High End is Dead?

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.

Are we just poor, and that's all there is to it? 
I am lucky to have both a dedicated listening room and a living room with music. The listening room includes seating for 5 people between the speakers and the ability to add more chair listening. (That’s why I don’t want speakers that are directional, they limit the enjoyment for friends in sharing the music). The living room system is simpler with a high end CD based system, a smaller stereo tube amp, a very size small pre-amp with a pair of Legacy Signature IIIs. All located at the far end of the room with about 8 listening seats and sound that emanates throughout the family room and dining room as well (good for parties with 25+ people).

I really enjoy sharing my music and do not talk about the equipment to non-audiophiles. The only thing they bring up is that LPs are reportedly superior to CDs and vice versa. I end that discussion by playing both to their satisfaction.

I was an avid stamp collector 45 years ago. Although I enjoy the artistry of engraved stamps, they are about as interesting to friends as showing them slide shows of my travels-in other words, it’ll quickly you to sleep.

My flat (not curved) 75" TV allows good viewing angles for friends and family of about five people when I share my video collection.

I like sharing rather than solitary listening/viewing audio and video; however, when my wife goes to bed at 12 am, I am free to enjoy my music til’ 1:30 am.

I purchased used quasi high end equipment up until I was 34 years old when I could afford things like a VPI turntable, SME IV arm and Dynavector MC cartridges. When I was in my 40s, I started purchasing more high end gear and cabling became important. In the last 20 years, I have now got two high end audio systems. The most important thing for me was buying records, lots and lots of records. Now I buy CDs, lots and lots of CDs because classical music boxed sets are so cheap and good jazz which generally remastered to my liking.

@crazyeddy, and Vivian Stanshall (Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) sang: "Jazz---delicious hot, disgusting cold".

Really nice posts!  I really enjoyed all of them.

My view of the state of any of this is just through personal experience.  I live in the midwest, so I don't know how that colors my perception.  It certainly limits the number of B&M audio salons.  As in zero in all of Kansas City.  I grew up in Lawrence, KS, home of Kief's, which appears to have gone out of business after decades of success.

Music would appear to be thriving, both live and recorded.  I could go to an excellent concert 150-200 nights a year if I wanted.  No shortage of extremely talented musicians.  Access to 40-50 millions songs at the touch of a button.  More "audiophile" recordings available that I'd love to listen to than I'll ever get to, with easy mechanisms to catalog and retrieve.

Audio would appear to be thriving.  I run into approximately the same number of people who are proud of and excited about their Sonos system, and there appear to be numerous competitors who have come out with compelling offerings.  Bluetooth speakers, I guess the modern boombox in some ways, are everywhere, and people seem to enjoy carrying their libraries around on their phone and be able to play them back almost anywhere they are.  It seems like music has become an important aspect of peoples' lives at least to the extent it was back in the day.  And, while I sometimes offer up that you don't have to spend a lot to get good sound, I always tell people that what I'm most interested in is whether they like to listen to music, in any setting and playback method, and what they like.

HEA seems more or less as prevalent (or not) as ever, albeit the top end seems to have gone up in price by an order of magnitude.  I enjoyed @ghasley in his description of the audiophile stereotype, but I hope he doesn't know too many people like that :-)  I've never had a good friend that was into gear, and I've only ever had a few acquaintences who enjoyed it.  So, today seems just like 30-40 years ago to me. 

I recently moved to a new house that has a large, nice area in the lower level that I've set up exactly how I want it.  I've never been a tweaker, but I do believe excellent gear sounds way better than modestly priced gear, and you need the space set it up so the physics can do their thing.  It has a huge TV integrated into the setup, and everyone I show it to tells me it looks like a blast and they'd love to have it.  None of them are saying that because of the specific gear.  In any case, it's a completely different physical experience to listen on "the big rig".  I don't know if it will ever convert anyone to say, "how do I get that", but that's not my goal.  I like to listen to it, and honestly, while I love having my wife listen with me (and she does regularly), I don't want to talk for stretches of time, and I don't want to worry about whether it's too loud, etc.  It's perfect for me because I really, really enjoy it all.

As long as music is an important aspect of peoples' lives, (HE) Audio will do just fine.

Hi ghasley

"I agree with everything you’ve said and the reason is its the music that moves you and your crew. Thats cool. It also sounds like you live around others who share the passion and thats really cool."

Yep it’s a cool ride! BTW your 55 going on 52, I’m 58 going on 152 :) I’ve put some serious miles on this body, I love getting older. There’s something about the building blocks of living that is very rewarding. We who have made it into our senior years are blessed. If we want we can look back, we can be in the now and we can see the future, if we don’t stay in the past too long. But, the greatest part is we can do any of these.

I guess I look at the Audiophile thing as being a huge sea of hobbyist, all legit in their own hobby within the hobby, whether it be a little group of old plug & play farts or the masses.

"No fuse talk, no cable talk, just music, humanity and fun."

I like that statement too. I think all parts of the hobby have their place and their following. Some guys were born to debate and others can’t wait to get to that listening chair or take in a live event or let their fingers do the walking through the record shops or make Amazon rich, it’s all so much fun we could scream. We are all music kings and queens living in the greatest of times.

My sound, job and life has always been based on the variables of audio, so I obviously think some of these "Fixed" or "Fix-it" tweaks are a little silly compared to having a Tunable system, but again everyone is welcome and deserving of their own hobby. In the future it’s all going to be variable so I guess these guys can knock themselves out with achieving change at the plug & play level. I am a little surprised that HEA got itself stuck in the revolving door for so long, letting the rest of the audio world catch up and pass them up, but that will all straighten itself out too.

Hey, we either get to enjoy the spin or enjoy the ride into tomorrow and it’s a blast any way we travel. I like your post too ghasley.

Good post kthomas and fleschler! One has got to love seeing the variety this hobby has. One thing for sure is while the HEA may be settling into a lower number (one fixed sound system) the Audiophile, and Videophile worlds are growing and have become every man’s (and women’s) home entertainment treasure.

Michael Green


...”Remember when?...  All it takes is hearing that first note on a higher quality sound system and you are hooked...”

Oh yeah. 

That’s IT!  (Lucy shouting as Schroeder angrily pounds Jingle Bells on the keyboard)

A crazy high school English teacher with a tube amp and Dahlquist DQ 10’s spinning a Charlie Parker record for me and my friends one night...I got it. 

Finally hearing Jimmy Page’s electric guitar underneath the acoustic on “Ramble On.”  Jeeze-Louise - ya mean that was ALWAYS there???