We Don't Get No Respect

There are all sorts of ways of having fun, and just as many ways of spending money. Most of the time, spending money is necessary to have fun; whether it's going to a movie, having dinner out, scrapbooking, playing video games, whatever—nothin's free.

Some people like fancy watches. I like to look at Rolexes and Patek Phillippes—but the idea of wearing something costing 20 grand or more, maybe a lot more, at the end of my simian arm where I can bang it to bits on a doorframe, strikes me as insane. Oh, well; I don't badmouth people who buy or wear such things, just because I choose not to. The prices might make me gasp in disbelief, but that happens with a lot of things.

Speaking of which: what about that Hermes bag recently shown in a Hong Kong shop window—priced at the equivalent of $70,000 US? Is it more functional than a $70 bag? Likely not. Is it stunningly, heart-stoppingly beautiful? Ehh, not to me. Does the material or worksmanship justify the price? Not so much. I don't get it, but I don't hate someone who buys and carries such a bag—unless she happens to be a Kardashian.

What about cars? Almost everybody loves cars. Unless it's horrifically whorified like the Beebs' leopard-print Audi R8, no one abuses the buyer of an expensive or exotic car, even ones which cost millions. There might be a head-shake or a "Really??", but reactions to expensive cars generally tend towards admiration or amusement—not violent rage.

Enter the audiophile. Short of announcing that you're an officer in NAMBLA, you've just gotten back from bow-hunting baby seals with Ted Nugent, and you've decided to cast Grandma adrift on an ice-floe in the "time-honored" way—almost nothing you can do will guarantee a shit-storm of abuse like referring to yourself as "an audiophile."

Granted, anything ending in "-phile" tends to sound a tad precious and twee; how many wine-lovers refer to themselves as "oenophiles" without irony? But it's not just that damned pretentious word. It's...it's...well, what is it?

Music is everywhere. The iPod makes it possible for anyone to carry a zillion songs they might've liked once, anyway, everywhere they go. Fine. Carrying a 'Pod, wearing headphones—even around the neck—is acceptable. In certain circles, it's almost mandatory.

So why is it unacceptable, weird, even, to have a bunch of music at home, along with the gear needed to listen in a social environment where the pleasure of listening can be shared? Wouldn't you think that sharing music in one's home would be more socially acceptable than the act of walking around in public, isolated from others by piped-in sound?

Is it that collecting thousands of LPs and CDs smells a bit of hoarding? Or that monolithic speakers speak to overcompensation of personal shortcomings? Or that We don't get no respect! Or that those who indulge in either are occasionally, shall we say, deficient in areas pertaining to personal style, fitness, and hygiene?

I don't know, and I don't get it—but there is no abuse greater than that cast upon audiophiles. Take a look at the comments following recent articles about audio enthusiasts on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal websites. You'd think that the subjects had held Girl Scouts captive in their cellars, rather than inviting people into their homes for a pleasant evening listening to music.

I like listening to music. I even like the equipment I use to do that. "Is that so wrong??"

COMMENTS
Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

Bill:

Why would a mature person care what others think of their civilized interests/hobbies/passions?  (What, cigies and beer nights watching WWF reruns are more valid?)  

Part of the price you pay for being a civilized human being is having to put up with people who can't see beyond theselves.

When his contract expired, the highly regarded conductor of a North American symphony orchestra returned to his small European town in order to raise his children.  What does that tell you? Alec Baldwin sits of the board of the New York Phil.  Tell me one person in the entire universe who's got the cojones to tell him to his face that this is weird.

Audiophiles and music lovers are all going to die and have their stuff sent to the Sally Anne by their kids just like collectors of sports memorabilia.

Just don't tell people in North America you're an audiophile.  (It's OK in Asia and Europe.) Rather, tell them you take music as seriously as they take the NFL, NBA, MLB or the bible. 

Bill Leebens's picture

Thanks, Rick-- and you're absolutely right...who cares? Part of my point was that there are far more superficial pursuits than loving music which are not just accepted, but encouraged...and I just don't get it. Oh, well.

Regarding me being too sensitive-- my ex-wife would likely disagree with you, but thanks!

Cheers!

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

I entertain this romantic notion that at some future time when we encounter more evolved aliens, they'll conclude we're a pretty mundane species, except for one thing we do better than anyone else - music - and that will be the only reason they don't fry us in order to grow some alien cash crop on our planet.

Neurologists say music and math are processed in the same part of the brain.  If it's true, that suggest music sits on the same pedestal as math, and how many people do you know are really good at math?

John Mitchell's picture

I'm not sure if mathematicians or audiophiles get less respect in the U.S. As a mathematician who has been an audiophile for a few years now, I suppose I'm doubly cursed (a double-dork?).

That's fine with me. Both mathematics and music are full of mystery and beauty. Sound itself is one of the wonders of existence, particularly the fact that slight vibrations of the Earth's atmosphere can carry so much meaning and emotion. Sometimes after listening to an LP, I'm still astonished that all those musical thoughts and the emotions they evoke were somehow encoded in grooves in vinyl. A good audio system is almost magical, as if it can resurrect the souls of the musicians.

Bromo33333's picture

I have not experienced disrespect from any of my friends or anyone who knows this is "my thing."

They may not spend any money on it themselves, but I have been called upon to answer some questions.

I think the same sort the would be in shock that a $20k stereo system is "way too much money" would similarly blanch at a watch that costs that, too.

Cars are different since the average price of a car is $30k these days.  I think if you bought a $50k one you would get similar disbelief.

 

Louis Motek's picture

(...and if they are good at maths then they are almost invariably written off as geeks by the majority. This starts early in life, as does an affinity to music.)

 

THE ULTIMATE ANSWER IS HERE:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9pD_UK6vGU

 

Louis Motek

Ladyfingers's picture

I've spent a lot of money on my music, movies and the playback system, and people are kind of knocked out when they get to experience it. I still think that the amount of snake oil associated with the fringes of the hobby genuinely drags it down.

I think that there are a lot of audiophiles who are deliberately anti-science who, in the modern world of gadgets governed by enforced performance specification standards, spout nonsensical rhetoric about multi-thousand dollar devices built with the same components as budget competitors and reject results of double-blind testing.

Cable-lifters exist. Cables that cost more than cars. Oppos in a Lexicon case. Wooden volume knobs that cost more than an amp.

There's always someone out there will to point out you're having the wrong kind of fun, but when you're intellectually dishonest about the nature of the fun you're having (or simply duped and fine with it), it's hard to defend it.

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

Maybe, we should just spend more of that gear upgrade and tweaking money on music instead. (Unlike increasingly expensive gear, great musicians seldom disappoint.  We should learn to listen past our systems' flaws to the artist.)  And, of course, go to more live music! 

GeorgeHolland's picture

Plus editors of audio magazines that allow it to be presented as a real product worthy of anyone's consideration while throwing up their hands and saying "I wouldn't know what to measure" while their close associate subjectivley describes the huge improvement in the soundstage and suggests everyone to buy it

Sound familiar?wink

andy_c's picture

A concrete example of this can be found in the latest Recommended Components List. In the accessories section, they recommend "Cream Electret" (or is it "Electret Cream") LOL.

As far as I can tell, this entry is meant not for the reader, but for the potential advertiser. The message is, "We don't care if your product is fraudulent or not. Not only will we not call you out for it, but we may even recommend it."

John Atkinson's picture

andy_c wrote:
A concrete example of this can be found in the latest Recommended Components List. In the accessories section, they recommend "Cream Electret" (or is it "Electret Cream") LOL.

The PWB cream is included in "Recommended Components" following Art Dudley's experience of it. See www.stereophile.com/content/listening-113 and www.stereophile.com/content/listening-112. Perhaps Art Dudley knows something you don't, andy-c. At minimum he has actually experimented with these tweaks.

andy_c wrote:
As far as I can tell, this entry is meant not for the reader, but for the potential advertiser.

LOL. As PWB has never advertised in any magazine, as far as I know, this seems a ridiculous hypothesis. Perhaps I know more about this subject than you do, andy-c.

andy-c wrote:
The message is, "We don't care if your product is fraudulent or not. Not only will we not call you out for it, but we may even recommend it."

I get tired of people hiding under the shield of anonymity abusing our hospitality by posting crap like this. To quote Louis CK, as quoted by Bill Leebens elsewhere in this thread: "As soon as you crack your knuckles and open up a comments page, you just canceled your subscription to being a good person."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Glotz's picture

So right.  

While I'm no saint, I try to trust writers until they are proven themselves liars, thieves, and cheats.  Which is very rare, I've seen... and heard. 

Trust is all we have until we hear it ourselves. 

John as editor, has always remained objective, respectful and trustworthy. 

GeorgeHolland's picture

Perhaps Art Dudley snorted the PWB instead of testing it. You know, a REAL test instead of that subjective BS he used.

As for "posting crap like this" if you didn't post recommened crap like that then you wouldn't have people responding in kind.

As for "anonymity" I believe that both Andy C and myself post using our real names unlike a lot of your regular forum members.

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
Perhaps Art Dudley knows something you don't, andy_c. At minimum he has actually experimented with these tweaks.

Perhaps Art Dudley snorted the PWB instead of testing it. You know, a REAL test instead of that subjective BS he used.

"Subjective BS?" You are referring to the manner in which all testing for this magazine is performed, since it was founded more than 50 years ago. If you don't like it, then why do you subscribe to the magazine? Do you even subscribe to Stereophile?

GeorgeHolland wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
andy_c wrote:
As far as I can tell, this entry is meant not for the reader, but for the potential advertiser. The message is, "We don't care if your product is fraudulent or not. Not only will we not call you out for it, but we may even recommend it."

I get tired of people hiding under the shield of anonymity abusing our hospitality by posting crap like this.

As for "posting crap like this" if you didn't post recommened crap like that then you wouldn't have people responding in kind.

"In kind?" How is andy_c accusing Stereophile of corrupt business practices equivalent to Art Dudley writing about his experiences of the PWB tweaks? As far as I can tell, neither you nor andy_c have actually experimented with any of the Belt material. May Belt said in the interview to which I linked earlier, "since 1999, we have always sent a Rainbow Foil sample to anyone who requests one." Why don't you ask for a free sample? You might hear nothing, as did Gordon Holt using the same methodology that you have dismissed as "subjective BS"; see www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/110/index.html. However, as you've paid nothing, you've lost nothing. But you might also find yourself scratching your head about what you experience.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
As for "anonymity" I believe that both Andy C and myself post using our real names unlike a lot of your regular forum members.

Like JohnnyR and Alexei Petrov, neither of whom posted under their real names? And is "C" is really his surname? :-

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bill Leebens's picture

WTF are they doing here? 

Personally, I don't spend much time at the NRA and Florida Republican Party websites, simply because I don't care to induce a stroke in myself....

So, guys:

You're better than us, you're smarter than us, and doggone it, people like you.

Maybe.

Sometimes I regret that I'm no longer a teenager: at my age, rolled eyes and "whatEVer" are considered unseemly.

GeorgeHolland's picture

"Subjective BS?" You are referring to the manner in which all testing for this magazine is performed, since it was founded more than 50 years ago"

All testing in your magazine does not involve smearing a stupid snake oil cream on components then claiming they sound different. If this is how you plan on doing future tests, then yes it is subjective BS.

"As far as I can tell, neither you nor andy_c have actually experimented with any of the Belt material"

No I haven't but I also haven't experimented with placing a photo of myself into a freezer to see if the sound improves. I think most people or at least those with some intelligence can easily sift out the very obvious foolish products instead of wasting time on that crap. So let me ask if YOU have experimented with any Belt material and if not why not? You like to defend this crap so please post your own experiences with it.

"Like JohnnyR and Alexei Petrov, neither of whom posted under their real names? And is "C" is really his surname?"

Oh you have proof that JohnnyR and Alexei Petrov do not use their real names? How did you come about this theory? Do you ask for ID at the posting door? Got some friends at the NSA tracking these pesky posters? [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

Bill Leebens's picture

I don't know how John manages to respond civilly to such annoying bullshit. I don't know if HE needs a vaction, but I've only been addressing this stuff for a couple days, and *I* need a vacation!

Seriously, George--and I'm giving you credit for using what I assume is your own name-- do you think you're scoring points? 

You remind me of a kid I knew in Junior High who used to point out typos in textbooks--even the teachers hated him. Smugness and an air of superiority are never attractive.

I'm not necessarily saying that you're a skeptic- if the shoe fits, etc. --but I am reminded of something Seth Godin wrote about skeptics:

 

"Here's the thing about proving skeptics wrong: They don't care. They won't learn. They will stay skeptics. The ones who said the airplane would never fly ignored the success of the Wright Bros. and went on to become skeptical of something else. And when they got onto an airplane, they didn't apologize to the engineers on their way in."

FWIW. Possibly nothing.

GeorgeHolland's picture

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

The "annoying bullshit" you speak of are people simply not accepting everything Stereophile dishes out as the gospel. [flame deleted by John Atkinson] you learn a lot by not subjecting yourself to only one audio forum with one opinion.

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

MVBC's picture

I switched to guitarist Tony Rice's Manzanita (LP, Rounder 0092) and listened to the first two tracks. Then I stopped the music and applied a thin schmear of Cream under the front edge of my preamp. I relistened to the first two songs and was somewhat startled by the improvement. I wasn't startled by the degree of improvement, which was actually rather slight: I was startled that I heard any change at all. There was definitely a little more bounce to the picking: more nuance and sheer force audible in the downbeats carried by the upright bass. Consequently, the music sounded a bit more fun.

Vaseline does the trick too.devil

ChrisS's picture

You're quoting Art from Listening #113 [rest of comment deleted by John Atkinson]

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
"Subjective BS?" You are referring to the manner in which all testing for this magazine is performed, since it was founded more than 50 years ago.

All testing in your magazine does not involve smearing a stupid snake oil cream on components then claiming they sound different. If this is how you plan on doing future tests, then yes it is subjective BS.

No, I meant, as I thought was obvious, that Art reviewed the Belt product by using it in his system as the manufacturer recommends. Which is what we do with every product reviewed in Stereophile.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
let me ask if YOU have experimented with any Belt material and if not why not? You like to defend this crap so please post your own experiences with it.

I have expressed no opinion on the Belt products. Two people have: Art who has tried them, and you, who has not. Without actual experience, your opinion must remain conjecture whereas Art's is based on that experience.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
Like JohnnyR and Alexei Petrov, neither of whom posted under their real names?

Oh you have proof that JohnnyR and Alexei Petrov do not use their real names? How did you come about this theory?

From my private emails with the gentlemen informing them that as they would not respect my requests to stop flaming, insulting, and belittling other readers of the magazine on this website, I had no option but to block their accounts.

John Atkinson wrote:
If you don't like it, then why do you subscribe to the magazine? Do you even subscribe to Stereophile?

No answer from "GeorgeHolland."

John Atkinson wrote:
And is "C" is really his surname?

No answer from "GeorgeHolland." He is quick to throw out questions to others, but less than forthcoming when he is asked anything. :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Bill Leebens's picture

Further affiant sayeth naught.

ChrisS's picture

We should expect no less than the Comfy Chair and soft cushions for these heretics!

(But that might overdamp the room...)

GeorgeHolland's picture

You don't even begin to answer any questions put forth to yourself in any sort of meaningful way. I asked how you determined that JohnnyR and Mr Petrov were not their real names and you replied about emails? That no proof.at all just conjecture.

How would I know anyone's surname? Stop acting like an idiot. How about ChrisS or Glotz?  Now those are some candid surnames huh?

When you start doing real tests on Belt products then I will feel obligated to answer any and all questions, till then, whatever.

ChrisS's picture

Your skepticism and lack of civility are up another notch, Georgie! Even if you stamp your feet louder or hold your breath till you turn blue, no one feels obliged to you.

Your insistence on "real tests", yet again, indicates you haven't a clue what that means. There's no one anywhere that "tests" consumer products, audio or otherwise, in the way you think everyone should...

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:

"No answer from "GeorgeHolland." He is quick to throw out questions to others, but less than forthcoming when he is asked anything. :-)"

You don't even begin to answer any questions put forth to yourself in any sort of meaningful way.

Whether you find my responses "meaningful" or not, I do answer. My point is that you do not respond to my questions at all. For example, you post many comments complaining about Stereophile and its review practices. I have asked you if you are a subscriber. If you are not, then I don't see why I should take any notice of your comments. Yet you refuse to pay me the courtesy of answering my question.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
I asked how you determined that JohnnyR and Mr Petrov were not their real names and you replied about emails? That no proof.at all just conjecture.

My point was that the names your fellow Stereophile critics use for email, which are presumably their real names, are different from the names they used to post comments to this website. Your implied point that only people who disagree with you don't post using their real names is thus false. 

Quote:
How would I know anyone's surname? Stop acting like an idiot.

I asked because you stated as fact that "andy_c" posts comments to this website using his real name. I find it hard to believe that there is someone whose name is actually Andy C. I therefore asked you if "C" was his surname to gently point out that your statement was incorrect.

Quote:
When you start doing real tests on Belt products then I will feel obligated to answer any and all questions, till then, whatever.

Whatever indeed. But please note that I have had to delete a number of flames from you in the past 24 hours. If you contnue to post flames and abuse other posters to this website, I will block your account. Consider this a formal warning.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

GeorgeHolland's picture

Why does that matter? I read your rag of a magazine once in a while. If one does or does not subscribe ( Paying for your job) should have nothing to do with if you respond or not. Do you support the other audio forums that you frequent and post to? Then by your own "logic"why should anyone pay attention to your demands on those forums?  By the way posting as "Stereoeditor" isn't using your correct name on those forums, please start identifying yourself properly.

[flame deleted by John Atkinson] Anyone including myself can set up an email using whatever name I wish, I could call the email 5673@yahoo.com, does that mean my name is 5673?  I find your "logic" lacking in this matter. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

Tried that PWB cream yet? How about those rainbow foils?  If not why not?  Like you said it costs you nothing. I can tell you will never even try them though. You like to dictate what others should try but never take part yourself. How about getting Serinus to lend you those Acoustic Art bowls he's had for what, 3 years now? You could finally TEST those things too , that is if you make the effort. I won't hold my breath.

ChrisS's picture

Criticism of audio products is fine, no matter how illogical or unscientific, your arguments may be, but participating in a forum is not a licence for abuse.

You, of anyone here, have indicated that you've taken part the least in trying any of these products. Admitting that you don't often read the magazine doesn't equip you well to criticize what happens in those pages.

As I've said before, no one does testing in the way you think it should be done.

GeorgeHolland's picture

Your definition of illogical and scientific is lacking.

As for "not a licence for abuse" please go back and see how many times your posts were deleted.

No I think you have indictaed that you have partaken the least in trying any of the products of anything you have chosen to talk about. You don't own any of those. Again refer to your older posts.

Not reading every issue of Stereophile is hardly grounds for not knowing about a subject. I can see plenty of what is going on here online.

As for your last statement, maybe you should look at other websites than Stereophile, you know the ones that use the logic and science you seem to know so little about yet like to quote all the time. Do you frequent any other audio websites and partake in their discussions? Please let me know.

ChrisS's picture

My comments pertain mostly to your abusive manner, closed-mindedness and your dogged insistence on Stereophile staff doing something that no one else, anywhere, does.

(By other site, if you mean Hydrogenaudio.org which you've mentioned before, it's still a showcase of science done poorly and applied improperly.)

ChrisS's picture

We've been here before, Georgie, again and again.

Look outside your head... Whether from RadioShed or high-end boutiques, how do people shop and use audio products?

DBTing...?

Ehhhhhh....no.

GeorgeHolland's picture

The Audio Critic , when the owner was younger measured anything and everything.

http://www.theaudiocritic.com/

Click on "Audio Measurement" at the bottom of the following article and read the entire page Plenty of links to check out.

http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/rightmark-audio-analyzer-rmaa.html

I'm sure though you will find something "wrong" with every website that actually does something other than smear cream on a tone arm.

So you think Hydrogenaudio has their science all wrong? cheeky Go there and set them straight or better yet give us all here examples how they are doing it wrong. You seem to be the "science" expert here or all you all bluff?  It's easy to say they are doing it "wrong" and leave it at that.  Will be waiting.

ChrisS's picture

In Peter Aczel's last article on "The Audio Critic" site, where he reviews the Benchmark DAC2 HGC, he writes...

"my 87-year-old ears are certainly not as sensitive..."

"Despite 16 LED status indicators on the unit’s front panel, you can’t tell whether the DAC2 HGC is in standby mode or totally shut off..."

"I am switching from the DAC1 HDR (EVEN THOUGH IT SOUNDS THE SAME) to the DAC2 HGC!"   (My emphasis)

So Peter Aczel looks at this DAC and can't figure out the lights, measures the DAC and compares the stats to an older model of the same DAC, and he can't hear the difference!! He doesn't even indicate that he even used it in his stereo system.

You call that a review?

Georgie, you have a good nose (eye? which measures better?) for bad science and wonderfully un-enlightening reviews!

ChrisS's picture

Any college student who has taken a Research Methodology course can take apart the "science" in any of the sites you refer to.

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

(We're going over this same ground, Georgie, over and over again.)

ChrisS's picture

...is a statement at the beginning of the article...

"But RMAA has many limitations and potential problems. And a lot of people use it incorrectly and, often unknowingly, publish misleading RMAA results..."

...and also the very last comment on that NwAvGuy blog site!

"Sorry disturbing your extremely interesting discussion. But I do not even get RMAA 6.x running on none of my PCs or Noteboosks (XP/Win7) after installation. It immediately crashes due to application errors..."

Please, please, Georgie, no more!

It's worse than the Comfy Chair (even with the cup of coffee at eleven)!

You're expecting these kinds of articles will bring more "respect" to what we all do with our music systems??

You're torturing us with this "science"...Call Amnesty International, Ack!

 

Don't you think the title of Bill Leebens' post just below is quite appropriate?

GeorgeHolland's picture

Reading comprehension is so important [flame deleted by John Atkinson].

That wasn't even the article I wanted to talk about , just the only way to get to the page I wanted you to see.

I told you what link to click on at the bottom of the article to take you to the page I wanted you to see. I tried directly linking but since it was part of a search link it would not apper correctly here on Stereophile's "wonderful" forum.

So what about the article you quoted? He is trying to show you how people can take any piece of software and use it incorrectly and then shows you HOW to use it as it should be. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

[flame deleted by John Atkinson] you have failed again to show anyone at all what is wrong with the science of the websites. I think it's because they make you uncomfortable with your own preconceived notions of "how things work". if you can't show us why the science is bad then why keep bringing it up? Maybe if you chant "Sighted bias is just a myth" long enough, all the icky real science will just go away.

You are not worth my time anymore. Nor is this website.

GeorgeHolland's picture

"Any college student who has taken a Research Methodology course can take apart the "science" in any of the sites you refer to.

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]"

Yeah but you sure can't "take apart the science" so you just make silly quotes like above. I figured you would back off and take the safe route instead of manning up and showing us all how smart you are. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

I did go to college, had a 4.0 average and have worked in the audio business for over 30 years. I used to repair audio components and have seen the insides of more amps than you ever will. I know the real world of audio and what works and what is bull shit. Now if you can't show us what is wrong with the science of the websites you like to slag off then please don't bother saying that anymore. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

GeorgeHolland's picture

[flame deleted by John Atkinson] He did say he couldn't hear a differnce and that's exactly how Sterophile does "testing", just listening. Now you are saying that isn't good enough? Make up your mind.If you wish to ignore the rest of the website then that is your loss. Plenty more info in there [flame deleted by John Atkinson]. I did say when he was younger. [flame deleted by John Atkinson].

I respect him more than any other person in the review business. He's not successful in making money from it but then again he doesn't kiss any ass either doing it. He tells you what he thinks and doesn't pull any punches. None of that "Well maybe you should try it for yourself and see" mamby pamby bull shit.

ChrisS's picture

So, Peter Aczel buys a $1995 DAC that has lights that confused and annoyed him and didn't make any difference to the sound of his system.... Why?

GeorgeHolland's picture

[flame deleted by John Atkinson - and as you have been repeatedly warned about posting flames, GeorgeHolland, we are blocking your account]

ChrisS's picture

...out there, Georgie. It's not that scary.

SergioLangstrom's picture

After reading through your responses I can see who is serious and who isn't about learning and it sure isn't yourself. Take your own advice and try reading other forums other than Stereophile.

ChrisS's picture

Your karma is still bad...

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Why does that matter?

Because if you were a subscriber, I would give your continued demands that we make changes to Stereophile's policies and methodology greater weight. As you are not, I don't.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
posting as "Stereoeditor" isn't using your correct name on those forums, please start identifying yourself properly.

Every post I make to this site and to every other is clearly identified with my full name.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Anyone including myself can set up an email using whatever name I wish...

Of course, but as the banned posters used different names for their email accounts, it is more probable that that name is likely to be real. You might still argue otherwise, but it seems unilkely that your claim that "JohnnyR" is someone's real name is correct.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

GeorgeHolland's picture

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

[I have warned you about continung to post insulting and derogatory comments, GeorgeHolland. Please stop now. - John Atkinson]

andy_c's picture

C'mon, how can anybody talk about "the PWB Cream" with a straight face? [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

"LOL. As PWB has never advertised in any magazine, as far as I know, this seems a ridiculous hypothesis. Perhaps I know more about this subject than you do, andy-c."

The word "potential" in "potential advertisers" was not chosen accidentally, though it doesn't surprise me to see that you've deliberately ignored that and argue against a position that's not actually being taken. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]

Regarding comments, I'd suggest that, [flame deleted by John Atkinson] you disable them. This causes potential problems of course. There is a need to have posts from a fawning audience of deluded cranks that make up your readership, so it makes sense to preserve those. At the same time, you want to give the appearance of actual meaningful discussion, so some disagreement must be allowed. But what about people who actually have your number? Tough call.

Bill Leebens's picture

Louis: the video is amusing, and while I understand that an unquestioning mind may allow one to be more indifferent towards the world-- I think indifference is, in itself, far more alienating than being a geek. 

I think the middle path is awareness coupled with acceptance--which obviously requires a level of Zen mastery far beyond my abilities!

Ladyfingers: I have found through the years that "science" is often a smug label for dogmatism. I'm well-acquainted with the curricula of physics and engineering programs, and note with a certain degree of satisfaction the struggles these fields have with uncertainty. How much of physics has been rewritten in the last 40 years without anyone ever saying, "oh, we were WRONG-- it looks like THIS is the case."

Nope: they move from one hierarchical framework to the next, totally invested in the new order.

This is a long way around of saying, yes, there are some questionable things out there in audio, some in terms of marketing, some in "science". On the other hand--there really has been very little serious investigation into the interaction of low-level EMF as it pertains to audio, or in a million other areas just ripe for inquiry. The problem is, there's no prospect for financial gain in these fields, so little is done.

And thats a damn shame.

Ladyfingers's picture

Science is a method of testing, that's all. If a product is tested scientifically (Double Blind), any merits should be apparent. regardless of the manufacturer's technique or beliefs.

dalethorn's picture

As far as I know DBT requires fully conscious selection, eliminating subliminals. Our human senses are extremely limited in conscious mode, but expand quite a bit when the subconscious is absorbing additional information. But "strictly scientific" testing can't address any of that as far as I know. 

Louis Motek's picture

...without anyone ever saying, "oh, we were WRONG-- it looks like THIS is the case."

Bill, in the evolution of scientific inquiry, the wrongness gets less and less as the theories get more and more accurate. 

I recommend this short essay, one of the best about this very issue:

http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm

 

Louis Motek

andy_c's picture

That's a good link, Louis. The first time I read that was when following a link from another good article called "Science Was Wrong Before".

dalethorn's picture

You should differentiate between 'science' and The Scientific Method. Too often people are led into bad science by failing to distinguish these.

Louis Motek's picture

Bill, I think what you are disappointed with is how big business has been recently "rewriting science" to suit their bottom lines. Such as: Milk is good for you! Milk is bad for you, drink Almond Milk! Eggs are great for your health! Eggs contain cholesterol, they're bad for you! You need vitamin x, y and z! Fish contain mercury, eat chicken instead!

 

If you follow all of this silliness all the way down to the core, there is always a marketing team behind each and every one of those statements and none of them come from a purely scientific inquiry. 

 

At a campfire one relaxing evening, I found myself, over beers, talking to a seasoned surgeon. I love the way these guys talk when "not in uniform". When his heart opened up he said "People eat whatever they want and the body takes from that input whatever it needs. You can't control that with any special formula, pill, or potion, it's all mostly bullshit. There is a 30% success rate effectiveness of every drug ever tested which turned out to be a placebo. It's in all the white papers."

 

Louis Motek

jimtavegia's picture

I think we are more akin to the Salem Witches and would rather we all be disposed of the old fashioned way...with fire.  What we hear, or try to hear, and then try and share with others is just, plain scarry stuff. We are told we think we hear things that aren't there as the mp3 carries all the info.  I hear voices, but when they start arguing I just leave the room. MP3 lovers should do the same. 

dalethorn's picture

I would love to have friends and relatives who are audiophiles - people whom I could visit with frequently and listen to their premium loudspeakers (I don't have that option in my small apartment) and peruse their music collection etc. But I don't know any audiophiles locally, or don't have sufficient rapport with them to be invited to share in their music enjoyment. When I did have a good system with loudspeakers (Stereophile Recommended) 30 years ago, I did know a couple of such audiophiles that I did visit occasionally, and those sessions were rewarding. I would have to speculate on what the factors are that separate me from that type of experience today, but there are many factors, not the least of which are the lack of local high end audio stores that accomodate audiophiles meeting there to listen to the gear, have a coffee, and share experiences and music. The audio shows like the one in Newport Beach don't facilitate meeting local people who can share their 'stuff' on an ongoing basis in local venues.

Scaena's picture

Hi Bill,

I have studied this conundrum at great lengths, in the interest of self-preservation. Hate to disappoint, I have the answer and you have a larger point. This does not end well, but read on.

Even the most primitive marketers have known that if a product requires social acceptance, then all energies must first be spent on creating the trend, and not the product. Blue Cheese gives us the perfect example....

A person finds a putrid, moldy piece of cheese in a cave; every instinct tell him its a bad deal, but he is starving so he decides to eat it anyway. Then figures out a way to convince others- most important! More so than making the cheese appealing. Lets be candid, its nose is indistinguishable from toe-cheese. Till today, centuries later, there is no one who tries blue cheese for the first time is won over- also true of cigarettes. Clearly it is not sold on first impressions. Its taken a massive 'village effort' to build a culture around the most unappealing of commodities. Its even got the full backing of the French law.

Now imagine if Blue Cheese was promoted only through shows that resembled a Star Trek convention; as our shows do; where one was being asked to develop a palate solely on first impressions, at these conventions no less. Therein lies the problem in our trade, we have done less to build a culture than blue cheese. We dont even have a single consortium in the high-end industry, where we promote as a group. (it was briefly attempted and failed due to lacking of wider support) contrast that with the fact that Roquefort cannot be produced without royalties to the Roquefort Société. A Swiss movement watch is sold only after millions have been spent convincing the world that a Swiss Movement is essential.

We have that very problem, good gear is not necessary to enjoy music, we want the market to believe otherwise, but have done little if anything to drive the culture our way. We have driven culture away from it by being insular and clannish. Here is a simple test; in any doctor's waiting room, one will find a magazine promoting the culture of a Swiss movement watch or that handbag you described. Where other than the halls of audio shows will you find free copies of an audio magazine.

The Swiss say it best; its not the grass, its not the milk, but the bars of chocolate in the airport. Without which noting else matters.

Bill Leebens's picture

Louis: you have more confidence in a self-improving, self-correcting model of science than I have. I know far too many researchers whose work has come to a dead halt because it is politically unpopular, and their funding has vaporized.  America right now is frighteningly anti-intellectual. Thanks for the link, though.

And as the son of a surgeon, I recognize the pragmatic attitude. Indeed, people will do what they will do, and their genes and their luck will determine the outcome. Not fatalistic--just realistic.

Jim: what can I tell you? This ain't no party; this ain't no disco. We have to deal with reality.

Dale: so... are we proposing Audiophile Match.com ? Now THERE'S a scary thought.

"Hi, I'm Bob-- I live with mom, I ride the bus but I have $20k in My System...oh yeah, and I'm obsessed with Diana Krall..."

Sorry. That was harsh.

I think one of the consequences of the disappearance of local dealerships is that the social networking has become neglected. While there is a lot of online activity--well, it's not the same, and there's that pesky issue of monikers and concealed identities.

Clearly: audio-evangelism is tough to do if we can't even find or hang with Our Own Kind. An excellent point, and I'll have to mull over WTF to do about it. There are some very strong audio societies that do a good job of introducing newbies, but it's a big wide country with a lot of territory left uncovered.

 

Bill Leebens's picture

Hi Sunny/Scaena-- We've discussed this many times through the years; the audio industry has done a pretty poor job of making its case to the public. As a result, we find ourselves as a  low priority in most households--in the US, anyway.

Historically, attempts to form an audio industry association have either gotten nowhere or have died soon after their inception. There are two primary problems with organization, both related to the industry largely being composed of small companies, which are led by, umm, independent individuals:

1. No consensus. Anyone who's ever tried to get a group together for lunch or dinner at an audio show knows how tough that is...well, imagine trying to determine the course of an industry with those same folks. Herding cats is simple, by comparison.

2. No money. Let's face it: consumer electronics in the US may be a $230 B/year industry, as the Consumer Electronics Association says, but the audio biz is about 1/2 of 1% of it. Small companies are concerned more with immediate ROI than overall industry growth.

I applaud the outreach of local audio societies and headphone/personal listening groups. They're making the effort, and given how few local dealers there are these days, we need to help out with the evangelism, as well. The questions are: how do we do that, and how do we pay for it?

andy_c's picture

"I don't know, and I don't get it—but there is no abuse greater than that cast upon audiophiles."

Hmmm, I assume you meant something along the lines of, "compared to the other groups mentioned, there is no abuse greater..." The quoted statement trivializes actual persecution suffered by people of various ethnic groups, religions and so on. Is there an editor in the house?

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

If it's approval and status we want, maybe we should collect something else. Collecting machines that put small holes in things at a distance seems to be more acceptable than collecting music or the machines used to reproduce it.

Bill Leebens's picture

andy_c:

Clearly, CLEARLY, my piece was hyperbolic in an attempt to be humorous.
I am painfully aware of a great deal of the abuse which occurs at all levels of every society on the face of the Earth; that awarenes has caused me to develop a rather sardonic sense of humor in an attempt to deflect SOME of that damn pain. I don't claim to be aware of ALL the abuse everywhere; I doubt if I could live with such knowledge.

I can't help but think that here we are, allegedly dealing with the enjoyment of music--and note that "joy" is in the middle of the word, "enjoyment"-- and you choose to accuse me of trivializing reality? No, I'm trying to face it in the best way I know how, which is to celebrate the senses of joy and humor that God gave me.

And by the way-- there is not only an editor in the house, there is an Editor in the house. He understood my intent, and thought it was funny. Perhaps we're BOTH twisted; perhaps it's all the years we've spent in consort with humorless techies.

Three quotes come to mind:

The first, from my daughter: "You don't know my life."

The second, from Louis CK, one of the wiser social-commentators out there:

"As soon as you crack your knuckles and open up a comments page, you just canceled your subscription to being a good person."

The third, from my brother Chuck, whose brashness generally reveals larger truths (and also from a friend, who reminded me of this recently):

"Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."

Rick: no doubt. .30-06 trumps 33 1/3, every time.
 

Louis Motek's picture

Keen observation, Scaena. Here's an account of how the real professional marketers do it.

Pfizer (the enormous pharmaceutical company) markets not only their drugs; they begin with creating demand. Well before bringing Viagra to the market, they had to first change the way the market viewed impotence, because the whole notion of impotence was complete tabu. Men would not even talk to their own doctors about it, so how could they ask for a prescription? What Pfizer did, without introducing the drug or the drug's name, was first drive a massive marketing campaign to rename the disease from the term "impotence" to the term "erectile disfunction." It's easy to understand why. "Impotence" implies the loss of your manlihood, whereas "erectile disfunction" implies "a temporary problem a man can fix with a wrench." The crowning achievement of the marketing campaign was a year of late-night and early morning TV shows in which jokes were made about what could now be called simply by the two letters "E.D." Leading society from using the term "impotence" to using the term "E.D." made all the difference in the world. Once the new term was firmly rooted in society, only then did they release the drug known as Viagra. To excellent effect. 

Of course, to launch a nation-wide advertising campaign of that magnitude costs a lot of money, more than the audiophile market can afford.

As a child, I was first introduced to the term "audiophile" from an NPR radio program called "Audiophile Audition". This program was aired across the entire nation. This was in the late 70's / early 80's. I don't know if it is still around or often listened to. It seems to me that in such a context, the term "audiophile" gets more free positive exposure than anywhere else.

Here's the formula for our marketing meditation:

If 'audiophile' = 'impotence'; then '?' = 'E.D.'?

If 'audiophile' = 'putrid mold'; then '?' = 'Blue Cheese'?

Terms such as 'high fidelity' and 'audiophile' are outdated. They have taken on new connotations since the 80's, ones that no longer support the cause. Something more akin to 'virtual reality' or 'aural time travel' would be far more accepted by far more people today.

Perception is lead by huge marketing campaigns. See the history of "surround sound". Today, the name is understood by your average Wal-mart shopper, and a need is born under the Christmas Tree. Before surround sound was pushed, there was no such thing as a "home theater". You just bought a TV.

 

Louis Motek 

Bill Leebens's picture

Sorry, Louis-- a number of jokes come to mind regarding that thought, but I'll try to be serious for a moment.

Your analogy is excellent, and you are correct in that a market must be prepared to accept difficult concepts. I'm not sure how "music in the home" is a difficult concept, but as more and more schools eliminate music programs, the thought of actually producing music in one's home becomes more and more foreign; perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that simply LISTENING to music at home has faded from prominence. But then--there are a lot of distractions these days....

You are correct that the terms we use to describe the audio experience are outdated, and I'll give some thought on how to attack that issue.

On the grand scale, it still comes back to development of the market, and that requires cooperation at all levels: shows, media, manufacturers, retailers. As I've previously pointed out, achieving cooperation in any one of those groups is difficult; getting them all to work together is a pretty daunting task.

Regarding John Sunier's "Audiophile Audition" program--I, too, used to enjoy it, along with "Music From the Hearts of Space", which was its trippier cousin. The AA radio show is no longer around, but there is still an Audiophile Audition website, and as a matter of fact, I had some interaction with John Sunier recently.

Louis Motek's picture

 I'm not sure how "music in the home" is a difficult concept, 

It's not. It's what Scaena said, namely, that music appreciation or enjoyment is not dependent upon great gear. The difficulty is explaining the merits of such gear to an audience who knows the former but does not yet appreciate the latter.

Just as with fine watches. Just as with fine anything.

Wine is spoiled grapes. Spoiled in exactly this certain way. 

Fine audio is the disturbance of the air. Disturbed in exactly this certain way.

I guess it's not for kids.

 

Louis Motek

Bill Leebens's picture

...would likely be a lot more entertaining than "Fresh Air" on NPR. It also makes me think of physicist Freeman Dyson's extraordinary autobiography, "Disturbing the Universe"--with the same double-meaning to "disturbing".

You're right, Louis; when you get down to it, it's very simple. We just tend to complexify everything--if that is indeed a word!

You've also reminded me of the juvenile description of the four-stroke cycle engine that was the standard joke in racing-- the four strokes are, of course, "suck-squish-bang-blow".

Accurate, if a little racy. Pun intended.

Bromo33333's picture

The strongest reaction I have every got about having high quality home stereo gear is bewildered disbelief.  I don't think people have a reference for this, though most enjoy the music played on it.

THey might think we're a little crazy, but I have detected ZERO disrespect.

I might add, that one of the bewildered has a very expensive late model BMW M5 whose price puts my stereo's to shame...

Bill Leebens's picture

Bromo: glad to hear it. The guilt of the Beemer payments probably kept him quiet!

Glotz's picture

That simple fact is price has and will always be a huge stumbling block to acceptance.  It doesn't 'make sense' to their 'brains' by consuming tv and media memes all day long to pay retail. Most see themselves as 'too hip' to play into marketing ploys.  Those smart enough to see through some marketing bs, become ultra mistrustful of everything. Most have paid 'less than retail' on their appliances, gotten a 'deal' with their mobile phone, 10% under cost for their car or generally found a way to pretend they are savvy consumers in justifying any major purchase. Value has died and it replaced itself with lowest price.    

If the industry is growing, the old guard is buying more, and yes, thank G-d, trying to bring in a few more younger music lovers.  Hard travails, for even most of my non-audiophile friends who have dabble into higher-end components don't make it their hobby- at all. Cleaning lps, buying new cables, etc., are not on the 'honey-do' list anywhere near the top.  Talking about great music is still as far as it goes- unless they get a subscription to a magazine they like and trust.  (I am reminded of free chocolate mentioned above, and yet realize that no audiophile magazine has that kind of cash in this digital media age... but what of free online subs?  Hmmm... Website Giveaway!) 

And while I do frequent online retailers, and they do sell many products for 30% under retail than what the local dealer has traditionally offered (and where are they these days... dead or dying), I, the audiophile, am guilty of destroying the very hobby I set out to promote, because I'm tired of the rest of society trying to rip me off for less and less value every day.  

The other fact is, many simply don't care nor have the patience to train their ears in the first place. They relegate their music for the car or the workout, and don't give a flying frick about music and its possibility for greater fidelity, let alone how it would enrich their time at home.  These people like to run their mouths on about how connected to music they are, but 80% of fans at a Radiohead show still only take pictures, video, talk and otherwise destroy the musical vibrations of that concert, and yet post on Facebook on how 'epic' the show was. (It's like a hacker with bronchitis at your favorite classical concert hall- only much worse.) 

They are also being dumbed down by their own car radios with digital broadcasts and iPods with lower-res sound. They don't know it, and being reminded by an audiophile only futher alienates them.  Sucks, but there's no way to say it unless they discover it on their own.  And that's not going to happen outside of an audio expo. 

Sad, yes, but think of the days before modern tv/cable, videogames, internet enterainment, online gambling, fantasy football, and all of the other activities outside of the home that are largely the same, but have a modern, glossy sheen on them. People like sharing those things, and their pride in owning them. Sharing used to be in person, and now it's the internet. 

And when it comes to sharing for them, following is easier, and people just wanna be liked and validated for being 'hip'... having a brand name every one already likes is far easier.  SM, for instance, proclaimed his desire to fit in months ago in his column. Not a good move if you are trying to bring in younger readers and audiophiles. We are different, and we need to be that way... we demand more. (SM's column needs to be there though... and you need a column for the gear a step above that as well.)

Yes, if they did demand more, they would see that audiophiles have fully embraced the modern era, and have some of the coolest gear on the planet- unfortunately it takes an IT degree to get the PC/Mac to work with almost any component today-  For example, much of JA's article on the new Marantz Media Server NA-11S1 (this month!) reminded me, even today, I would rather invest more in analog, and just use my Sony PS3 and PC as a media server- if the songs want to play occasionally. I don't use it or expect to use it as a primary source, for the lack of pure ease of operation.  It's daunting for newbies to tolerate messy operation.  If I had 10 grand, Sooloos and the rest sound entertaining... maybe.  That's real money though. 

These alone prevent the masses from even peering behind the curtain. It's off their radar, and what is on the internet is like a different language that requires work and trust if they want to jump in.  

For instance, AudioKarma might be a great website to dabble into for audiophile DIY needs from time to time, but the reality is that most of them aren't audiophilles and pretty much hate the audiophile process or thinking.  Strangely, they'll put a brand-new SME 3009 tonearm on a 30-year old direct drive Technics 'table and decry that all of the new turntables are all bs.  WTF with big capital letters.  It's obvious that there was a need for Stereophile's knowledge in university and college cirriculums many years ago.  

As audiophilles, we represent the 'old days' as a result of image it used to represent- before cool toys and short-attention span entertainment.  

It takes real intelligence, trust and patience... and big money to be an audiophile. Not everyone has that kind of cash to blow in the first place, and those that want to need to realize it could take years to build a full system with all of the functionality one desires.  

I'm like an 'Audio Rabbi'-  I'm resolved to building relationships with existing audiophiles, and if a fledgling comes to be 3 times with an open mind and patience, only then I will train them on what I know, and share knowledge on all things audiophile.

mike a's picture

Having been a Stereophile reader since the 8 page folded “mag” by JGH, this discussion is interesting but repetitive. Two major distinctions are blurred here

The love of music and the love of its reproduction in the home.

Love of music – how many columns have been written to encourage all of us to go hear the real thing! It is ALL about the music. The actual event, the performance, the vibe, that is what it is all about. The “sound” and your perception of it is almost secondary, so dependent on factors such as the venue, your seat, your neighbors, the wine you had at dinner. However, with no music, no home equipment needed!

Love of music reproduction – That is what this mag is all about but I have always struggled with the Holy Grail. The gold standard by some is comparison to the live event, others to all those descriptors we use, soundstage, imaging, timbre, etc. Since it has been so MANY years of reading, for me, I am always amused on how every few years; this piece of equipment is the best I have ever heard. Is there that much difference or has the “standard perception” changed? Go listen to that old Audio Research preamp again, is it that much worse than the newest thing from Simaudio or BAT?

Marketing – who cares? If this became mainstream, you all would “leave” to find the next fringe (“you have never heard this” snobbery shtick). Just accept the fact that you belong to a group of “hobbyists” who hopefully love music for all of its uniqueness and pleasure it gives you through whatever level of audiophile gear you have. Much like wine, the reviews can you assist you on what you might buy, but ultimately, you can judge for yourself if you like it or not.  The problem is when your judgment gets clouded by outside opinion.

Bill Leebens's picture

"Rebbe" Glotz-- I agree with your comments, for the most part. As much as I love analog sources and I'm happy to see a resurgance in that area, I don't expect it to become dominant again for two simple reasons: 

1. it's a lot of work! Assuming one possesses the skills needed to do it, downloading digital files is easier, and...

2. digital files are portable and shareable (sp?). Not going to get into the argument of who "owns" a digital file and what copying rights are, but such material can be carried around, and easily shared with friends. 

Yes, I suppose we do represent the old, non-cool past (personally, I'm agING, but I'm damned well not agED), but as is true of a lot of positive things, analog skipped a generation-- the children of the children  born into the CD generation are discovering LPs. And that's fine. Whether it's a trend or a fad remains to be seen (sorry, Mikey!). Personally, those revived-'70's fashions can't disappear soon enough to suit me.

I suppose in the big picture, this is a hobby. But like a guy who was popular in high school and then never again, many in the industry (including me) hold hopes that SOMEHOW, audio will once again regain the dominance it had in the dorm rooms of the '60's and '70's.

Well--I don't think it's going to happen: there are just too many other activities available that weren't around back then, in addition to the old standards of drinking, dope and sex.  But again, the fact that many households  haven't had serious home music systems for some time, the younger generation might find something worthwhile in that -- the whole skipped-generation thing again.

Eh...we do what we can. ;->

Mike a-- I love vintage gear, and have owned a lot of the classics, tubed gear from Marantz, McIntosh, Fisher, and so on. I also love vintage cars, and have owned a number of classics from Alfa, BMW, FIAT, and so on.

As I have (ahem) matured, I find I have become less-interested inhaving to constantly worry over and diddle with such things. Just as driving a FIAT in the past always meant having one--or two-- back-up cars just to be assured of getting to work, such is often the case with old gear. I recall systems where I fussed over hums and pops and dangerously-glowing tubes more than I listened to music.

I think real progress has been made in reducing distortion and coloration levels in the past 40 years, especially in transducers. If you enjoy those distortions and colorations--and I'm not saying it's wrong, if you do-- you might not see a lot of progress.

In general, I find a lot of modern gear clean clean clean, but not emotionally involving. Why that is, I dunno; personally, the most-involving system I ever owned was a '50's console containing a Marantz 1 and 2, a Sherwood tuner, and a JBL D-123 that I bought for $15. But that's another story.

The good part is that under the right circumstances, both a $400 bottle of Chateau Lafitte and an $8 bottle of Coppola Rosso can be enjoyable. If you agonize over the $8 bottle, and how you wish you had the $400 bottle, you'll likely not enjoy the cheapie. 

And what that has to do with our discussion, I have no idea. I may need more coffee.

Talk amongst yourselves!

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

Bill:

There are several sites wherein audio pros - people with degrees in engineering, and years of recording experience - discuss the unreliability of our judgment WRT to how we hear and interpret sound.  (The bass traps fellow's seminar with several recording engineers comes to mind.)  

In building my system I've tried be aware of two truths, which are often at odds with each other:

The first is that happiness equals reality divided by expectations.

The second is that the more vested we become (in cost expended, opinion expressed, time devoted, dogma adhered to) the more difficult it is to admit we're wrong.

I've found that listening to a lot of live music resets my expectations for what my system should be able to do within my budgetary constraints.  But that's just me.

I know audiophiles with extraordinary systems and room treatments who don't use live music as their benchmark.  They have very different expectations.  And, I have to admit, I don't like the sound of their systems.  To me, the music they play sounds as if it's on steroids; not real at all.  But, that's what they want.  And, they've paid off their mortgages and put their kids through university; so who am I to judge.

Your article has drawn some of the most heated and thoughtful comments I've seen in a long time.  So did Mikey F's cartidge shoot out over at Analogue Planet.  Thanks to both of you for pushing the audio press in a fresh new direction.

Scaena's picture

Hi Louis,

You are spot on. However, It is not as difficult as " a nation-wide advertising campaign of that magnitude costs a lot of money"

A single company created the motorcycle market in America. Prior to Honda motorcycles there was no market for motorcycles (in usa) only eccentric ruffians rode them. Honda did the most amazing thing that is still taught in schools today. They 'created the market' by creating a simple message: 'Good people drive motorbikes' ; the actual ad said "you meet the nicest people on a Honda" This single phrase and concept created the motorcycle industry as we know it today. And Honda still has the lion share of it.

We don't even have a message, we cannot answer who is it for? What will I get out of it? Who normally buys it. For instance if we say, those who love music buy 'audiophile equipment' but you wont find musicians in general owing anything on Stereophiles top 5  products. Incidentally the failure to get our product in the hands of Trend makers has cost us dearly.

But this has been due to the blatant snobbery of our industry, most guys would not be caught dead being associated with a 'rapper' for instance. Even the audio guys who make $100 headphones. Whereas all luxury brands from Bentley to Vuitton have vested heavily in the 'next generation'. Think about this, it will blow your mind; a rapper comes out with the Beats Headphone just a couple of years ago, it cost $200 and he has 60% of the entire headphone market!! Thats millions, imagine if Grado went after that segment with their $100 headphone. At least our industry and shows would have gotten the recognition.

What is the difference between the unheard of superior Grado headphones and the money minting world sensation the Beats Headphones- vision!

Louis I think that the only message we have managed to send is that this is an industry for those who collect gear. Kinda like the difference between a coin spender and a coin collector.

Bill Leebens's picture

Rick,

It is always amazing to me how much our expectations can shape our experiences. And you're right, the more deeply invested/embedded we become in the our structured intellectual/sensory framework, the more difficult it is for us to experience events authentically, without being swayed by our preconceptions and defenses.

I hate new-agey jive terminology, but there are times when it fits-- and "authentic experience" is one of them. Being a good Type-A midwestern boy, it is innately tough for me to relax, go with the flow, be here now, yadda yadda. But the ability to just respond to what IS, even if it's not what we'd expected, or hope for-- is probably at the root of true happiness, or at least enjoyment.

Audiophiles are by nature obsessive types, and not prone to derive maximum joy from minimal circumstances. Maybe we could all stand to be a tad more Zen. I certainly could.

Thanks for the kind words. I call 'em as I see 'em... and sometimes folks don't like it. Oh, well!

 

Bill

Scaena's picture

Bill you wrote "Audiophiles are by nature obsessive types, and not prone to derive maximum joy from minimal circumstances."

It wasn't that way in the beginning, thats what it has been bastardized to now. I remember distinctly the emotions from childhood, being an audiophile meant you walked on the moon with the pride of being able to own the best...which did not cost that much. The joke back then was, you could wait till you went impotent before one could afford a german sports car. Today cables that are considered the best cost more than a Ferrari.

Back then an audiophile system was one you could afford in college and when those folks went on to make a fortune, they would still have their pride and joy from college as their stereo system, as if to serve as a reminder of those bygone passions. Its turned around for the past two decades, Not only have we deprived the impressionable youth of that incredible felling of owning the best, we further expect them to miraculously pick up the hobby.

Well studied fact about music (was discussed on NPR) if you haven't been exposed to a type of music by your late 20's, you will never like it. Now imagine not being exposed to the gear either.

Bill Leebens's picture

Sunny/Scaena,

More good points-- but I hate to tell you, Beats did over half a billion in sales last year. That's right, with a "B". Oh, and Dre reportedly made $110M last year, most of it from Beats.

So-- clearly, they're doing some things right, when it comes to marketing. Maybe there's something magical about brands that start with "B", but which also drive 'philes insane:

Bose, Beats....

...Bill...

;->

Louis Motek's picture

Understood, but it was not the rapper who had the vision, it was Monster. Monster gave the rapper money for his name. It would be the same if Grado gave money to Sting and created a headphone brand called "Swing by Sting", or gave money to Renée Fleming and created a headphone brand called "Matinée by Renée".

Big names cost big money. 

No audiophile sized company money could buy a name like that.

Funny you mention Beats headphones. I did some of my own random marketing research while waiting for some flights in an airport. In airports, you cannot help but notice the ubiquitousness of Beats headphone ads (as well as Bose of course). This spawned in me a high level of curiosity. In an exchange of only a few sentences, I discovered the entire marketing plot of Beats headphones. It was revealed to me by the minimum-wage earning, scrupulously manicured afro-cuban woman who took time from her daily Starbucks-and-texting procedure to answer my questions.

I: "Hello, I am interested in your headphones. There are so many brands. Which of these is the best?"

She: "Well, if jou askin' me, I'd say, yeah definitly, these ones, the Beats by Dre."

I: "Oh, these? Is that so? Why is that?"

She, completely seriously: "See, day got da bass."

Thus was revealed to me the genius of the marketing team's lectures to the thousands of salespeople throughout the world pushing these headphones. They are taught to expound the merits of bass-heaviness as is congruent with the acquired needs of the rap and hip-hop community. The lower the waistline of the pants, the higher the likelihood that one confronts a prospector seeking bloated lower frequency response. Thus, pairing the headphone's name with that of a well-established rapper represents the perfect method of market entry, because it appears as a personal stamp of approval, and the marketing spin (a fool-proof version for these rather low-paid salespeople to memorize) consists of the minimum amount of words: day got da bass.

 

We don't even have a message, we cannot answer who is it for? What will I get out of it? Who normally buys it. 

I am enjoying the challenge as presented by Scaena. 

Let's just define the audiophile. There is a well-known thread on Audiogon called "You know you're an audiophile when..." I'm sure most have read it (if not, go take a look, it has a lot of gems in there). If one could take literally all of that humor and put it into the fewest amount of words, one would have a working definition of the audiophile. 

Once one had that defined, then one could begin marketing successfully.

In all my years at this, I have come to the conclusion (so far) that the entry-way to becoming an audiophile is entirely personal. This means that it is a process that grows from a subconscious spark some time in one's life. Those sparks could be many things, no need to list them here, you know what they are: childhood piano lessons, a father who tinkers with tubes, making a DIY speaker, reading a great article, meeting another audiophile and listening to his system, and so forth. 

But because it is entirely personal, this means that any and all marketing to this group must be confined to people otherwise already in that mysterious group. 

When you go about defining who your target is in the very ad that is supposed to appeal to that target, you are cutting the romance off before it ever even started.

How about: "You get into the most interesting arguments when you buy audiophile gear."  Ha ha ha ha!!!

 

Louis Motek

Scaena's picture

There is no artist I adore more than Gordon Sumner, on all levels music, poetry, and spirituality. However, I would not pick him to set a trend amongst 20 year olds. Most dont know who he is- no joke, sad really.

Louis Motek's picture

People like that know very well the difference between private life and public imagery. They don't confuse the two too much. Another expert example is Yo-Yo Ma. In interviews, he skips over (most graciously) all the private questions, especially those pertaining to his family. The more a public figure bahaves in this way, the more respect I have for them.  

 

Louis Motek

Music_Guy's picture

I like analog and I like digital.

I like live music.

I like studio-produced music.

I like the gear that reproduces that music...and the better sounding to me the more I like it.

I have spent more time/money than my non-audiophile friends and family consider reasonable.  (But come nowhere near to even a fancy high-end interconnect)

I think my system sounds great!  (But if I had more disposable time/money, I would go higher.)

I like sharing the experience with friends and family.  I'd like to think I am above such things but I still wish they would all appreciate the sound and gear and think me cool and sophisticated for putting it together and sharing it with them.  I wish it were otherwise, but they don't seem to get it like I do.

No matter...I enjoy it.  Maybe my enthusiasm will be contagious.  Who knows...?

Scaena's picture

 I would share the secret of the success of Beats headphones but I don't want to turn you into a competitor. I enjoy having a cigar with you.

Its the same formula as Apple and Starbucks. No surprise that you mentioned all three in the same post.

Grado today could get a chunk of that billion by a single simple act. Imagine if a very popular artist/celebrity (not Kenny G) was spotted wearing a grado in Malibu. It would spread like a wildfire amongst the yongens.

Louis Motek's picture

and is described in modern-day marketing literature as only one of several co-ordinated steps necessary in a larger process now known as 'brand hijacking'. The terms depicts a rather democratic view towards marketing, with subconscious subliminals thrown in in very discreet ways. If not done carefully, such tactics backfire. But if done correctly, swarms of followers can and do amass. But if day ain't got da bass, ja ain't got notin'. 

Instead of 'audiophile,' I propose the new term: "electrotechnical audio artistry". "Audio art" for short. 

Audiophiles get renamed: "audio art fanatics" or "fans of the audio arts". If on the haughty side, one could use the term 'audio art connoisseur.'

High fidelity, or high end, gear gets renamed: 'electrotechnical artwork.'

So instead of audiophile recordings, we now have audio art recordings. As opposed to mainstream recordings. 

Instead of audio shows, we have audio art shows, or electrotechnical artwork shows. 

Now we can permit more wine and cigars at the shows, and it would be easier than ever to diferentiate the snake oil peddler (or electrotechnical artist-wannabe) from the true artist. The true artist is striving for something according to internal discipline, acquired knowledge and personal expression of this journey. The wannabe artist is striving for something the true artist is striving for, but is engaged only in external comparison rather than internal milestones. 

"Oh, this stuff looks like failed Salvador Dalí. Let's move on!" 

 

Louis Motek 

Bill Leebens's picture

Music Guy--good for you! Keep sharing.

Louis, Sunny-- I get the feeling you may have had a few too many cigars already? ;->

I assume--hope--that the Kenny G idea was a joke. FWIW, I think the spokesperson model is useless in a market already saturated with endorsed products, most of which are junk.

For more insight into the genesis of the Monster/ Beats program, I suggest you  read this article, one of the best pieces of business reportage I've ever read, and the single best piece about the audio biz that I've ever read in mainstream media: 

http://gizmodo.com/5981823/beat-by-dre-the-inside-story-of-how-monster-l...

Summary: if you're dealing with the President of a record company, assume he has a floor-ful of attorneys at his disposal.

Capiche?

Scaena's picture

Bill,

The only take-away we need to learn from is that- consumers were willing to spend a Billion on $200 headphones. We just did not have the pulse of the market.

Here is food for thought and a mirror for perspective; could it be that we are, what Kenny G is to music. Only, in our infinite wisdom we have ensured we don't market to women.

dalethorn's picture

Would it be too cynical to believe that coordinated attacks might be another market strategy? For example I've seen "Beats spam" escalate from very annoying on some sites to outright denial of service attacks. Not everything is what it seems, or the premise of the Art of War would be wrong.

Glotz's picture

and I also read elsewhere of the 'partnership' in years past...  disgusting on every level. 

It sickens me how they screwed over the Lees', and how they exploit the market based on fashion, rather than sound. As I said in previous months, it's all about the bling.  

Monster Cable also did a disservice to audiophiles when the overcharged for HDMI cables and power conditioners. I think that alone created mistrust in the retail world.

I thought people were abhorred by the 80's and the excess it meant.  Granted society is more fractionalized, but I'm reminded of TBone Burnett's epic album from the 80's- about the 'Sixties'... "Keep all the bad, destroy the good". 

Further proof that the mainstream will not and cannot understand audiophiles... unless it looks pretty.

Louis Motek's picture

Thanks for sharing, Bill. (One) moral of the story: One only then ever really starts making cash out of audio when one forfeits one's investment into sound quality. Do not waste business energy on making great sound. Even after all that invested 'tuning', those headphones sound like total crap. The Lees naïvely cared about that and therefore misaligned their business attention. Dre's team didn't care, they just required their name on it, to push it into videos. They were spot on, in a business sense.

Others are similar. Apple marketed the friggin' white color of their headphones when it was a black-headphone-only world, not ever their sound quality. Sound quality is not a marketable feature. Bang & Olufsen know that. Bose knows that. Dre knows that. Even Ultimate Ears Boom knows that. They don't ask "do you like how it sounds?" They rather ask flat out: "Can music get you laid?" They should feature removable woofers: you can use it as a condom, too.

Oh. But then Ya won git da bass. 

Louis Motek

Bill Leebens's picture

Dalethom: in today's world, there's a very thin line between awareness and paranoia. 
I'd say that almost anything was possible. Sun Tzu was less conniving and disingenuous than most modern politicians, and witness the coming crackdown on false online business reviews.

Glotz: I applaud a well-executed industrial design, such as the Beats designs created by the Ammunition Group. The designs are clean and well-detailed. What's done with the basic design may be another matter.

Also: refer to my previous comment regarding record labels and attorneys: you simply don't go into a gunfight with a whip. I don't think you'll find much sympathy for Monster in this case, given the company's aggresively litigious past.

Louis: back in the day, plenty of dorm sound systems were used in pursuit of seduction. I won't say it's a noble pursuit, but it is definitely a time-honored one.

Scaena's picture

Bill some of our customers have said, 'I just did not want to wait till she left me for a guy with Scaena's"

baumer's picture

"It was revealed to me by the minimum-wage earning, scrupulously manicured afro-cuban woman who took time from her daily Starbucks-and-texting procedure to answer my questions."

Did this woman share the details of her paycheck with you in the course of your condescending conversation? Is everyone you meet the target of such derision?  

 "See, day got da bass."

"But if day ain't got da bass, ja ain't got notin'. "

"Oh. But then Ya won git da bass. "

"day got da bass."

We get it. This woman speaks differently than you do, in a patois you find so amusing that you can't help but repeat it in every post. Did you do this charming impression for her in the flesh, or just for laughs on the internet? 

"In interviews, [Yo-Yo Ma] skips over (most graciously) all the private questions, especially those pertaining to his family. The more a public figure bahaves in this way, the more respect I have for them."

Since you clearly understand the relationship between gracious interaction and respect, I am certain you will understand how little respect I have for the way you come across when posting to this thread.

I hope this casual disrespect is atypical for you.

Louis Motek's picture

Please do not misinterpret. I am merely accentuating what Scaena said when he noted that people are willing to spend billions on an image, and do not engage deeply into nuances of sound quality. That is what differentiates the audiophile culture from the mass-market culture.

The audiophile culture revels in being geeky about nuances that most people who say "day got da bass" wouldn't even dream of considering. I also meant to consider that formulation of that very marketing line into those exact words is worth billions of dollars. "F*** sneakers, let's make speakers!" This is how billion dollar industries are made.

The beats headphones are mass-produced garbage which sound horrible (successful industrial design, though). Did you see the video clip in the Gizmodo article of those people moving around? That is the type of thing that the retailer I encountered watches daily. I merely painted a picture in a few words about my encounter with what was typical of the marketing practice of beats headphones. Namely, 'day got da bass'. That is the only selling point made available to the retailer, and it works.

I was not being derogatory. That is how the salespoint procedure looks for such a successful product aimed at the mass culture. It was an enlightening experience for me, and I just wanted to share that sudden realization. It happened to have happened right after the New York Audio Show, so the contrast in culture, mannerism and sound quality comprehension was startling to say the least. 

Big money is ruthless when it comes to effective means. "But it doesn't sound all that great" doesn't exist in that realm. And that's why big money is big. It remains focussed on what brings in cash. Usually it's boobs and popular images of success. 

Sorry if I was misunderstood.

Louis Motek 

baumer's picture

Hey Louis, 

To be sure, I agree with your point here. 100%. Audiophile companies have a long uphill battle against very powerful market forces and they would do well to better understand why companies like Bose and Beats are so damn succesful, rather than dismiss them out of hand as products for people who don't know any better. 

And again, I'm not even on the side of political correctness.

I'm simply saying that if one wonders why people tend to think of audiophiles as elitist and dismissive, they'd need only point to comments like yours in order to make their case:

"The lower the waistline of the pants, the higher the likelihood that one confronts a prospector seeking bloated lower frequency response."

Does that really read to you like the writings on an "open-minded" man, or dost thou protest too much? 

 

 

Louis Motek's picture

Oh, and she was chewing bubble gum. 

Just sayin'...

(Upon audition, Dre's authentic haute couture version was "That's the shit!". "Day got da bass" is the modified version thereof, suited for a wider audience.)

Louis Motek

Scaena's picture

Louis allow me to throw you a lifeline.

All they did was make it cool for everyone to wear large headphones in public. Which means you can wear a staxx headphone at the airport and not be considered an alien dork.

If you believe that people cannot distinguish for themselves what is good, then that in itself is condescension. There is nothing wrong with buying something that is only cool, some would say that its more perverse to buy that which is not cool and then have to spend a fortune on a mail order bride.

Which is what this discussion was originally about- why is audio not accepted like other things- and now we have come a full circle.

baumer's picture

"Which means you can wear a staxx headfphone at the airport and not be considered an alien dork." 

and for that I am eternally and unironically grateful!

My gateway drug into audiophilia was a pair of Grado SR60s that I bought from Lyric Hi-Fi with money from my first job after college. I'm sure that's a familiar story here.

But however many here share that story, there are many, many others for whom Beats by Dre could be a gateway into hopefully "better" purchases. 

And now that we've got their attention, and they don't think that $300 is a crazy number to spend on headphones ( the way my friends used to think the $70 I spent on the Grados was insane...until they heard them ), we should do all we can to offer them products that are both cool & great-sounding.

Bill Leebens's picture

Sunny: I completely believe the alleged comment from your customer. Completely.
Your second comment, I'll agree with.

Baumer: Not to make light of this, but is it possible to convey an accent or dialect without being thought to be mocking it? I'm honestly not sure. Having lived in areas known for pronounced regional accents, this has been a real concern of mine for decades. Knowing Louis to be a pretty bright guy, I'll cut him some slack on this, but I hear what you're saying.

Years ago I tried to write stories based upon people I knew in Memphis; I found it impossible to reproduce the speech patterns and vernacular without sounding like a cartoon version of Faulkner. Given that Faulkner frequently sounds like a cartoon to begin with--that's pretty bad.

When I was a kid, I read cartoonist Milt Gross' "Nize Baby", written entirely in the Yiddish-ese of NYC's lower east side. People I know who grew up there seemed to think it was an accurate representation, and found it funny.

Would it be found hugely offensive today? No doubt. I am truly dismayed by this issue, and find that all too often we deny the uniqueness of regional dialects and vocabulary, in the interest of being PC.

Are there differences? Hell, yes. How do we convey them without offense? I dunno--said in my native upper-Midwestern nasal bleat. 

It would be interesting to see how we could reproduce the accents of the various participants in this thread without offending SOMEONE. I doubt if it could be done.

Louis: dude--stop while you're behind! ;->

baumer's picture

Bill, 

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. As a fan of Faulkner's, I understand exactly where you are coming from, and I don't mean to imply that - even on a silly audiophile discussion forum - Politcal Correctness is somehow more important than capturing the unique rhythm of an interaction. And as a native of Bawlmer, MD who spends the summers "goin' down 'e o-shun, hun", I certainly have no regional accent higher ground from which to speak! 

My issue here has much more to do with the gleeful repetition of "day got da bass" perpetuates not an authentic attempt to capture the audio saleswoman's ( equally as valid as Louis' formal ) manner of speech, but rather a dismissive and unsympathetic description of her that Louis is proving incapable of abandoning - witness, "oh, and she was chewing bubble gum. Just sayin'..."

I have no doubt that Louis is a brilliant man, but he is coming across as tone-deaf in these exchanges. ( Terrible, terrible pun not intended. ) And I would imagine that the irony of this unfortunate tone being taken in an otherwise thoughtful discussion of how to bring new audiophiles into the fold is not lost on other readers. 

In some sense, Dr. Dre seems to be saying, "buy my headphones and we'll all be cool together." Regardless of what you think of their sound quality, or their design, his is an inclusive approach, a welcoming one. Is it any wonder he has successfully sold millions of headphones?  

Now, reread Louis's description of his interactions - do you think the saleswoman would have any interest in learning about headphones from him, especially if she knew how little he seems to think of her?

Scaena's picture

Baumer,

You have sealed the deal with me with your use of a single pertinently powerful word- 'inclusive'

It is just that and no more. It should be the mantra in our trade. And gratitude is in order for Beats for helping build the first bridge.

Lets call it for what it is; Afro-Cuban percussions move the soul universally, percussion recordings made by Louis could be used to induce a coma. Clearly one is inclusive, the other is exclusive.

Thank you for the clarity.

Louis Motek's picture

 

Afro-Cuban percussions move the soul universally, percussion recordings made by Louis could be used to induce a coma. Clearly one is inclusive, the other is exclusive.

 

I provide a free service for any anonymous person on the planet to download free high resolution recordings. This costs money, by the way. I consider it a contribution to help spread the word about high quality audio.

 

Why it should 'induce a coma', and what you mean by exclusivity when the files are provided free of charge to anyone, is unclear.

 

Louis Motek

Louis Motek's picture

Day got da bass.

I meant this as an icon of billion dollar effective marketing without recourse to standard low-dollar audiophile marketing of nuances regarding high oh so high audio quality. By repetition, I meant to place those four words on a pedestal for audiophile companies to view and marvel. That is all I meant.  

 

Louis Motek 

Louis Motek's picture

I love the various accents that abound. In fact, you can learn a foreign language by listening to a native speaker's poor English accent. The mistakes they make in English are invariably considered proper grammar in their own native tongue. All you have to do is not hate them for it. Just observe. Do not evaluate.

There is nothing wrong with buying something that is only cool...

Agreed. I am merely observing the billion dollar phenomenon.

Marshall McLuhan said it best when he wrote: "I have observed that the moralist typically substitutes anger for perception." 

 

Louis Motek 

Scaena's picture

You met the woman of your dreams, you were brought together by a pair of headphones, which would not normally happen in a month of Sundays- she loved music and full range music, and had better job security as her industry is growing. Would that ever happen with the cables you currently own. You of all people were shown the way forward, and all you could think about was the sound quality. It was an IQ test Louis.

Bill Leebens's picture

"Inclusive" should be the key word. In marketing, there is a tendency to focus on the word "exclusive" as meaning something rare, to which one should aspire-- but the literal meaning is that a whole lot of folks are being kept OUT.

Some years back, there was a panel at RMAF discussing "the future of the industry"--this was after the iPod became huge, but before Beats really broke out. Diplomat that I am, I said:

"If I hear one more fat ol' ------- like me bitch about the iPod, instead of recognizing it for what it is, namely, the single greatest marketing opportunity the audio industry has ever seen--- I'm gonna smack them in the face."

Include "Beats" in that statement, and it's still true. Wake up, embrace the opportunity, forget about your Kenwood receiver, Cerwin-Vegas and black lights from your dorm room. They're not coming back, and neither is your hair. 

Get over it.

Louis Motek's picture

...and now we have come a full circle.

We dont even have a single consortium in the high-end industry, where we promote as a group. (it was briefly attempted and failed due to lacking of wider support)

 

Could someone please point to an account (or provide one here) of those proceedings?

---

I'll just close my case here regarding the accent. It was meant only to exemplify an isolated case in what was a random but entirely real sales experience, from which I drew those broader conclusions about audio marketing. I am not against low waist lines either. I was simply describing the trend. The trend for mass-market success is: don't emphasize the sound quality. The trend for audiophile businesses has always been: emphasize how great it sounds. That was all I meant. I apologize for any offense it may have caused. I believe my formula for waist line of pants vs. strength of prospective Beats buyer is pretty accurate. In marketing it's called the target audience. Watch the moving picture clip in the Gizmodo piece again. Those actors were not chosen and dressed that way for no reason. 

 

Louis Motek

John Atkinson's picture

Louis Motek wrote:
Quote:
We dont even have a single consortium in the high-end industry, where we promote as a group. (it was briefly attempted and failed due to lacking of wider support)
Could someone please point to an account (or provide one here) of those proceedings?

Stereophile has published quite a lot over the years on the attempts to form a high-end audio trade group: www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/1198awsi/index.html. Art Dudley's first-ever piece for Stereophile.

www.stereophile.com/news/10294/index.html. The Academy to sponsor outreach at Stereophile's HiFi 99 Show.

www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/691awsi/index.html. The Academy's first event.

www.stereophile.com/content/are-you-goin-audio-fair. More recent thoughts from John Marks

www.stereophile.com/images/newsletter/1005Bstph.html. The A5 group to which John is referring.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Bill Leebens's picture

Back in the early-mid 2000's, the CEA (Consumer Electronic Association) had a group called the High-Performance Audio Advisory Board; I was honored to be part of it, along with Richard Schram, Kathy Gornik, Ray Kimber, Lew Johnson, Wes Phillips, and others. There was considerable talk amongst us about forming an industry group, but the standard issues hindered the efforts: lack of funding, lack of time amongst a group of busy pros. 

The CEA has not always--shall we say-- recognized the significance of the high-end audio community. Eventually, the Advisory Board was disbanded.

I was involved in the A5 effort, working quite a bit with Walter and Ted, but following some decent initial exposure, it never really got off the ground.

I'd like to think that now, having had a broader range of experience and being older and wiser (and meaner), I could actually get a group together. Funding and consensus would be the major hold-ups, as always.

That may just be my ego talking.

Utopianemo's picture

Audiophiles tend to be pretentious assholes and fuddy-duddies. I think that pretty much sums it up. Isn't that why the most vigorous feedback any Stereophile article has had in recent memory is one that asks why the hobby isn't more popular?

Bill Leebens's picture

Uto: thanks for the "most vigorous feedback" comment-- I feel loved!

I'll assume there is a little wiggle-room in your characterization since--and thanks for this-- you said "audiophiles tend to be pretentious assholes and fuddy-duddies", rather than "ALL audiophiles ARE pretentious assholes and fuddy-duddies".

A statement like that is a tad flamish, and indicates to me that you expect outraged denial in response. Well, sorry: I may be an asshole, but it takes more than that to outrage me. I've raised two kids by myself, and one of them liked to say the word "bomb" in airports.

My point in writing the piece was threefold:

1. To provoke a serious discussion about what can be done to invite others into the hobby and business of listening to recorded music, either in the home, or on the fly. I think the key word here is "invite", and as the discussions have indicated, far too often this hobby and business has been exclusionary, built upon pricetags rather than upon the sheer fucking joy of music. Oops--my fuddy-duddiness must have slipped.

2. To poke fun at ourselves, at that pretentious side. Other than a few humorless drones (many of whom seemed to have commented here), did anyone seriously believe that I felt abuse of audiophiles was far more serious than, oh, say, the manifold ways in which children are exploited and abused worldwide, the self-destructive nature of current American politics, or the prospect of all of North America being Fukushima'ed by radioactivity? Dear God, I hope not.

3. I forget what the third reason was--but then, us old fuddy-duddies tend to have memory lapses. Your premise did bring something to mind, however. Back in high-school, my best friend made an exasperated comment which has stuck with me ever since: "Even the word 'pretentious' is pretentious!!" But then, he ended up becoming an attorney. Make your own joke.

So: what's the outcome of all this? Are we happy where we are? Or is, maybe, a little middle-age-craziness in order?

I'm thinking an audio Girl's Night Out would be a good place to start. And screw y'all,  *I'M* hosting. My girl Reid Speed can spin the tunes.  

AJ's picture

BL - Some people like fancy watches. I like to look at Rolexes and Patek Phillippes—but the idea of wearing something costing 20 grand or more, maybe a lot more, at the end of my simian arm where I can bang it to bits on a doorframe, strikes me as insane. Oh, well; I don't badmouth people who buy or wear such things, just because I choose not to. The prices might make me gasp in disbelief, but that happens with a lot of things.

Hi Bill,

Regarding your watch analogy, while you might not badmouth them, do they badmouth your Timex or Seiko? Do they scoff with an air of arrogance and consider them "Mid to LowFi" watches?

Do they make claims about their Rolex or Pateks being "more accurate" at telling time due to "Quantum movements"? Being made from 100% pure BS? That the Rolex and Pateks are "subjectively" more accurate and no amount of "scientific" testing will prove otherwise?

Most folks I know with Rolex and Pateks recognize them as jewelry. And "valued" accordingly. Perhaps for looks, perhaps for status, perhaps because they can easily afford one, or some other reason.

Do you think "High end" audio views/values the equipment.....as jewelry?

cheers,

AJ@Soundfield

Bill Leebens's picture

AJ-- product literature in high-end audio is full of phrases like "jewel-like", describing an"exquisite finish", yadda yadda. I've probably written some of that stuff myself.

Certainly, some products are designed to make an impressive presentation, and in many product-types, the casework is the single most expensive element. So--I would say that there are brands that put a great deal of effort into their appearance, and how those products present themselves in a showroom--and hopefully, in a buyer's home.

There has been a lot of talk about how the audio industry has missed the boat by not selling their products purely as luxury products, in the manner of fine watches, jewelry, couture, bags, shoes, and so on. In order for products like those to imbue status upon the buyer, there has to be a type of societal agreement that such things either have value or are accepted as having value (like the US dollar). And most of those industries have centuries of marketing behind them, allied with enormous advertising budgets and (this is important) extremely powerful trade groups designed to encourage the growth of the entire industry.

Perhaps in the '50's through the '70's, there was a certain amount of status in having an impressive hi-fi set-up in the living room. For the most point, and certainly in the US, those days are gone. Brands whose names and trademark styling have been around for many years--I'm thinking McIntosh, here-- may still have some cachet to the non-audiophile.

There are brands that work very hard at creating products that are aesthetically pleasing, and complement a nice home. But do they think they're jewelry? For the most part, I'd say no. At its crudest level, jewelry contains materials recognized as precious in almost every society on Earth. Outside of the audiophile world, super capacitors and 6-9s wire have no intrinsic value.

In brief: jewelry? Well-made, perhaps, but not really jewelry. Luxury products? To a certain extent, but we've got a long way to go before most high-end gear is appreciated as being worthwhile by the general public, or even by connoisseurs.

Was that an incredibly long non-answer? Sorry if it is, but it's a complicated issue.

Scaena's picture

Bill I had not read your post when I posted mine. By coincidence we were thinking of the same thing.

What is not commonly realized is that a Rolex is cheaper than a Seiko- by magnitudes. Smart money would say that a Seiko is expensive and a reoccuring expense. Rolex is money in the bank for a lifetime. They have worked very hard to make it so.

Scaena's picture

The purpose for bringing up the consortiums was to merely point out that we could not even advance the consortium itself.

However, anything good that did come out of the co-operative would be negated by our current practices.

Assuming we can attract attention, In order to be taken seriously, we must do away with arbitrary priced products and products that really do no provide corresponding performance. If it cost as much as a convertible, it should provide as much return. If we sell $50,000 cables made of 9.9999% pure silver, it should be able to fetch $30,000 if melted for the silver.

Reviewers, who are the gatekeepers should never turn a blind eye to value- as they have done. Value MUST be front and center of any review. Because in real Luxury, the more a commodity costs, the greater the bargain it has to be. And disproportionately so. Which the least understood concept in audio. A 40year old Ford for instance is not worth much. A 40 year old Ferrari will fetch a $1million and more because that’s the true value that was in it. Even that handbag Bill mentioned is worth the thousands they ask for- because they have spent millions in creating that image for you, where it will get you notoriety, possibly career advancement, and above all it can be sold for what one purchased it for. In the luxury world, no credible commentator would ever recommend any product that did not represent exceptional return of investment.

No consortium can prevent the next guy from coming out with a $20,000 piece of  copper wire. And make a mockery of our trade, in the eyes of the uninitiated. It simultaneously raises the barrier to entry for them and lowers the image, I cannot think of anything comparably counterproductive in any other trade. While $5000 cakes have a place in this world; not when guillotines are being sharpened. The social responsibility to control the throttle then falls solely at the foot of the reviewers and them forfeiting advertising revenue in exchange for long-term growth of the industry- it is unfortunately a choice they must make. They were always the trend setters and the proverbial consortium.

Louis Motek's picture

Scaena's post "Advancing the Cause" strikes a core issue squarely on its head. "[The audiophile press] were always the trend setters and the proverbial consortium."

 

It is and has indeed been up to them to define and promote the case for value in our art/business. For, as Scaena said, the credible return on investment in the market of luxury goods represents the real concept of value, abstract as that return may be (from melting silver down to being accepted in a society.)  

 

The press does indeed always emphasize the audio experience value of the reviewed items. I believe they try their best to acknowledge the material value as well. Usually if it is questionable they'll say something like "If you have the means... this is great."

 

Under what we could call a drugs trade model, the concept of value is defined by a personal need (this can span a plethora of bases from a mere pleasure, a joy, a rush, a high, a passion, to an outright addiction.)

 

Therefore, any consortium (press-related or not) in our audiophile market would have this issue to solve in their first meeting: "Are we going to operate under the drugs trade model or under the luxury goods model? We must show the value for money either way. But we must first decide which applies to us."

 

Scaena used the term "...in the eyes of the uninitiated." 

 

I believe that cracking the audiophile initiation code is impossible, because it is a purely personal set of events that leads to one discovering the merits of the upgrade path. In our realm, true, there is some amount of correlation to return on investment in a monetary sense (used market price, etc). However, the passion variable is so high for those of us seeking the musical information hidden "deeper in the groove" that one cannot frame our value system squarely around physical return on investment criteria. 

 

The audiophile (or electroacoustical arts) market is 50% science, 50% art -- not meant in any derogatory way. This could be perhaps a viable definition for starters. But it is an extremely slippery path because these two in bed together don't generally get a long. But 'those initiated' seem to see it as possible, and indeed embrace this.  

 

Louis Motek

Bill Leebens's picture

Gents-- I'm not much of one for philosophical constructs. My basic philosophy in life and business is the golden rule--and that doesn't mean, " he who has the most gold, wins". I'm not saying I always live up to the rule--I fail, sometimes daily-- but I try.

I think solid, elegant products that offer reasonable value will generally do well. I believe in marketing that tells a good story--and by story, I don't mean lies, but a compelling explanation of the product's history and its benefits, told sincerely.

Marketing of luxury products is a whole 'nother story. Given my background in mechanical engineering, I admire things that work flawlessly, and for a long time. Those virtues can be found in watches, and in many high-end audio products. But making those traits  desirable, rather than simply workmanlike--that's where the story comes in, and the artistry.

I'm afraid we have a long way to go, in audio. All too often in our industry, "luxury" simply means gilding the lily, wheras truly elegant designs have all spurriae removed--not added on.

This is getting too damned deep--in several ways. ;->

Louis Motek's picture

That leaves more cigars for us, then, I guess.  ;) 

Louis Motek's picture

 

[Big Headline]   Spare us your cynicism. 

 

[Artful mosaic of musicians, composers, conductors, and singers.]

 

 

[Text body] When you think of what some of these artists sacrificed to put this music across, what trends they pushed against, all those nights in the middle of nowhere, bringing it to the stage, what incredible misery and misfortune they too often encountered, just because they were burdened with a staggering talent and the courage to share it with the world, the least you can do besides buying their records is pay the respect due them by giving their music the best possible means to fill the air.

 

 

 

[bottom of page: small logos of all contributing companies, audio societies, and magazines, and their URLs.]

 

 

 

I don't know what a full page ad in the New York Times costs, but it is a powerful signal and does not go unnoticed. If it came to 50 USD / month or less, I think all audiophile oriented businesses would gladly contribute, without question. 

 

This would just run, and run, and run. No organizing committee. No meetings. No arguments. No votes. No seasonal changes. Just one person to collect and forward the cash to the New York Times. Could be organized by Stereophile / Bill Leebens (he was feeling inclined)?

 

I took it from Henry Rollins, where he said "Feel free to use that any time" (As We See It, August 3rd, 2011), and this would be a way to make good use of it.

 

 

Louis Motek

Vance Hiner's picture

Is controlled by the person who cares the least. I'm not sure who first said that, but it sure is true. I think the best thing the relatively sane ones among us can do is simply share our love and enthusiasm for music, quit choosing teams, stop feeding the trolls and welcome any and all people who share our love of music. 

I'm convinced the resurgence in vinyl is due in large part to the unshakeable passion of those who love it. People are attracted to other people who are having fun. I think giving the podium to people like the Henry Rollinses or Jack Whites of the world is the right idea. Their passion for what we love is infectious and very attractive. Forum squabbles and snotty audio salons are downright ugly.

I don't talk about my equipment with hardly anyone. I certainly never tell them what things cost. I simply play my music and, eventually, they start asking for advice to start getting that kind of fun in their own homes. Exposing people to great sounding equipment in more real-life environments is a great way to cause a change in perception. Self-appointed audio experts may laugh, but they might be surprised what would happen if a bar or restaurant regularly played records on a great tube system. People aren't as stupid as the experts think they are. When something is wonderful and looks like fun, people want a piece of it. 

Bill Leebens's picture

Louis: such possibilities were explored back in the A5 days, and while I can't recall the per-page rate at the NYT, it was horrific. Somewhere between $35-$100k...which is a broad range, but my memory ain't what it used to be.

It is a decent idea, and I'll look into it. Being in the Times would tend to play into the idea of audio as an elitist activity-- but it might be worthwhile, Those listed would likely have to be happy with a micro-dot-sized mention, though.

Vance: your initial statement brought back uncomfortable memories of the terminal stages of my marriage, but the thought is a good one. Introduction through example by just playing music is the soundest method (pun intended); getting into the internecine battles that pepper the audio world would likely just make folks think we're stone crazy.

And we've already covered that topic, haven't we? ;->

Glotz's picture

I thought about that idea when the As We See It ran months ago, and Louis has it exactly right.  Great concept and idea.

The price though, ugggh...  Shame the way it is.  Maybe somewhere else?

I wonder if Shunyata had the right idea a few years back when Rick Rubin, and others of note were quoted for one of their ads...

I think having enough exposure of people like Rick and Henry in a major pubs would give some eyebrow-raising validity to the message that would otherwise get ignored. Use pictures of the endorser/ees, it always has more punch- no matter the price.  

On a related note- I think John needs to have the whole staff have small portraits preceeding each column like the British mags do... Great for editor recognition for newbs to associate writing with personalities... A must in my mind; to get the connection going... and make it funny if you like! Show that were all not humorless curmudgeons!!   Stoic pics of the author is not what I mean... unless that's who they are! (I can imagine Sam's being the best! Or Mikey..!)  I love that pic of John's that he uses for this site... so fun! 

or Henry needs to have a TV show where he explores the things he loves and the shit he does... (no insult intended- the dude is one engaged guy).

Radio's great, and perhaps something could be done there (or already has been), but there is no substitute for an expression of Henry's intensity for life!  (I keep thinking (and laughing) of his Liar video of him with his manical ear to ear smile... just fucking hilarious. 

Get the cool people to hang out with us!  Lol... wait- we ARE cool! Cooler than any of those dorks with ipods, and Beats headphones! (Yes, exponentially super-fuckin cooler than of those follower fools... they have no idea of why they are cool... WE DO!)  We just need to believe that we are, and not snobs. Didn't Corey Greenberg live that ethos?!  He left too early after spiking the punch...

 And I hate to say this, but you need to leave the suits for industry-only events... (and I just bought a beautiful CK suit yesterday)! (Sincerely no offense Bill... you look sharp as a mutherfuck!)

But we need to loosen the business aspect and downplay the age aspect...  unless you're at work and meeting with industry players.  I've been saying this to brick and mortar types for 25 years... and instead of catering to the highest denominators... cater to the LCD... Your store is still ultra-classy to impress, and a sweater gets it done just as well as a suit.  And start hiring hip, engaged individuals! If IT companies pull it off everyday... why not local dealers??

Just thinking out loud... and I haven't been high for weeks! Lol... 

 

John Atkinson's picture

Bill Leebens wrote:
such possibilities were explored back in the A5 days, and while I can't recall the per-page rate at the NYT, it was horrific. Somewhere between $35-$100k...which is a broad range, but my memory ain't what it used to be. It is a decent idea, and I'll look into it.

Obviously, as the editor of a "Buff Book" I have a dog in this fight. But all plans for outreach to a wider audience can't neglect the existing customer base.

An example: Back in the early 1980s, Quad in England decided to try to reach a wider audience for much the same reasons discussed in this thread. They canceled all advertising in specialty audio magazines and, instead, advertised in the program for the BBC Prom concerts, in other classical concert programs, and in daily and Sunday newspapers. That ad campaign was extremely expensive, but the yield, ie, number of new customers generated, turned out to be very low. And because Quad was no longer reaching out to their traditional customer base, its market share dropped faster than it could be replenished by new, non-audiophile customers.

There were other factors, of course, but I believe this strategy was one of the main reasons the company ended up being sold to IAG.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Bill Leebens's picture

...and frankly, one ad in one newspaper won't do diddly-squat. Given my previous experiences with industry and trade groups, I am highly skeptical that such a thing will ever come to pass in the audio biz unless a manufacturer or two with very deep pockets back it. Even then, other, smaller manufacturers may be disinclined to join, simply because of the larger company's influence.

I am reminded of the touring tractor-trailer displays from Pioneer, Kenwood, and other companies that visited my college campus back in the '70's. Something similar would likely be more effective than newspaper ads, but the cost per new customer would be huge. I can see this as an adjunct to a promo from Red Bull or Scion, but not run by a single audio manufacturer.

The last thing the industry needs to do is alienate the die-hard supporters. I understand the risk, and agree that caution is needed.

Bill Leebens's picture

Well, I have known some wacky Rabbis, but...

FWIW: the suits are largely for trade events. I view it as a way of saying that I take the industry and the job seriously, even if I don't take myself too seriously. Admittedly, that distinction is lost on many people, who seem shocked to discover that I don't have a 2 x 4 embedded in my intestines.

I also think it shows respect for my colleagues. Living in Florida, my daily attire is shorts and t-shirt, barefoot if possible. I don't feel the need to show respect for Floridians, which you probably understand if you follow the news at all.

Anyway, enough about ME. Thanks for the compliment. I think.

There is a shift in the industry, which is inevitable when many of the old guard (meaning, even older than ME) pros, dealers and manufacturers are retiring and/or dying. I'm afraid that most of us don't seem to retire until we die, which is either proof that we love what we do, or an indication that even 7-11 won't hire us to be the token grumpy old guy who bitches about all the goddamned Powerball tickets he has to sell.

There is also the skipped-generation phenomenon, which I mentioned earlier. The children whose parents grew up in the CD era are reviving vinyl, partly due to sound-quality and the whole cover art/liner-note thing, partly as a screw-you-Dad thing. Whatever the reason, the trick is to utilize and capitalize upon that and the Beats experience to introduce real listening to a new audience. That's an iffy thing, given the number of attractions and distractions competing for attention these days. I can't say that even my own children really get it--yet-- other than the occasional  foray to see how Mary J. or Deadmau5 sound on "the Dad system".

I can tell you that this won't happen smoothly, or without bumps in the road. There will be resistance which will have to be overcome. Yes, we will have to have more popular artists willing to step up to the plate and proclaim the necessity and value of good sound-- and in my experience, most are unwilling to do so without the incentive of stacks of Benjamins, something in short supply within the industry.

We also need to overcome the division that exists between "audio" and "high-end audio". I have tremendous respect for companies that seriously pursue perfection, no matter what it takes; I also have tremendous respect for those who provide tremendous bang for the buck, which requires just as much dedication as the "ultimate" approach. Maybe even more.

If it is indeed all about the music, then we need to lose the snobbery, and recognize that a couple hundred bucks' worth of 'phones and amp are valid, not something to sneer at. Similarly, that kid with the Craigslist NAD amp may well be tomorrow's megabuck system-owner.

And even if they're not, they still deserve to be treated well, and welcomed.

Unless they're a Justin Bieber fan. Then we should shun them. ;->

Glotz's picture

One of the most fun posts... EVER!  Great stuff Bill! 

But yeah, we're all getting older.. at 44, with a full grey beard for 10 years (I must have a condition!), I am really worried for the industry in the next 20 years.

I think the language much of the industry uses to woo audiophiles needs to change.  The one recent audio convert I have under my belt was upset at the over-zealous marketing-speak in his Musicdirect catalog, and I see a lot of the dangerous language peppered all over various magazines.  There are no rules for distys or mfgs, however. 

Marketing that promotes better sound needs to be value-driven and realistic in its tone. 

I've lived in Florida (Clearwater/Tampa/St. Pete) briefly, and they all need to be treated like Rodney! 

Oh, PS- my name is Jeff.  

Bill Leebens's picture

Thanks, Jeff.

Earlier in this thread there was a rather hair-splitting discussion of the distinction between science and the scientific method. I think taking a bigger and perhaps less-dogmatic view of the Big Picture might be useful for those of us who ponder what we know in audio--or at least, what we THINK we know.

This TED video featuring neuroscientist Stuart Firestein provides a lot to think about. It reinforces my view of science and engineering, namely that it's not about rigidly carving in stone that which we know, but about exploring what we think we know, and that which we know we don't know.

http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_firestein_the_pursuit_of_ignorance.html?...

Firestein points out (correctly, I think) that "knowledge is a big subject; ignorance is a bigger one". He also quotes Erwin Schrödinger as saying that much of science is simply "abiding by ignorance"-- which I may use as a title, if I ever write an autobiography.

The idea that "the more we know, the more we know that we don't know" is not a new one. One Einstein quote which I've repeated many times through the years is,
"as a sphere of light expands, so, too, expands the sphere of darkness surrounding it." Physicist Freeman Dyson came to realize that tests of nuclear devices were futile, simply because each new test resulted in new areas of enquiry which required more tests to answer--and that such a string would go on ad infinitum.

Some may view such a continual, open-ended quest for knowledge as frustrating. It is for me one of the joys of audio, or any subject worthy of investigation. To me, audio is also a joy because it combines the art of music with the science of physics (and math, and much more). It's both left-brain and right-brain. 

How many fields can say that?

Glotz's picture

Love the video.

And I have always felt that our love here is the only one that marries art and science so well.  

And in the last 30 years, Stereophile has single-handedly taught me that we know relatively little about quantifying sound, but the effort is justified.  

JA has really effectively communicated much of the importance of measuring components, though it is apparent that gear often defies explanation in its delivery of great sound.

This month's review of the Croft integrated amp is a current example.  It looks like a sound design, and the point wiring really inspires confidence, and the RCA jacks are a nice touch over the board mounts usually in this price range.  

The measurements are another story, but again, 2 separate reviewers exclaim they love the amp.

I believe their ears first, despite measurements telling us that ears are crazy.

Louis Motek's picture

I once tried my own hand at something similar to what the TED talk was emphasizing with regards to Olfactory sensitivity and our ability to interpret such small differences and to afford them such large intpretive meaning. 

I wrote it to help enlighten to the skeptical public the audiophile cause:

http://www.monoandstereo.com/2011/04/micro-vibrations.html

------------

With regards to JA's "dog in this fight," I can't but help seeing a business opportunity here. The advertisers in every audio publication would love to, for the same cost, also receive wider publication in the form of some sort of pooled mainstream advertisement to help promote our cause. Think audiophile shows and how they advertise their own efforts of advertising the show exhibitors. How they advertise to the exhibitors how much wider audience they are drawing in. How they advertise that they are expanding awareness among the larger public. 

If, as earlier stated here, the audiophile press always was and remains "the trend setters and the proverbial consortium," then the audiophile press could pool all of their advertisers together, raise all of their rates by (I'd say maximum) $50/month (or whatever it comes to), and publish, all together, the mainstream public awareness campaign, without losing anyone in the process of having to choose.

I believe that a ralying cry could be well formulated to ring all of our viewpoints in encore. "It's all about the music" as headlined above in my "vision ad" is one main point. Another could be this fascination with the parameters which result in sonic differences (but that travels into Geek territory where one must tread with utmost care if at all -- better not go anywhere where there would be any differences of opinion at all). Our rallying cry is just "let's get good sound". Because that's what differentiates us from the mass market, otherwise we'd all be rich!

Crucial to the success of any publication of any public awareness campaign would be that all logos would be of equal size. Just as soon as you put an umbrella around it, and emphasize any one company or publication more than any other, you are going to have meetings, arguments, and as history has shown, failure for sure. Some will not want to be associated, etc. etc. and it never ends.   

Louis Motek

Louis Motek's picture

... the trick is to utilize and capitalize upon that and the Beats experience to introduce real listening to a new audience.

The dilemma here is that the "Beats" example represents a well-choreographed, highly visible public awareness campaign that drove home, on M-TV in a concentrated effort to raise public awareness, not the aspect of sound quality, but of big headphones as a lifestyle accessory for one to wear in public, on the street, in your personal favorite color. 

What's our corollary, what lesson do we draw from this, when our goal is spreading interest in better sound quality? Rolex does not advertise clock accuracy. That's waaaaay too geeky (and never would justify their prices).

Rolex instead advertises as follows (this is verbatim from a two page ad in The Economist):

"Why this watch? This watch is a witness. To words that moved nations. It's dared men faster. Further. Worn by luminaries. Visionaries. Champions. It doesn't just tell time. It tells history."

Beats effectively says (and here I'm making this up, but it's the thought that matters): "Wear these headphones and you'll be hip like us, like Dr. Dre, like the successful M-TV artists whom you see wearing these things all over the place."

In effect, in both the Rolex and Beats examples, it is exactly the same ad promotion tactic: One says "be hip like today's chart-toppers" and the other says "be hip like those who make history."

Audiophile industry ads needs to find their own rallying cry. They will never appeal to people who don't otherwise already have an inclination to listen quite intently to music.

This is a special type of person. (I'm not saying he's an elitist type; I'm just saying this person is different from the one who wants to be hip like those on M-TV or the person who wants to be hip like those who have made history.)

So when we say "we need to capitalize upon the Beats experience" I believe it is a marketing lesson just like any other. Find your target by defining who he is, first; then you'll understand how he thinks and most importantly, what he cares for. Then you will say "Hey, we care for that, too. We're together. Come, check us out!" 

 

Louis Motek

Bill Leebens's picture

Glotz: after playing with gear for 40-something years, I'm convinced that whether it should or not, whether it makes sense or not...in audio, everything matters. Everything. Topology, layout, components, board type, no board, casework, high-mass, low-mass, whatever.

Sometimes the things we think should matter turn out to be not so important. Sometimes an element works fine in layout A but sucks in layout B. Ultimately, every design, whether it's $200,000 or $200, has compromises and trade-offs. That's the nature of reality: just when you think you've got everything under control, you become aware of a zillion other things which you'd previously thought were insignificant.

Oh, well. That's where the whole "blend of science and art" thing comes into play.

Louis: I truly appreciate your enthusiasm. Having been involved in previous group efforts...I'm a little skeptical both of the ability to make things happen, and of the ultimate effectiveness of such efforts.

I'm not trying to be a downer. I am, however, really at the "show me the money" stage of my life. ;->

Louis Motek's picture

Well, in line with your seasoned views, Bill, $35,000 divided by 50 USD contributions would need 700 participants. Those would necessitate very small logos indeed.

 

Louis Motek

Bill Leebens's picture

Louis-- exactly. I believe I used the term "micro-dot-sized" before. I think working from the existing base of supporters that we have within the industry, and from this magazine, would make more sense.

 

We'll see!

dalethorn's picture

This article just got posted on Facebook, and now drifting down to the comments .... oh, the angst!! It reminds me of a story where a fan of an ancient prophet bought some expensive gift items, and proceeded to lavish those gifts on her favorite prophet. But this prophet was known to be rather frugal, and in his speeches he exhorted his followers to refrain from accumuation of weath, and to give all possible to the poor. So the prophet's associates, seeing that this woman was wasting money lavishing expensive (and expendable) goods on a man who ostensibly rejected such things, called out to the woman to stop, and instead sell the items and give the proceeds to the poor.

And then the prophet shocked his associates by saying "The poor will be around long after I'm gone, so let's worry about them tomorrow, and for now let's have a party" (quote approximate). There have been countless misinterpretations of this story, or the moral of the story, and yet it's simple enough: There is no fixed amount or even a percentage of your discretionary money that's appropriate for buying audio gear, when there are people starving in (fill in the blank). You decide what's appropriate, and if you go overboard, either your karma will catch up to you or you'll die and someone will get a heckuva deal at the estate auction.

nunhgrader's picture

Some of these comments remind me of the schoolyard again :)

Bill Leebens's picture

Thanks, gents-- anything I say will likely be subject to massive misinterpretation, so I'll just say, thanks for your input!

;->

Glotz's picture

What's really interesting is that Henry Rollins finally took the dive into audiophilia (scary term) out of necessity, in lacking accurate sound reproduction out of the studio.  His LP’s fizzled instead of rocked. He loved Led Zepellin. He wanted to hear more of it, and develop a deeper intellectual and emotional connection to the music. 

When he finally could afford great gear, he went all in. It brought him to the Promised Land.  It takes that one great experience to effect that change of attitude.  We need a lot more of that.

What about the joy of not going all in, but dipping your toes in with great vinyl playblack for $400, or cables in audio or even experimenting with DIY creations of your own for minimal investment.

If it's the subjective enjoyment of music is increased for a closer relationship and for entry level amount, we need to translate that for others; whether it be pro or dj, rock legend or garage band guitarist, or just a someone that needs to discover more of their music. 

There must be a way to get other voices of art and music to be more willing to talk of their musical roots, and their journey with technology as well.  As We See It is a great gateway, and should be broadened further. What about more SM doing a show series- Turning On Music Lovers?

IMO, messaging here in the pages of Stereophile and in marketing, should be a drawing a larger distinction of to what to expect from between Stephen's musically engaging system sound, and Henry Rollin's musically engaging but, hologram-in-a-room system sound.  

Something special in the ether needs to come about to bring a bonafide buzz to the industry.  What about a viral video of JayZ listening to MF's system?  It's not far from the cable guy sitting on my couch tripping out to the melifluous sounds of the Magnepans.  Here a chance situation opened up a marketing opportunity.  How that's capitalized is not my guess... 

Bill Leebens's picture

I think opening our hearts, minds and living rooms pretty much covers it.

Thanks for your efforts, and your input!

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