Is this the end of HEA?

This last year has made my ears perk up. Honestly I didn't even know the article above had been written until now. What I did know was listeners have been in touch with me about the future of HEA and their future as advanced listeners. It's been nice to see folks getting in touch with me and even nicer that they are doing so because they wish to settle into their final system sound. To say things in their words "it's been an expensive ride" and most of these folks aren't sure they've gotten a fair shake always from the hobby. Many feel they have bank rolled a part of a hobby that hasn't always delivered the goods. Basically instead of telling listeners that this is a variable hobby the "experts" pushed a very expensive game of component Plug & Play onto the discrete audio generation. I remember those days of guilt buying where a dollar amount was used as a representative for quality, when it meant no such thing. I knew first hand this was not the case as designers scrambled to make up-sell products that sounded less musical than the original products that put their name in audio fame. I also could see the HEA decline happening but still was giving the benefit of the doubt to those saying HEA was just fine and growing. Mom and pop stores for the most part have vanished in the US with the exception of a few creative thinkers. New expensive products are being adored but I don't see many actually buying them. Now I've got my eye on T.H.E. Show (Richard's show) and wondering if it's happening or not. Richard and I have talked many times about what will happen to HEA in the US if T.H.E. Show and CES cease doing their thing in Vegas. I wonder what Richard RIP is thinking now sitting in the clouds.

I am very excited to see the next few years come about even though I know some are still buying into the old paradigm that the HEA is the cutting edge with only a volume control to adjust and a fork lift included with every purchase. Going to the CES web, I have my answer for Vegas. Going to T.H.E. Show website I'm still in question. If these two are no more, in terms of HEA, who's next?

Michael Green


You are partially right. By far, the largest number of people who listen to music are doing it on low-mass systems, namely cell phones. They are connected to some kind of ear/headphones or, at home, to Bluetooth speakers or similar quality equipment. Nobody switched to those because of sound quality, except maybe you. They switched because of convenience. It has been that way for about 40 years.

Sophistication and advancement of technology made it possible that higher sound quality, whatever that is, is nowadays available from smaller format devices. Add to that the possibility to get content that was previously practically unobtainable. End-user experience is definitely simpler and richer, but technology used is far more complicated. Nothing wrong with that. Give it another 50-60 years and common devices will approach the sound quality of your Walkman in a package that will fit in your pocket.

I think Michael Green is right. Overall music listening is switching to smaller and easier-to-use devices but the driving force behind it is not sound quality. It is convenience made possible by advancements in technology. How room tuning and other approaches fit into that story about smaller and simpler is another topic. Kind of exactly the opposite, but not harmful at all. Thankfully, it is hard to take cover off an iPhone and continue using it as before.

All of that applies to major market, not very small marginal group that takes pleasure talking about fuses, cables, pieces of wood under the electronic components, and what not. They are in their little world that is less and less important to anyone, including show organizers.
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Lots of good insight on this thread. One of the additional cultural forces that ties in with the shortened attention span an earlier poster mentioned, in America at least, is a decline in the notion of excellence. Look at all the 5 star drivers on Lyft and Uber. Very high ratings on Yelp for objectively mediocre restaurants. Writing styles of published authors that have declined from an 11th grade level in the 80’s to a 6-8th grade today. Questionable talent on America’s Got Talent. New employees who expect high pay but bring few skills to the table.

A reporter once asked Miles Davis why he practiced 4-5 hours a day. “You are the Miles, surely you don’t need to?!” To which Davis responded, “I am the Miles BECAUSE I practice five hours a day.” 

The very notion of excellence and the hard, consistent work required to achieve it, is in jeopardy in this country. Why should critical listening be any different? It is also a form of excellence that places a demand on the person listening. 
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I'm sure there were a very serious group of individuals sitting around worrying that their Marconis were failing to gain traction. They were enjoying listening to Caruso live on a single speaker and were certain the apocalypse was upon them. Then, came the jazz age and '78's. That group couldn't understand why anyone would want to use tape...or '45's...or FM...or, gasp, stereo!

Humans will always consume music and they will do it in a way they choose, not the way the previous generation chose. It should be fun and enjoyable to listen to shouldn't be so serious or complex as trying to solve the ticking time bomb at Chernobyl.

I see alot of young people discovering vinyl and the social aspects of spinning records...building speakers...serious headphone setups. The shrines many on Audiogon have built with 200 lb amplifiers and 500 lb speakers are dinosaurs.  I'm sure dinosaurs saw it coming and all the paw wringing they could muster didn't change the outcome.