Some very interesting observations that Mr. Atkinson made in January's column exploring ways to bring a resurgence in demand for high end electronics among our younger generation. Respectfully, however, I disagree on one of his remarks concerning disposable income among today's youth. His belief that aging baby boomers are in a much more enviable position to buy what they want without second thoughts, citing the age group of attendees of a recent Cream concert as an example, conflict with mine. Seems to me, in my group of baby boomer friends atleast, they are just as limited in their disposal income as any other age group. In most cases, with impending retirement looming over them and the rising costs of every related aspect of growing old, it is even more so. They have to think twice, if not thrice, on spending anywhere from $250 to $4500 on attending a concert. Compared to a teenager willing to spend whatever to attend a 50cent concert, knowing some extra overtime will replenish the reserves, most babyboomers I know end up feeling quite guilty in having spent such an enourmous amount for a 'sin of luxury'. But they 'bite the bullet' because they also realize that as time goes by, the precious few sins they do have they have a limited time to enjoy. Additionally, in my opinion, there are two schools of thought. The Pursuit of Music and the Pursuit of Tone. Our generation chose the latter because uptill the late sixties, even though there was good music, there was no good tone or sound quality. Atleast not for the massess. Now, however, even a $200 pair of multimedia speakers sound better than a lot of similar priced components we had in our days. So why should the average youth spend thousands when he doesn't need to. And lastly, our life styles have changed dramatically. Gone are the days of 'sitting and enjoying hours of music'. Who's got the time? Certainly not todays youth. So why should they invest in such tools that are deliberatly designed to prohibit them from 'multitasking'?
Perhaps I fail to appreciate your sarcasm. If so, please forgive me. If not, then I need help understanding when "today's youth" lost their freedom of choice, why they have less time than previous generations did, and how they are demonstrating the benefits of all that "multi-tasking". I see no evidence that improved achievement levels in any area have resulted from them being so perpetually busy. "Who has the time?" is just an excuse.
Fortunately, not all of "today's youth" are into making excuses or seeing themselves as victims of the demands of today. I spent about an hour with a young HVAC technician recently talking about high-end sound. He had come to inspect our HVAC systems and was captivated by our sound system. Said he didn't see many like it in the homes he visited on business, but was saving so he could have one too.
There is hope. There may not be many like him out there, but there are some. Hell, there weren't so many of us out there in the 50's and 60's either.
Audio Cheapskate...no sarcasm was intended. Merely an observation. You do bring up a good point that making time to enjoy music is a choice available to our young and our old. My reference to 'multitasking' was meant more as a pun in terms of what is attached to the ear's of an avarage teen today than ever before. i-Tunes on their i-Pods, every imaginable ring tone downloadable on their cellular or wireless devices, flashing PDAs in hand and you tell me if those same set of ears are going to enjoy the subleties of good sound reproduction as the generation before. Any improvement in achievement as a result of such diversity I cannot say. But I do think their level of comfort in adapting to technological inventions is far greater than ours.
I'm not quite up with your argument that times are just as hard for boomers as they are for kids.
If we were to look across America at who can afford the luxury of Cream tickets or a swell hi fi rig, it will skew heavily in favor of the boomers.
That doesn't mean there ain't boomers who need to think twice or thrice about their budgets, just that, numbers wise, we have more readily available cash than younger folks.
Younger folks also face more non-audio decisions than I ever did.
In my day, the highest end trainer was a 20 dollar pair of P.F. Fliers or maybe some Chuck taylor All Stars. Now they gots Air Rapists at 300 bucks a pair to worry about.
Jeans stopped at Levi's for 22 bucks, now they have 200 dollar pairs of jeans that have been conveniently pre-stressed for the discerning wannabe.
We had no Walk man, iPod, computer, lap top, XM, Sirius, big screen high def TV, DVD, My Space, chat, text, Surround Sound, MTV, 500 channels, or cell phone to take our attention away from what the night DJ was spinning on the one cool FM station in town.
Music appreciation used to be exclusively a two channel non-visual thing to seek out and what we did was sit and listen to it.
Also, remember, we used to have to actually get together in person in order to hang out with somebody, which limited our conversations to the people on hand. Now, kids are hanging out with hundreds of peers at the same time - virtually, conversationally, etc...they have to work harder just to be hanging out than we did.
If I had had all those other choices as a "yout", I would have almost certainly paid some fraction less attention to the new Rick Wakeman LP on midnight radio than I did back in the day.
You are right, music is a choice available to young and old, but the young are faced with a vastly greater number of choices than we were, and budget management is no longer the simple matter of car, weed, chicks, tunes.
I bet kids today have a relatively larger investment in their computers than we did in our hi fi rigs. They are also faced with a quicker transition of their products from leading edge to obsolete.
My first turntable lasted me a decade. You know many kids with a Windows 95 based system? My first power amp served me in various systems and configurations from 1979 to 2002. A modern kid would be stuck punching holes card in "C" language if they tried to get that kind of mileage.
I think they've been taught that everything is more fleeting in its utility compared to how we approached our hi fi set-ups.
I'm sure people who grew up with no radio, TV, record player, or electricity looked at us and thought how frenetic we had become and how we lost touch with savoring a good read. It's a form of progress, I guess.
Me stop ranting now.
Excellent rant. Meeting on-line versus friends coming over to listen to music in our time has got to have a major influence on this hobby. Our type of meetings almost always led to a discussion or two on the merits of my system compared to yours...those were the days my friend.
I think you are dead right!
Hi Fi is a disease that requires person to person contact for adequate transmission!
Great rant Buddha. You must have a teenager or two running aroung the house. You hit on just about every point regarding the good ole days, but I would just like to add that IMHO we had more "listenable" music back in the day. The groups and individual artist too numerous to mention. Then again, perhaps it was the weed, which if of the proper origin, made one desire to do almost nothing else,...but listen. I certainly am not advocating the use of cannabis, just acknowledging that it certainly, in my view, slowed us down long enough to hear the music. One can only speculate as to whether this hobby, perhaps even this forum is not a side effect of that abuse!
I sure wouldn't be inclined to devote any resources toward attracting the under 32 crowd to good sound. I think the market that isn't being exploited is guys that have already had a surround sound system or two that they bought from one of the box stores.
You could spend a lot of money trying to convince the younger generation to appreciate good sound and go broke doing it. But, the over 32 crowd have already had a little experience with surround sound, Circuit City, Best Buy and the like. Those guys are ripe for an introduction into good sound and would be my primary focus if I were in the bidness.
I have a little faith in the stand alone home theater type of stores that are becoming a litte more visible. I think these guys can do a lot of good for the industry.
Despite there being more and better high quality sound equipment available now than at any time I can recall, it is hard to ignore current concerns about the impending demise of high end audio. JA points to the rise in the median age of subscribers over time, and we all see far fewer real high-end retailers than we did five or ten years ago. Addicted to music and audio, as I have been for more than forty years, I wonder why and how things got this way.
When I got involved, 78's had been replaced by the little 45's and the LP''s were mono. The music was good. The audio quest was for accuracy of timbre, low level detail, and a full tonal range. Ordinary sound was plug and play. Better sound meant assembling a combination of turntable, cartridge, amp, interconnects and speakers. You got help from the guy at the local hi-fi shop, but you generally had to commit to the individual parts of your system before hearing how they would all sound together. Upgrading piece by piece was inevitable - and great fun.
Then came stereo and I really got hooked. Imaging was added to the list of sought after characteristics in good sound. We began to learn about room acoustics and how little changes in speaker placement made big differences in what we heard from the sweet spot. Tweaks and upgrades went out in all directions as new products and new money became available, and for me, they still go on today.
How do today's young guys avoid being seduced the same way? Is it the music they're listening too? Does that stuff sound as good as it is going to no matter what you play it on? Except for Rap, I don't think that's it. Do they insist on one-box solutions? Certainly the Arcam Solo and its ilk lure them into pretty good sound about as close to plug and play as it gets. Is it because there's no "guy at the hi-fi shop" to let you hang out and listen to the cool music? I think that is part of the problem, but I don't know how to bring that guy and his shop back. There are still some shops but they generally don't want young guys with young wallets hanging around. Either they don't realize the long-range profits available from addicts or they don't care about anything long range.
I'm sure there are lots of factors involved, but I think the most important one is that for today's young guy the music alone just isn't enough even when it is played on a reference level system. They're the music video generation. Music may be OK, but music and nearly naked hot chicks is way better. The ears no longer decide. The eyes have it.
Stephen M, whom I consider an admirable representative of his generation and certainly one well acquainted with high end sound offers support for that conclusion. He reported in his blog a recent visit with Mark Levinson where he was treated to lots of music played through a Burwen Bobcat and some impressive reference level equipment. He told us a lot about what he saw and virtually nothing about what he heard. He even shared photos of what he saw on the assumption, one might suppose, that seeing was of paramount importance to us too. The next blog entry - a fairly long and well written one - dealt largely with a movie he'd seen. The ears no longer decide.
Is it reasonable for me to judge a group based on the behavior of one member? Of course not. Should I ignore it? I'm reluctant to when the person in question is one who is inclined to write about what is on his mind and is pretty good at it .
My guess is that Monty is right, the future of high-end audio, if it has one at all, is inexorably linked to video. I hate that, but who cares what I hate. I've had my fun. The young guy's votes seem to be in, and the eyes have it.
Really excellent post, Clay. You've inspired me to post another blog entry.
Though I do note your very good points, I didn't mean to suggest that seeing, in general, is more important than hearing. And it didn't occur to me - but maybe it should have - that my words would be an indication of a trend in the way a younger generation chooses to listen.
What I did mean to suggest was that, on this specific occasion, what I saw was of more interest to me (and maybe also to a certain potential group of readers) than what I heard. That's what I tried to convey, sacrificing much of the music and other details
Please pardon me. The items I have posted on this forum to date have been trite, angry and containing little explanation. With that in mind, I do apologize for the quality of my contributions. And please understand that I share your concern for the wellbeing of our hobby. However, I must admit that I find your post offensive. Well intentioned, but misguided by a fair amount of stereotypical thought processes.
(I will make use of a
Here's to you, Wonko!! Good Show! My fervent hope (and the hope for our shared hobby) is that there are lots more like you out there. Sorry if you found my musings offensive. I've been wrong before and probably will be again.
I've been wrong before and probably will be again.
As our man, Jon Iverson, would say: There is no wrong. There's only better.
And there's room for all of us to be a little better, right? No worries; we'll make it happen together.
Sorry if you found my musings offensive. I've been wrong before and probably will be again.
No worries here, I'm glad we had this chance to talk a little bit about music and sound.
And now, before people wind up with the mistaken impression that I am a reasonable, mature sort of person:
My fervent hope (and the hope for our shared hobby) is that there are lots more like you out there.
You must be old. I keep hoping for stunning, successful female surgeons who will be swept away by the beauty of HI-Fi, and my 9 year old Ford. There are enough ugly men of all ages in this hobby.
You surely do love a scrap, don't you Wonko? You bet I'm old, but I never watch sitcoms -with or without booze, and I already have a gorgeous wife who loves hi-fi. Cheers.
I've heard of those women who love hi-fi, but my shop doesn't seem to stock any.
And I do apologize for the old joke, it's not so much that I love a scrap, more that I can't help being a smartass. Anyway, Thanks for your tolereance.