Will Internet Distroy High End ?

The internet has been a godsend to those who wish to trade used equipment. It has also been ok for those dealers who care to do internet business. In the long run however, I don't envy local high end dealers. As more people jump on the used equipment bandwagon it may have a serious detrimental effect on new equipment sales. That in turn may distroy or shrink the cottage industry we call "High End Audio." We would then be left with all the mass merchandisers who want to reduce us all to mid-fi garbage. What do you think ?
I think the internet will ultimately help many smaller companies which would otherwise have been overlooked. Through the internet I have been able to research products I otherwise would not have been able to. It is also easier to obtain these products through online companies, many of which provide excellent service and prices. Also many people are able to upgrade to newer more expensive products by selling their older one on the net and recouping their losses. Personally if I were restricted to my local dealer I probably never would have been able to afford to upgrade my system as I have done. I know the value of customer service and I am willing to pay for it but many "brick and mortar" dealers have had it to good for to long. For instance my local dealer had a monopoly many products before the internet came about, likewise price is high and service is so-so. Some manufacters still support regional monoploies such as rotel and b&w, I realize this is done in an attempt to keep customer service high but unforunately this doesn't always pan out. I have found internet sources that go way above and beyond to make a long distance deal right. I still delat with my local dealer until recently when I brough a pair of cables to altered. This was last dec., I never heard from him until this past week when I called only to find out he lost the cables, most online companies I have dealt with would have handled this problem by now. Despite this I agree that a great local dealer is wonderful resource to have
Good question. Most of the items that I have been upgrading to have come direct from the manufacturer (custom shelves, speaker cable, IC's and PC's). These items are not carried by the local retailers and they are what I wanted. Speakers were purchased new (local dealer), but the source items (digital) and the main tube amp were purchased used from private parties (it's hard to pass up 40% to 60% off retial on hardly used items) and my local dealers did not have any trade ins on these models (otherwise I may have purchased from them and paid a bit more). The problem that I have (in the LA area) is that many of the products that interest me are not carried by the local shops who now carry a higher percentage of HT gear (which is what they sell the most of). I have nothing against HT gear, other than rarely watching televsion/movies myself and it therefore does not interest me. There is a local shop (they are down to one location now) with a great owner and staff which only has enough space to carry what they sell in quantity. They have tried packing some of the slower lines into their listening rooms and it just wasn't their style. I agree as I cannot tell hide nor hair in a listening room that has 20 pairs of speakers in it (all sucking up the sound of the pair that I am trying to audition). There are also a couple of local high end dealers, close by, who previously had store fronts and who now operate out of their homes (to reduce overhead expenses I would guess). I assume that this is the impact that you speak of. One of these dealers is Elliot at Acoustic Image (in Studio City) who if you are in the area and looking for high end, but value orientated gear (IMO) is a good place to start, he has an incredible listening room as well. There are at least two other dealers in the outlying areas that do this as well. I have even tried to think of things that I need, to purchase from my favorite local dealer (we go back 25+ years), but they just don't have the "right stuff" for me anymore.
I would not have gained access to high end audio if not for the internet. The ability to read lots of (potentially) unbiased personal reviews has made the decision process more informed while offering more options. Used prices don't hurt, either, and direct access to buyers helps individual sellers to get better resale prices. Rules sometimes change to make sitting in the middleman seat unviable.

I do hope that dealers who care about the music and their customers more than profit margins will survive through their efforts.
It's not that bad for off line dealers. Infact, I know of a few mom & pop dealers in my area that do business with 3rd party on line distributers to get a share of the on line business. This way they only exist to the distributers and not the general public including the manufacturers. This reminds me of the baseball owners of the past who would rake in all of the money and pay little to the players. Now like all things, what goes around comes around and look at the salaries of today's sports stars. In this case, look at the prices these guys sell their gear for and look at the money that they've made. I say the internet is the great equalizer and the true power to the people. If it's about cash, the mom & pop stores who want to survive will survive and do what's necessary to adapt to the world of the internet.
Hi Stokjoc. As it happens I just posted the following to start a thread, and which probably belongs here...

"I have decided to go back to dealing with dealers I know, or can meet face to face. I have grown sick of the rudeness of sellers, in particular, and occasionally buyers when transacting over the internet. One part of me wonders if I am cutting my nose to spite my face, so to speak. But I find a pleasantly transacted deal has an effect on my enjoyment of this hobby and maybe even causes me to feel better about the equipment acquired. I am interested in how others have fared with internet transactions in this regard.

"This post is probably an over-reaction to a recent discourse with two dealers on the internet whose primary focus in their correspondence in reply to my enquiries was about the consequences of me failing to meet my side of the bargain - stated so indelicately by both as to seem more like an accusation. My reaction to both was to tell them I had no interest in entering into a contract with someone who clearly was going to be unpleasant to deal with. As it happens both are connected with this site (but I will not name them)."
There has always existed a secondary market in audio equiptment just as there is one in autos, watches, paintings, etc. How can someone buy the lastest fad item from their dealer until they have moved yesterday's fad item? For many years I was a member of AudioMart a print journal of audio only adds. It was much the same as Audiogon except to play you had to be sponsored by an existing member. Fundamentally it was no different than Audiogon. But actually there are a few differences. The greater exposure of the net, democratization, if you will, has led to much higher prices for used gear and likewise, with more players in the game, there seem to be many more flakes out there, not to mention those that just don't understand the obligations and protocols for entering into a transaction.
I think my only local dealers that are going to go down are the one's that need it, but that are just making not quite too little to force them out of their misery. That'll be just fine with me because then I won't have to go driving all over town to compare CDP's, they will all be at the one or two shops that make it.
Some one has to buy new high end gear if it is mostly available from dealers only. If not, we will all be trading some pretty old gear pretty soon! I would not have the stuff I have if it was not for the internet. Even new stuff I bought from my old hometown dealer back home 500 miles away. For those who always want the newest thing, being able to sell their old gear quickly should help dealers and even help dealers unload their trade-ins quickly. Cash flow is king.
The internet has already all but destroyed hi end.The biggest problem any dealer has is having to match a price someone got on the net. When i was still in the business we would loan out equipment for home demos all the time. We never pressured them into thinking if they took it home, they'd have to buy it. One example, we had a customer who wanted to buy a turntable. I spent some seven hours over a two week period explaining the product and convincing him the money spent on a Rega 25 with Grado cartridge was money well spent. He listened at length to the table at the store, never any pressure...that was not our style. He finally decides to take it home for the weekend and calls me on Monday and says he loves it...I'll be in a little later to write it up. He rolls in about an hour before close and asks if I can match a price he got on the net. I'm doing a slow burn and he wants 25% off. I tell him to forget it, and asked him how he looks at himself in the mirror, jerking us around like this. I then told him what he was doing was F***king Bull***t and to hit the road. That was the first time I ever unloaded on a customer....he walked out of the store with his head hanging and feeling real guilty...which was my intent.This, believe it or not, happened all the time. I'd guess for every 50 pieces of gear we sent home for demo....2 would actually buy. Word usually got back to us that they ended up buying it on the net. They come in, pick our brains, we spend hours educating them..and then they buy it on the net from someone who usually has little to no overhead and can still make a profit selling it at 25-30% off. I don't begrudge someone trying to get the best deal...but you can't have it both ways. People like this totally soured me on the business, as it has others. Between these kind of people and home theater (don't get me started) I left the business I loved. Oh how I long for the days up until the mid eighties...when CD came out. Don Mclean had it wrong, the day the music died was when they came out with the CD, which spawned all this other crap.It's now 4:36 AM and longplate is done ranting.
I think the Internet will undoubtedly greatly affect the High-end - whether it destroys it or just changes it is for the high-end to decide. I see manufacturers decrying the influence of the internet and completely rejecting it and I think, "you're probably not long for this world". Same with dealers who have relatively rigid pricing structures and levels of service. Obviously, the dealers who charge high prices and don't offer any real service are going to go away - we've all got better choices if we don't get value-added service from a dealer. But even if we do, there are ways to get that value-add by ourselves and the internet provides easy access to a lot of that. Product research and comparison is easier than ever. The used equipment marketplace is more liquid than ever, which makes it a value-driven marketplace. Technology drives better sound at ever cheaper prices. While many will argue that it's not "good" sound, that's a high-end point of view, and the customers who want better sound but will never be interested in the pricier enhancements for "good" sound will be swayed by it and, thus, potentially never enter the high-end.

At the end of the day, the internet levels the playing field and demands flexibility, regardless of the business almost. The high end is not immune to this need for flexibility and it may or may not adapt. I personally don't think the high-end will ever be destroyed or go away, but it will definitely change over time. -Kirk

It appears there is a consensus that it could hurt High-End "Dealers". But does this hurt Hi-End. Cutting out the dealer and buying direct should make things more affordable and increase the market. I think there will always be a place for dealers especially those that do installations. I do not think Onkyo or Yamaha will send someone from headquarters install your HT system for you.
Retail is tough and high end audio is no exception. Every merchant, and every salesman has been taken advantage of by tire kicking customers that soak up your time but ultimately buy from the cheapest possible source. The internet provides a wider market but it is not responsible for that type of behavior. It can happen just as easily with other dealers in your local market. It is a shame that good conscientious dealers like longplate are driven out of business because I have been taken advantage of more then once by dealers with the same set of values.

The bigest threat to most dealers is not the tire kicking customer but the manufacturer who decides he doesn't need dealers at all and sell direct to the consumer. When and if that happens we will all lose. They will set the prices and we will be forced to pay the toll. Sony is already selling direct and I'm sure others will follow.
For 5yrs now, i have been friendy with the manager of a local hi-end shop that been in business for 20-30?yrs. 3 yrs ago i said to my friend, "the web is going to kill you guys", he replied "no way the shops is always going to cater to the main public". This was a shop where you could always walk in and droll over the expensive exotic gear on display in the back 2 rooms. Couple weeks ago, i stopped in to say hi and see whats being displayed. I asked "hows the retail doing". He responded with "retail is dead, we mostly do custom installs now (HT)". As i walked the rooms i noticed no real hi-end, some Classe pieces, all mid fi HT gear, and some nice big screen front projectors filling the walls, where once was a nice beautiful rack with expensive exotic gear and some huge tube mono's and a pair of Wilsons or Egglestons or like. I don't know, did the internet kill the high-end dealer? or did the internet and HT together kill the high-end dealer. Times, they are a changin!! Have changed!!
One way do avoid a scam or a bad experience on a high end purchase is to buy from a local dealer.
Mikec your description could be my old dealer who closed up shop 5 years ago after finally burning out on the HT crowd. His hi-end business esentially ended 3-4 years previous to that. Then again this area isn't the 2-channel capital of the world. My take is that mult-channel will eventually be the hi-end of tomorrow incorporating movies and music. Two channel will die like the dinosaur probably did, one by one until the last one looks around to find he is alone and the last of his kind. I really don't see a long term future in 2 channel audio.
The volume of people who purchase hi-end on the net is less than one tenth of one persent of buyers.It will have no effect on legit dealers.The dealers who exclusively operate around the net will suffer the pains of the one tenth.
Audionut, I'd watch out. I've heard this type of confidence from many of my customers and watched them go down in flames.

First, I don't believe the internet will destroy hi-end. Where ever there is money (perhaps too much) and passion there will be a market place for products servicing this passion. But, the landscape is changing, and the retailer that ignores this will die. I work in the retail and manufacturing industry for household products, and I've seen it.

Think about all the changes that are occurring right now:

First, internet dealers are coming up to speed on the retail learning curve and the internet curve (this is still new to everyone so there is lots to learn). Sure there are some dopes out there (and crooks too), but they will be weeded out. The others will learn and become strong.

Second, the volume of direct-to-consumer sales will increase. It's always been there, but the internet will make it much easier and more efficient. Frankly, from a consumer perspective this is great. Not only will it be less expensive, but it will improve the customer-manufacturer relationship. And, it will eliminate some of the barriers to market entry (e.g. distributors, minimum marketing investments, etc.), enabling hot designers to go out on their own and build a business over time.

Third, the used equipment market will capture a larger portion of the consumer turns and upgrades. Again, the internet and sites like this make it easier than the days when we used to check out sources like AudioMart. Think about the percentage of your upgrades that have been via used equipment just from this site. As this site grows, so will the market of used equipment sold outside of retailers.

Net, times are changing. Add the HT influence, and I'd think that some smart retailers with good strategic marketing would be able to take advantage of the changes, change how they do business and make a good business while better servicing their clients (but, I'll bet that the profit margins decline - survival of the fittest).

Enjoy the music.
internet will change the retail behaviour, not yust for hi-end, but for *all* retail. dunno what the final results are, but retail as we know (knew?) it is history. longplate's example can be repeated w/most *any* commodity. dds-hifi may be headed on the rite track as to how some of these changes may come about.

but, hi-end *won't* die - as long as there are those who want the *live* sound in their homes, hi-end will exist. mite make it thrive ackshully, as prices could be forced down, & there's more potential for product exposure to more people...

doug s.

I think there will be growing pains as local dealers adjust to the new environment. However, the internet is making high-end audio known to an ever-widening number of people which can only be a good thing in the long run. I also think it may force companies to offer more value for the money as it is easy for people to share information about high value equipment and low quality equipment as well.

Personally, I'm thankful for the internet. With the price of good stereo equipment, I would have had a difficult time affording my modest system. Online, I picked up what would have cost around $4700 new for around $1400, mostly used. Besides a CD player and turntable for me, I needed a tuner, DVD player, and remote for my wife to justify the expense. Add the fact that it all sits in a big room with tall ceilings and you can see that putting together something at a local dealer would be difficult at best, especially considering that there are no decent used dealers where I live.

My choice, and I do not think my situation is unique or at all rare, was not buying online or buying locally, it was buying online or not buying at all for several years.
Eventually a few subjectivists will agree to be dbt'd and the results will destroy the high end industry. The internet will be a valuable tool in getting the lack of real differences between most components information to the public. And in this fashion will contribute but not be the actual cause of the downfall of hign end charlatans, whether they be on the corner or online. This doesn't necessarily mean the end of tubes and turtables as the love of distortion (or warmth) will ensure t'n't's survival despite proof of both's lack of transparancy and addition of coloration.
the more tings change, the more they stay the same - the subjective wersus objective argument is as old as hi-end itself. proof that it's not dead, but alive & flourishing! :>)

doug s., wery happy w/my low-distortion (0.07% thd) low colouration, accurate, neutral, transparent, toobed preamp... ;~)

As my now long gone local high end dealer/proprieter was fond of saying, "You know Frank, most of these customers just can't hear!"
Sam, and your doing a bang up job of getting the word across. What you fail to fathom is that people like you who cannot hear the difference between 90% of the components out their (your quote not mine) are a very small minority, which does not include my wife, my 14 year old godson, neighbors and friends or for that matter any guest that I have ever had over to audition different gear in the 30 years that I have been doing this. I seriously doubt if the Internet will aid you in conforming the audio world to your personal reality. Maybe you should just consider yourself "special" and leave it at that, instead of annoying the shit out of the majority?
Well, Dekay sums it up perfectly. If you do not want to buy it then don't. This reminds me of the telemarketers that you try to politely tell you are not interested but they keep yapping in your ear until you hang up out of frustration.
Aw shoot - Sam had me going there for a minute that we were FINALLY going to answer the subjectivist vs. objectivist debate thanks to the Internet, despite the fact that the internet has been around a fairly long time and doesn't appear to have put much of a dent in resolving the debate. Now you guys come along and rain on my parade.....
I thought most hi-end manufactures does not allow dealers to sell their products via internet.aka territorial protection? I also think the manufactures are to blame as well. They priced their products so high (high margin too) that you can tell the big difference between the internet and brick and mortor prices. If the mark up is a little less, the prices should relatively by the same...no?