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?

Dennis's picture

Never. Don't you even think of taking Roy at Audio Den away from me!

Gerry G's picture

Only an idiot would buy before hearing, and the best stores provide a great education. However, I would agree that there's not much room for bad or mediocre stores.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

Wanna hear before you buy? I do.

Wilfred's picture

The ultra-rich Robb Report customer wants to go to a boutique shop to receive personal service. Just as appointment-only watch shops, jewelry shops, exotic car dealers, yacht dealers, antique shops, designer clothes shops, etc, have continued to sell their products, hi-fi companies will sell theirs. The biggest problem for hi-fi shops is marketing. They need to reach the demographic that spends $500 on their evening dinners.

Glenn Bennett's picture

I hope in my next life I live in a little town that has one of the best hi-fi shops in the business. The latest purchases I have made have been on the Internet, but I would rather be able to see the equipment before I buy. But this is becoming very hard—if not impossible—to do. I am not fond of buying a component that has been tossed around by UPS from coast to coast. First hi-fi shops and then Tower. At least we do have stores on the Internet that give us 30 days to play with the stuff and return it if we don't like it. If that ever goes away we are really screwed!

df's picture

You can't hear, touch, experience gear on the web. All are key to any purchase of audio (or video) gear. Trouble is, the prices on the web are often so much better than the fading hi-fi specialty shops. It's a conundrum. I want those shops to stay in business—I like demoing the gear, talking shop with the sales guys, ogling the gear I can't possibly afford, and laying plans for the gear I can. But I confess, even I've gone, found the gear I wanted, then purchased it online saving myself a couple of hundred bucks. Not chump change. Hmmmm. I'll try and be a better citizen in the future. We need these guys.

John P.'s picture

Pseudo-savvy hi-fi nits have been announcing the final, irretrievable death of physical music products, audio shops, etc, for how many years now? Yes, sadly, the number of local hi-fi stores is permanently reduced. But many that have weathered the pseudo-modernism, cheap hype mentality storm thus far will be around for a long time, whether because they are located in major urban and suburban markets, do lucrative business in home theater which allows them to continue the hifi sideline, or whatever.

Brankin's picture

There will be a place for them, but most likely in large population centers or regions. Most folks today just don't give a hoot about high quality sound. They want cheap, generic sound and bonus points if you can hide the gear & speakers out of site. There will always be people who appreciate and are willing to pay for proper service and advice from a shop. And if you think you are getting "free shipping" or "free return" privileges, you hardly understand product pricing. That said, I agree that Internet transactions are easier and can be more convenient. Shops have to compete in all arenas and prove their worth. If they can't, they will go away, as they should in our economy.

radcliffe barnes 111's picture

If they continue to push the same business model, then yes. if they conform to lower profit margins and maintain service levels, then maybe no. The days when a consumer will deposit half the funds from his purchase into a dealers operating expense budget are finished. From what i've seen, they seem to prefer going bankrupt to evolving. it can't help when some consumers go in for an audition and then buy the product for less on-line, but considering how outrageous some dealers have been (these are the best speakers available under $2000., if you don't buy them you don't know what you're doing), I have trouble feeling any sympathy for some of them. Let's face it, with the preponderance of solid information and advice available in places like the Audiogon and Audio Asylum forums, a dealer's knowledge and help is just not as valuable as it once was.Sorry about the rant, had a bad dealer experience lately. Frankly, I can't tremember the last time I had a good one. My two cents only, God bless you if you have a good dealer in your area, I hope you support him.

Brian Pitz's picture

They are idiots. I would rather buy used and take the chance than buy from them. I have only recently found one (out of dozens in Manhattan) that is at all helpful. Good luck in staying afloat!

Dismord's picture

The institution will survive due not to hi-fi but to the expertise required in the installation of complex multi room audio visual systems. Changing the subject though, why is it ( well in my experience) that so many utterly insane individuals are attracted to the retail side of the industry?

Frank, Greenville SC's picture

Completely obsolete in my little part of SC. Closest hint if a hi-fi shop is 100 miles away.

Fernando's picture

People need to audition before they put down their green. Also, the dealers represent an important added value, and they are most likely to protect their livelihood.

EP's picture

In NY, there are still plenty of shops around where you can audition and purchase new equipment. However, if you are buying or selling used equipment without a need to audition it, the Internet puts the world at your fingertips.

Paul's picture

A difficult business as two-channel listening is beginning to disappear, and the public is being trained that low bit rate MP3s are "good enough." Survivors will probably be heavily into home theater and custom home prewiring.

F.  Chasinovsky, Van Nuys, CA's picture

Today's hi-fi shops, by and large, cater to those who have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on audio gear, often for one component. As times have become difficult for many people to make ends meet each month, including hi-fi shop owners themselves, I unfortunately do not see a viable future for such shops going forward.

CE's picture

Buy online, factory direct, listen at factory places. More efficient, less muss and fuss. When you eliminate a middle man, it's simpler.

macksman's picture

Always is a long time but despite the threat from China via Entropia, brick and mortar remains vital to our enterprise. Most of us are unable to meet and/or audition as many products and producers as our reliable distributors. Easier? I think not. More fun, certainly not. Though your avatar may have effectively infinite options for component matching in its virtually optimized auditioning/listening "space," how can you know whether to trust its hearing? I'll go sit, listen and talk with Mark and Gary, benefiting from their experience and expertise, and enjoy planning and choosing.

Bernard's picture

There is no other way for listening to the high-end stuff.

Peder's picture

How can you listen, touch, and feel equipment via the Internet?

Adam's picture

I hope there will always be a place for them, but I could see them more or less disappearing. That would be sad.

Travis Franklin's picture

I wanted to check "almost obsolete."

john watson's picture

I've been out of the loop for a few years. I tried to get back in, but wasn't impressed with the shops out there. Mom'n'pop sold out to corporate America and it shows in the salesmanship.

pankaj malhotra's picture

I want to see the product before I spend the money.

David's picture

Where else would we audition equipment?

John DeWit's picture

As the lower price line of hi-fi extends even lower, the manufacturers and the ever expanding chorus of "'philes" will need to be heard and listen. This can't yet be done on eBay. I think the paradigm for high-end retail audio must change, but it will survive until we can audition equipment in Poughkeepsie from Abiquiu.

Patrick neilson's picture

How else can you do a listening test in anything like a domestic room environment?

Harold's picture

Just like buying a car, you always want to try it before buy it.

pseudonymn's picture

The snobbery, arrogance, and condescension that are ubiquitous in them are not helping.

Ronald Frostestad's picture

There ia a big need for them but so few are competent and/or ethical. They also need to "train" young audiophile wannabees.