High End is On Its Way Out? Letters part 2
Editor: Barry Willis's commentary predicting the imminent extinction of the "audiophile" (April, p.3) was alarming and thought-provoking. But Barry might have jumped the gun. Let's not forget that the improvement in the musical experience that audiophile systems afford is mostly appreciated while listening to classical and jazz—decidedly mature musical tastes. I mean, how much can grunge, heavy metal, and rap benefit from a great sound? The other issue is disposable income, which grows with age.
If there is a problem with this hobby and industry, it is putting the cart before the horse: A passion for high-quality sound reproduction sounds hollow if it does not stem from an insatiable love for music. Most everybody likes music (just like Barry's stepson), but being an audiophile is about loving music (at least, I hope that's the case). It's hard for me to imagine a true music lover who does not long for a higher reproduction quality, even if he or she cannot afford it at the time.
It is up to Stereophile and other high-end publications to make it easier for music lovers to own audiophile systems by reviewing components and systems that mere mortals can afford. Dare I suggest starting a new magazine? With Stereo Review out of the picture, it may not be such a crazy idea.
Keep up the good work; I'm a big fan. And more music reviews, please.
—Alicia Sorensen, Arlington Heights, IL
The death of classical?
Editor: Last week I had the pure pleasure of experiencing Radu Lupu performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto 3 with Essa-Pekka Salonen in Los Angeles. However, I could not help but notice I was one of only a dozen under-30-year-olds in the audience—the average age seemed to be 60! Do I dare do the math? Who will be in the audience in 40 years? Anyone?
Editor: I was deeply disturbed by Dan D'Agostino's statement in the April Stereophile, as reported by Barry Willis (p.3). There are no Generation X audiophiles? Well, excuse me, Mr. D'Agostino. I am 29 and enjoy going to jazz and classical concerts and attending ballets, operas, and plays. Unfortunately, living in Silicon Valley doesn't allow me and my wife to attend as many of these events as we would like to. But that does not mean we don't appreciate great performances or music.
—Frank Cheng, Palo Alto, CA
Generation X alarmism
Editor: After reading Barry Willis' "As We See It" in April, I couldn't help but wonder about some of the metrics Mr. Willis uses to measure the demographics of the High End. Fretting about the future of high-end audio based on the fact that only pre-Boomers were attending an opera seems somewhat alarmist. Possibly, it provides some interesting insight into what Mr. Willis perceives as normal behavior for an audiophile. But, thinking back to the various opinions and attitudes one encounters near the High End, Mr. Willis is not alone in his restricted view of who are candidate audiophiles.
Perhaps if we broaden the rules of eligibility for entry to our obsessive hobby, we might find more potential members, increasing the odds of its survival.
—Bruce Martineau, Greely, ON, Canada
The price of entry?
Editor: In reference to the CES Report in April (Vol.22 No.4):
Krell's MRA Reference amplifier at $120,000 costs as much as my garage, and Burmester's Reference Line System at $250,000 costs as much as my sports car.
With the high cost of high-end audio equipment these days, I'll have to fire my chauffeur and drive the car myself.
—Maron Horonzak, Stoutsville, MO
The bumbling Beavises
Editor: In response to April's "As We See It," it is true that there are very few young audiophiles. The High End eludes many young people, not simply because of its high prices, but because of their attitude toward the arts. Products of a Rolling Stones generation that still believes Elvis lives, many young people have never been exposed to any high-quality music, live or recorded.
I am a 23-year-old audiophile. Of the hundreds of people I know, only one other person in my age group (aged 27) shares my interest in superior sound reproduction. I even know salespeople who work in audio shops who prefer the louder, more affordable, and acoustically challenged low-end products. It seems most young people believe all the mass advertising, and that a Bose surround system is the pinnacle of high-end performance. (I cringe at the very thought—or, worse, sound—of such a thing.)
I thank my mother for the many times we attended the symphony in my youth, and for her encouragement to play the violin. (I was playing professionally by the age of 10.) Mostly I thank her for surrounding me with good music and culture. While I do not have a reference-quality system—JoLida 502a, NHT Super-Zeroes, and SW3P sub—everyone who listens is amazed at what a "Recommended Components" system sounds like. But when they discover the $1000+ price tag of a decent integrated amplifier, they argue that for only a few hundred dollars they can get a loud surround-sound system...speakers included! Sound quality is not even a consideration. Instead, it is a popularity contest to see who can get the loudest, most-advertised piece of junk.
I love the beautiful sounds of high-end audio. I will continue to upgrade my system despite being the subject of much mockery due to the price of good equipment. (Next component: a Naim CD player.) And I will continue to argue that the High End is relevant! But for my one set of ears, there are hundreds of bumbling Beavises out there who are content with low-end systems.
If it was up to young people, high-end audio would not even be missed.
—Mike Hill, Anchorage, AK
Editor: You mentioned a couple of times the fact that there will be no Generation X audiophiles. I think, however, I can prove you wrong. At only 16, I am greatly engrossed in the audio hobby. Thank you for a publication that helped to shape my views and purchases. Keep up the great work.
—Name withheld by request