So, in my case as a consumer, the internet has been very good for audio.
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I think my ability to meet and do business with a guy who may have a great idea, but lacks the backing for a full-blown roll-out coast to coast is a fantastic advantage.
The internet has killed the small shop in many cases, but I also think we are still adjusting. The next phase may be more of an audio consultant who shows people how to get, assemble and install bargains and is paid for his services.
In the past, some of the gear was so outlandishly priced, you just could not afford many of the little tweaks. With the net, you find alternate items for a fraction of the price you used to pay at a shop.
I think more choice is always a good thing. This site has been good for my audio. Since the net has taken off and become an integral part of buying my gear, what I can afford has been upped to a whole new level.
Used gear is no longer only available at a few shops within driving distance. Even spending all day on phone calling shop after shop could not get you the deals you find on sites like this daily.
Maybe not good for audio shops, but REALLY good for audio.
The internet has been very good to me. For one thing, it has allowed me to continue being an active dealer even though I live in a small town.
I'd say about 3/4 of the sales I make depend on the buyer first being able to sell something to finance the purchase. Some dealers grumble about Audiogon, but if it weren't for Audiogon there are many sales I'd never make.
When I put on my manufacturer hat, the internet benefits me even more. I imagine myself to be sort of like that guy Gumbydammit is talking about, enabled by the internet to offer an alternative when otherwise the huge costs of an effective advertising campaign would have been an insurmountable barrier.
Early in my audiophile journey, I realized the gear that truly impressed me was simply too expensive. That combined with the(sometimes) elitist attitude of dealers left me cold.
I abandoned the hobby for about ten years, returning once I disovered the great deals and invaluable forums of sites like this.
Incidently, the internet has also allowed me to find more respectable dealers out of my area.
For me the answer is YES, YES, YES!
Were it not for the internet, Audiogon in particular, I'd still be listening to the Sansui/Kenwood/Sony and yes, Bose system I purchased back in the 80s when I was stationed in Europe. Seriously, take a look at my system. Everything purchased through Agon or ebay. And don't even get me started on cable purchases.
Another aspect is the ability to communicate with the niche manufacturers. I've been able to communicate, through email and phone, with the owners of quite a few companies.
How can I forget the amount of new music I've discovered through various sites.
i prefer direct contact with designers over opinions and perceptions of listeners. i learn more from talking to manufacturers and designers than i do from the often conflicting statements of hobbyists.
the one benefit of the internet is finding phone numbers of small companies with products of interest who don't advertise in stereophile. i rarely buy used gear so used audio marketplaces are only occasionally of interest when i sell, which is not that frequent. audiomart was a frequent source of selling and occasionally buying.
In Central Ohio there are just a handful of shops to hear high end gear. The variety is decent but limited. The internet allows for websites of dealers out of state, and the creation of Audiogon, as well as plenty of high end information. Audio in general, in my opinion has benefited because we all can link up in a way like never before. (Manufacturers, Dealers, high end consumers) The odd man out is the local dealer. They suffer because of the proliferation of used gear that was never available before. But the downside for me is that without the internet I never would have spent 5 figures on gear.
of course yes, BUT- once upon a time there were mid-fi stores all over my city; some would sell components at huge discounts. my 1st thorens tc-160 cost $185 at such a store (new). i had to buy and mount my own cartridge, but (so what?). then there was a unique store that had hafler and some better-sounding brands, including some tube equipment. plus they REPAIRED just about anything you could bring in to them.
there was a few different radio-shack-like stores too, with new and used (traded) components. and of course the high-end stores as well. i frequented them all, saved alot, and learned a lot. even the department stores had a huge variety of sound equipment. one store sold pianos and had a special room set aside for console stereos by fisher and scott.
for about $2000, at the time alot of $$, you could buy a gorgeous piece of furniture with a dual turntable (double-suspended), a sony tape deck, and an am/fm 120w/ch receiver with humongous 12in.4way speakers on the end panels. even my parents took a long look, before buying a stereo compact for $350. oh well...
I just enjoy logging on, even at 2:00 AM and chatting. I'm not sure if the internet has helped to grow hi-end audio but it levels the playing field for small companies to put out a great product at low cost without all the marketing and dealer expenses. I don't recall the home auditions like we have now.
When I get it worked out, my stereo will be much better than what I could buy at any dealer but it has been more work because of all the choices to sort through.
The one oddball thing is I can buy a 4gB flash drive at Walmart.com for $29 and it would be delivered to my local Walmart for free. But it was $48 for the exact same thing in the store and they don't match internet pricing.
That's probably why Walmart diversified a few years back and expanded into the grocery business. Once they got into the grocery end of it, half the grocery stores in our town either closed-down or down-sized dramatically. It's tough for a small, home-owned store to compete with the buying power of someone like Walmart. Which reminds me of a time not so long ago, when Home Depot and later Lowe's moved into town, putting out of business most of the mom-and-pop hardware stores, some of which had been passed onto the grandchildren. The times they are a-changing...
Tvad - I list Audio Mart as my alma mater.
The internet has been a mixed blessing in my opinion. It has provided an opportunity for good startups to get a toehold and it has provided an opportunity for not so good startups to do so also.
The forest fire is still burning but I am hopeful for the outcome to be positive. There will be fewer trees but stronger ones.
If nothing else, the internet has certainly accelerated the process.
Sherod, I heard on Jay Leno that Home Depot is planning on opening some small, local hardware stores. Sort of like the ones they put out of business.
I should have clarified that the $48 in-store price was also from Wal-mart. Apparently Walmart is competing against itself. Either that or trying to discourage retail sales.
Yes, I understood you initially that Walmart was competing with itself. I'm not sure of their philosophy in doing this. To me, the store-bought item would be more expensive since there is more overhead involved. Bottom line is, do they insure themselves that either way, they keep the competition out and get the end business.
I also wanted to mention that the internet, in particular Audiogon, "has been bery, bery good to me". I have been able to audition many expensive components over the years and currently have a very nice system, mostly purchased used here on Audiogon at a substantial savings from new. Note: Some of my cables were purchased new, however, directly from the manufacturer, only possible through the internet.
Well I just put together a new $2500 system at 50% off msrp by buying demo items from stores who advertised here on Audiogon and Craig's List. I also just ordered a dozen or so DMP label Cd's from Acoustic Sounds, some as low as 99 cents, that I wouldn't have been able to get even at full price here. So it's good for me.
For the most part I only use the web to buy and sell used gear as it's the perfect venue. I use the web a lot when researching but I like supporting local dealers. Occasionally I will also buy new name brand gear via the internet.
I recently purchased my amp via a local dealer and the price was better than anyone on the web. Not able to afford the matching preamp new, I found a like new example for less than half of retail here on Audiogon. I also got a great deal on my sub via another local dealer.
I was hoping to buy my speakers locally but no one would move on the retail price. Fast forward six months later, I found them for almost half of retail from a well known dealer in CA. Although I hate shopping via the internet I was OK with this purchase because in a small way I was supporting local business, just not local to me.
I purchase locally because I want the dealers that spend time with me and treat me right to be there next year. Unfortunately the Internet has done to local audio dealers what WalMart has done to many local economies specifically Mom and Pop stores.
The only "Direct" company I have done business with is Channel Islands Audio. Aside from the great customer testimonies the real reason I purchased direct from CIAudio is Dusty Vawter's reputation and the fact that all their gear is made in the US.
The ID companies out there want you to believe you're getting state of the art at discount prices. What you are getting in most cases is their logo on some O.E.M's cookie cutter platform that's already outdated. If a company doesn't manufacture product doesn't that make them the middle man ? I just don't see where the savings are, not to mention the quality is just not there. I'll stick with auditioning and buying locally, the couple of hundred extra spent will be worth it a few years down the line when I'm still enjoying it.
i too have spent extra bucks for the privilege of auditioning components locally. am i to know how B&W-801's sound by reading someone's opinion in stereophile or over the internet? what about theils? mark levinson amplifiers? the 4-piece wilson WAMM reference speaker system, or the alexandrias? avalon ascents, rowland preamps and amps, vanderstein 2ce's, pass aleph preamps and amps, ETC!! should i have bought eggleston andra's without hearing them? when the store delivered their only pair, and set them up for me, positioning them carefully, i almost had a stroke i was so amazed and happy with the improvement. i learned many times over that money was only ONE factor amongst many that help you get the kind of performance you've been yearning for since you were twelve years old. without a local stereo shop- no make that SEVERAL DIFFERENT LOCAL DEALERS, how the heck are we ever going to get from point-A to point-B? yeah, you get ripped-off a little, but you get to LISTEN and you get to LEARN. AND LOOKING at the gear in person is infinitely nicer than six photos on Audiogon (not that i don't appreciate the pictures, I DO!!) so NOW i can navigate this site fairly well, and take the descriptions and opinions about closely-related components in stride. but that's because of decades of hands-on experiences starting back in the 60's. maybe an expansion of CES to alot of different cities around the country would aide in helping people getting familiarized with what this stuff really looks like and sounds like. we have an auto show and a boat show and a home-design show here every year, so why not?
even if you're just going to check out laptops or sony playstations, there's those gigantic amplifiers over in the next aisle that you might want to find out how much they weigh...
If Audiogon has killed off some bad dealers and helps in that it allows an item to be sold to finance a new product from potentially a good dealer then thats a nice balance but buying on Audiogon vs having a dealer relationship has a sort of empty feeling the same way that Digital (while claimed to be perfect) leaves the soul somewhat empty with the loss of warmth and flow from analog. Make no mistake that a relationship with a dealer is still of great value and sadly some see no value in it, its a bit of a shame that the internet and various sites are indirectly to blame for this. Support and champion a dealer whenever possible as many deserve the respect and business we can provide.