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??"

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:
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?



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.


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:



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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