Browsing used audio sites such as Audiogon and the Marts, high end gear ads are dominated by several dealers. Non-dealer ads are usually people trying to push 15+ year old off-brand junk at 60-70% of MSRP (when they were new). They don't sell anything. You could slash Wilsons, Magicos, etc, 50% off retail and no one will buy them.
No one buys if it costs more than 1k. It's not that they're not interested -- the ads get plenty of views. It's that the asking prices are just way over the ability of buyers to pay. Fact is, if you see a high end piece for sale it's probably by a dealer, often times trying to push it at 15% off retail because its a trade in, but also often they are taking a good chunk off the price 30, 40 sometimes 50% off. They can be famous brands with a million positive reviews. No buyers.
Don’t think it’s dead. I have simply found dealers are often unwilling to move on price. They are preapared to sit on gear for a year or more if necessary. I find individuals are much more reasonable and will move on price to get a sale done and move on.
I suspect many dealers have agreed to sell used goods as a service to their client who wanted a new toy. In many cases the proceeds after expenses pass to their client - hence no motivation on the dealers part - in fact overly attractively priced used items just kill the dealers own ability to make new equipment sales.
Car dealerships behave the same way. They don’t want used sales competing with new models especially as they get manufacturer rebates or discounts for achieving annual sales targets. Not sure if the same applies in Audio?
... 70 buyers snap up a $30k tonearm ... Technics immediately sell out an $18k turntable ... Two new manufacturers bring back brand new reel to reel decks ... Magico wows the public with a bargain $9k speaker
seems to me the real issue might be too much money being spent at the top end of the range
personally I have no issues selling or buying for my system, and I’m not sure what respect we should give to the OP with all of one sale and three purchases to his record 🤔
The new HEA $$$$ market is fading and has been since the mid 90’s. in the last 5 years the decline has been accelerating. That’s not a bad thing, just reality. Those companies that have dealt with the decline successfully have found a nice following. On the flip side budget HiFi is doing great and getting stronger. Audio itself is heathier than it has ever been and growing faster than it ever has. We simply live in a different place 2018 vs 1993. You can’t expect that the way audio is presented or sold today is going to be the same as back then. At the same time the different camps of the hobby are going to have and will maintain their own special portion of the action, but it won’t make a dent in the mainstream, nor should it. There are those that say "look at the shows" as evidence, but in reality I’m sure mainstream audio sells more in an hour, than all of HEA does in a year. That is probably me even being generous. The engineers from mainstream audio stopped looking at HEA as a reference in the mid 80’s to mid 90’s, and once the mainstream caught up and past up HEA technically that left HEA out of the cutting edge race, again, for the masses. When the CES became the CTA (Consumer Technology Association) HEA all but dropped out of the picture. There was a time when High End Audio was the teacher, but that was brief. Electronic innovations move so fast, it’s like 1 Hi-tech yr = 15 HEA years.
I saw this profoundly with the progress of CDPs. HEA didn’t have a clue how to do CDPs. In fact 5 years ago you could pick up a $29.00 CDP that out performed most of HEA’s competition. We conducted these listening tests ourselves on TuneLand. Any time you see an audio group have to go backward in technology you know that they were not able to move forward. Vinyl and tape aren’t better than digital, HEA just hasn’t conquered digital. Digital doesn’t have the same ingredients as vinyl or tape, but HEA treated digital like it was the same language as analog. So, certain parts of the process went horribly wrong. For example: you can’t throw a big transformer in the same chassis with digital parts (chips and laser), so no wonder these "Low End" players beat the tar out of the audiophile ones. When CDPs came into play some High-enders (including myself) said "don’t do that", but the reviewers and market didn’t care. Evidently they just wanted to move boxes and never took the time to explore the new parts and pieces that makes the reading and conversion function in regards to fields, Ooooppps!
When you make BooBoos like that, that are obvious, and more, you are no longer the leader. Ultimately Hi-tech audio is going to put High End Audio’s lights out. Not with turntables and tapedecks, but pretty much all the rest. And this is why you are seeing so many of the big ticket items popping up for sale all over the place. Honestly it’s a lot like the big laser disc. Once Hi-tech moves in prices and size go down, performance goes up and the laser disc and big tube TV’s become collectors items (hopefully). HEA is going through the exact same thing.
^^^+1...I've preached the narrowing gap between HEA & Budget gear for years...The LoDR between so called budget gear & the expensive stuff has become IMO so small as to be laughable sometimes...The Manufacturers that master the marriage of the high tech digital age with old world values(ie:sound/build quality..Dynaudio & Quad for example)in Lifestyle designs will thrive in the near future...
Tell you what I think. You are a troll who instigates fights for your own amusement. You incite and inflame, for what reason??? As I had pointed out in one of your other senseless posts. Find a hobby that will not start fights.... like badminton or something.... If you think high end is dead, there is no reason for you to post anything.
I was told that vinyl is dead, analogue is dead, CD's are dead, the music business is dead, but I think Mr. Townshend is still correct:
Landslide, rocks are falling Falling down 'round our very heads We tried but you were yawning Look again, rock is dead, rock is dead, rock is dead
The place is really jumping to the Hiwatt amps 'Til a 20-inch cymbal fell and cut the lamps In the blackout they dance right into the aisle And as the doors fly open even the promoter smiles Someone takes his pants off and the rafters knock Rock is dead, they say Long live rock, long live rock, long live rock
High End isn't dead in USA . At least 90% of the population can't afford It and more than that have no interest in it . But, as we have the highest inequality of income in the world that still leave millions to to whom 50K is chump change . It is hurting in Scandinavia and those few countries who system operates like theirs . In Norway 80% of the population is middle class which is why it is VERY expensive . They like it like that and American tourists are bewildered by it .
Because most dealers aren’t all that rich and those others are who are really rich are too busy making billions on the various economic bubbles American public eats up to bother with audio . What money there is in Audio is made by manufacturers . Average markup in Audio is 40% . Dealers under pressure move a lot at around 30% . After all expenses a dealer is lucky is get 5% in his own bank account . If an average audio dealer did not stand fast on some lines he would be paying you to buy it . Car dealers and audio dealers make money on used stuff . If they do sell you new stuff, even at their cost. they then have an item that is all profit .
I know of not a single audiophile under the age of 50. I think the younger you go the less and less you will find. Gen Y / millennials believe a $300 soundbar for their home theatre “rig” is nirvana and expensive nirvana at that. Musicians are likely the few putting serious cash into music reproduction gear.
Cant quite understand why posting these idiotic topics excites the OP so much. It is however my hope that he someday leaves his parents basement to discover there is sunshine and beauty outside to behold. That there are jobs to be landed and experiences out there waiting for him. He will then discover that playing video games all day and watching tosh.o all night isnt a life at all nor a career. Audio is either expensive to a particular person or it isnt.
in terms of real dollars, decent audio is better today than in the golden era of audio while also being less expensive. At the end of the day though, the OP is a troll and is probably back in the warming embrace of his parents basement thinking of ways to be relevant....unsuccessfully I might add.
Thats my point. In 1962 someone who purchased a hifi spent real money, sometimes many months of free cash flow, whereas today you can get a decent system for comparative peanuts. Additionally, gear today is pretty darn reliable.
High end is not dead but it’s very sick. As president of a large company with a CPA background, my observation is that the dealer base has shrunk to an obsolete level, just look at the city you live in, how many dealers are left?
Kids don’t spend Friday nights in stereo stores any longer, they listen to downloaded music on iPhones, families can’t afford to buy houses so disposable income of the masses is lower than it has been historically, the facts are there. We are also just 10 years out from the biggest financial depression in history, that is a real truth. The fact is, who can afford to buy a new from dealer system with a $30k price tag (a modest system to say the least), people just can’t.
High end manufacturers are very small companies that have brilliant product and design minds but very seldom are their business acumen’s in line with what is required to grow a business. That is a typical issue in the world of small business and that’s why so many fail. The fact that isolates high end is the retail pricing based on cost and manufacturing margins. Efficient producers will benefit where inefficient producers will argue that margins are low although their retail MSRP’s are high. Another fact is that audio is not a necessity so the companies are not forced to fall in line with a specific retail price range in order to compete. They will tell you they do but they really don’t do that consistently throughout their product range. Example, all consumer car companies have entry level cars, most high end companies do not. Remember, I said entry level, not $18k for a phono preamp!
Most everyone will argue my points but just ask a manufacturer if they have seen a mass decline in a dealer base to sell to, all will agree. I just spoke to one last week who blames the dealers for discounting retail prices for the industry failure. 75% of his sales are in Asia. I also asked him how much a full range speaker to fill a 26’x17’ foot room would cost from him and he pointed me to a living room dealer, a guy with a nice room in his house, and recommended a $185,000 pair of speakers. His company is well known and respected and he was wonderful to talk to but that is not going to happen!!!! That is another big issue with the industry. How many business models do you know in the retail space In today’s world that sell at 100% MSRP?
Look, I love this hobby and got the audio bug as a very young boy, I’ve spent much time horse trading equipment my whole life searching for the ultimate sound like many of you have but the fact remains that any industry that can only survive with massive pricing because they’ve created a market where only the super rich can comfortably afford their products will get used sites like Audiogon doing more used business than the industry sells new. It’s a true measure of how sick and “dying” our favourite hobby is.
Today's $10,000 wonder is tomorrow's $4000 white elephant. I've been saying that kind of thing since 1980. High end audio has never been a big market because the demographic of well-heeled obsessive-compulsive-neurotics who just HAVE to have the very, very best has always been small.
Hi-end audio dealers not only compete with each other, they also compete with their own used gear. People still lust after the Audio Research SP3 and SP6, the Mac C22, Marantz 7 and even the Fisher 400-CX2 tube preamps, all of which go for big prices. That 15 year old Nelson Pass designed power amp sounds just as good as it did when new and costs much, much less than a new amp.
Beyond that audio dealers are also competing with all the other personal technology products - home theatre, PC laptops, hi-end PC gaming systems, cell phones and tablets. Not only do people have limited amounts of money to spend on technology products, they also have a limited amount of time and attention as well. Time spent playing video games or watching Netflix is time not listening to music.
And as one other person here said, how many audiophiles under the age of 50 do you know?
The one audio sub-culture which never seems to die is the DIY crowd. Audio dealers come and go, but Madisound and Parts-Express are doing just fine.
Ghasley, you have 00’s of posts registered here, it is you that possibly needs some more sunshine, please leave others alone who are just posting their facts and realities.
Also, you are incorrect about systems being cheaper today, a 1962 system from a specialty manufacturer isn’t relevant as there were few, move to 1975 where there was a base of specialty audio companies to make a fair comparison. Back then, 67% of families owned their home on a single family average income of $15k, a top line stereo back then was about $3k. Today the average household income is $72k with both parents working and a top range system is closer to $100k. Your numbers are flawed if you look at what you would have got in 75’ vs. today. You were buying the top of the line units back then, top of the line today would set you back over a million!
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and we have a lot of dynamics which are affecting the high-end market. That $72k average household income does not go very far here. The high cost of living means that people have less disposable income. Here are a couple of recent examples (and, unfortunately, these stories no longer surprise those of us who live here):
Also, because of the cost of living, it’s not unheard of people have 2 hour commutes to work. Once they get to work, most people are working extended hours to keep up with their peers and also avoid peak commuting traffic. Those who choose to live closer to employment centers typically have less space to accommodate a large audio system and have shared walls which limit the volume at which you can play a system.
Time for shopping is also compromised. If you go to brick and mortar retails stores or malls, you don’t see a lot of shoppers walking around. People tend to buy online (convenience) and try to save money (comparison shop, free shipping and no tax).
One thing we do have is nice weather and plenty of ways to enjoy it. On weekends, a lot people tend to go outside and pursue some other activity. The roads and trails are filled with bikers and hikers, and parks are busy with people playing soccer and baseball or just lounging on grass enjoying the weather.
All this equates to less time, money and desire to buy a high-end system. The premium is on low cost, convenience and portability. The result is that a store that opened in 1950 just closed a couple of weeks ago and would not be surprised if others are close behind.
@gnaudio thanks for your input. Your three posts in total with all three on this thread give you a great deal of credibility. We have two issues here, first issue is that the OP and his alter ego (you) are trolls and again, I cant for the life of me figure out what jollies one gets out of trolling.
The second issue is the adoption of audio as a hobby, in what form and are the costs reasonable. As @theothergreg so wisely points out, people live differently and spend their money differently but nonetheless, virtually everyone has the means to consume music in their own way. Yesterdays transistor radio and home hifi set evolved into the more limited home hifi and expanded car audio set. Today, virtually everyone can consume music and enjoy reasonable fidelity. Smartphones are not a bad entry point for most and for many, its enough. The idea that a high fidelity system has to look like a rack system and the more pieces of gear the better is no longer a valid data point. Physical spaces used to be required for the exchange of knowledge and for hifi, that used to mean the dealers physical location was the forum. People dropped by and talked, demoed, listened and gained knowledge through the process. Today that happens in the virtual world and its only natural that the purchasing cycle follows suit.
All of those people that @theothergreg mentioned who are out enjoying the outdoors are also carrying with them the ability to listen to music and more than likely have virtually every music title at their fingertips. Thats a concept that no one dreamed of just 20 years ago. I still remember the boombox and what a craze the mixtape became. Then comes hip hop and the recent Pulitzer prize awarded Kendrick Lamar. Things change, they expand and contract but mourning that consumers are consuming music differently than they once did in the past doesnt make a whole lot of sense in an historical perspective.
Owning a home or not only changes the required form factor for musical reproduction and you cant get more portable than a smartphone and a pair of phones. Also, people are and should be more portable today. San Francisco IS expensive. Silicon Valley IS expensive. Central Park West IS expensive. Certain places always have been and always will be. People will eventually move their businesses and their lives to places that are less so because it will make sense. Look at the migrations taking place among those capable of earning their livings anyplace...Detroit, there are plenty of examples.
In summary, the consumption of music drives the form factor and if you yearn for a large shrine to the audio systems of old, those days arent coming back. The world is virtual and the dealers and audio markets are too. Thats not going to change, its going to accellerate.
I am fine with the question "Is high end dead?" I don't think the poster is picking a fight, but is making a point with his question.
For me, this is the time of building my nice system. But, it took me until I was 55 before I could afford to do it, and even with that, I tend to buy used or demo gear. Otherwise, I would not be able to afford anywhere near as nice of a system.
I like tube amps (and preamps) and vinyl-- even with it's associated quirks and maintenance. But, most of my friends can't even contemplate a $1,600 turntable, let alone a $1,600 machine to clean records. I think high end audio is kind of a solo, self-indulgent hobby, which makes it inherently a small demographic group. Couple that with the time we have available to actually listen to music, and it's no surprise that audiophiles tend to be nearly all old guys.
Anyway, I like this forum, have developed some friendships from it, and have received lots of help from the more experienced folks who participate. They have kept me from making expensive, disastrous gear decisions, and have nudged me in the right direction. So, I'm good. Thanks.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and we have a lot of dynamics which are affecting the high-end market. That $72k average household income does not go very far here. The high cost of living means that people have less disposable income.
The @theothergreg makes a good point. I lived in the SF-Bay area from 1976 to 1983. San Jose and Fremont to be exact. Many, myself included have moved into California's Central Valley or out-of-state entirely, where its more affordable. And yes - the traffic and commutes in the Bay Area are awful.
The SF-Bay area has more to offer in the way of HEA dealers but affordable housing and a livable wage is an issue with many people being apartment dwellers, in some kind of shared housing arrangement or living with mom and pop. The median rent in S.F. for a 1 bdrm apartment use to be around $3500/mo., and that apartment may only be 800 sq. ft.
When I moved to the Sacramento region in 1986, Sacramento had maybe 4 or 5 what you could consider HEA dealers. There is only one left that I'm aware of - maybe two.
With the introduction of the
iPod, iPads, iTunes and streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, et al, many don't see the need to spend what disposable income they have on what they consider very expensive audio equipment. Just walk into any gym or visit any school or college campus and you will see earbuds, earbuds and more earbuds.
They want their music to go where they go.
I would go so far as to say many people these days may have never attended a "live" concert. They don't know what music is supposed to sound like because they're so used to listening to compressed music. That's not to say you can't put together a decent sounding system without spending mega bucks. What's expensive to me may not be true for you and vice versa.
You have to find a balance for what's comfortable and reasonable for you. Not everyone can afford to plunk down $600K for a pair of Magico Ultimate III's and what it entails to drive them - and just because you can afford them doesn't mean you will buy them. It's called priorities.
Personally, if I had an extra $600K laying around, I'd rather put it into real estate, some other investment or do some traveling - I would not spend it on HEA. I don't feel the need to impress. I'm not into conspicuous consumption.
Having said that, I still don't believe HEA is dead but for many, it has lost it's luster.
Nearly every big American City has become expensive . Here in St Paul average home price has increased 40% in 4 yrs as wages have stayed stable .And they are far lower than coastal cities . No house stays on Market longer than 3 days even if it’s a dump . Two blocks from me a 190 unit seniors only condo with prices from 250-450 $$ opened 6 moths ago and was sold out 6 months before it was completed . There is no affordable housing being built in USA and it appears there never will be again . And no generation will ever again exist that became wealthy only because all the other industrial countries were flat on their back from WW II .
gnaudio , Brilliant and and informative post . One thing I would say , that 10 year out recession is far from being resolved . The present market bubble is there only to prolong the inevitable . The US dollar was hours from collapse in 2008, factors that caused it have been ignored and that chicken will come home to roost .A 401K buck put in today is in Zurich tomorrow .
Without getting into the socio-political aspects of this, maybe some new definitions are in order. With turntables at 80k and up, arms at say 10k+, top tier phono carts retailing at 10-15k (not that people pay full sticker), and the rest an almost sky is the limit in terms of electronics and speakers in the top tier (what the "high end" used to refer to), I think of this as more of a luxe goods category. There are some customers for this, but I don’t think it reflects the majority of hobbyists. Audiogon caters to used equipment buyers and sellers and that’s where a lot of the hobbyists can make up for the high prices on new gear since it depreciates in most cases. Those who will scrimp, save, upgrade or build upon a system owned for years are probably shrinking. I’m not even sure it has to do strictly with economics, but also lifestyle and priorities. Those of us who grew up with two channel audio only systems for focused listening are aging out. Although some younger people may get into the hobby, the market is far different- it’s portability, access through the cloud or on multiple devices, ease of use and cheap. (Look at the antique furniture market- dead. People want new, clean, almost disposable furniture; sure there will be collectors, but they fit into that top tier niche). Let’s not forget that even when we Boomers were coming of age, we weren’t buying Levinson, Infinity Servo-Statik, Tympanis or ARC unless we were in deep (not average) and/or until we got some money-- usually earning power didn’t begin until a little later in life. I had some serious gear at a young age, but I was a ’nut’ and had access b/c I worked in stores at the time. The average system then- a receiver, a pair of bookshelf speakers and a modest turntable-- was not high end. People did get together and listen in a home environment- but this home listening activity wasn’t limited to the high end. It is an activity -- the listening session- that is no longer common, except to hi-fi nuts. I think a lot has to do with how people live today. Spend a grand on a phone or 3 grand on a laptop or more on a big TV, but two channel audio isn’t really a priority. I think high end has been dying for decades. Remember how all the dealers had to shift to big A/V systems in the ’90s to stay in business? That was twenty or more years ago. I think the hobby will survive. It already has. The names may change, but there will always be enthusiasts.
I don't know about HEA, but the effectiveness and utility of this site as a way to buy and sell used gear has greatly diminished in recent years. The number of daily ads is way down, and if it wasn't for all the repeat dealer ads, it would be a trickle compared to the "old days".
I'm not sure what this means. Maybe that used audio is still a vibrant market, but it happens somewhere else? Maybe that after relentless luxury upgrading over the past few decades, and all the new competing luxury items to buy, that people are happy with what they've acquired already? Maybe that the prime market for HEA is aging and worried more about a secure later life?
There is no doubt in my mind that the market has changed considerably, that there are far fewer B&M dealers than 20 years ago, and that the high end of high end has moved to the stratospheric. I think the notion of HEA being "dead" is just semantics - lots and lots has changed, but what area of life hasn't?
Schubert: Or, the old quote, "The rich get richer and the poor get children..." The trends noted here are the natural result of the cultural downturn in musical activities and the shift towards streaming -- where you can get anything immediately at no or low cost. Who is going to spend huge amounts on a system in order to stream MP3 files? Well over 60% of current listeners stream only and this delights the small crowd controlling the process because they can ensure some revenue from each listen. But musicians lose. High res MP3 (LOL) and MQA files might move this large crowd towards higher end audio equipment but there are a lot of unknowns. Who would have thought that Spotify would get the kind of stock opening it just received? As with Amazon and Google wonder if the big money has made its choice for the music streamer of the future.
Being surrounded by other musicians my whole life, I was always alone in my hi-fi pursuits. Not only are they for some reason not particularly interested, they are also almost always far too poor to buy good hi-fi. The still-living ones I know now listen to CD's on their computers, not having a hi-fi of ANY sort. What disposable income they do have they spend on better (or more) instruments.
If you know any, you know they almost all have been supported, to one degree or another, by a girlfriend or wife their whole lives. Even semi-famous ones, who don't necessarily ever see much money. When Commander Cody was enjoying his only hit, "Hot Rod Lincoln", band guitarist Bill Kirchen complained that he was still making less than a Berkeley (where the band lived) garbage man.
When I met with Evan Johns the night before we began recording the Moontan album, he played on a boombox---his "hi-fi"---the demo tape of the songs we were to record. Not long after, his longtime girlfriend had finally had enough of him (he drank heavily, and could be "prickly"), and gave him the boot. He was semi-homeless until a disabled-musicians benefit organization gave him a room in their Austin Texas residence building, where he lived out his remaining years, finally dying last year at age 60 from liver failure.
I suppose the above has nothing to do with this thread, but I just was informed of yet another contemporary of mine dying, again of lung cancer. A lot of musicians start smoking (and drinking) at a young age. When you start playing in bars (even if you're 16, as was I), the free drinks make up for the low pay, and a cigarette sure goes well with a beer or whiskey.
I am in my mid 40's I have been into this since I was a kid and saw my neighbors dad's system. About ten years ago I was able to put together my dream system. And continue to upgrade as I can. When friends come over they don't get it. "That's worth how much?" They agree it sounds great, but they tell me how good their Snonos sounds. I do agree it seems like a dying hobby. My teen age kids love their I pods Companies are pricing their gear out of reach. When I go to the shows I see and hear the new products but it seems tough to justify the $$$ to upgrade. Is there hope for the future generations to embrace this hobby and can they afford it?
Musical style also has an impact on high-end audio purchase. Classical music requires significantly higher audio quality to sound pleasurable than do most popular styles. SO, as classical style fades significantly out of our culture, there is less style-driven support for high-end equipment. When I put together my first audiophile quality system 10 or so years ago, I started listening more and more to classical feeds because on better systems they blow you away with the musician's skill and overall power of the ensemble.
This is akin to what has happened to piano sales. Most players today buy electronic instruments and few have ever played on a quality grand. So, like those who are not used to audiophile sound, they attribute little value to what they do not experience.
Amen to all that craigl59 ! Few days ago I went to a Symphony Concert with a good friend of mine who is a Psych Prof at the U of MN . And a very prominent one at that . Looking at all the white heads he threw me a line I had not heard .
"As the country gets dumber and dumber , fewer and fewer people read books . People who don’t read books in the digital age have too short an attention span to listen to classical music ." I said, and have bad taste as well !
Looking at this post, which has a lot of smarts from a lot of smart people leads me to say out loud what I have said under my breath for a long time . People who don't go to live concerts of acoustic music on a REGULAR basis , no amps allowed , have no reference in reality and therefore have no idea what music really is . It's not a hobby for us , its a consuming passion . In terms of streaming etc , music has become no different than any other commodity in that more and more is controlled by fewer and fewer . More than half of the phrases an average American utters were written by a marketer !