fragmentation that puts so much distance between this thing of ours and the very people we are trying to reach ***
Debating an issue is the best way to learn about it and the opposition. It is a learning process. Once again, this dude is an idiot.
****The emergence of Audiogon is emblematic of where all of this marginalization has brought us. Hobbyists no longer participate in a living, breathing marketplace, but whore out trendy, here-today-gone-tomorrow products that have no lasting value, undermining the market for new, lasting-quality gear by reallocating money that usually went to retailers in the form of profit margins and trade-ins to haggle dubiously amongst each other (then adding insult to injury by wasting manufacturers? time with endless queries as to the latest internet bargain-validate my decisions, reassure me that I?ll be happy). ****
That one had me laughing so hard i almost cried. This guy is just trying to stir things up. I have no clue who he is, but im not too impressed by his lack of insight, his pompous remarks, and smug "holier than thou" attitude.
I guy really does not get it does he? It also seems like he sat there night after night with his fat butt planted on his couch reading through a thesaurus attempting to make himslf seem more educated. He sure uses alot of big words that normally are not used. Ive found that with wording like that 9 times out of 10 is some average guy reading a thesaurus attempting to look intellectual. Ive met some very brilliant people in my time, and they didnt talk like that.
WHo is this guy anyways? He seems like he has a dead interest in high end audio.
The Chipster used to work at Stereophile until the recent purges that included Mr. Scull, but included the hiring of Art Dudley and John Marks. I feel obligated to say that I owe Stereophile my high-end education. Further, I think their chosen path is a wise one and I've always greatly anticipated the arrival of every issue. I can not say the same about any of the other magazines audio or otherwise I've subscribed to over the years (except maybe Scientific American). I just hope Primeadia can see past profit and give capital and space to what is arguably the most important purveyor of progress and information about audio in the world. Chip Stern is doing nothing except throwing fuel on the fire of his former employer (while employed by a competing magazine nevertheless) and I can hardly see how this helps improve anything.
That whole "circle jerk /audiophile wannabe's" really blows my mind.
I gotta say, ive learened alot since i started playing in the forums. I cannot imagine how much time, effort, and money would have been spent in poor decisions on my part without the help and knowledge of the members on audiogon.
Wannabe's? He basically is saying that everone on AA and AG are "wannabe's?" I must disagree with that. I have found the members to be well educated, well spoken, and very passionate about this hobby.
New today gone tomorrow products? Name a brand that is NOT on audiogon. Even before audiogon was around, the used market place existed just as sure as it does now. The only difference is now it is more organized and worldwide instead of thousands of local audio clubs.
I don't know wether to throw up or laugh. Boo Hoo. The system is broken so lets blame the consumers who just want the most bang for their buck. You have it backwards Chip. It is all about US. The manufacturers and the retailers need to look in the mirror,and be accountable for their mistakes. Were not the stupid,naive,sheep they want and treat us like. We have a passion for this hobby too,but were not going to over pay,and were not stuck with a couple/few retailers in our town(pick a city)who treat us like crap,and won't budge off retail prices. Through websites like AudioGon I can get great reviews,accurate advice,and competitive prices new/used,and its free. I don't have to shell out 8 bucks an issue for Stereophile only to hear some pretentious,arrogant snob tell me I need to buy a 6K CD player(SIMA MOON) although it has trouble reading discs(but he highly recommends the 2K upgrade)Brian Damkroger please take a bow) When I hear goofs like Chip Stern crying about A-Gon,it just reminds me what a valuable asset this website is.
The Internet is here. And it's here to stay. I still shop at my favorite local dealers. They & I have a much easier time selling good used gear on Audiogon & e:Bay. If any audio critic isn't happy, he can move to a cave w/Sidney Harmon & live in the dark......
We are all idiots because we didn't go running to Chip Stern to learn all there is to know about audiophilia.
How could we have the nerve to involve ourself in this little inbreeding experiment put on by Arnie. Oh the mockery of drinking at another fountain than the one to which we have been assigned.
If we had just known our place Highend two channel audio would still be going strong.
The fact that you buy used gear has destroyed the economy. Look at all the former high end audio dealers, designers, manufacturers, and employees living in cardboard boxes because of you, and where you chose to spend your own money. You are probably the same thieves who wanted the tax refund GWB gave to the top 2% of wage earners!
Look in the mirror boys and girls! We are the ones to blame for all of societies problems!
Remember don't kill Chip Stern, he is only the messenger! We should thank him for pointing out our faults so we can change, grow, and become more like him. A writer, who takes other peoples stuff for free, listens to it for longer than agreed, and writes something that the great unwashed does not understand, and then convieniently forgets to send the gear back to the manufacturer.
Chip, thanks for pointing out what a sponge I've been! I promise, 1) never to think for myself again; 2) not to enjoy anything you have not endorsed; 3) never to buy used gear again.
Of course this means I will not be buying any gear since the things I want are so expensive I cannot afford to buy them new. Since in turn I am not buying used gear, the person who has equipment he wants to sell will not be able to sell it to finance his latest purchase. Which means he will not be buying anything new either.
The whole marketplace will implode, but there won't be anyone able to disagree with the greater elements of society like Chip Stern, so at least in his own mind he will finally be elevated to the position he truly deserves: The greatness of anonimity!
You gotta love these guys who have most of their "reference systems" gratis from long term loans complaining about sucker audiophiles trying to get the best value for their money by working amongst themselves and cheating reviewers and a fabrictated system of middlemen from stealing their slice. Takes some nerve!
Disclaimer- My comments above are not in any way a reflection on my current local dealer. If everybody treated people like Audio Visions(Strongsville,and Solon Ohio) the high end audio industry would be alot more cohesive. My frustrations are more the product of dealers in the past,and hifi magazines that have crooked motives,and arrogant reviewers who think the readers are either stupid or naive.
Krelldog says "It's all about US". Consumers love low prices, but having Audiogon, an efficient on-line marketplace, functioning today may have a detrimental long-term impact. Don't be surprised if you see alot less bricks and mortar stores and a significant contraction/consolidation with manufacturers. If there's no money in it, then what incentive do corporations have to bring new products to market? Insufficient industry profits could drive the audiophile market back to it hobbyist roots where only small maufacturer's catered to a dedicated few. Some may see this as a good thing and others will disagree. Let's not confuse change with progress. In the end there's no free lunch!
Two years ago,when I knew ZERO about audio,I constructed my first system from pieces touted by Chip Stern in Stereophile.Yesterday I sold the (cue the reverent music) .hghly touted English cd player he is still pimping for--you know the brand ,they're in every issue, for less than half what I paid for it new,retail. Why? Because the Cary 308 kicked it's butt across the parking lot. When it comes to Whoredom,Chip Stern needs to look in the mirror...and DON"T get me started on Sam Tellig.
That Chip Stern felt the need to launch such an attack in the first place is the greatest endorsement for the validity and importance of Audiogon and its "circle" - as Rh said above, we're making an impact, as you can infer from Chip's neurotic tirade. Nrchy - loved your post.
I remember when Stereophile used to have about 8 pages of used gear ads at the back of the magazine. How is that different from used gear on the `gon? But as far as dealers go, there aren`t very many getting rich. They still have to make a profit so that they can stay open and eat. my 2 cents
Onhwy61's comments are correct but there is more to the whole picture. There is a simple fact in business that markets do saturate. Audiogon has created an efficient way to sell used equipment. The dying out of new equipment sales, which is the forte of brick and mortar, is much more related to the lack of interest in, and enthusiasm for, high end audio among younger generations. That there are so many available pieces of used equipment still in good functional shape just reflects the health of the industry in the past ten years. It also shows an overproduction of goods then relative to users now. Brick and mortar is simply the first place that the die back in audio shows up. Audiogon is not the cause.
Most brick&mortar stores don't have a clue about customer service anymore. They either want the quick sale, at full retail, or they want to do custom install work. The four high-end stores that i frequent all agree that retail is dead and that the money is in custom install. You would be suprised at what some of these guys get to pull audio cables through walls (mostly new construction). Most people today don't want to see the equipment, they just want to hear it and be simple to operate. I've gone into multi-million dollar homes where hundreds of thousands (over a million in one home) have been spent on whole-house audio/video and for the most part. the equipment comes from manufacturers such as Denon, Sony, Pioneer, Panasonic, etc. Of course, the have a crestron or some kind of "smart remote" in every room. The sound is mid-fi at best, but they love it.
And as far as young people are concerned, MP3 is where it's at.
Still, on the whole, Stern is right about the industry - his abilities as reviewer not withstanding. Having access to good sites on the internet gives us an avenue other than the printed page to find the info we are looking for. Sterophile et al are in a position somewhat similar to the recording industry. They are blinded by the fact that they do what they have always done and don't capitalize on new technologies that would make them a little more accessable. Having detailed and expanded information on an advertizing supported web site would help all concerned, including the industry who are trying to get their product in front of the public ear. Instead Stereophile mostly just archives much of their magazine with now a great deal else. Sites like Agon and 6moons and a couple of others flourish because they give the people what they want. Detailed information about products under consideration for instance. Often with a less biased perspective. They also give info on tweaks and such. Remember this is a hobby and most of us like to tinker. Whether we get all we want in a one stop shopping format or not remains to be seen. But so long as there are sites like Audiogon where you can bounce ideas and opinions back and forth I believe we can winnow out the chaff.
To clarify my earlier comments. I don't blame Audiogon for the decline of B&M hifi shops. In an open economic market either you adapt to change or you die. As Flex points out above, there are some other factors involved in the demise of high end audio shops. Audiogon is great if you want to buy or sell equipment, but in exchange for good prices there are very clear costs. Most transactions go smoothly, but not always. Buying from a private party over the internet is inherently more risky than walking into a retail establishment. Furthermore, used equipment doesn't usually come with a warranty. Audiogon offers some tremendous benefits, but it's not without costs.
I am not going to focus on Stern's comments about Audiogon and get all hissy, defensive and nasty about it. There are people on this site who are very opinionated without the knowledge or experience to back it up, and there are people who waste manufacturers' and dealers' time by pumping them for info then run off to buy used off the Internet. I don't think Chip meant that everybody here is an idiot, and you can't discount everything is saying just because you don't agree with a small part of his argument.
Stern's article made several very good points about Primedia and their bottom-line mentality. There are good things and bad things about Stereophile, but if it goes out of business, then we lose the good things too. Primedia is to Stereophile what the big multimedia giants are to radio broadcasting and newspapers. Big companies are buying-up all of the smaller companies and their radio stations. Then they fire a lot of (good, qualified, and in their opinion over-paid) people and install their own hacks and bean-counters in their place. They then take all the freedom out of broadcasting by enforcing and playing pre-programmed, target-marketed, overly-commercial, "popular" crap music content that can change at the drop of a hat. They also fire any intelligent life at the radio station or newspaper that has the nerve to disagree with their business strategies or editorial policy. (which brings ugly business and political alliances into the mix also!) Primedia is alienating their own employees, manufacturers and retailers with their lies, their money-grabbing business strategies and with all of the other stupid actions that Stern is decrying in his article.
So, you may not agree with everything that Stern has to say, but I'll bet you that at least he might take the time to debate it with you intelligently. Primedia, on the other hand, doesn't give a shit what you think or want when it comes to quality music reproduction and this hobby of ours.
Rant and rave, rant and rave. What can we learn from this? We may spend a bit too much time on the "new" since the old has much to offer. But frankly, Audiogon does more good than harm. Members are very open to questions about midfi, hifi and ultrafi. Newbees are embraced. Music is the heart and soul. We learn. We teach.
Sorry that this is a hobby of nuances and marginal improvements. Sorry that this is a hobby of "non-mass market". That's life. At least, that's our life. It's a free country and a free internet. Rant and rave away! Just don't get between me and my music. And don't insult my friends and advisors who are helping me on my journey.
The problem is that the used market,as well as Audiogon, depend on customers having some idea what the equipment sounds like. This is where the Brick and Mortar store comes in.
These are the guys that spend the time and money to set up displays and (hopefully) educate the customers. These are the places we go to hear the gear we lust after. How is it fair to use the salesman's time and then buy elswhere? The store has to stock the equipment; he pays shipping, insurance, power and everything it takes to keep a store open. For the most part they are not trying to cheat anyone but to simply make enough profit to keep their doors open.
In as much as store fails to educate its market (by not setting up superlative sound and theater rooms) it deserves to fail. But there are still a lot of old-school stores out there that deserve your business whenever possible or...or in a few years the high-end will simply dry up. No one will know, aside from the informed few, what real hi-fi is since they will never get to see or hear it.
I have no bitch with buying used gear on Audiogon since most dealers don't make their money from selling used gear but usually only do so as a service to their customer. Hell, I have enjoyed some great gear that I bought through here.
My bitch is the use of the Internet to cut the local store,the one that just spent 3 hours with you, out of his well-earned profit on new gear. If that keeps up, the stores will be history and lots of luck finding a place to sample gear. And lots of luck finding advice and service on the gear.
There are (they shall remain nameless) people on the net that sell high-end gear at a tiny amount over (and sometimes under) the store's cost. They are able to do so because they have no overhead; more often than not the gear is drop-shipped to the customer. The business is run out of a garage or living room. The guy that went through all the stress and expense of building and stocking a great soundroom is left out in the cold. I know a few dealers that are getting ready to say "screw it, I don't need this". You can tell when the "customer" (parasite) that just used up 3-hours of the salesman's time plans to get his new gear from the net.
The manufacturors and distributors (you know who you are) that tolerate this are pissing in their own water bowl and don't seem to know it (or maybe they just don't care). When, in five years, when there are no places to show your gear, how are you going to sell it?
No sane man is going to pour money into a store when he can make more profit by just putting his money in a mutual fund.
Again, this is not against the used market on Audiogon or elsewhere. (Did Chip forget that the audio mags have classified ads?)
If a reorganization of high end audio is taking place, is that a bad thing???
First of all, there are too many high priced brands these days. There may be too many brands in general. For all of these companies, the number of customers available is very small. How many people have the means to support all of these speaker companies selling $15K products?
The audiophile magazines have only fed into the whole system of driving up costs by touting the expensive gear. The likes of Jadis and Air Tight used to be the pinnacle of the hobby, with their stratospheric $10K component prices. Now, it isn't unusual at all to see components carry those price tags. I'm sorry, but I always am taken aback when a reviewer raves about the value in a component that retails above $10K.
Secondly, and this has been a problem for a long, long time, many dealers provide poor service. It's bad enough to be looked down upon, but for the dealer to not have the type of knowledge that so many here display is astounding. I can't say there are too many dealers, as the number is much lower in my area compared to 15 years ago. And, many still around have survived because of HT alone. Still, many a dealer is long past due when it comes to getting his act together.
Now, on to Chip Stern. He was a good meat and potatoes reviewer at Stereophile. Put any of this class(Damkroger, Willis, Reina, Greenhill, Rubinson, etc.) in a pot and pick four or five to run with. Would we notice the difference? The people who make the magazine worth buying are Tellig and Dudley for me, and Fremer for most others. While they may be poor at reviewing in some cases(Tellig, especially), their writing is interesting enough that people turn to them upon their first pass through the magazine. John Atkinson is not a great reviewer, but he is the boss. It's hard to get rid of the boss.
I found Chip to be entertaining. I didn't know he was no longer at Stereophile. I enjoyed his interjecting wit and commentary into his reviews. For that, I would probably say he was the best of the meat and potatoes reviewers. Will I miss him? I think so, but not to the point where it would affect me renewing a subscription.
Am I surprised at his rant which we are talking about? I was at first, but then no. Why are we? All we have known about him in the past was his Stereophile reviews. He was not a columnist. Perhaps he has always felt this way... Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Maybe now, we will get to see more of how he really feels.
But, both here and at Audio Asylum, it is obvious that many are better audiophiles than many of the reviewers. The ability to share knowledge, experience, and engage in conversation has brought out that some of us have a problem with what gets written or reviewed, or how things are run at the magazines. From the sniping you see more and more of in Stereophile towards us, you can tell we are having an impact - at least on the minds of the reviewers.
I think we all agree that many factors in the world will cause a change to audio. As time goes past, the companies and dealers who cater to us will probably fare a lot better than those who do not.
I no longer subscribe to Stereophile. Their writers just couldn't keep their immature and snarky political comments out of the rag. I don't think I'm alone either ... witness the thinness of the magazine these days, then consider that half of it is ads. How do you insult the intelligence of half of your audience and at the same time expect to keep all of the seats filled??