Is high-end audio on a roll or hitting the skids?

With the advent of home theater and Internet audio, doomsayers claim that high-end audio's days are numbered. But new high-end audio companies seem to appear at a rapid clip, and vinyl continues to thrive. So is high-end audio gasping for breath or breathing easy?

Is high-end audio on a roll or hitting the skids?
It's doing great
6% (9 votes)
It's doing fine
34% (49 votes)
It's doing so-so
30% (44 votes)
Not doing so well
16% (24 votes)
It's pretty bad
10% (15 votes)
It's dead
3% (5 votes)
Total votes: 146

jay's picture

Just look at levinson the high end audio has changed maybe for the best, Mad price audio has gone people what vaule for money,I think people have seen past these magazines which ask no question about the business the way they work

Anonymous's picture

It seems the companies that are really making money in the high-end business are the audio cable folks. I find that a sad commentary about high-end.


Despite of the new technologies like MP3, home theater and internet, people always notice the quality of a good record or an equipment. Even the most deaf of the persons can hear a diference between a well-recorded CD and the same well-recorded CD converted to MP3.

A.  Clark's picture

My guess is the high-end is made up of mostly older people like me. I get the picture from most of what I read that the younger group is into other stuff and not just music and hi-fi.

Evan M.'s picture

Even over the last five years, I have noticed the price vs performance ratio change—there are many incredible products out there at prices that actually give you pride of ownership equal to that of overly-expensive gear (Bryston amps, for instance). Good results can be achieved even with relatively inexpensive systems—retailers should just make sure people know how to set up their gear to get the most from it.

O Jorgensen's picture

I'm running a hi-fi shop. Over the last couple of years, there have been an increasing number of customers asking for mid-range to high-end equipment.

John Shinske's picture

I have noticed that my local high end store does not carry as many very expensive models as they use to. They also carry more home theater gear than before. I think of the high end audio cycle similar to a stock market correction. High end audio was booming in the 1990s but has since slowed. I'm sure it will pick up again after the home theater fad slows down.

Michael Clay's picture

For recordists, high end audio is getting cheaper. For under $10,000.00 you can put together a very decent recording system that will deliver at least 24/96. 192 systems are also easily had by most recordists and producers. It seems as though audiophilia (?)is being inflated out of existence. I am a professional musician with ears as trained as anyone's. And my Yamaha Z1 through B&W 704s sounds great. Most of the people I know consider my system too expensive. Your mag would laugh at it. That's why super high end has to have such inflated prices. If you only sell 10 turntables a year, better charge $20,000.00 for them. Thank you

Steve's picture

I don't know the sales statistics, but I'd venture that with the Bush tax cuts for the super rich, more of these lucky devils will be buying more very expensive gear.

Garry Pisarek's picture

Costs are to high

Chris's picture

It depends on the state of the economy.

Pittsburgher's picture

The boomers are finding many other techno-ways to spend their money, and high-end audio is dropping on the list of priorities.

Mark Weissman's picture

Been at this hobby 30 years and the equipment, although expensive, is better than ever.The sound I hear now is far superior than what I heard just a decade ago.

Serpieri's picture

But, of course, never as good as they would like to be doing.

Gerald Neily's picture

Bose seems to be the only company that isn't living in a cult niche fantasy world. But maybe that's the way it has to be.

Jared Gerlach's picture

It's either not getting to enough people or not enough people get it!

TCinCbusOhio's picture

Here's my take on high-end audio, I'm 34 and grew up with music. Before I was driving, I had my first JVC receiver, AAL speakrs, Toshiba auto reverse casette deck, Pioneer straight arm anti-resonance direct drive turn table and a BSR 10 band EQ. Since then, I've gone through many systems. In college, I upgraded to Yamaha's Natural Sound receiver. Great dorm parties (still using the AAL's). Now I am looking to upgrade my Sony STRDE 925 (budget 110Wpc) receiver to either a top-end receiver or separates. The problem is where to shop. The high-end audio places carry Onkyo's version of Lexus, which I'm not impressed with, and Denons that get so-so reviews because they've gone the way of Sony mainstream. Krell? Who sells Krell other than what you see in magazines? A customer of mine had a Krell amp and 6' electrostatic speakrs with a Pioneer Elite receiver. They were playing it so softly that they might as well have had a clock radio on. You just can't demo this stuff. I make over $130,000 a year and am ready to buy a nice system. My choices from demos are B&K's A/V receivers, and the Denon 5803 which seems outdated. Rotel seems nice, but who knows where to find it or listen to it? Separates are cool, but no one carries McIntosh around here and I'm not going for the used eBay gamble. You want to keep the market intact with the younger crowd, then set up shops locally and advertise to me. Columbus, Ohio isn't really a cow town, is it?

Eric Moss's picture

Every generation has fans of esoterica who wonder if they are the last generation. I bet this question was asked every year (month?) since the LP12 came out. Now we are several generations of improvement beyond that, but we'll never grow beyond the self-doubt. Maybe that's what keeps us alive.

Richie Duroseau's picture

There is a changing of the guard and at this minute it is gasping for breath but it might do well in the future as home theater brings a new awareness about all things video and audio. Videophiles have already better audio systems now than they used to just watching television. A fraction of them is bound to get interested in high end audio.

Dennis's picture

It's doing great within the small, limited constraints of this boutiquish industry. There is more of a choice of excellent high-end gear than I can remember from recent years. I think that, as technology advances (iPods), people have more choices of low-end, mediocre gear, which, I believe, makes them happy too!

J Schuster's picture

High end audio is choking on it's own excess. The boutique over the top pricing, has hurt it badly. It used to be a lot of fun when for a few hundred dollars you could make a change and usually for the better. Now with the kilo-buck equipment and the snob attitude that goes with it, potential consumers are being driven away. There needs to be a determined effort by the more succesful hi end manufacturers to make more realistically priced products with good sound. Everybody has been so fascinated with the pinnacle, that they've forgotten how to pave the road to get there. When we have equipment priced more than the average car, how many younger people will even have a look, let alone be tempted. Everybody likes goals, but they have to be obtainable. All we're doing is scaring the bejeezus out of them. As the baby boomers age, they're loosing interest as well. A vicious cycle. Time to start advertising to the unconverted, and time to have some fun with audio.

Glenn's picture

I believe a niche market for the high-end will continue to exist. However, there will have to be some contraction in the overall market place, as consumer interest shifts more to video and gaming for entertainment.

Chet's picture

It has been my observation that high-end audio purchsers tend to be classical or jazz music fans. (Or both) It is also my observation that less of the younger generations are fans of either of these classifications and that may portend a smaller market for high-end.

Keith Y's picture

We need more real music lovers to really hear the music.

Shlo Bar's picture

Its just about dead now - just read the reviews. None have the power to excite you anymore. None has any originality and all are boring as hell. So many companies try to cash in since the profits margins are huge, but that about that. My advise to everybody is; learn some electronic and build some by yourselves.