It's a sign that they don't spend much time at home!
My take on it is that high end audio is not an emphasis with anyone except our small society of audiophiles, audio geeks, audiophools, take your pick. We are in a minority, a small, closed community. The rest of the world (the majority of people) don't understand the obsession that some of us have with the best possible reproduction of music recordings. Nor do they understand the expense we will go to in order to acheive high fidelity. The fact that Forbes overlooked high end audio gear as a way to blow your bonus check is no surprise. I'm still amazed at how much my attitude has changed about spending large (relatively speaking) amounts of money on audio gear. When I was part of the rest of the world, I would never have considered such spending. But a person gets drawn into more and more spending little by little if they can afford it. Some of us are spending when they cannot afford it. The average person cannot relate to the excesses involved in this hobby and does not have quality music reproduction as a priority. I don't think Forbes is any different.
It may be time to come out of the audio closet...let's rent a van - white - and pack it with $250,000 worth of gear and drive all the way up and down Bel-Air to show what hifi is all about. One may not be able to wear a pair of speakers like a pair of earings but a Nordost Valhalla as necklace could be the start of the "coming out". And with the help of Lexus, Volvo et al. brands such as Dynaudio or Levinson may make their way up the social ladder...is car audio the Trojan Horse into the Upper Class?
Interesting, I've read a few things and it surely seems that most people would rather invest in putting together a home theater system vs a hi-end audio system. And it had little to do with money, whether it was $1,000 or 50,000. Including building a specialized home theater room and purchasing Ht gear from the same brands that sell audiophile gear. I know many audiophiles don't bother with home theater but I see no reason you can't enjoy both. I find home theater just as if not more enjoyable than hi-fi reproduction. IMO Hi-fi audio reproduction will always be a smaller niche market, it's just too self absorbed.
I think atleast some of the upper class income folks do have nice systems, they simply dont change gear very often.
With all the business, travel,& social commitments those folks have they do not have time to listen like others do, hell if I could fly first class anytime to vacation and see the world with a pocket full of cash I would probably not care about this hobby as much either........but I would be going to DOZENS of concerts yearly!
Chadnliz, you are probably right about busy lifestyle vs time to procratsinate and even my buddys in audio retail admit that it is an 80-20 rule again: 80% of their revenues come from 20% of their clientele who can afford very expensive systems either because they are true audiophile or because they heard that Wilson-Spectral or Wilson-Levinson is like Rolls Royce. But they confess that their bread and butter come from average Joes often looking for special financing, lay-aways, ready to go into debt to upgrade their gear way beyond the threshold of disposable income -when they are not unemployed like a few I know!
So, Hifi may make it into Forbes next "Top 10 drugs to blow your bonus on" right after cocaine and way before Oban 14-yr old.
if someone reads enough posts on audiogon, it is probable that he/she would suggest that 2 persons in white coats round up all audiophiles and transport them to the nearest mental hospital.
you don't have to be nuts to be an audiophile, but it helps.
what's fun about audiogon is the repartee, not the subject matter. i find the whole process of reading and writing posts more entertaining than real life or watching movies.
much of what is said is so funny, it should not be taken seriously by anyone.
I think its cyclical, with a long, multi-year period.
I remember as a kid in the 1960s I saw some component systems on display at a department store when my parents went to buy a console stereo. (We eventually bought a Magnovox console.) When we asked the salesmen about the components, they pooh-poohed them by saying they were for audio enthusiasts and greatly higher priced. While we didn't buy, I was intrigued -- here was something new, beyond the realm of my prior experience.
When I got to high school, I had to walk past a stereo store every day on my way to school. Inevitably, I went in and was drawn to the quality of the components. I don't think I even heard them well, but the esoteric appearance and dedicated technology of the products on display captured my enthusiasm. This was the real deal! I saved my lunch money for a year and a half and bought the cheapest Fisher three piece system (two speakers and a receiver with a turntable mounted on top of it).
For me, the key was the first exposure at the department store, when I learned that there was something better, much much better, way above the whole mass of choosing between different consoles -- Motorola, Magnavox, RCA, etc. To be able to rise above the crowd, above the mundane, was something that kept me going.
Today, home theater is the draw. Customers go in to buy the TV, and many are made aware that there is a whole heirarchy of audio components. They understand that they are not buying the high end, but they now know it exists, and that there is something there, and there are people (us) who are enthusiastic about it and can tell the difference.
Like my family, they don't want to spend the money up front, but maybe the concept has some appeal, a little hook. I think they'll be back, at least some of them. I have faith the cycle will swing back to us, sometime.
Today, home theater is the draw. Customers go in to buy the TV, and many are made aware that there is a whole hierarchy of audio components. They understand that they are not buying the high end, but they now know it exists, and that there is something there, and there are people (us) who are enthusiastic about it and can tell the difference.
If only this was true for the majority but I seriously doubt it. I think HT and to a lesser extent Ipod are creating a distance between average consumers and audiophiles. My turn to look back and be a bit nostalgic:
30 yrs ago I accompanied my Dad to buy his first real stereo system. There were no Best Buy or similar to go to, the local TV-stereo store was the only place to go. He bought a 4-piece Harman Kardon, a Technics TT equipped with the famous "Concord" cartridge and a pair of big Cabasse. I did not realise but he paid today's equivalent of $20,000 for his gear. Not because he knew exactly what he was buying but because he liked what he listened to and could afford it.
Last Xmas, I came back home and the system was gone - in a box in the attic. He told me he had contacted a salesguy he knew in the new larger local equivalent of Best Buy to find out if/how/where he could get his preamp and amp checked as he had lost one channel. The guy told him that "separates are a thing of the past" and that for the price of fixing his old pre he could sell him a HT receiver that would do it all. He is now running his pair of legendary Cabasse with a $200 5.1 Sony receiver. As he is getting older he thinks his hearing is not as sharp as before and that it does not matter to him anymore - all of his friends have HT receiver anyway so it cannot be bad.
My point is: had he still be able to contact the now closed small shop he bought his gear from 30 yrs ago, he would still have his HK system and his friends would at least know that there are hifi separates out there. But when all you see on flyers inserted into your daily newspaper is HT systems and all you see in the streets is flashy neno-sign for big electronic dept stores, you end up thinking that separates are gone. Unless you are a geek like most of us around here, and sick.
So many more things calling for our disposable income, or even the lines of credit people can line up. Some people want to buy an excellent version of everything, most pick and choose. I never have any trouble finding something that a friend who thinks I'm nuts with my audio expenditures is spending on that I'd never consider.
Audio has just not kept up with the times, or marketed itself very well. People will pay for quality - there are examples around us every day. I have many friends who love listening to music at my house and mistakenly assume that they have to spend a lot to get great sound. I'm constantly trying to emphasize that you can get much, much better sound than the Sony receiver class equipment for not that much more money. Occassionally somebody listens :-)
I don't see any lack of interest in music, though. That is alive and well.
As I write this, I am listening to the Goldberg Variations performed by Murray Perahia from beginning to end and am again mesmerized. One issue is that there will always be music lovers, but most people will not take the time to listen to anything from start to finish these days. Therefore, appreciating music and doing so on a good system will never make any popular list. Another issue is that technology and ipods, as Beheme says above, have placed a distance between average consumers and audiophiles. If you can get excited about putting 3,000 songs of compressed quality on a device that lets you stay on the go and not ever have to sit down and really listen, then you will never know that your missing anything. I'm afraid that it will be more and more quantity over quality, and those that really take time to listen will be more and more the exception... nevertheless, the Goldbergs(and all music) will always have the potential to mesmerize anyone who will really listen.
When the iPod first appeared, my initial reaction was, there goes the high end. But now that I have one and use it on business trips, I believe that in the long run there will a resurgence of the audio business as younger people begin to make expendable income. At least those who care about music will pay enough attention that they will eventually want something that sounds good for dedicated home listening. Hey, the blank cassette tape format was supposed to destroy the LP industry, that didn't happen. And for recordable DAT and CDs, same thing, the music industry is in the pooper these days because of promotion of music that doesn't even qualify as wallpaper, and because of independent musicians that make good music in an independent fashion and then, as required the industry, self produce their art before they are recognized. Long gone are the A&R guys. I am hopeful and I think the iPod will evolve more toward the best that audio has to offer. There are enough of us out here to perpetuate our interests and share them with others. People will always be drawn to that which is good and fullfilling. There's only so much partying you can do.
I can't help but wonder, if MP3/Ipod and Home Theatre (or the perception of what "home theatre" really is, after all anybody can buy a HTinabox to lay claim to membership) has marginalized HiFi as some kind of obsolete past time pursued by people who are out of touch with the (current) times.
Lets face it, if one didn't know better, spending vasts amounts of money for phonographs, tube gear and analog tuners, that require a great deal of maintance (comparatively), and require one to be seated in specific isolation, limit access to the very thing they seek out (music) and require one to rummage through garage sales to find the necessary NOS tubes and LP's may not be too appealing to the new generation, that can get what they want, any time they want, where ever they want. We may be facing the crossroads of convience vs. quality.
Do we actually care what Forbes thinks of Audiophiles. I would like to stick below the publics radar, particularly if we are considered one step away from child molesters. How I spend my time and money is nowones darn business but mine and my family.
A difficult subject,but here in the UK a childrens doctor was recently harassed by neighbours who did'nt know the difference between a Paidiatrician and a Paedophile. I sometimes wonder what 12 years of public education is for. Perhaps we don't want public recognition if the public equates us with child mollesters.
My girlfriend who has more disposable $$ than I do has dropped 500 on a purse and over 2k on a watch. I consider that insane. She feels the same about my audio purchases. It takes all kinds. We have travel in common and go away as often as possible, but always looking for deals. She also spent almost 20k on hardwood floors for her home, THAT I could not understand.
Oh yeah, it is at least as insane to pay 3000 usd for a 6 foot powercord as buying a Ferrari instead of a Toyota Corolla. Now there is one difference: If one drives his/her Ferrari, each onlooker will be aware of the fact that the person in the car is a rich person with lots of money to burn. The 6 foot powercord, in your flat, behind your equippment will tell nothing about your status for nobody, save a very select group of insiders. So high end is a vanity of fair, but in a niche fair. No wonder, that anybody who would like to be seen king of the life, rather invest in visible and easily indentifable "signs" of social status and financial indicators. Still: our 6 foot powercord is not contributing to global warming, save it feeds a ML33 style monster, contrary to any car equipped with huge and powerful engine.
Our hobby is like most others. Stamp collectors pay many times face value for little squares of paper that are only worth that kind of money to those who belong to that fraternity. Likewise, our cables, cartridges and clocks are worth what we are willing to pay and are of no interest to the general population. If there were 20 million of us, we'd be in Forbes. Since there are probably more like 2,000 of us, we are more likely to show up in a sideshow.
I'm a coin collector and we are also known as nerds, Eccentrics and weirdos. Being a coin collecter and a audiophile is not geared to the mainstream. If you tell a regular Joe that you spent 1000.00 for a 1 meter interconnect or that you spent 10,000 for a silver dollar they can't relate. On the other hand if you tell him you just bought a 30,000 truck or a 50' plasma with with surround he can.
i think there is more than the esoteric nature and or inaccesability of some of the products that audiophiles own that is the issue. i think it is the behavior of some individuals who's conduct possibly represents a pathological syndrome of some kind.
most of us have a laissez faire attitude about the hobby. however, some of us may be a bit extreme in the way we conduct ourselves. we get carried away about what is the best preamp or amp, or best speaker under $2000. we get involved in silly arguments which don't accomplish anything helpful.
people wonder why seem to be compulsive and obsessive about audio equipment and the sound of stereo systems.
i am as guilty as anyone else in my quest to achieve a certain perspective. sometimes i want to get away and just listen to music on a $300 personal stereo.
whatever reality is, i wouldn't be too concerned what others think of us as long as we are having a good time and not hurting anyone.
Why isn't hi-end audio an aspiration for most? It certainly has a 'bling factor,' as much as exotic cars and fancy wristwatches, can be shared with other non-enthusiasts as much as home theatre and offers the same kind of 'marginal' benefits, given the cost, as owning a Ferrari or Patek Phillipe compared to more pedestrian forms of the same product. Because the pursuit is not just about spending money on equipment, and involves tons of time, effort and socialization around minutae, just like any other serious pursuit. Think about how many people not just buy a fast car (Porsche, Ferrari, etc.), but then spend the time to work it into a track-day toy, fidgiting with suspension changes, braking, weight loss and aerodynamics. The popularity of that kind of single-minded activity probably brings the population of people willing to commit the time, effort and money down to a small fraction....
And, add to that, the fact that music listening is, for cultural reasons, not something most people do as an "activity." (Rarely do people sit and 'listen' to reproduced music- it is there as background for another activity).
Apart from money, high-end audio also needs time, commitment and concentration to listen to music.
When I get visitors, they all are impressed by the looks of my system and the quality of the sound.
But only (audiophile) music lovers have the concentration and patience to listen to music for more than 15 minutes without talking.
Of all my visitors, only 20% is in this league......go figure.
GregM- sure, lifestyle may describe it just as well. But, when I was in my late teens, one of our activities was to sit around and 'listen' to music. Today, I'm not sure that is true, either for our generation (with the exception of audiophiles) or the younger generation (which seems happy with digitally compressed portable players listening over a pair of computer speakers or earbuds while doing other stuff).
Watches, jewelry, and cars are something you display in public, stereos aren't. Conspicuous consumption and impressing people can be the name of the game for some. Who isn't impressed when a bright yellow Lamborghini drives up the street.
You can't sell a product unless you can make the buyer aware of the benefits and show how it is worth the money. For the average person with untrained ears, the audible improvements can be hard to perceive. Most people aren't going to sit in a dark room and listen to every single note being played and strain to hear the differences a $4,000 power cord makes.
Personal preference is another issue. If someone hears a $20,000 Thiel system they may hate that sound quality and think their clock radio sounds better. Maybe a $20,000 McIntosh would be worth the $20k.
Wilson has done a good job of marketing to create an aura of sophistication and highest quality. The sound quality is easy to pick up on. The Wilson sound has big bass and big dynamics. Neither comes cheap. Wilson leaves the "petty" little details to other designers i.e. run their Sophias on a Denon mini-system.
High End audio has done a lot to discredit themselves by supporting $400 wooden knobs, $5,000 speaker wire, $199 Clever Clocks. It's like a cult, once you're in you go for it, but will drive an outsider away and probably permanently bias them against the whole business permanently.