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deckeda
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As We See It

Many years ago, "despite" being fresh out of college, I landed what at the time was for me my dream job --- being a salesman at the one hifi shop that had long held wonder. I just knew it was my destiny to guide buyers (not shoppers, BUYERS) into better hifi. All they needed was a little help from someone who knew the way.

Anyone want to guess the reality, and why Iverson's "Here's how it works ..." depiction is similarly too naiive?

This is the real formula for getting people to acquire finer sound:

1) Prospective buyers need better sound demonstrated --- they must witness it and agree it sounds better.

2) Prospective buyers must care, or care enough, about better sound.

The mass market clientele is challenged by one or both of the above. We know money's not the issue --- look at all the other stuff they buy.

Jon, your otherwise fine piece assumes #2 isn't an issue, but in my experience it in fact looms larger than customers are willing to admit. The mass market would BE in the high end if that many people really cared.

Jon Iverson
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Re: As We See It

I can certainly sympathize with your thoughts here, since I ran my own high-end audio shop for many years.

I guess my point was not that we would end up with more audiophiles than ever, just that downloads were a new mechanism to keep audiophiles going for a few generations. I think by definition, there will only be a small percentage of audiophiles each decade.

I don't mention "Buyers" in my essay, since what concerns me is that folks be able to find music they like, with the result that some will naturally strive to hear it sound better. Nobody converted me into an audiophile on the sales floor - it was the natural and logical path set up by passion for my favorite music. Music drove me through the audiophile stages - the stores were just there to fill a need as I passed along.

I'm not sure we can ever create that need (or "buyers") from the top down. Downloads and music servers are another wonderful way to discover music. And a predictable percentage will be driven by their love of this music to improve the quality of the download and music server system. And others will love the music and go on about their other interests instead. It has always been this way, and probably will.

"The mass market would BE in the high end if that many people really cared." Very true, and I'm saying that what makes them care in the first place is access to music that turns them on, not a great demo in a store.

bifcake
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Re: As We See It

The problem is that most people don't sit and listen to music. They usually have music playing in the background while they're doing something else. Given that they don't listen actively, the consumer grade equipment is good enough. Now, considering that a consumer grade DVD/CD player is $50, if the high end player was in the $300 range, I think that a good portion of the people would pause and say, you know, I can afford to spend $300 if this thing is so much better. However, given that decent CD players start at around $500-$700 mark and shoot up geometrically, most people say: "Oh my god! This much money for a CD player? Sure it's better than my $50 unit, but it's not 10-14 times better".

In the end, it's not JUST about the price. It's what the average Joe perceives as the Price/Performance ratio and the affordability factor.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: As We See It

I really like JI's take on the current music scene, as sad as it is right now. I do agree with the comment by Kallman from Atlantic. With all the multi-tasking ( meaningless) going on these days it is no wonder we need a Garmin to remember how to get home? LOL

Kallman is right in that without better retail packaging being something a person might want to own and who hears their FAVs in a higher rez format and wants it will this change. I sure miss the days of the LP jackets and all (usually) the info in a type set I could still see without a magnifying glass.

Gaming has replaced music for all too many young people and I can't believe this is a good thing. There is certainly some level of humanistic disconnect, especially considering some of the gaming content.

Audiophile music experiences are like religion...you must join on your own terms, when you are ready as no one joined kicking and screaming. Maybe it should be: "Eat your brussel sprouts or else!". Na...that didn't work either! LOL

Tyll
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Re: As We See It

Just wanted to drop in and say that I really enjoyed JI's "A We See It" this month. 'Course that's no surprise; HeadRoom tends to embrace the whole "computer as source" thing.

I tend to think that "Audiophile" is not just a lover of audio; we're also lovers of gear. Generally, I think if someone loves music and realizes that they're going to have to go somewhere other than WallMart to get good sound, they end up going to Circuit City. If they then further realize they're still not there, they are going to have to start doing some deeper research. They'll either go to the web or to an independent stereo store. Good advice might get them steered into maybe some NAD electronic and PSB speakers. Now, unless your a geek gearhead, you're probably going to get satisfies with something around $5000 for a system. Then you'll have acceptable music in life, and you

smejias
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Re: As We See It

Thanks for this excellent post, Tyll. You've touched on a lot of things that have also been running through my mind lately, especially the idea that audiophiles are not only lovers of audio, but also lovers of gear. I agree with this completely.

Lately, for instance, I've been going absolutely cuckoo over the Red Wine Audio iMod. And I haven't even listened to it yet. I'm just thrilled by the idea of it, the thing itself, what it offers, what it might mean to certain audiophiles.

There is so much new, exciting, innovative gear being dreamed up and released right now. This, I think, is a very fertile time for audio. And that's the point Jon Iverson was really making. He writes, "The path to better sound and artwork is largely software-based, limited only by our access to bandwidth and the imagination and desires of the marketplace."

How exciting is that?!

showflash
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Re: As We See It

Hey Tyll,

Enjoy your HeadFi musings and am glad you stopped by here at Stereophile. Come back soon!

Tyll
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Re: As We See It


Quote:
especially the idea that audiophiles are not only lovers of audio, but also lovers of gear.

You can prove this by asking the quastion: Does the qulity of reproduction directly hinder you're ability to appreciate the art of the music. Indirectly, yes; but directly, no. I'm taking a couple of weeks off to re-wire my Land Cruiser and I'm streaming FIP (French hip radio) and I'm TOTALLY digging the tasty jams as I lay on my back under Ruby crimping wires. No, I'm loving the music on a 128kbs internet stream. So, for most, having a stereo that just behaves resonably well is pleanty.

But, I'm a geek. My garage squeezebox is digitally feeding one of our Micro DACs into a small quality passive switch/pre-amp into an old Audio Alchmey Overture OM150 power amp driving Mission built Cyrus 782 D'Appolitto configured speakers. It's a dandy sounding garage rig that only a geek would have the odds-and-ends gear lying around to assemble. And I even climbed up on my workbench to get you guys the model number of the Alchemy amp because I'm a geek, and I know the geek among you would appreciate it. And that's OK.

[edit: just realized I didn't prove my point] Because the ability to apreciate the art of music isn't directly related to the reproduction system performance (Muddy Waters is still largely great through a boom-box) then there must be a another value system at play. Could be convenience like in the case of an iPod; or mechanical precision (and the lusty appreciation of it) in the case of a Nagra; or subtle and tasty aural tweaks in tube biasing in the case of pure audiophilia.

So, gear that serves music in a varity of ways big and small, and the enthusiastic appreciation of the techniques used to get those services, are what we're about. It seems to me; imho; ect.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: As We See It

You are right in that the music industry and we have survived inspite of itself and we, the listening public, have heard a lot of great music on much less than Class A Sterophile audio systems.

With Clay and I listening to the top forty on WLS in Chicago on small transistor radios and in our swell car AM radio we all still survived.

Of course we wanted more and kept striving to get it, but we all fall short of the ultimate, but we deep down know that going in. What we do hear is pretty good, and yes, even I can tap my toes at a 192K download. I am guilty.

Your garage rig may be the tops. We may need a new category: High End Garage Systems.

Now if someone has a Squeezebox in the bathroom that may take the top prize! LOL

Tyll
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Re: As We See It


Quote:
Your garage rig may be the tops. We may need a new category: High End Garage Systems.

The only stipulation is a the gear has to be scavanged from gear lying around, currently unused.

I've got a distinct advantage there as I've got 14 years of corporat jetsom to rummage. The garage speakers are actually the first I got at HeadRoom; the passive pre is a discontinued product and I keep four or five around as they're so handy. The speaker cables are some big, fat Straight Wire Maestros, but the interconnects are Monsters I got a Radio Shack. Then I've got a $10 clock radio feeding another input on the switch with pretty nice Kimber Kable 1/8 to RCA cable. Sounds great with my head under the dash and my butt-crack in the air.

smejias
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Re: As We See It


Quote:
So, gear that serves music in a varity of ways big and small, and the enthusiastic appreciation of the techniques used to get those services, are what we're about. It seems to me; imho; ect.

Right on. I agree. There is the music and there is the gear, and there are the things we do to the gear to make it sound the way we want with the music we love. I think.

And then, there is also the emotional state of the listener/user.

Jon Iverson and I were exchanging e-mails about this, and Jon broke it down:

Man - the emotional state matters
Machine - matters, but not always
Music - usually matters, most of the time

The idea is that we're addicted to a high -- the hi-fi high, perhaps -- and both music and machine help us to achieve that high. The right mood, music, and system equals nirvana. If any one of those elements is not functioning properly, then we struggle to reach nirvana.

Jon suggested that mood and music can trump the system, and this can cause frustration for audiophiles. However, the system can certainly enhance the music, and this can cause frustration for budget-minded music lovers.

Which all makes good sense to me. And the best part of all is that we're living in a period that offers great access to tons of wonderful music and all sorts of technological innovations at affordable prices. Meaning: We should have a whole lot of happy music lovers and audiophiles out there.

Jon wrote:
"Like the growing army of up-and-coming audiophiles, I'm primed and ready for the future of audiophile downloads and music-streaming servers when it finally arrives. Let's encourage it---all audiophiles will eventually benefit, and our way of life will be preserved for another generation or two."

Tyll
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Re: As We See It


Quote:
The idea is that we're addicted to a high -- the hi-fi high, perhaps -- and both music and machine help us to achieve that high.

Yeah, there is such a thing as an eargasm. I think it's mostly in the artist/recordists hands, but superior gear does make it more likely. Getting serviced by your gear has a variety of meanings. Whether it's the extraordinary convenience of computer stuff, or the ecstatic lushness of a sweet SE rig, there's lots of lustworthy gear out there in a variety of places.

[edit]


Quote:
Let's encourage it---all audiophiles will eventually benefit, and our way of life will be preserved for another generation or two.

Humans are going to two ears on the side of their head and make music for a long time to come. I think Audiophilia will last as long, though it will change over time somewhat.

Tyll
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Re: As We See It

Geez! I just notice I've been bombarded by Slim and Sonos ads surfing around here. That ad revinue is just another example of digital folks recognising and forming new connections with audiophiles. It's another sign that an audiophile/computer convergance can be healthy: it evidently warrants commercial interest and activity.

RGibran
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Re: As We See It


Quote:
Now if someone has a Squeezebox in the bathroom that may take the top prize! LOL

Post Number 346

Jim Tavegia
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Re: As We See It

I knew you would find it. It has to be a Master Card commercial in the making...A Squeezebox in the bathroom...PRICELESS!

Thanks, you made my day.

DogOfDooM
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Re: As We See It


Quote:
..I guess my point was not that we would end up with more audiophiles than ever, just that downloads were a new mechanism to keep audiophiles going for a few generations...

I think there are some serious concerns that need to be addressed. In my opinion the source is the most important link in the chain and the most often overlooked. These are some of the questions I have:

Why would I invest tons of money on equipment to play a file of dubious and unknown origin?
Where are the data files originating from and what devices are being used to create them?
How do I check the integrity of the file for corruption to ensure an "exact" replica after the download?
How do I know which mastered version I'm getting?
Is this some bonehead sticking a CD in a computer and ripping a lossless file with Itunes?
What was the drive and it's offset?
What were the results of null checks and was one conducted?
Did the read and Write CRC's match and how can I create a CD that is an exact replica?

I've contacted several companies regarding their method of sourcing and got the usual "We do everything to ensure a quality download". Are they trying to appeal to "audiophiles", or people who think they're audiophiles. People of discrimintating taste realize that the best digitial versions of music are usually out of print or come from a dedicated audiophle label.

Sorry, I'm alot more retentive than that. It's quite an involved process even on my own equipment. If this is what an audiophile is willing to accept, count me out.

59mga
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Re: As We See It


Quote:

People of discrimintating taste realize that the best digitial versions of music are usually out of print or come from a dedicated audiophle label.

Gone are the days when a true audiophile considered off air (FM, now satellite) music only as background. Serious listening was only done via vinyl...or, better yet, live.

ipods, etc., to me are nothing more than updated versions of mono pocket transistor radios with a single ear plug. Granted, technology has greatly improved the sound but is this portable, compressed, computerized, digitized sound as good as one can get from a full blown "home" system?

The same theory applies to car audio. Just how good can car acoustics be?

I guess I'm just old school.

Elk
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Re: As We See It


Quote:
The same theory applies to car audio. Just how good can car acoustics be?


Think small, complex carpeted closet for a good simile.

It appears that the postings on this topic come down to whether one appreciates the iPod and its kin for convenience or whether the primary interest is best possible sound.

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