The color of audio and ambassadorship


Lately I've been trying to be an embassador of hi-end. I fear high quality music is a dying breed with the advent of MP3's and the like. So i try to sway those who can be swayed to begin their journeys into high end audio reproduction.

When speaking to friends about music I usually ask if they have ever heard their favorite music on a hi end system. To which almost all say no, and then ask why. A fair question. I usually say something on the order of "if you havnt heard your music on a high end system then you really havn't heard your music." This bait usually gets them over so they can hear what I'm talking about. And indeed to the uninitiated, even a simple system such as mine can be quite eye opening. It was for me 20 years ago when I heard a hi end system the first time! When they ask how much it costs however, well, that's another reaction altogether. Usually I get a WTF, or "its not that important to me!" And then they ask why is it so expensive?

This is where the audiophile has to try and explain what makes good sound and how the equipment contributes to the experience. I usually try to explain it terms of high resolution photography. I try to compare a low resolution photograph taken from a cheap camera. The picture will be blurry, the colors not as distinct, and the gradations not as varied when comparing the same photo taken with a professional camera. I say both pictures will give you an image you understand, but one will be closer to lifelike. Most people then get it.

If the conversation continues and they are more interested I my talk about system synergy. This is a little bit more difficult, but they way I try to explain this is I say what most try to achieve is some form of neutrality. To this end I say let's equate neutrality to gray. A perfect middle gray, a blend of 100% white and 100% black. Each component then is a shade of gray. In a perfect system each component is a perfect middle gray. However, we know that's not the case. Some might be lighter, some darker grays. Thus to achieve a perfect middle gray, one might have a dark gray speaker that needs a light gray amp. The more equipment, the harder it is to blend the colors and achive a perfect middle gray. Thus the audiophile sickness. These are analogies of course, and it can even be taken further when you bring in transparency and texture of music, but most people can be made to understand the concept, if not the madness that goes along with it.

How do you try to be an ambassador to hi end? Or do you even try
last_lemming
Now that people are starting to put their ipods into docking stations or integrating them into home stereo, I'm hearing a lot of "why doesn't my music sound good?" These are not audiophiles of course, but once they take off their earbuds they can hear the difference between mp3 and their CDs.
I let friends hear stuff on a really god sounding vintage system that they could approximate for a few hundred bucks if they look around a little. They can go further or spend more once their feet are in the door. I also get the added benefit of hearing music I have never heard in many cases- so It benefits me also!
Zero. it is not my job to twist anyone's arm. If they like it they will find it. if not... Who am i to show them the way?
I do not believe anyone can be 'shown the light' unless they wanted it in the first place.
And if they did want it, they don't need me.

I have been into stereo since 1965 or so. i have never found any person not into it who ever was interested in any way. So that is 47 years of not a soul even remotely interested..
i am no proselytizer
Hey, we built it, but they will not come, get over it.
I wanna puke.
"I fear high quality music is a dying breed with the advent of MP3's and the like."

Are you kidding? We are the dying breed. When our generation is gone, high end audio will be gone too.
Wow. I didn't realize there were so many cynics here, but I guess I should not be surprised, it is a lonesome sport. I guess we shouldn't be surprised when the hi end stores close and the music quality goes completely to pot, nobodies out there promoting the hobby. Who better than the people who are in it? We'll I am glad that someone showed me what hi end was many years ago, or I wouldn't have know what was possible and what good sound, sounds like. And while I'm not "twisting" anyones arm to do or buy anything or proselytizing on them mountain top, at least once people hear they understand, and have had an experiance they can have conversations with me about, not to mention music that they suggest to me becuase they now know my interests. Sorry you don't have that as part of you hobby.
Yes, Rrog, I fear you are correct.
its obvious that you don't need an expensive stereo system to enjoy music.

the only reason to perpetuate this type of consumption is self-serving. that's ok. but let's be truthful about trying to convince someone to spend large sums of money on audio equipment.

i think that function is outside the purview of an audiophile.

you could apply the same principle to any conspicuous consumption--cars, boats and expensive watches. these are luxury goods.

a person can be happy without them.
I've tried the route of ambassador and was eventually recalled.
It was mostly a ceremonial post with no chance of advancement (of others).
It's been odd out man out ever since.
I think I'll skip the memoir.

All the best,
Nonoise
So I'm going to comment from my view of being a younger guy in this hobby.

When I first started out I had no where, I mean no where to go. I didn't know what stuff was or what difference it made. I was 23 fresh out of school and wanted to try to put together a HT system.

Never once did music on the HT sound right to me. I found a couple forums, read the crap that it doesn't make a difference, went to a few dealers and then started with 2 channel. Finally music started to sound more like music and things mattered.

Do I wish I could have someone "show me the way"? You bet, I still would like it if I could hear some other people's systems to see what differences it makes and what they enjoy for sound. But problem is I find a lot of people closed off to the idea of allowing a younger person into their home to listen to thier system.

Also dealers are not the most outgoing to the younger generation. Sorry but if you have to follow me around making sure I don't touch anything then I am not going to buy from you. Heck I had one laugh at me when I told him what I was looking to buy for new speakers and questioned why anyone my age would be into this hobby.

If no one is open to allowing others to expierence or hear for themselves what something sounds like how can you expect someone to want to drop 5K on an amp or 10K on a pair of speakers? This goes for dealers but others in the hobby.

Also its funny, I do go out of my way with friends to have them come over hear my stuff. I try to help out a lot of guys I know because even they want vinyl vs MP3 or discuss what a tube amp sounds like. They may not have a ton of money right now but when they are turned off by the way people act in the hobby of the "I'm better than you and only the rich can do this" kind, how can anyone expect them to come back and want to be in this?

If you show people how to start out, what different speakers, vinyl vs MP3 and CD vs MP3 can sound like, they will start to question as well.
You would be doing your friends acquaintances far better by showing them how inexpensive good sound is than by showing them how expensive and complicated high end sound is.

I recently got a friend of mine to replace his Bose 201s with Dynaco A25s. He couldn't be happier. Cost -- $35 and some work refinishing the cabinets. He's using them with an estate sale $30 vintage Pioneer receiver. Is it high end, no. Does it sound good, yes!
I have a friend who "tried" to get into "hi-end" in the mid-90's by buying a bunch of Krell KAV stuff, & B&W speakers (yeah, I know). Even he wouldn't listen to any contrary advice about equipment. A couple of years ago he dumped all of that expensive stuff cheap, & now insists on listening to music only with ipods, or thru his computer....

Oh, and get this: he tried to "convert me" into listening thru ipods, & my computer (giving up the fabulous system, IMO, that I have now, presumably). Fat chance.

I do notice that when even non-audio types come to my house, they're often impressed with the sound, but I never start trying to "convert" them....
I wouldn't say I try to convert them, I just simply answer any questions and let them hear a difference for themself. Conversion is on them. I do find that once they hear a difference they seem genuinely interested and want to know more, and I'm happy to oblige. I think people are getting carried away with the idea that I said we should be ambassadors, but I didn't say we should activley convert anyone. That's not the idea. The idea is just to show them. Remember, these arn't random people off the street, these are friends (and sometimes family), and I figure if I have to listen to their NASCAR ramblings or hunting stories every once in a while, they can hear about my hobbies too.
interesting thread. I read about an eight-year study at Stanford University, where new students do critical listening to music from a variety of sources which includes formats that range from compressed MP3s to much higher quality cds and vinyl. According to this study, new students increasingly prefer MP3s.

The Standford tester believes the reason has more to do with psychology than audiology; i.e. kids are used to hearing MP3s, so it’s literally altering their perception of what sounds “good”. In effect, a preference for crappy sound is actually becoming learned behavior. You might infer that someone acclimated to listening to little computer speakers or earbuds would also come to genuinely prefer these to megabuck high end speakers.

All of which suggests the die hard audio prosletyzers are facing an uphill climb.
I have shown people the difference in sound quality between .mp3 and lossless on my system. Everyone accepts that lossless sounds better, but I have only convinced one person to start ripping lossless files instead of .mp3s. Most only hear the differences if I point them out, and even if they can hear them without my help, they don't really care. The trade-off of file-size to sound quality is not good enough. Also, the instantaneous gratification of online .mp3 purchases is huge, and no one wants to deal with the shiny metal discs once the music is ripped.

Almost everyone is surprised at how good my system sounds, compared to their typical listening experience. "It sounds so clear!" I get that a lot. But usually there is some random quality about my mid-fi system's sound that bothers them. It is too detailed, or there is not enough big-booty bass. Pretty much everyone agrees that the cost is not worth it. Most people's jaws drop. My own wife has no idea what the total cost is, and I really haven't spent that much, compared to most.

Another issue I have is convincing anyone to sit in front of a stereo system and just have a few drinks and listen to music. Those who do venture into the listening room usually get antsy and/or bored within 10-15 minutes, and most people won't even bother. A great big screen in front of the seating position is apparently too much of a feature to omit.
Bighead63, I can relate. I was ignored in those high-end stores until I went in with an audiophile friend who was a customer of theirs.
I wouldn't try to convert anyone into the world of HIFI, but if they show some interest, I'm more than happy to give advice as that friend of mine did for me.
It's a nice thought but it's really not worth the trouble. I gave up trying to convert anyone to audio a couple of years ago when I was told by a couple of house guests that their Bose systems blew mine away.
You need to be targeting the right demographic. The 38 year old with 3 Young's kids wont take the bait. Choose empty nesters or people without kids. Speaking of kids, try to turn them on to good music. I introduced my sons girlfriend to Frazey Ford and she thanks me every time she sees me.

I like the idea of trying to introduce people to a vintage set up. The idea of spending a thousand if not tens of thousands of dollars is probably a show stopper for most people regardless of their financial situation.

Ive always tried to introduce people to new music. There's a lot of good music out there and its not easy to find. Most people just don't have the time. In the end, for me, its the music. You wouldn't have hi fi without it.

My big push has always been trying to introduce pellet to new music.
Why sell something if you're not being paid to sell it?
People are generally reluctant to begin a new adventure that actually requires them to sit still and shut up for any period of time.Been to a movie theater lately?
How do you try to be an ambassador to hi end? Or do you even try

I tell them stories of my audio purchases, and then I smile as they roll on the floor laughing.
If a person only listens to pop music, there is no point in spending good money on stereo equipment. Only if you listen to Classical or Jazz, from that wonderful creative era,(blue note etc...) does high end (expensive) stereo make sense. If you don't sit down and listen without doing anything else during that time, then anything will do ya.
Mr. tennis, for once I completely agree with you -

"its obvious that you don't need an expensive stereo system to enjoy music.

the only reason to perpetuate this type of consumption is self-serving"

One thing that's obvious here is that some have no life except to ponder cables and power cords, whereas the majority of people have real lives, and would consider such pursuits a complete travesty in a wasted life.

One can put together a pair of PSB Alpha's, a decent receiver, and reasonable source and be completely happy, for under $1k, and NEVER be concerned about fuse break-in (puleese.).

Some people have full lives, some not. Some don't have the time to waste evaluating things, that, in reality, are so trivial some should be embarrassed.
Booya! Rok2id nailed it.
If a person only listens to pop music, there is no point in spending good money on stereo equipment.
You've got to be kidding!
It is not what you need to enjoy particular type of music but rather person's state of mind. My late relative loved classical music and had a lot of LPs but his system was equivalent to very bad transistor radio. He couldn't hear 50% of instruments in the orchestra. He could easily buy very good system but he didn't care for the sound. My friends have decent system but they covered speakers with ornamental blankets that make sound very muddy and distant. They like music but don't care for the sound. Nothing will change that.
In the three days I spent at Axpona, there was a pretty good mix of ages among attendees. That gave me some hope for continued interest in good sound. As to being an "ambassador," I don't even try. Most people are so involved in life and their hyper-active monkey minds that they feel sitting and listening to music is not a worthwhile way to spend time. Even proprietors of high end home theater stores have looked at me like a quaint relic of the past when I professed my preference for two channel high end audio. Most musicians I know are more interested in making music than listening to it critically on a high end stereo. Regarding the disparaging remarks about the obsessive nature of the audiophile and their obsessing over picayune details, that's the way outsiders from every hobby look at the insiders. Go to any gun show, car show, numismatic show, etc. and look around. Many humans have a tendency to get obsessed with the details of things. We're hardly unique. Be content and don't worry about the unconverted.
on what basis is it incumbent upon any hobbyist to proselytize ?
This would be a different, and a very long shot. If the manufacturers, magazine reviewers, and others, could get together and rent rooms at shopping malls, put on a show there once in a while, a week or two at a two, for trial.

Possibly, have their local dealers set up demo rooms to do this. Any clubs that may be left could probably help with this also, by contacting local news people for this event.

If something like this was tried in the larger malls, with a lot of traffic, maybe something could come out of it. They could start with only one or two different malls at first.

In the past, a lot of products got exposed this way. I remember satellite (those large ones first) dishes getting exposure this way. Some had a set-up right in the center of some malls. This may not be too good for audio though, unless they made temporary rooms.

If Stereophile, plus other magazines ran an ad looking for participants, and some locals (?) to find the right people for renting the space, promotions, etc., who knows?

If tried in the areas that still have the local brick and mortar stores, they should see a reaction at their dealerships, if it really did get any curiosity going.

It may be too late, or, may get something started from the shoppers that have been exposed to the big box stores, and Home Theater based stuff only.

Some people may try it, just to have it first. This high-end would be new to a lot. Looking at it in a magazine is one thing, seeing and hearing it for real is another.

There is money still out there. This may be a way to get them to open their wallets. They'll be different from their friends, and neighbors, by being the first at buying a true high-end system.

Like I said, it's a long shot. It may need some good local, event organizers. Volunteers would make it happen easier too. Records and turntables came back to a point a lot of us would have never imagined. No one will know if it's not tried. Just my two cents.
This would be a different, and a very long shot. If the manufacturers, magazine reviewers, and others, could get together and rent rooms at shopping malls, put on a show there once in a while, a week or two at a two, for trial.

Possibly, have their local dealers set up demo rooms to do this. Any clubs that may be left could probably help with this also, by contacting local news people for this event.

If something like this was tried in the larger malls, with a lot of traffic, maybe something could come out of it. They could start with only one or two different malls at first.

In the past, a lot of products got exposed this way. I remember satellite (those large ones first) dishes getting exposure this way. Some had a set-up right in the center of some malls. This may not be too good for audio though, unless they made temporary rooms.

If Stereophile, plus other magazines ran an ad looking for participants, and some locals (?) to find the right people for renting the space, promotions, etc., who knows?

If tried in the areas that still have the local brick and mortar stores, they should see a reaction at their dealerships, if it really did get any curiosity going.

It may be too late, or, may get something started from the shoppers that have been exposed to the big box stores, and Home Theater based stuff only.

Some people may try it, just to have it first. This high-end would be new to a lot. Looking at it in a magazine is one thing, seeing and hearing it for real is another.

There is money still out there. This may be a way to get them to open their wallets. They'll be different from their friends, and neighbors, by being the first at buying a true high-end system.

Like I said, it's a long shot. It may need some good local, event organizers. Volunteers would make it happen easier too. Records and turntables came back to a point a lot of us would have never imagined. No one will know if it's not tried. Just my two cents.
Some people have full lives, some not. Some don't have the time to waste evaluating things, that, in reality, are so trivial some should be embarrassed.
Snofun3

If there were an award for best comment of the month, I'd nominate this one.