What's going on with the audio market?


Recent retail sales reports are very bad and I am hearing that sales for audio equipment have been nonexistent over the past few months.  I also see more dealers putting items up for sale here and on other outlets.  Even items that have traditionally sold quickly here are expiring without being sold. 

To what would you attribute the slowdown?  Have you changed your buying habits for audio equipment and, if so, why? 
theothergreg
"Recent retail sales reports are very bad and I am hearing that sales for audio equipment have been nonexistent over the past few months."

Huh? Audio sales are "nonexistent?"
The sky is not falling.
Its in a world of hurt!!

Computer audio?

Truth or dare, if everyone who visits this site answers three questions, we may have an answer. What is your age? At what age did you begin to seriously exercise your purchasing power on audio?  How many more years do you plan to commit serious money to the hobby?

61, 35, 4 

@dgarretson ,
55
27
0

If anything, I have been taking money out of my system lately. I'm done.....yeah, I've said that before. However, I just don't have enough time to listen to justify the expense anymore.

Also, I've noticed that this past year has been the worst seller's market that I can remember in decades. Selling is becoming so difficult that it is eliminating buying, for me anyway.

I've been buying/selling on Audiogon for over 15 years now, and AudioMart for a decade before that. The audio market today is stagnant.
I'm not sure if it's dwindling interest or the economy, maybe both.

@jmcgrogan2 

So between us, we have 54 man years of active purchasing, with 4 to go. We're 93% finished with heavy buying.  Anybody else?

60, 59, ?

I'm keeping the faith. Learning as much as I can. Shopping to get a feel for prices. And dealing with my denial about my hearing loss.

Lately? Mostly listening. I want to replace my entire system but every so often I hear the kind of music coming from my speakers/headphone that makes me ask myself, "Why bother changing anything?"
Small sample size thus far but I’d venture to say you guys have "been there, done that."

I have two friends with good systems but they do not feel the need to continuously tweak/upgrade, or they may want to but spend discretionary income elsewhere.

I have other friends that come over for dinner/drinks and we end up in the music room. They love the sound but when they start asking about price they are somewhat turned off.

Telling them you got a great deal on a phone-pre at $2,750 is like telling them it was $25K...same reaction.

I have become numb to some prices and I find my price search range increases little by little each search.

37, 15, ?

I say 15 because I put a nice Sony separates system together with Pioneer 3 way speakers and Monster Cables..not bad for that age.
67, 50, ?

Working on keeping my "end of life" system running.

Have more than enough music to listen to.

Have IMO, state of art sound quality, for not crazy expense.

I have ended my search for "Musical Ecstasy" in the home!

Do not have it "ALL", but have "Enough", for a satisfied mind!

The end of the middle class, killed the market! Everyone is holding on to what they have!

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65,40,?

Audio equipment is about the only thing that I feel good about buying.  It's much more important than things that one must buy, like roofs and lawn mowers.  Those things are painful to buy when I could get a new piece of gear.
Hmmm lets see..........

46, 30, ?
I love the system I have now but still tinker and if I can improve it for a not crazy amount of $$ I will. And it's basically my only real indulgence so I don't feel guilty about it at all.

63, 20, ∞

IMO abnerjack said it best. Obviously, we must address the household needs but, my discretionary income goes to music and equipment (if I feel the need).
41,19,?????
57,20,?
I had to abandon my hifi addiction when I turned 30 or so, and was stereo-less until last year. It was fun getting back to speed.
I think my days of chasing the 'perfect system' have passed, but when I see a good deal and there's money in the bank, I sometimes weaken...

As far as the audio market dying, I think it is something on a larger scale.
I own my own Garden Design business. 
This year has to be one of the worst for me. Everyone wants what I offer, they just don't want to pay for it. 
The gear that is made in china for openers.
2nd note;
Obama has done nothing to fix the economy.
Mobile and portable devices like iPhones play music and doing quite well. 

Younger generations on don't just sit and listen to music as much anymore. 

Still plenty of of good gear on the market though.   Just not great for sellers though it sounds.  
Jafant wrote,

"Obama has done nothing to fix the economy."

Actually the economy has recovered from when it tanked on Bush's watch. Let's recap. The Stock Market has recovered.  The job market has recovered. And the housing market is in the midst of a recovery. What's not to like?

@dgarretson , you might want to check your math.

So between us, we have 54 man years of active purchasing, with 4 to go. We’re 93% finished with heavy buying.

I add 27 and 35 and get 62 with 4 to go, 94%.

I see a LOT of folks started seriously exercising their audio purchasing power as teenagers. Though I bought my first audio rig at 16, I would hardly call it serious audio purchasing power.
I don’t think I started buying "hi-end" gear until I was about 28 years old.

@geoffkait
+1
Many conveniently forget how badly Dubya trashed the economy.
 Dubya drove it to its knees. At least we are back up and standing, if a bit precariously.
56, 28 (for serious high end stuff), ~10.

I am fortunate to have growing discretionary income, so I have been buying some very good equipment at very good discounts to retail of late.  The problem is that we are all also having to sell our stuff for stronger discounts to retail than ever before.

I so think age demographics are a factor.  My kids have zero interest in hearing their favorite music played any better than off of their Mac Pros.  Same goes for all of their friends.  It is sad to me (and particularly grating on the ears!), but we each choose what we want.
I didn't know that tRump posted here.
I'm 61. I started buying serious gear pretty early, Audio Research electronics, SP-10 turntable, Quad 57s in around 1974 (I would have been 19).  I'll  continue to spend money on audio-related stuff 'til they take me to the nursing home or mortuary. The economy does suck, but the market for this stuff is niche to begin with. Despite the fact that a lot of young people seem to be losing, economically- bad job market for a lot college grads, etc.,  there are also a lot of pretty affluent people, young and old, around the world today, probably more than ever. This stuff just isn't first on the list- in fact, it never was, though we like to think so. Yes, more people had home systems back in the '70s, but how good were they? And how much did they spend to get there at the time? We've been lamenting the death of the "serious" audio market for decades, but somehow, more turntables, tonearms and cartridges, uber speaker designs, big money amps, phono stages, cables and accessories than ever. Somebody is buying this stuff---it's not just Silicon Valley money or Russian oligarchs. Last time I checked--it's been a while-- luxury goods hadn't been hit as hard as ordinary middle of the road products, and that's where the belt tightening is, i suspect. 

Jafant wrote,

"The gear that is made in china for openers."

Oh, you mean like iPhone and iPad?

@jmcgrogan2

Not to quibble over a silly 1%, but if the second figure is the age when we got serious about buying, then

((61-35)+(55-27))/((61-35)+(55-27)+4)= 93%

@whart

My wife and daughter have said that they’ll probably end up burying the equipment with me-- they have no idea how to turn it on and off and queue up an LP, let alone how to sell it off. At some point the question of unwinding surfaces. On the other hand, I have no idea or interest in how to MP3 to an ipod.

My local dealer is in the process of expanding from two "brick and mortar" stores, to three.
Having said that, over the years they have de-emphasized music audio systems, increasing their emphasis in theater systems.
High-end audio systems is such a "niche market", bound to have ripples in the demand.
I'll never forget working at a dealer about 35 years ago, on the news a bump in the stock market, reduction in unemployment, reduction in interest rates and my boss bumped his orders up for products that moved well and we had the worst drought in sales for about three months...couldn't explain it.
Very stagnant economy the past 10 years with a feeble recovery. Middle class income wages diminishing, true unemployment rate is high. Look at the Labor Dept statistics u6=the full picture, u3 of 5% is misleading and incomplete. Our economy needs a major boost and approach. Many people lack discretionary income. National debt has ballooned from 9 trillion to 19 trillion in only 8 years, not good.
Charles,
Real Hi-Fi has always been the providence of a discriminating extreme minority. When I discovered it (via, once again, my friend Pete C.), no one else I knew cared; but then, they were for the most part musician’s, the least caring of all, generally speaking. Ironic. When I got Tympani’s and ARC amps in ’72, my friends were still playing LP’s on their childhood phonographs. When after a long separation I in the early 2000’s saw an old friend, he, upon seeing my Infinity RS-1b’s, said "Ya know, people don’t have big speakers anymore" (no doubt with pictures of Bose wall-mounted speakers in his mind); I replied "They never did". Which was not actually true, in one way; when he and I were in a Band together in ’71, our Band house had a pair of Voice-of-The-Theater speakers (our P.A.) in the living room. And people think Maggies are big?! Now it’s down to computer speakers, at best, for most people. Perhaps getting a turntable will spur an interest in that new buyer of Hi-Fi in general. I believe even entry-level products are viewed as luxury items by the general population. The products musician’s choose (with a few notable exceptions, like Henry Rollins. The big Wilson’s are in his living room!) are all of the professional grade (crap), whatever they see advertised in the music mags and on the shelves at Guitar Center.
@dgarretson: Right you are. I made provision in my will for this-- the disposition of gear and record collection. My wife knows enough people to reach out to them if necessary, but it is an issue as we age. I don’t have kids, and have no misconceptions about the value of, for example, my record collection-it will get broken up and sold off, just like any commodity. I don’t think we are the last generation who will enjoy this hobby. I’ve talked with several youngish people- mid-’30s, who are building pretty serious systems, step by step. I’m glad I have time to enjoy what I’ve put together- sometimes, we are so busy working, and I’ve lost more than a couple contemporaries in the last few years. So, play it like you stole it! Buy that record you always wanted and play the damn thing!
Had lunch today with a brainiac friend- he’s not into hi-fi but is a scientist, and he is very optimistic about the human condition, long range. Me, I’m more of a pessimist, but perhaps I’m short sighted. I don’t think a lot of people have really had a break in the last 20 or so years- more work, more stress, the world today seems harder, faster and more competitive-- so all this stuff, about the state of the economy and the state of the world in general, has to be put into perspective. What were people thinking when they were playing those ’50s era records I own? Cold war, keeping up with the Jones, food in cans and cars with fins (those I miss). I’m glad this whole thing has been an important part of my life. I couldn’t imagine life without it (even though I have gone through periods where I didn’t have access to my system or it wasn’t set up).
I'm 45(almost 46), only been aware of quality audio for 5 years and I don't know but right now every day starts with a cup of coffee, surf check and audiogon(forums and phono preamps primarily) Thing is I'm not buying mostly because I'm not loaded but also because I'm learning about various diy stuff and my rig sounds good enough. I'd rather buy music now and fiddle with the edges and tweak what I got. As for retail audio tanking I can't say but for me it's irrelevant considering what stuff costs and what quality used components can be purchased with just a little internet learning and some listening. I don't think the audio world is gonna fall it's gonna come back around as things cycle. What it's gonna look like?? A greater divide in choices, between high end and diy perhaps. The retail middle ground I can see drying up and is not money well spent especially with Internet 2nd hand offerings, in my experience sometimes over 20 years old that sound wonderful and just as good,with a little help, or better than a lot of new stuff. Secondly, with a shrinking middle class working harder and harder to keep up who has time to actually have the luxury to just kick back and really get into it. Well, I think it's a thing that many will think about again and it will be that outlet but it's gonna have to replace something else:The big game family Sunday's at the stadium there are insane $ imho, the vacation as more folks are thinking Staycation, etc. Music can be something the whole family can sit around listen to and engage, shouldn't it be so. I know, how silly, we'd each end up in our own rooms, bummer. 
whart and fourwnds, great posts, all true. The people I see all around me are so distracted, thumbing on their smart phones while doing everything else, even in a movie theater! Sensory overload. Short attention spans, a general sense of anxiety, increasing health and weight issues (too busy on their sp to get any exercise), and everybody tired and fatigued. Mainstream music has been cheapened to the point of it not being worth it's asking price (except for the isolated "song"), which is now almost nothing (except for new LP's ;-). Music is not currently of major importance in most people's lives. The participants here are the members of their own 1%! The future looks grim to me, but then like whart I'm a pessimist. Or as I like to think of it, realist.
I am 33 years old.  I would like this hobby to continue... I definitely don't want to be the last of a breed.

33 years old, first system when I was 25.  Maybe another 32 years of this?  Hopefully?

Currently a growing system.  BW 802D3, Sonus Faber Olympica 3, Classe, Boulder, Cary.

Let's keep the politics out, please.

Let's not turn a perfectly good audio forum into a nasty mess. 

@jafant lol.  Everything is obamas fault even high end audio. Anyway. Stuff is overpriced. Service and quality is lacking? I think computer audio and streaming is also a factor!
I'm pretty much done.  I'm 43. No more major purchases for me 

@dgarretson , right you are.
It seems that it is not a problem with your math skills so much as it is a problem with my reading skills.
I read your second number to be how many years have you seriously exercise your purchasing power on audio, not at what age did you start. So change my 27 to a 28. I’ve been playing in the high end for 27 years now, I started at the age of 28.

@jmcgrogan2  what was your system at 16? I ask because I had a complete load of crap at that age...
54,16,0

I am like jmcgrogan2 and am taking money out of the system. I think this is a trend with many aphiles. I just realized most gear is seriously overpriced and getting worse. The shrinking market has caused builders to charge outrageous money for what is actually inside these rectangular boxes. This fact has soured my attitude towards many high end companies and changed how I approach music at home.

The good news is there are a few companies offering gear that sounds fantastic for a fraction of the cost making it possible for me and others to downsize and enjoy the music as much as ever.

For me digital audio has opened my eyes and ears. It is the future and it is very affordable. Computer based servers with Roon & Tidal are absolutely amazing sounding and simple to use finally. Add a Digital amp and room correction and smile big!

Times they are a changing and I do think these small, high end boutique builders will not make it much longer. How can they when one can buy a great sounding one box digital amp with Dac, preamp, room correction etc... for less money than a tube preamp and it actually sounds as good or better than a multi box 120 plus pound ensemble of rectangular boxes.




I'm 40, bought my first real system when I was 14. I'm chasing the rabbit still, lol.
First things first. Enough with the political rants. If you want to talk politics, go to another forum!

The reason the audio market is down is the same reason the music business is down, i.e. saturation. Are there any boomers left that haven't assembled a respectable music system? Sure, there are some and a few millenials that care about audio, but the pie keeps getting smaller. Life moves too fast these days for people to sit and enjoy listening to music. There are too many distractions and they all cost money. People have to make choices about where to spend their money and unfortunately stereo equipment doesn't rank as high on the priority list as it once did. Also, the market for personal listening, i.e. headphones, ipods, has improved and become more affordable-and they're portable (think multi-tasking). Add to that, the prices for truly high-end equipment has hit the stratosphere. So, considering all of the above, are we really surprised?

The second figure(the age at which one began to spend seriously on the hobby), I was hoping to distinguish from the age at which one first acquired a memorable system. The inflection point for spending is more helpful in measuring the arc of consumer spending that’s necessary to sustain the industry.

For example, at 15 I built a nice pair of inexpensive Altec VOTT speakers that I would consider high-end even by today’s standards. After holding those for ten years, a pair of ESS AMT1s. Then ten years later (at age 35) after picking up my first issue of TAS, I renewed my visits to the audio shops with reawakened interest(and more disposable income) and launched onto a ramp of unabated expenditures that substantially define my lifetime contribution to audio industry GDP. For those of my boomer generation, I sense that the bell curve of serious spending is typically age 35-65.

If the industry is to survive, it needs to find similar arcs of consumption that begin in the peak income years and extend at least to retirement.

Posters so far suggest several age demographics. Notably missing are those above 65-- who likely represent a significant share of posters on this site, but may be reluctant to declare their age.

Why would anyone be surprised?

High end audio is an interest embraced by baby boomers who grew up with it since high school.   As we boomers diminish in numbers , we are replaced by gen X'ers and millennials who were not raised with it.  And have no interest in it.  How many of us boomers with good audio systems want a hoverboard?  Its that simple.

So no wonder the prices have gone through the roof - manufacturers know they have to make their money now while they can.  Half of these audio manufacturers know they will not be around in 10 years.  The industry may not be around in 20; just one more generation.

Its not the only industry (or institution) in trouble.  The times they are a changing.
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I am almost 62. Started listening to records at about 7, my Mom's stuff from the 50's. When the rock revolution Beatles/British invasion hit it was all it took to get me hooked for life.
Bought my first (for the time I thought it was) high end stuff at 19. Marantz 2270/Advent speakers/Pioneer then Technics turntable. that was about 1974. Everybody had a decent stereo in their apt back then. Fast forward to the 90s (same system til about 1993-1994). Sold it including selling off all my records and analog gear, and started playing around with newer stuff, CD players.
1996 I bought a Rega turntable and some Linn amps/speakers...well since it has been a crazy money pit that has had me try more gear, and collect more records, than any human reasonably should. I have come to realize one thing, even though it helps, it doesn't take a lot of money to enjoy good music.
This rambling brings me to the point. As I sit here writing this I am listening to Pandora from my ipad through a Marantz NA 11s1, sounds great. Since Tidal, Spotify, Pandora, etc can be played anywhere through many devices that is the way I go most of the time. I can enjoy a Logitech UE Boom, or Bose Minilink as well...anywhere.
I think the younger generation embrace this and are happy with these kind of devices. My daughter and son love music and know a lot of stuff covering many decades, they even have turntables thanks to me. However it is not their focus to have the best reproduction gear. They just love music. The music industry seems to be thriving, just not the gear business.
So I have amps turntables, CD players, tuners and now network servers in many rooms and even at my office and in storage. I keep meaning to list some for sale as I don't need it all moving forward, but as you stated, the used market is not what it was.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7qQ6_RV4VQ

The Times They Are A Changin.

The high end market started to fade in the DC metro area I’d say about 1985 when Excaliber in Alexandria shut it’s doors, followed by Myer Emco, Audio Associates, Paragon of Sound (in MD), a few in Maryland suburbs the names of which escape me. AFAIK there are only two left, Deja Vu and Gifted Listener Audio, both in VA. Did I miss any?