Are the numbers of audiophiles increasing or decreasing? Why?

Are the numbers of audiophiles increasing or decreasing? Why?
Going way up
24% (30 votes)
Going up
8% (10 votes)
Slight lift
6% (8 votes)
Staying the same
12% (15 votes)
Slight dip
5% (6 votes)
Going down
24% (30 votes)
Going way down
21% (26 votes)
Total votes: 125

Some folks proclaim that the iPod will be the death of high-end audio, while others claim that it will bring new generations into the fold. Are the numbers of audiophiles increasing or decreasing? Why?

Kingsley Flint's picture

Problem is lack of awareness among portable music fans of better formats than (YUK) MP3 or "lossless" encoding. My iPod plays WAV files, sounds lovely through my high-end gear, but most young people will never hear the difference, because they don't really listen to music anyway, let alone through good equipment.

Donald N.'s picture

People are more worried about convenience and portability. The "quick fix" is standard. To take the time and sit down to listen not to mention build a musical system is becoming rare in this world of instant gratification.

Al Marcy's picture

The hobby is safe. The means of conducting manufacturers to retail buyers have drifted.

Dismord's picture

A factor that leads potential audiophiles astray & turns them off high-fidelity systems are those idiotic images in manufacturers adverts that imply decent sound can be attained in highly reflective rooms with speakers positioned randomly without reference to sonic requirements. Given also that most of what people listen to these days is compressed, processed, and mangled before they even get to play it, why bother with systems that reveal how awful many recordings are? That and having to divide a budget between multiple channels.

Glenn Bennett's picture

It's wonderful to think that the iPod will bring new enthusiasts into the fold and maybe it will. But the iPod isn't very high quality and doesn't lend itself to adding additional components of quality. The so called attachments to listen to it on crappy little speakers just make it look like a cheap table radio. I don't see most iPod people as wanting much more than their poor to fair quality headphones and being perfectly happy downloading just one song. Another huge problem is the big, big lack of any retailers selling quality stereo components.

Aden's picture

Staying the same—they're still hard to find, and when you find them, getting them with music you actually want to listen to is even harder!

Beto's picture

As much as some may want us to believe, things haven't really changed much—we've just switched formats and distribution schemes. For every household that featured a reel-to-reel console and a high end LP player in the 1950s, there were tons of people that were just as happy with a transistor radio, and couldn't care less about getting something better, because hi-fi wasn't something that pivotal on their lives. Interest on high-end audio is not something conditioned to whatever you use to reproduce music. If anything, since the iPod is capable of delivering high-end sound in the right hands, we may as well see a few more converts over time.

Freek's picture

I think the number of true audiophiles is dropping like a stone. iPod sound quality is "good enough" for the masses, "not even close to be considered acceptable" for those of us who actually care about sound quality. True audiophiles are dying off due to age and being replaced with younger people who just don't care.

dave scarletto's picture

Too much computer time.

Edward McCafferty's picture

One of the main reasons is the decline in the number of high-end dealers. No place to listen high-end audio ultimatly translates into a decline in new audiophiles. I'm 61 and can remember when there was actual competition between dealers for my business. Now, the tables have turned and it seems that I must spend more time looking for a demo than listening to one.

craig's picture

Based on the current small number of retail establishments where you can go to listen to music reproduced on quality equipment in a decent listening room not next door to a room set up for home theater with subsonic bass booming through the walls I would have to guesstimate there is a sharp decline. You folks at Stereophile magazine must have a good feel for what the answer is to this question. What is happening to the subscriptions to your audio only magazine vs, say, your home theater/AV business? I suppose I am just hammering nails into the coffin of a hobby I enjoy, but this seems to be the case.

Bill Crane's picture

Yes the lossy compression with IPods and MP3 players becoming the accepted norm is one reason for the decline of audiophiles. These players also have low resolution DACs, which compounds the situation. Blasting music through earbuds can result in hearing loss is another reason. However, there are others including HTIB (Home Theater In a Box). In-wall loudspeakers lack soundstage and depth. Even most $100K+ custom installed home theater systems (most custom installers are carpenters with wires) are pitiful on music reproduction. This is an industry where quantity of sound is king, with quality the loser. Try to identify an upright bass played through any of them and you will hear booming, thumping mud. Once again, “it’s the economy stupid.” The continual reduction of good paying jobs through in sourcing (too many H1-B visas being issued) and out sourcing of those jobs has resulted in fewer people with disposable income to spend on audiophile systems. Home improvement addiction from watching too much HGTV: people will spend $30K+ to remodel their kitchen, for mostly esthetics, and won’t spend anything on an audio system. HGTV has no concept of a “listening room.”

Victor Rodriguez Pinales's picture

There will always be people not satisfied enough with low quality recordings, portable or cheap gear. Then... they are audiophiles (by nature or by heritage) and for sure they will be chasing the finest products and recordings they can afford.

Jay Hikkss's picture

Various formats, other "distractions" (Video, PC's, etc.) "Crazy" prices, too.

DAB, Pacific Palisades, CA's picture

I believe that the bigger issue is that people aren't making time to listen to music anymore. With today's hectic lifestyles, we MUST make time to heal, soothe and replenish our minds and souls by listening to that magical healer, music, no matter what format is chosen.

Michael Riddle's picture

I believe that the existance of higher-quality video and PC based sound has introduced some to audiophile-land through the back door. Certainly high end store owners are a strange lot and keep the market from growing as much as it could.

Gerald Platt's picture

True audiophiles are like true artists or true people of faith—there are very few with a lot of pretenders. Being an audiophile is something you are born with, it isn't so much a choice as it is a natural predilection. Home theatre has had one positive effect - it has weeded out many of the pretenders. The true audiophile, those who love music and relate to the intricacies of its sound, are few are likely not increasing or decreasing in number.

tavares's picture

The retiring baby boomers

Brent M's picture

The number of old-school, two-channel, speaker-based audiophiles are decreasing, but there's such a strong rising class of headphone-oriented audiophiles that the overall number is increasing. The traditional face of the audiophile may be changing, and the market itself may be fragmenting (traditional audio, portable audio, and multichannel audio/video), but the number of people interested in high-quality sound reproduction is greater than I've seen in a long time.

James R.  Garvin's picture

When I was a kid, during those impressionable years, there was little to do to occupy my time. Cable television was crude. Video games were limited to space invaders. I gravitated to audio. I, and I suspect most, audiophiles became interested in audio when they were young. Fast forward to today. Kids spend too much of their time with videogames and a million channels on television. None of which leads them to high end audio. If we want this industry to remain viable, then we need to bring kids back into the fold, which requires work on our part. We cannot hope they find their way. I'm beating a dead horse here, but I subscribe to Bassmaster, and nary an issue goes by without the magazine, an advertiser, or a writer telling us to take a kid fishing—if they fish as a kid, there is a better chance they will fish as an adult. The magazine sets up competitions for the kids. Since 1985, I do not think I have seen anything in Stereophile about getting kids interested in high end audio, or doing anything to allow them to participate. Or TAS. Or any of the webzines. Do audiophiles take their kids to shows, where the magazine charges full price? Do audiophiles let their kids play their music on the expensive rigs? Do audiophiles convert their systems into a multipurpose set up and let their kids plays video games? Do audiophiles play games with their kids on the floor of their listening room while the music is playing? The answer is generally no, and then we wonder why our kids have no interest, and why membership is going down. I have a question that you could post, which the "staff" could help answer. What are you actively doing to bring people into the hobby, and what could the magazine and the industry do to bring more people into the hobby?

brian's picture

People who use iPods tend to buy other audio products like headphones and speakers. As long as we keep them away from Bose!

Wes Crill's picture

They are clearly decreasing, because the entire industry is aimed at the older portion of the population.

Alfredo's picture

They are decreasing because the cost of the equipment keeps going up. The teenagers have a PC-centric listening culture.

Terry UK's picture

Because of the increasingly rip-off prices charged by hi-fi companies. Linn's view was that current customers were not "profitable enough," so they are intending to hike prices (as evidenced in the laughably priced and under performing Ekos SE and Keel, think 1/4 of the performance of Funk but more than twice the price!) any companies thinking of adopting this model will see its bottom line head in one direction for sure, and like the title of the '80s shocker "I spit on your grave!"

Richard's picture

It's going up because of word of mouth and ear. Half of my close friends got systems within the last year just by association. Just get them to listen and they will follow.

Arlene's picture

High-end hi-fi is becoming more and more irrelevent with the advent of the iPod generation and $300 home theater monster receivers pushing 700W through seven channels.

Iqbal Mustafa's picture

Compressed digital formats, reduction in leisure time, and less exposure in childhood to high quality sound are all eating sharply into numbers of audiophile hobbyists.