Are Hi-Fi shops obsolete?

Are Hi-Fi shops obsolete?
Completely obsolete
13% (33 votes)
Becoming obsolete
21% (54 votes)
There will always be a place for them
67% (176 votes)
Total votes: 263

In the responses to last week's poll, one reader stated: "It is easier to buy and sell through the Internet. Hi-Fi shops are obsolete."<P>Is this true, are Hi-Fi shops on the way out?

Francisco Valery's picture

You can buy almost anything on the net, but there will be stores forever. Why? because some people need to see, touch, and, in serious hi-fi, hear what they are buying. On the other hand Hi-fi shops are becoming obsolete for a different reason: the entire hobby (at least for now) is totally out of fashion, people put portability and ease of use over quality. Hi-fi is a lot of things interrelated (cables, tracking force, jitter, balanced ins and outs, class A, A-B,D amps and so on) that the new generations suddenly doesn´t want to know more about: teens and young people only want to know about gigabytes, hard disk, digital,USB, etc, and the net puts them in the middle of the action!

craig's picture

It used to be that I could find audio shops where you were treated like a guest, even if you were not ready to buy that day. The first big change now is that audio shops (ie no home theater), are just about gone already. Secondly, if they don't smell a quick sale they don't want to spend any time with you to cultivate a future sale. So, because of all of the above I chose "Becoming obsolete"

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.  View, CA's picture

It may be easier to buy over the Internet, but it isn't easier to audition over the Internet. One can trust the judgement of reviewers and base a purchasing decision on positive reviews, but that is still risky. How will the equipment sound in your system in your room? Will it be properly set up? Hi-Fi shops, at their best, will take the time to find out what the customers needs and expectations are and take care of said needs and expectations. This is something that will not happen over the Internet. Hi-fi shops sometime do not live up to their potential. Which, to some extent, explains the popularity of hi-fi Internet shopping.

Joe Hartmann's picture

With the price of equipment today I hope my fellow audiophiles trust their ears before the commit their cash. If that becomes the rule, I am no longer willing to participate

DAB, Pacific Palisades, CA's picture

Independently owned hi-fi shops, courtesy of the Internet, are certainly becoming more and more sparse as many have gone out of business. That said, I have come across a few very fine hi-fi shops in my area (I live on the LA coast). Thank goodness, the brick-and-mortar hi-fi shop that I have frequented for the past 25 years is still doing a booming business and is just a couple of miles inland from my home. In fact, I purchased a fabulous Koetsu cartridge over the weekend. Online? No way; I bought it from "Mom and Pop."

Chris Kenney's picture

As long as any product is sold, a store will always be an option. Having the opportunity to hear the equipment solidifies your reason for buying it. If available within reasonable distance and priced fairly, I will give business to a storefront dealer.

Woody Battle's picture

There is a place for them in big cities. But, there needs to be some recognition by the manufacturers and the press that not everyone lives in or near a big city.

G.K.'s picture

Thinning out because everyone thinks iPod is good enough. The younger generation is missing out because they are never exposed to good sound. And the high prices will scare them away. Besides, hearing rap without booming bass will not sound right to them. Pity, because they will never be exposed to great music with more then a 8 bar repeated line. Their short attention span is keeping them from the ability to take in eal music. Harmony, counterpoint, more then three chords? What’s that? And we think that high-end can stay alive ? I give it maybe 15-20 years and high-resolution playback will go the way of the tape deck. Why ? Because nobody will care by then. And when they hear their crappy mp3 files on a good system it will not sound as good as on their iPod. So why upgrade?

Robert's picture

There will always be a place. However, the economic model under which they currently operate is well and truly obsolete.

Andrew Maher's picture

No. I need to hear a piece of equipment before buying it, and you cannot do that over the Internet.

John S Grek's picture

As long as you "give them the business" and you need help, they will be around.

JanVanB's picture

Here in Holland (The Netherlands) the number of hi-fi shops is still the same as 10-15 years ago, but some shops reduced opening times or wanna make an appointment.

Tim Bishop's picture

They may become a bit more thinned out, but like mechanical watch repair (and dealers), there are still many who will support them.

SteveO's picture

In an MP3 obsessed world, where else is an audiophile to go?

Will Lowe's picture

So long as shops provide knowlegeable sales people and good service, hi-fi buyers will be willing to pay a premium to support them.

Perry Noblett's picture

Since most of us do not have the luxury of attending trade shows, CES, etc, hi-fi shops are needed for inspiration, if nothing else.

Mike Agee's picture

One type of shop that might serve as a gateway drug for more converts would be a comfortable shop selling discs of all stripes that is awash in great music (and coffee, maybe) played on a fine but modest system (Rega, say), the brand of which plus a few ancillaries is available for sale too—for the customer who doesn't yet realize they want to fuss. If the visitors to my house are any indication, there is an untapped clientele out there for hi-fi.

R.  F.  Sayles's picture

Like record shops, If a hi-fi shop is merely a middleman adding his expense of a brick-and-mortar to the cost of a product, many of us have already shown that we have little use for them. The Internet has killed the appliance store mentality. On the other hand, a competently experienced and thoughtful hi-fi store may just be helping save our beloved hobby by helping a customer build a system to grow with and continue wringing out that last bit of value from each purchase. Happy listening!

Douglas Bowker's picture

Their is a limit to what online store can offer. If you already know what you wan,t that's one thing, but if you're going to make a serious purchase you need to hear it. It's what buying hi-fi is all about, right? Hearing music? Online's not so good for equipment demos...

Al Marcy's picture

Hi-Fi is fun, but, nobody has any interest in fun, anymore ... whatever happened to all the FZ in the world?

Jim Dandy's picture

We all need to encourage and support our hi-fi shops. The Internet is a valuable tool. However, nothing replaces a live demo and the opportunity to see and touch the gear you're considering. And what about the added value of discussing gear with experienced people who actually know something about this stuff? If anything, we need more hi-fi shops!

Robert, Philadelphia, PA's picture

Places where the wife acceptance factor can openly be discussed will always be in demand to some degree.

sammy's picture

Personal experience is the only way you can be convinced to spend a substantial sum of money on hi-fi systems.

Erik's picture

It really depends on where you live. In Seattle, there are quite a few. Where I lived in California, nothing like it existed. I would have had to travel at least 50 miles to find one!

Tom B.'s picture

Many purchasers of hi-fi components audition many components before making a decision because they make their decision based on sound. Traditional retailers will continue to meet these customers' buying patterns—it is not possible to audition products over the Internet. The argument that the Internet will replace traditional retailers in hi-fi is no more valid than the argument that the Internet will replace retailers in other product categories, and probably less so because of the need to listen to the product before buying it.

Dave in Dallas's picture

There is nothing like being able to audition high end audio components in a well designed show room, but my guess is real high-end shops will become fewer and farther between. That's sad, but the public's lack of interest and perceived high prices of audio components is the double whammy that is killing a lot of these businesses. I hope some of the smarter operators will survive by offering better service and a good selection of budget gear, but this may be wishful thinking on my part.

TK's picture

I bought the Oppo and the Audioengine 2 without hearing them. About $200 each. There is no way I'd drop a couple of grand that way.

Ray's picture

What? Buy it then listen to it? NO! Listen first, then purchase—that's very hard to do online.

JEAN's picture

If you listen on the net for high-end gear, you gotta problem.

Mike J's picture

Always at least need an option to buy high-end gear and have someone install and test it. Would hate to have to wall mount a 60" Plasma. And I still like to hear the speakers myself.