Well if this was an attempt at adding cred to Audiophiles listing the Wilson speakers will probably breed contempt, how can they justify this example?
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Much of this has to do with the demographics of those who buy this stuff. Namely, baby boomers. Most of us (yours truly included) are making as much as we ever have and have the expendable income to spend thousands on turntables, speakers, amps, and cartridges. Not to mention $30 a pop for the latest re-issue of whomever on vinyl. We remember what a fun ritual spinning vinyl was and we still like it. There's just something "sterile" about putting a CD in a drawer, it disappears and suddenly sound comes out of your kit. It was much more "real" to see a disc spinning.
And we can tell, barring hearing loss, just how horrendous 128, 192 and even 256k mp3's sound. I stop at 256k because I must admit, music I've burned at 320k isn't all that atrocious, though definitely not audiophile quality.
I'm not so sure about the boomer demographic alone being the target, as part of what I'm interested in here is the depiction of great audio equipment not only as a pleasure but as a component of--in this example--the (for many aspirational) good life. I agree, Chadnliz, that some people might look at six-figure speakers and scoff, but many might scoff at the $1.5 million Bugatti the article I mention features, too. Both look pretty cool, are well crafted, and exemplify what's possible at the top of the scale. Even if the examples are out of reach, they get people's interest--and I've seen lower priced gear like Pro-Ject's USB TT featured elsewhere.
I live in a college town and in the past year have started to see Grado SR60s and SR80s and some decent Sennheiser cans replacing earbuds and Bose. Media exposure can't hurt--and I think the message is getting in through people's ears.
I think it is a great trend toward enjoying music at home. Interesting that as the youngest generation drifts toward simplicity and portability, we drift toward quality and the unique. It is a great time to be in this hobby as long as we don't take ourselves too seriously. The quality of the gear is outstanding, and sometimes expensive. I wonder what the relative cost is compared to the best of the 50s and 60s, McIntosh, etc.
The relative cost appears to be several time higher. In the era of the $500 McIntosh, a luxury car was around $5000, so adding a zero to the price gets one in the ballpark. Today we have lots of pieces that sell for three to five times that amount. Recordings, on the other hand, are cheaper. Monophonic records were $3.98 and stereo records were a whopping $5.98!