I've had a devil of a time interesting the next gen in my family in decent audio. Not a scientific sampling, I know, but they're a bit too squirmy yet to sit still for a life-altering experience.
The student entrepreneurs-- that's the ticket. They will need to have the gear in their rooms. Back in the day (which recedes further and further in time and memory), back in my day, back in the (oh God) 70s, nearly any floor in any dorm was a showcase of the mid to high end gear available in showrooms nationwide in the mid-August time frame (i.e. just before heading off, or heading back to school).
Long-term exposure is what today's whippersnappers need. They need to miss the glory of a decent rig when they return to their private Idaho of mp3s and earbuds. They need to want to head off to the party in Ziggy's room. He has refreshing beverages and this cool music thing that everyone can hear at the same time and it still sounds awesome. He can send us the URL for the site where we can buy this stuff. Or at least we can send the link to our parents in time for the gift giving season.
Keene: Totally, dude!
Having started as a campus rep for several wholesalers nearly 40 (!!) years ago, I think the time is right for something similar to return. Granted, many manufacturers have more tightly-controlled sales networks these days, which could make things a little more difficult, but many others might view it as a wide-open market.
Looking at the cost of tuition as well as the cars parked on campuses, SOMEBODY around campus has money, and it doesn't seem to be the profs. Maybe the football coaches....;->
Thanks for your comments, and good luck with the squirmy ones!
I am all for taking part in this model. the portability appeal is would seem to be the place to start. With the growth of higher-end headphones has come growth in sales of portable amps to use with MP3 players but all those are able to when on the road is amplify a signal from a less then stellar DAC internal to the player. I worked with a designer a couple years ago on a product that would be both a portable Amp and dac that could communicate with an ipod allowing a massive boost in sound quality when on the move. If the people spending hundreds on fancy IEMs and head phones knew they could get more from what they already own by adding a small piece of equipment to their package you'd be on the way to turning people on to more and more gear/sound/experience. I couldnt find the investment dollars to make the design happen but if anyone here wants to help resurrect the project I'd love to see it happen.
unfortunately a culture shift thats been decades in the making, is impossible to turn around quickly, if at all. time and money also play a role, but music's 'place' in most lives is a lot different today then it was even just a few years ago.
Excellent ideas. You do need to create a sea change in attitude toward audio but this has happened and thus proves it can happen again. Anyway have you ever seen college kids at a dance club hooping it wearing headphones?
The room entrprenuers are a good idea, but they need a very attractive packages to sell. In many ways these products have to evolve so that they would bridge the iPod generation to a new listening "out loud" generation of audioproducts. These new products would still preserve the fundamental mission of high fidelity and sound really good. Thus I would propose that Apple be a partner with other established excellent audio manufacturers to preserve their style desirabilty and yet start to move the new listener in the direction of better and better audio. Kids may like their miniature music servers but don't ever forget that the only reason they exist is to allow those squirmish kids to listen to what--MUSIC.
Thus a bridged co- produced product incorporating the Apple sensibilties and perhaps some Apple connectivity but with much better DACs and producrs such as Apple tube amps and headphone amps made and engineered by high end firms (also credited on the badging) will be the easiest way.
In fact let your imagination envision A flatish Panel speaker in all white that could be a reengineered Joseph Audio in wall speaker made smaller with collapsable stands for packing. Or ask the genius industrial engineers at Bang and Olufsen to become a partner.
BTW I am copywriting this I want to talk to the shakers and movers myself to see if I can't broker a deal!
Please pardon a newbie for butting in - I have been an Audiogon member for some time, and have bought several items (and sold one) through the exchange, but haven't ever commented before. But I have found this series on the future of hi-fi interesting, and it got me thinking...
I went to undergrad from 1976 to 1980 at Michigan State -- I had spent my high school years in the band, and fell in love with classical music listening to Tchaikovsky and Beethoven on my parents' miserable Panasonic all-in-one with cheap plastic speakers. I bought and took a $180.00 Realistic stereo with me to college -- and immediately encountered a fellow student on my floor with a rig composed of Pioneer electronics, a Technics turntable,Audio-Technica cartridge and Advent speakers that produced music that was, for me, a revelation -- I didn't know recorded music could sound that good. I was hooked good and proper -- I read High Fidelity and Stereo Review and Audio assiduously, worshipped at the shrine of Julian Hirsch, and over the next thirty years continually upgraded, and upgraded, and upgraded, to my tolerant wife's amusement.
But that was then, and some very important things have changed (besides the demise or transformation of all three of those magazines) that mean those days probably aren't coming back. Reaching today's young adults means different marketing, different pricing practices, and a different product mix. I work in a business where we pay a lot of attention to the current generation of college students and graduated twenty-somethings, and here are some hard, inconvenient truths (apologies to Mr. Gore) that I think audio marketers ignore at their peril --
1. Precisely because of the cost of tuition that Audiogon bill mentions, these folks have no money -- on average, college, both public and private, costs 2 and half times what it did in 1980 in constant dollars -- that's right, AFTER inflation. Many college kids, and their families, who would have been "paying as they go" in 1980 are now in hock up to their eyeballs sending the kids to college. And the kids are coming out with large, non-dischargeable-in-bankrutpcy debt that is draining their disposable income.
2. The jobs these kids are finding as they leave college tend to be low-paying, with in many cases little upward mobility. We are seeing the college-educated defer home buying, marriage and children because they can't afford any of them.
3. And these kids aren't borrowers, outside of student loans and car loans. They are renting, not buying, real estate and they have had it hammered into them (correctly) by the schools that only an idiot carries balances on a credit card. They like debit cards and cash money management. They are expecting to live a simpler existence than their parents, and are acting accordingly, purchasing inexpensive or used furniture and focusing on quality of life, rather than acquisition of goods.
4. Beyond the availability of disposable income, there are cultural changes. When my third child went to college, I asked her if she would like to take some of my excess stereo equipment with her for a bookshelf system -- like me, she enjoys classical music and jazz (bear in mind also that she had grown up in a house with a succession of increasingly mid to high-end stereo systems, so she had been plenty exposed to "good sound"). She declined, explaining that it would be rude to play her music so that it disrupted her roommate or others in her dorm -- it was considered polite to listen to music privately. Besides, she said, she felt the music sounded better on her iPod and headphones anyway.
5. Another cultural shift -- these young adults are used to researching and purchasing online, from retailers like Amazon and Lands End that sell at low mark-ups and offer "no questions asked" returns.
What does all this mean? To me, it seems to suggest a few things:
1. Anyone wanting to sell these young adults "audiophile" equipment is going to have to seriously reconsider price points and profit margins. Consider that a high end Apple laptop may be had for $1600.00, and a high end PC laptop for far less -- and these are, for many young adults, the most expensive things they purchase besides a car. The first person who tries to sell these folks a $5000 stereo rig and calls it "affordable" is going to get laughed out of the room. This generation will need to be approached on their own terms, and with a clear understanding of their reality (remember, GE initially couldn't sell refrigerators in Japan because it was trying to sell U.S.-sized refrigerators to people living in 800 square foot apartments).
2. And that means Mechans may well have the right idea -- equipment that embraces computer-based music files and integrates with it, including headphone amplifiers and high quality headphones, offered at far lower markups than current fare, may have the best chance of gaining attention and market share -- especially if it is re-badged with brand names, like Apple or Dr. Dre, that this generation will recognize.
3. Add to that that these folks do an awful lot of their purchasing online, and it suggests that successful marketers may be those that offer direct sales with 30-day trial periods. Getting these folks to visit a "dealer" may be a forlorn proposition.
Just some random thoughts from the peanut gallery.
Just to say... I got into this audiophile only a few years ago, since november 2007. I was in grad school at the time and spent endless hours putting together the system I have by watching audiogon, head-fi and ebay. Beyond this i have spent days in shops like Lyric hi-fi (not the friendliest staff, to a guy in a t-shirt) and Sound by Singer (i kept asking them to hire me) I worked backward my want to build a stereo for my home lead to me wanting to get more from my ipod. There have been several experiments where it turns out young folk prefer the sound of compressed audio (because its what they know) now imagine you could, with the addition of a small (affordable) piece of equipment, show there is something more the "beats" they over paid for can offer. Better yet for even less then what they paid for the "beats" they can even more. Now how about you try them listening to vinyl on a music hall MMF 2.2 through a nice integrated instead of their crosley. They'll see the difference. everyone I bring over sure does, they still think I'm crazy but every now and then one of them calls me to ask for advice.
in addition the most searched for items on headphone.com (head room) are dacs and portable amps... lots of people want more from what they already have (thats why they buy the over priced "beats") I mean I saw a a kid that cant be more than 20 wearing the new B&W headphones on the sudway and folks wearing GRADOs aint too odd a thing to see either (it does remain odd to wear open phones on a train though)
Kids are gear-o-philes they just have to walked toward more gear.
I complement you on your precis of where we are now. I cannot believe that we are a nation headed for a spartan monastic anhedonic lifestyle which reverses the fundamental pillars of the "American Dream." I understand we are looking at contraction in our clearly overexuberent lifestyles fueled by mindless debt. But if your daughter values music, she will not forget what it can and perhaps should sound like.I think she is trying to justify the peer driven dictates of fashion. I am sure we all do things during certain times to fit in. The fit in part may be slow to change but I am confident is not permanent and indellible.
I expect with some hesitation that a certain pent up demand exists and among those generations who are in the midsts of the national hangover. I am a witness to those that are certainly young enough to be more culturally apt to buying the most ECo friendly cars around, but on the weekends are tooling around in anything but. There is this also a great divide in this country in terms of wealth. Perhaps the youth we should seek to convert are on Wall St. not Main St.
The products I mention will not make any headway luring people into making a good soundsystem something to value unless you make it accessible. Thus if the demographic is the young make it affordable but good.
I remember almost everyone of our generation rich, poor or in the middle finding a way to put together a system.
Please bear this in mind, once more. Imagine kids getting together to spend their weekend nights together. Kids are social and kids like music, it is impossible for me to imagine kids at an social event etc each wearing an individualized player and dancing to the beat of different synthetic bass lines.
I just got a new idea to promote. Anyone with capital??
I have 2 sons in college. Both love music. Both play music. Both have NHT M-OO speakers with S-OO sub on their computers. They grew up with my system. Both were born at home with Pachelbel's Canon in D playing on my turntable in the adjacent room. They've had music all their lives so it is safe to say that lack of exposure to excellent sound has not been a cause. However, they seldom use my system and they seldom use their own speakers. They both have Grado SR 325I headphones and that is how they listen at home. They use earbuds with their I-Pods occasionally and use their I-Pods through their car systems. They know I'm panting on the sidelines for a chance to load them up with ever more interesting audio, but they prefer their headphones.
So, in light of all this personal experience and in deference to Rdawhitaker's excellent analysis, I have to conclude that you will not be able to bring back the good old days without bringing back labor unions, free form FM radio and The Beatles. Bank regulation and an end to offshore outsourcing could be useful too.
Rdawhitaker is right. The kids don't have the opportunity, advantages or interest that we had. Most of them probably don't even know Hugh Hefner's name, much less Harry Pearson.
Do manufactures and other parts of the industry offer internships to college/tech school and high school kids? Seems like another way to attract interested parties, have them learn a trade and build a base of younger designers that can really get into the minds of younger generations. Its also relatively cheap labor.
Keil: As the portable audio marketplace becomes more sophisticated, I'm sure we'll see more devices like the one you described. An interesting dilemma with the transition from headphone-listening to--what should we call it?-- in-room listening is that in order to equal the transparency and dynamics of good 'phones and amp, one has to spend a LOT of money on speakers/amps/source. How well we manage that crossover of enthusiasts may well determine the fate of what we now think of as high-end audio.
It's kind of like going from motorcycles to cars: in order to get the explosive acceleration and handling dynamics of a $15,000 super-bike, you have to spend, what? $100,000 in a car? Obviously, a bike is not suitable for all conditions (unless you are wildly suicidal), and in my mind, neither is listening with headphones. Undoubtedly there are parties with dozens of people be-bopping inside their heads while wearing cans--but the idea creeps me out.
End of THAT rant.
Jay: Back in the dawn of time, say the 1980's, when I would hear a popular song being used/abused in a commercial, I would say(and WAY too often to anyone who was around me), "it's a systematic debasement of our musical heritage". I believed it then, and I believe it now...but I no longer bother to say it.
Why? Because popular songs old and new are used that way so often these days that that portentious, pretentious phrase would be coming off my lips on a continuous basis,like Om Mane Padme Om, and I'd end up in a padded room next to Ted Kaczynski. Whether we like it or not, modern life has a continuous soundtrack, and like any wide-bandwidth media requiring an endless supply of content, that soundtrack tends to be cliched and mindless.
I really think that silence is needed in order to appreciate music. If there's never any silence in the world or in our heads.... it's worrisome. To me, anyway.
Mech: good ideas, but Eminent Technology-designed flat speakers have been available for computer systems for years, under the Typhoon brand, I think. There may even be ET-branded ones.
So far there are only a few Apple-approved products in the high end (from Peachtree and Manley, maybe a few others), but I'm sure the number will increase. I've used wonderful small speakers whose styling fits the Apple line perfectly, but while folks seem okay spending $1500 for a big Cinema monitor, the same price for speakers is greeted with disbelief. Even from Apple's top audio guy.
But: things could change.
Rdav: No need to apologize; we're all newbies at SOMETHING, every day of our lives. If we're not, we ain't livin' right.
Yes, costs of almost everything have skyrocketed while real wages have flat-lined. I've read so many depressing stats lately that they all run together, but I believe the average cost of a college education has gone up about 25% in the last decade, while wages have increased only 1-2%.
As you point out, discretionary income has dropped dramatically, restricting purchases of almost anything beyond food, clothing and (one hopes) soap. Curiously, the bite has mostly come out of the middle of the market: super-value low-end products are doing well, and very expensive goods with high perceived-value are doing well. It means people are still willing to pay big bucks, but not for throw-away goods.
I think that's good, and indicates opportunities for solid products. Pricey goods in sectors where standards change daily (think home theater processors) might have problems. And yes, there while be a lot of retooling to adapt products to the new marketplace. Again, I think that's good. A static industry is a dead industry.
Keil, again: No arguments from me.
Mech, again: "Spartan monastic anhedonic"? Didn't they used to share bills with Aztec Camera??
Seriously, that's not a phrase one reads every day, especially when talkin' 'bout Hi-Fi. Thanks for that wake-up call to my synapses!
I think there will continue to be a market for quality audio gear; it might just be a little less big and splashy than what we're used to. I can't say that's necessarily a bad thing.
If you look at American cars that preceded the Great Depression, you'll see lots of chrome and gaudy colors. Following 1929, cars became more sober and subdued, less chrome, more muted colors. Post-WWII, we were back to day-glow colors with enough chrome to pollute all of New Jersey.
Things go in cycles. I think we'll survive, and so will music.
Thank you all for your stimulating (and lengthy!) comments. I apologize for my unusually lengthy comments, but I thought many good points were made which needed to be addressed.
Keep 'em comin', kids!
Mac: The good old days are gone. That doesn't mean we won't have good NEW days. Things will be different, as they would have to be, given the massive changes in every single aspect of modern life.
I don't think I've ever seen the names "Hugh Hefner" and "Harry Pearson" in the same sentence before. Thanks for the chuckle. FWIW, my kids recognize HH as "that creepy old dude in the bathrobe with all the bimbos". Can't argue with THAT description!
Sherpa: Great idea. Very few audio companies are large enough or (forgive me, friends) enough like real businesses to offer such things. I'm going to look into the subject and hope I am proven to be dead wrong. Again. ;->
Thanks to your both for your comments.
Internships can take on many forms. A "business" need not be large to offer a true learning experience.
However, the business will need to put some things into place depending on the learning institution's requirements. There may also be other regulations regarding age and safety requirements but they are not insurmountable.
Think about it- there are many ways to approach the internship idea. One way given your road show idea-If you include it in the road show, not only do you offer demos and sell equipment but you offer students learning opportunities and career paths. Campuses should embrace that idea. Engineering and music programs at learning institutions can be key targets.
But you need not limit yourself to the road show with this idea. This can be an industry initiative. The internship concept circles back to the idea of creating an association that represents high end audios interests.
Sherpa: Again, good ideas. Unfortunately, we're back to the same old requirements of somebody, somewhere handling bureaucracy, and bureaucracy requires money.
Not saying that aspect is insurmountable, either; just needs some thought.
Thanks again for posting.
Perhaps we are looking at this the wrong way 'round. Who among today's youth are we wishing could be wooed? Surely not all of them (though that would be interesting too). No, just those who share the desire to listen to recorded music that in some way approximates the live listening experience. Right? Young people still attend concerts, don't they? Go to coffee houses and rathskellars and other venues for music? Play musical instruments (God, I hope so, or the future looks pretty grim)?
Right then. Let's make a generalization. Those who are satisfied by the i-pod experience alone are comparable to those who, say forty years ago, were OK with their Lloyds brand all-in-one. Yes? But then there were the others, like me, and you perhaps. I spent a ridiculous, permanent-record-marring, amount of time listening to live music while in college (the fact that I cannot remember almost any of it should not in any way affect this argument). It was anything and everything from arena shows anywhere within an hour's drive, to guitar-playing roomies and friends. Surely this demographic still exists.
OK, so maybe portable devices have replaced the once wide and deep mass market. I mean, how many hi-fis are left on the shelves of Hi-Fi Buys? But there must still be those ripe for a revelation. Someone design a poster: The Audiophiles are looking for a few good people.
Like I said in the last thread, its all in the marketing. There's no ads anywhere - TV, radio, or print.
Not sure if I mentioned this one over there though...
I was talking to a friend of a friend at a get together a few weeks ago. He's an older gentleman who lived in Binghamton, NY for about 15 years. He never heard of McIntosh, which was made literally 15 minutes from his house.
If he's never heard of McIntosh, what are the cahnces of someone in say, Texas hearing of it?
The entry level companies like Marantz and NAD (both are owned by parent companies with what I assume is a large amount of capital) would become a force to be reconed with if they got off their rear ends and advertised. The stereotypical XBox owner can afford something like an NAD 315BEE and PSB Image B15s. Speak to them in a language they can understand and let them know where the gear is available to hear.
Katie Perry dressed the way she dresses standing next to some NAD equipment in Maxim will get NAD a ton of website hits.
Audiogon_bill - It would appear that, chuckles aside, you didn't understand why I connected HH and HP.
Both were lifestyle gurus in their time. Both sold an ego-driven self image. "What sort of a man reads Playboy?" vs. selfless pursuit of the Absolute Sound in bathrobe and slippers with cognac and appreciation for the finer things in life nearby as inferred and essential props. Both were nonsense but both were widely embraced by thousands in HP's case and millions for HH.
Both have become "Manager's Specials" as both have long since passed their respective sell-by dates.
If there are to be "good new days" they will only come as the result of extreme recalibration. The "American Century" ended 10 years ago according to the calendar and the bank accounts of working Americans. In 1980 the financial industry accounted for 16% of our business. Now it accounts for 40% and almost none of those funds are trickling down to working audiophiles, as promised.
So it is entirely possible that we will again stop worrying and start enjoying ourselves and our music with a sense of well-being and confidence, but it will never be like it was 20-30 years ago.
We Americans had a great run but we ran ourselves out of it with greed and ignorance. We should have and could have seen this coming but we were having too much fun. Now the bills are coming due and way too many of us have been taken out of the game. Most of the rest are worried about falling into the same trap. For this reason, commerce is at a standstill. There is no reason to think that audio will be excepted from this caution.
By the way, I'd love to know how your kids would describe HP.
Keene: Good points. Years ago John Marks argued that the idea of advertising high end gear to the general public was a waste of money, and that efforts would be more productive if directed towards music-educators and professional musicians. Taken as a whole, that's a large but largely unseen group, nearly all of whom must have some type of HiFi in the home.
Similarly, targeting those students who are already studying music or are just immersed in it would be more productive than hitting the entire student body. I suspect that some savvy small companies could make significant inroads into that purchasing-body with a little guerilla marketing and social-network presence. Demos wouldn't hurt, either!
Bark: Your Binghamton story is a little disturbing. Back in the day, the company was very well-known locally; not sure where that went.
Agreed, a fraction of a percent of gamers would be a huge boon to the audio biz...with or without Katy Perry!
Mac: It's interesting to debate who today's "lifestyle gurus" are. Rarely is a face associated with a media outlet as Hef was with Playboy--unless we're talking personalities like Arianna Huffington, Bill O' Reilly, and so on. Can't say I look to them for lifestyle leadership!
Interesting also to speculate regarding my kids and Harry; I have previously heard comments like "all your audio dudes look alike", but I'm not sure that would apply to HP!
Thanks for the comments, gents.
Queen of the Rodeo might be a good working reference. The kids can probably come up with something more imaginative though. My suggestion isn't very modern even if it does encapsulate a solid notion.
As I stated earlier, audio hasn't changed for me. I don't go to stores. I only buy new if it is an accommodation deal or better. I don't read audio mags. I don't go to shows. Rarely hear new music that attracts me. I just hang a sock over the rear view mirror and keep my eyes and ears focused on the road ahead. I don't know where I'm headed but that might be all for the best. I have a hunch the bridge is washed out up ahead but I'll worry about an alternate route when I find out this one is closed.
I stopped caring about the rest of the audio world when I got my horns.
Mechans beat me to it. I was going to suggest same. To get real traction on the idea, you NEED to have APPLE sponsor and badge specially redesigned ( cosmetically ) amps, dacs, speakers. Start with all in one integrated amp, panel speakers and front end -ipod with non mp3 files. Could you imaghine how good and cool TT set up apple designers would make?
Mechans, let us join forces;-) Last night when I came across the OP, I typed similar response before reading any of the posts. Was too tired to embelish, spell check and post it!
Mechans is right, show kids a hi tech looking thin white panel speaker and they will have to have it. Oh wait, Magnepan already did that decades ago but it has not panned out quite like that. Now, if you slap an Apple logo on a white 1.7 with aluminum trim and set that in the middle of an Apple store I don't think they would be able to keep them in stock. If a company like that starts to believe they can make money in stereo playback it will ignite the entire industry.
With the design and low cost manufacturing capability of a company like Apple they could easily make a fortune selling speakers and integrated amps. It is really the next step in the evolution of the ipod, from earbuds to ipod docks to two channel hifi.
Mac: Think we lost the thread, there.
Nil: I think a Peachtree iDecco with Amphion Ion speakers would already look like it came from Apple, and handily outperform anything they're likely to build.I frank;y don't see panel speakers fitting in with the look.
Bwp: I don't see Apple in the amp business, sorry. Wireless powered speakers, maybe, but it would have to be something more cuting-edge than just an integrated.
Thanks for the contributions!
Are we talking about high end audio ? College kids ? ...
The plan may work for an inexpensive brand in the Harmann portfolio, but good luck selling real audio systems to college kids.
Apple would smell blood and just do it themselves like they always have. They will integrate an "audiophile" system into their computer and convince the devotees that anything else is utterly ridiculous and a waste of money. I am sorry but my opinion is that once the companies with REAL money like Apple start to want a piece of our market, they will do it better for less money and deal the death knell to the midstream of the high end market. Only the super exotic will survive.
I agree with Hotrodaudio.
Hi end audio began as a hobby and became a business. The transition was fairly smooth because the scale remained pretty small. Anyone (like Bose) who ventures into the mainstream will, of necessity, leave the hobby realm and be seen by audiophiles as a sellout. You really can't have it both ways.
Truth be told, the pro audio realm offers most of what you need for better prices. The high end has gone beyond boutique and into fantasy. There is no longer any possibility of justifying the prices charged for what is offered as State of the Art.
The reason Apple doesn't take over our industry is simple - not enough people care enough to make it a market worthy of pursuit.
Currently high end audio is experiencing what is euphemistically called a market correction. It isn't really a problem. We had too many pretenders and has beens hanging around muddying the waters. Over the next few years, many of them will fall away. Unfortunately, many of us will too.
to paraphase someone .......... audio was a hobby became a business and is now a racket.