Do We Need A High-End Audio Industry Association?

As I was scanning the comments under Jason Victor Serinus's insightful piece, "What If They Gave a CES and Nobody Came?", Bill Leebens's words caught my eye (footnote 1). "[ . . . ] several subsequent attempts to form industry associations have come and gone. I was involved in them all, and even I can't remember all their names!" wrote the industry veteran of 40 years (and counting).

Being the (relatively) new audiophile on the block with high hopes to entice the masses, the concept of forming a trade body to promote high-end audio was immediately appealing to me. Dying to know more, I decided to stalk Bill and get to the bottom of this—for you.

Jana Dagdagan: Why do you think none of the numerous attempts have succeeded?

Bill Leebens: A couple of primary reasons for that: this is an industry of extreme individualists who tend to follow their own path and are not used to cooperating. They're generally not people who are good at organizational structures or at following instructions. As I've flippantly said on a number of occasions, it's tough enough to get people to agree on a place for lunch, much less on any major efforts in guiding the industry, much less funding such an effort. As always, efforts like this come down to two things: 1) people providing time and leadership; and 2) people providing funding. Both are difficult to come by.

JD: Do you think this industry needs an industry association?

BL: I'm stubborn enough to think that it is needed and could happen. It would require somebody who is just totally relentless and not disturbed by a succession of failures to promote such a thing. (And I tend to be pretty pig-headed myself.) What would we hope to accomplish? What would the intended goals be? How would we go about achieving them? How would we fund such an effort? Nobody can operate in a vacuum and nobody can operate without funding. A lot of companies in this industry are not what you could call "cash rich" to begin with, so the idea of them shelling out $10,000 a year to support an organization seems a little on the naive side.

I've been involved in a lot of the efforts with the Consumer Electronics Association, which is now the Consumer Technology Association. Back in the day when there was a High Performance Audio Advisory Board there were a lot of industry people like Ray Kimber, Kathy Gornik, then from Thiel, Richard Schram from Parasound, Wes Phillips from Stereophile, me, and a lot of people whom I sadly can't recall at the moment. That was an effort that was killed by CEA (I think) largely because they didn't think it was large enough to matter. Going by CEA/CTA stats, consumer electronics in the United States is about a $275 billion/year business, and even the most optimistic estimates put high-end audio as $1 billion or less in the US.

So for those folks, it's really small cheese, and I think that's reflected on the way high-end audio's been treated at CEA. Especially over the last decade, where we're kind of relegated to these attic rooms that are increasingly being encroached upon by businesses that have absolutely nothing to do with audio. We're losing ground every year, the costs are extortionate, and there's less reason to do CEA every year.

JD: How would an industry association be beneficial?

BL: The biggest issue for high-end audio is, generally speaking, a lack of recognition. Over the last couple decades, that has largely been due to the fact that there is no trade association or industry organization. There is no—to use a parallel—there is no Milk Producers Association coming up with memorable slogans like "Got Milk?" A lot of the businesses do tend to be cash strapped and at the same time there is a very strong fear of one business benefiting from the exposure more than another. And clearly the businesses are not interchangeable or fungible, to use a lawyer's term. It's not like milk producers. It's not like everybody does the same thing and that they're well served by bonding together.

In high-end audio you've got very small, sort of craft-oriented business that may be 1–3 guys—and it's nearly always guys—and you've got multinationals that produce what audiophiles generally dismiss as mid-fi gear that's sold through Best Buy or Kmart or whatever. And there's, quite frankly, not a lot of common ground between all these companies. You can view them as home entertainment, you can view them as consumer electronics; but in terms of getting them together to agree upon goals, to agree upon ways of providing exposure for the industry, it's hugely difficult.

While I think that the industry could indeed benefit from an industry organization, you would first off have to very clearly define who would be served by such an organization. In high-end audio, we're dealing with companies that do $50k a year, and we've got companies that are dealing with billions of dollars a year. Clearly they don't have a lot in common. Defining who would be served, how they would be served, how the organization would be funded would be very difficult. I think it's worth working on, and I would really enjoy working on such a thing. But again, somebody would have to fund it and we'd have to figure out how to do that.

When I was working at CEA back in the day, I had always assumed that the organization was largely funded by company dues for the organization. But as it turned out, 95% of their revenues were provided by CES. Clearly they have a vested interest in preserving that show, and keeping the attendance and number of exhibitors as high as possible. But whether that serves the high-end audio industry, I tend to doubt it. We're running some absurd number, like 170,000 attendees at CES any given year. I've set out with a number of other exhibitors (the high-end audio exhibits at the top of the Venetian) to try and determine how many visitors we were getting over the last few years, and it's not more than a couple thousand people. In terms of exhibition costs that are $20,000 minimum (and frequently up to 6 figures) it's just not a very good return for the money.

The number of people that you see are not only lesser in number than your average regional show, they're far lesser in quality. They're people working at mainstream exhibits over in the convention center and just coming over on their lunch hour for a lark. So at this point, I'd say that CES doesn't serve the high-end audio industry at all and is largely a waste of money.

In the past, I've been involved in running shows—I've assisted the late Richard Beers on a number of Las Vegas and Newport shows, and ran a show in NYC in 2012 at the Waldorf Astoria. What I've found is that often, rather than working together, dealers are so highly combative that they tend to be their own worst enemies. Rather than presenting the industry at its best, they tend to bring out all the nutty warfare that's like a dysfunctional family that really is not conducive to inducing people into being interested in the audio field. It's a tough call, and it's something where, one way or another, feelings are going to be bruised, and again it's going to require somebody who's fairly relentless and thick-skinned to guide such an effort.

JD: Do you think the high-end audio industry will die unless an association is formed soon?

BL: Well, the funny thing is, pretty much the whole time I've been involved since the early 1970s, which in a lot ways was the "boom era", in terms of the number of people having (at least) modest stereo systems. We've been periodically predicting the death of the industry and it hasn't happened yet. I think what it does periodically is reinvent itself and redirect itself. What we're seeing right now is a lot of interest with younger people in personal audio, headphones, portable audio—that sort of thing. And while, for the old farts, that may not be their primary intent or their primary goal, it is what it is.

And in terms of people being involved in listening to music and learning how to become closer to their music, I think it's all good. It's just we have to get over our preconceptions of exactly what the industry is, for one thing. And again, there is a little bit of a generational rift. At 60, in a lot of ways I'm one of the younger guys of the old guard. Getting these other guys to even recognize the headphone business, younger people with tats and weird hairdos, whatever, it's a challenge. And it's a challenge that I think enlivens the whole dialogue and industry. But whether or not everybody's open to it? Not so much.

I don't think it's going to die. I think it's going to morph periodically. Simply from the basis of a fairly stagnant worldwide economy, and people getting used to smaller and smaller living quarters, I think the idea of having this giant, altar-sized stereo system is probably not going to be as strong in years to come. And that's understandable. And that doesn't mean that trying to listen to music in a quality way in your home or on-the-go is going to die. You just kinda have to get rid of your preconceptions.

JD: For someone like me who has never been in an industry association, what would it mean literally? Listening sessions? Newsletters? What exactly?

BL: I think newsletters are worthless in that regard. I think this is experiential. Not listening to music reproduced well and trying to get people to bite into high-end audio makes about as much sense as sending newsletters to people about wine without allowing them to taste wine. I really think it's an immersive, experiential deal, and unless they can hear it, feel it, it makes no sense whatsoever. When I was in college in the '70s, a number of the larger manufacturers like Pioneer and Panasonic had 45' trailers that went from college campus to college campus. They'd have demo systems in these trailers and they wouldn't actually sell anything, but you would at least get the experience—a taste of what they were trying to sell. Obviously that's something that requires deep pockets, but I think it's not just vital but really necessary in the big picture, to expose the maximum number of people to this.

Right now if you talk to your average 20 year-old or whatever about having a system that might cost $15k, $50k, or $100k, they might look at you incredulously. Basically, their entire lifespan, they've been listening to MP3s through earbuds and have no conception of what quality music reproduction through quality gear is like. That saddens me.

I really do view this as a communal experience. Certainly when I was growing up, everybody had the bitchin' stereo system in their dorm room, and y'all got together and did whatever while listening to music, and I think that that's something that's lost in a headphone kind of mindset. I think that the benefit, the fun of this, is to be seen in a communal, social environment. That's something we really need to work on.

Again—who's going to fund these efforts? Who's going to get these things out there, whether this is going to be restricted to college campuses or the general public? Not sure. But I can say that the companies making billions of dollars now, like Beats, Sonos, Bose—they're really not doing a great job of evangelizing, shall we say.

Footnote 1: Bill Leebens is marketing director for PS Audio and editor of the company's on-line magazine Copper.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I think you're dead right, Bill, reading out to student to give them eargasms is the way to go. They just don't know they can have one.

Thanks for the interview Jana, nice piece. :thumbsup

HalSF's picture

Bill Leebens is such a great force and crucial voice — many thanks to Jana for giving this idea a spotlight via a guy who knows where the bodies are buried and how to frame the business/art of sound issues.

My personal dissent (and cranky hobbyhorse) is the vocabulary and thinking centered on “the high end.” Anything that subsumes good sound and the pleasures of hi-fi playback into a 1/275th niche of the $275 billion consumer electronics behemoth dominated by luxe-speak and notorious Veblen-goods marketing is fatally self-limiting. Sign me up for a new vision that unites audiophiles and headphone heads and vinyl geeks and Spotify kids and Sonos homebodies, rather than emphasizing some high-end, absolute sound, “entry-level”-shaming ghetto of audio.

PS Audio gets this with the Sprout and I know Tyll totally gets it too with his incredible open-hearted evangelism for headphone science and excellence.

I hope this discussion gets some traction and perhaps helps inspire a new chapter or two of great audio love.

Anton's picture

I was slowly typing mine and posted it and then saw yours. Great minds think alike.


Anton's picture

I heard people say this back in the '60's:

"Right now if you talk to your average 20 year-old or whatever about having a system that might cost $500, $1k, or $5k, they might look at you incredulously. Basically, their entire lifespan, they've been listening to AM monophonic radios by the pool and have no conception of what quality music reproduction through quality gear is like. That saddens me."

How did us oldsters find our way out of the sonic wasteland of AM, 8-track, and cassette and into the Shangri-La of "high end audio?"

And, after finding this magical place, how did we allow the purveyors of "high end audio" to Shanghai our hobby with terms like "high end audio?"?

When did high end audio become a Veblen good? Why do we think we should support that notion?

"High end audio" is a terrible BS marketing word that we let slip out of control like the pythons in the Everglades.

If "high end audio" is in danger, it is only because it is pointing a diamond encrusted platinum gun to its own head.

"High end audio" is so out of touch that not even Kanye tries to deal in it, and he sells $1,500 Yeezy Adidas.

(I set my iconoclasm setting on high today.)

Not being iconoclastic now: Bill is one of the great guys in the industry and actively does try to make it better! He is not just a bomb, he is thee bomb, and I mean that sincerely.

WELquest's picture

EXACTLY! You nailed it. "We" use "high-end" as a code word for an audio priority system, for a type of relationship to hi-fi gear as the transportation to our aural heaven, as the delivery system for the world's most popular recreational drug: music. The rest of the world thinks that "high-end" is sneakers over $100, or a Rolex watch, the expensive luxury stuff -- with the operative term being "luxury", not "more effective" or "more immersive".

The high-end community, the phenomenon of high-performance merit-based audio gear, is not where the rubber meets the road. That happens with Bose, Beats and Sonos, who are spreading the message of better audio. To those with lesser gear, those brands are exactly what we are: the aspirational good-stuff. What we want is for those consumers to then get bored and move on to discover us, and some will inevitably do so.

The closest thing to a PR effort that carries the message of better component audio to a market that didn't know it was interested, is Best Buy's Magnolia division. Every day, Magnolia turns on more new consumers to better audio than every annual hi-fi show in the US combined -- hi-fi shows are entertainment for the choir, as are almost all high-end promotional efforts.

To add an exclamation point to Bill Leebens's point about the fundamental irrelevance of writing about hi-fi, and as a caveat emptor to those who think good-audio can buy its way to relevant visibility, Magnolia stopped advertising years ago because they quickly learned that one can't advertise better audio -- it just looks like a more expensive way to do what lesser audio already promises to do for "normal" prices." Magnolia is successful because "normal" people go to Best Buy and get unintentionally exposed to Magnolia. (William Low/AudioQuest)

jporter's picture

The answer is already here. Companies like Schiit, Elac, Golden Ear, and Hifiman are offering quality experiences for reasonable prices. It is up to sites like Stereophile to point this out. Reviewing cables that cost 18K is simply stupid. Yes, I realize you like their ad revenue. I just think it's funny you ask why and how, when you are the problem.

ChrisS's picture

How is your inability to afford something anyone elses problem, but yours?

jporter's picture

My guess is that you are a "Sales Manager" somewhere...

ChrisS's picture that you can't afford expensive stuff.

jporter's picture

I am embarrassed by how much I have spent in my life so far on audio. I am sure your Porsche is better than mine. You rock and I celebrate your existence...

ChrisS's picture

You can't seem to get over stuff you can't afford.

Anton's picture

Why would someone addressing the perceived value (or lack thereof) of an item be chastised with bullshit like "How is your inability to afford something anyone else's problem, but yours?"

I guess in your well to do league, the question from us would be, just how high does the price of something have to go to make you go Hmmmm? Is there any point where your Stereo Stockholm Syndrome would deactivate?

ChrisS's picture

Whose perception? Whose value?

Lots of people are deceived into thinking a 99 cent item is actually worth 99 cents.

Doesn't matter how expensive an item is... If I can't afford it, I don't buy it.

If it's not a good product, I won't buy it.


Anton's picture

Even Bill Gates can opine about how a certain item may not provide value.

If a fellow hobbiest, who likely already skews toward thinking hi fi has value, thinks a product is ridiculous, then what are going to do about it, call him a 99 cent shopper?

That's lower than your Brooks Brothers Alligator skin slip on loafers.

ChrisS's picture

Just ask anyone about the latest Windows.

If someone thinks a product is ridiculous, it's what most people call an opinion.

Anton's picture

Sure, blame the software because you can't afford a better computer.


ChrisS's picture

Again, ask around, lots of people blame Bill.

Lots of Windows-based hardware ends up in the landfill, or being taken apart in some little village in India or China.

Perceived value?


Bill Leebens's picture

You do mean GATES, right?? ;->

ChrisS's picture

You're the good guy!

Russell Dawkins's picture

What a profoundly nasty point of view you exhibit throughout your many rebuttals here, ChrisS.

ChrisS's picture

there's much point to discussing the myriad views on perceived value of audio products.

If one can't afford products in a particular price range, then you simply can't buy them. That shouldn't stop anyone from shopping from a whole array of excellent products within all ranges of affordability.

If the technology behind the stratospheric-priced products is truly innovative and cutting edge, then we should welcome them. The benefits of that technology will eventually trickle down to an accessible level for the rest of us, or we can experience those actual products soon after they start showing up on the used market.

Some people who comment on the prices of "high end" audio products, do so with disdain and insult. I just make comments to them with the same attitude.

John Atkinson's picture
jporter wrote:
Reviewing cables that cost 18K is simply stupid. Yes, I realize you like their ad revenue.

Please note that while Stereophile's publisher likes cable companies' ad revenue, it has no influence on what we choose to review.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

jporter's picture

I am a fan. I got my first subscription to Stereophile in 1990. That was when it still came out in black in white and the reviewers were always listening to The Grateful Dead. How many times did I see "Phil Lesh blah,blah,blah...I always thought it was stupid that people were using great systems to listen to poor recordings of the Dead. You know...nothing has really changed since then. But, I am still a fan...You basically bought my first "major" system. It was Apogee Acoustic Centaur Minors with an NAD integrated amp. I knew about these because of your publication and I loved the end result. I comment on this site because I care. I want others to enjoy this awesome hobby. Sometimes it is just really frustrating. My only point is that you don't have to be rich to enjoy great music through great systems. Thanks...

Bill Leebens's picture

Stereophile has pointed out reasonably-priced products from the brands you mentioned, as well as many others. And while you're trotting out snarky remarks about ad revenue, look and see how many reasonably-priced products have received extensive exposure without an inch or a pixel of advertising.

And believe me, as one who worked for the federal government TWICE (I'm a slow learner), I understand that associations and committees CAN BE worthless. That doesn't me they HAVE to be worthless. Many of the smartest, most-insightful folks I've ever known are in the audio biz, and I think great things could be accomplished.

jporter's picture

My comment is not snide at all...Your comment says it all. My point is that how many people would like a a great $300 headphone? The answer is a lot...Now how many people would pay 14,000 for speaker cable?...Let's just say not a lot. Your response to me is BS. You underestimate how many of us "poor folk" love Hifi audio and I agree their are great people that help me love my music. You are right. Nonetheless, doth protest too much.

ChrisS's picture

you don't know any anyone who can afford expensive things.

ChrisS's picture

...keep you from enjoying your Corolla?

jporter's picture

And again you are missing the point...You are the reason people aren't getting involved in HiFi. I mean they have to deal with elitist bs from beautiful people like you...

ChrisS's picture

...a hole in the ground, as they say around here.

Your perception of me deceives you.

Bill Leebens's picture

That I can neither afford nor fit in an Aventador. ;->

Anton's picture

I have a buddy in Santa Monica whose neighbor is an avid consumer of these kinds of cars. After many years of trying to live a life of champagne dreams and caviar dreams, he gave up and bought a nice SUV for daily use and calls his Lambo a great car for driving from point A to point A.

I love that, great for going from point A to point A.

Anyways, thread drift.

I have nothing against the car, by the way, even though I can't afford it. The car makers are pretty honest about cache and not pretending an infinite upward slope of "higher performance."

ChrisS's picture

Really? Do you own a Volkswagen? Or something from GM with a defective ignition switch?

Anton's picture

2015 Golf R!

You are ass-toot!

Now, if it were a "high end audio" car, it would perform the same as a TDI and you'd claim it's better because it costs more.

Yeah, no way those high end cars would have any problems, they are high end, after all.

ChrisS's picture

Well reviewed. Perceived value? You actually own one, so you know.

You didn't get burned like a lot of others who went diesel based on "industry test results".

Your car/audio analogy doesn't work, because I made no such claim.

Your perception of what I've said here deceives you.

jporter's picture

My Camry does have a nice sunroof...

Anton's picture

It doesn't cost enough to be a high end car.

jimtavegia's picture

but high end audio, or even decent audio, not so much. Of course tomorrow we will drop it in the hallway at school or work and break the glass and have to explain that to someone. My granddaughter just did it to her $600 phone the first day she had it.

If the audio industry only had the profit margins that the wireless carriers and the phone providers had then some TV ad space could happen and get the word out. Sad that the demand for a "phone" has replaced audio enjoyment. Hard to take a "selfie" with a nice integrated amp.

I don't think there is a solution to this problem of great music playback being in the top 50 things people care about anymore. They may have headphones on while riding transportation, but they are also concentrating on some social media site that really has their attention. People just don't sit still long enough anymore. People like us who care about such things and just sit and concentrate on music playback are way under 1%er's any more. Just as the radio and stereo replaced the piano and piano lessons decades ago, THE PHONE is now media central. There is no going back.

Eoldschool's picture

I also read the CES article previously.

Interesting ideas from Mr. Leeben and I’m glad you interviewed him Jana, because perhaps it got some discourse started.

I hope what I say here is more even-handed.
I agree with some of what Mr. Leeben said, but I would like to point out that asking or forcing manufactures to pay $10,000 per year or something on top of everything else for a membership to some association is not going to sit well as he rightly states.

Where I see differences is in his statement about average 20 year olds looking at you incredulously about a system costing $15k and up will trying to convince them it is the only way to get good sound quality is not entirely from listening to MP3s on earbuds for a lifetime. That “might” have a small percentage to do with it, but it’s more likely due to the fact that one is talking to a 20-year-old student let’s say, who is already 5 figures in debt pursuing a degree with little to no job prospects at the end through no fault of their own and a loan they will be paying on for the rest of their working life if they are lucky. That’s where the incredulous look is coming from.

Even taking “student” out of the equation and for that matter, throwing age aside as well, most folks cannot run out and plunk down $15k on a Hi-Fi system when there are things such as rent, bills and food to be paid attention to first. What most folks do not know is that it doesn’t have to take $15k to get a system with incredible sound quality helping them to get even closer or engaged with their music. The problem is that it is very rarely talked about, so almost nobody knows there is affordable audio with great sound quality out there being made by the same makers of the uber-expensive stuff.

Getting the younger generation into the hobby is a must. Getting more folks overall in it is better still. Any market, hobby or what have you can’t survive long on an extremely limited base. Like Mr. Leeben points out, many of these manufactures are not sitting on piles of money. I figure they only sell a piece maybe 2 to 4 times a year because most folks are not of means to afford a $30k amp. (One can get 2 lower model new cars or two very good one-year-old used cars for $30k for example).

I whole-heartedly agree that it is experiential, but in order to have a communal experience, some things must be somewhat affordable in some fashion, either immediate or possessing the ability to save up for a year or two or less. Many makes are seeing this dilemma thank goodness and attempting to shift at least a product or two to get folks in the doorway at least. There is already a good number items out there and hopefully, more to come. The problem is that those products and such are almost never reported on or even mentioned. It’s all about the Rolls Royce and caviar. That’s what is sad in my opinion. (Having said that, I know Stereophile has written about a few of those items, but not too recently and for every one "affordable" item, there are quickly 10 uber-priced pieces getting more praise and write ups over-shadowing the "reasonably-priced" item). I sometimes wonder if it's fear of losing readers interests. Michael Fremer at sister station Analog Planet does a good job including all walks, if you will. He's not afraid to report on more affordable gear as well as the high-priced items and doesn't seem to be suffering for it.

Also, more and more of the younger generation are getting into and preferring vinyl over MP3s and not because it’s a fad or the cool thing to do or even peer pressure. I’m finding in talking to some of those folks that it really is because of the sound quality and tactile experience. It also doesn’t cost a fortune to get into a very good analog front end and it can be done piecemeal as well, if needed.

So yes, much “evangelizing” (I don’t necessarily like that word, but for sake of conversation….)needs to yet be done, but it has to be grounded in present and reality and not pie in the sky “someday, when I win the lottery” stuff.

I'm no expert. Just my 2 cents, if you will.


Michael David's picture

Y’all are generalizing, in high school it was a common event to drive friends 50 miles to purchase a Pioneer PL12D w/Shure M91ED cartridge, HK 230i receiver and a pair of small Advents, wire incld, $450. That lil system rocked and delivered a taste of the “good stuff” at a fraction of the cost!

My approach to the high end was, component purchases, one at-a-time, spread over the course of several months. Many thanks to all the custodian’s, stewards and shepherds that invested the time to educate, demonstrate and therefore recommend positive musical solutions.

Eoldschool's picture

I don't know. Some of what I read is a bit over generalized, true, but at the same time I don't think there is enough for limitless specifics right now. It doesn't really fit the point of the discussion.
I also don't know what driving friends 50 miles to purchase gear has to do with anything. I know folks that will drive 100 miles for that very purpose and I am not sure what is wrong with that?

I believe I mentioned the piecemeal approach to "high-end" components. In fact, most of us (myself included) do take that approach. It's the only approach that can be taken by many of us.

Bill Leebens's picture

The rosy glow of nostalgia can be deceiving: That $450 system in 1975 would be equivalent to $2,192 today. And yet, oldsters and millennials alike would balk at even $450 in 2016 money.

That's what happens when incomes are flat, or down.

Eoldschool's picture

Still, it is far easier to save up $450 for something than it is to save up $15k for something. I say that as a worker well below the entry point of middle class, so I know too well, how hard it is. It takes me about 4 months to save up $450 and only if all the planets are aligned if you get my meaning. Yes, with the rise in healthcare costs and rents and prices in general while wages stay back in the 1970s, makes for challenges that should not be.
The 1975 systems are sadly gone and what is really wild is that some of the $500 gear from back then, if kept in good order have no trouble keeping up with some of the finer gear today. (Yes I have a vintage secondary system purchased used of course). Both my turntables are vintage and nothing special but, one would cost around $4k in today's money and the other would be around $7k to $8k.

Michael David's picture

Just five short years ago you could purchase a good quality pre-owned system at Audiogon for $450 while it was still a friendly customer centric website, but that all changed.

Today, one can purchase a music system comprised of a Music Hall MMF 2.2 turntable w/cartridge $299, NAD 316BEE integrated amplifier $379, a pair of Elac Debut B6 speakers $279, 8' pair of basic speaker cables $60, + tax = $1,100.

If music is central to anyone’s life, and the quality of musical reproduction is important, young and old folks alike will find the money just like we did back in those nostalgic days gone by. Computer, wi-fi, portable audio and headphones should be viewed as a gateway to high-fidelity component audio.

The challenge remains how to introduce the masses to performance audio systems? not just the Stereophile community. The real difference is the music today isn't compelling enough to drive folks priorities, so musical education becomes paramount in terms of your expressed goals of branding, market awareness and saturation.

Takes one back to your Copper Issue 1 cover cartoon caption; “Audiophile Stereo Components, Store Permanently Closing”.
At the time thought it was a little snarky for an audio magazine launch, wonder what the industry average percentage of audio component returns at e-commerce sites offering money back guarantees are?

Eoldschool's picture

I'd also point out that the $1100 system you exampled may not appeal to the average audiophile,but will likely rock any music lover's world and that is really what matters, is the music. (I am a dyed in the wool music lover, always have been, always will be and not anywhere near an audiophile by today's definition). If nothing else at all, it's a great start and that table alone will last through many an upgrade of everything else and that can be translated into years.
In fact, I'll stretch the point to state that just because something is marketed as "audiophile", "reference" or "high-end" doesn't automatically mean it is and performs as such. For instance there are many pieces that perform well above their price point and are not marketed as "high-end", etc. Andrew's Elac speakers are a great example. Even the lowly $50 AT95E cartridge is a $100 cart in disguise.
I'm also of the school that states that at some point a turntable is a turntable, an amp is an amp, a DAC is a DAC, etc. The law of diminishing returns always weighs on my mind. At some point one is paying for bling or even "bragging rights" over anything else.

The hobby is near 100% subjective save the science behind the builds and physics. What one person finds they really like another will dislike. Bottom line is if your system of any stripe get's you engaged with your music or just gets your toe tappin, then it's good, end of story.

As a side note, I agree with you about much of today's music, at least in and around the pop and rock genre.

Michael David's picture

What i do find interesting, with all the new focus of industry marketing towards millennial’s, that in some way is driven by all the noise on social media and internet advertising today, is that while out and about at a grocery store, car dealership, doctors office, restaurant, wine store etc. listening to the piped in music comprised of 70s rock, classic rock, light jazz etc. informs my ears that their demographic focus is still on baby boomers, fwiw.

Bill Leebens's picture

...that new blood is vital. I've spent a lot of time in the past few years helping develop and promote entry-level, high-performance products, starting at $99. Similarly, some of those products have been crowd-funded, in an attempt to draw the attention of a younger audience.

And clearly, Stereophile agrees---or Jana wouldn't be writing for them!

Eoldschool's picture

Amen Bill! Glad to hear that! Yes, I know Stereophile is seeing the light, so to speak.
Jana if you don't mind my saying: I also agree that Jana is refreshing. She is reaching a larger audience all the time I think. Fabulous writer and her down to earth genuineness touches many!

cgh's picture

Everyone jumped on price. OK, I get it. I don't understand how an association addresses this, though. It couldn't possibly function effectively as a trade association in this market. Also, we've seen large companies that should benefit from their size (procurement, employees, distribution, assembly, manufacturing, etc.) release speakers at high price points. (Rhymes with pony bologna.) An association will polish the packaging. It'll host events. I don't see how it could change pricing. You gonna tell some strong minded individual who lost his wife to his obsession that the monetary value of his intangible IP is anything less than what he thinks it is? If anything it will homogenize thinking. Maybe. Which is a bad thing. We need some fresh, new, exciting thinking around evolving design. As long as nobody is making a decent profit it would be nice to move the chains. Ah, the industry as we know it has maybe 20 more years anyway. Everyone should learn how to read schematics, learn about transfer functions, and get good using a soldering iron.

Bill Leebens's picture

I wasn't saying an industry organization could do anything directly about pricing. Aside from being impossible, price-fixing is illegal.I mentioned that one of the issues in our biz is that many companies are very small, and would have a difficult time supporting an organization. Small size/small production also ensures that per-unit costs for parts will be ridiculously high compared to those paid by monolithic organizations.

Hell,there are buying groups on audio forums where hobbyists get together to buy in lots to get better pricing. Why couldn't small companies do the same? Lots of companies use, say, the same Sabre DAC chips or Dale resistors.

I think 5-and 6-figure prices are completely offputting to folks who might otherwise be interested in audio. I understand that many times they directly reflect the parts and manufacturing costs, but we need to do a better job of presenting where those costs come from, and what the benefits are.

If the prices are simply high for the sake of being high, I have no interest in them, and can't in good conscience promote them.

Eoldschool's picture

Now your talkin! Well said. I think that is one of the keys to it right there. It would help all the makes and in turn trickle down to help more folks in the purchasing public by making the manufacturing cost more affordable for the makers (and perhaps without turning to slave labor in other places to make profit).

cgh's picture

I think I was (trying) to say something similar. I was conflating the terms. I get that price fixing is illegal, although I would be surprised if anyone noticed in retail audio(phile).

So you're really talking about the 99% and, therefore, the sustainability of the industry; not the state-of-the-art. Makes sense. I am not close to any of this stuff. Glad someone's thinking about it.

michaelavorgna's picture

...why don't we see this same problem elsewhere?

cgh's picture

We do. Any illiquid market with low levels of price discovery ellicit these complaints. In terms of haute / artistic pursuits, the art world comes to mind. The Michelin starred food industry. Audi has VW, Banana Republic has Gap. The retail sales world has Black Friday (yes people, before you raise your hackles, they even teach this at Wharton)

michaelavorgna's picture

How have high prices hurt the art world? Answer: they haven't. They've helped. A Van Gogh selling for $60M at auction does not make people buy less art and it also raises the value of other art.

Expensive watches, fashion, wine, furniture, etc. have not hurt anything.

cgh's picture

That wasn't my point. I was talking about the impact of liquidity and perceived "luxury" value on price discovery and perceived price, resp. The same thing happens in high end.

michaelavorgna's picture

At least I don't think you have ;-)

Why is it the case that high prices are perceived as being a negative in hi-fi when they are not a negative anywhere else?

cgh's picture

Take my point (somewhere else in this growing thread), say, with Black Friday. They keep prices high all year for people that "value their time more". Then, for one day, intentionally targeting a lower socio-economic level, they lower prices to capture the whole other demographic; and they make their numbers They know, based on research, that people in higher income brackets would never 1) spend the increased time and 2) miss time with their families on Thanksgiving. So there is an *outlet* for this demand. Basically everyone can have that Wii or flatscreen. These are big industries, so they are going for "large N",.., scale, etc. Very different than "low N" high end audio. I suspect that if flat screens were only available to a certain socio-economic class (and it was marketed to all classes) there would be a demographic that hates flat screens and the people that own them. Haute art isn't flaunted. It's hidden. By contrast haute audio is marketed to everyone that loves music, but the best is reserved for the highest earners (or the dumbest). To further insult, there is a non-negligible subset of high earners with amazing systems that are totally underserving troglodytes. They only have the system because they can. This draws further ire. There is no analogue in the art world. Stevie Cohen having a Damien Hirst in the lobby of his (former) SAC headquarters in Greenwich means nothing to most people. Having an industry that does good reporting on the state-of-the art, that costs $275k, which only 0.1% of their readers could afford, will draw ire. Unless, of course, there was a Black Friday analog. This is done with vinyl. I think. Record Day. I haven't, nor will I ever, buy a record on Record Day. Why? I value my time. I'll pay more any other day of the year not to have to deal.

Anyway, to answer your question, this is why I think it is perceived as a negative, as opposed to the art market.

cgh's picture

Maybe said differently, when co-mingled, the practice serves to alienate. Reading an art mag about a piece in the Gagosian doesn't make me wish the piece cost less, or offend my class status. Because this is really about the true cost of R&D (which is expensive for two guys developing an amp or, worse, a speaker) the two worlds will never reconcile without arbitration.

michaelavorgna's picture

In hi-fi we have finish options that cost a premium. Just for looks.

This notion that a stereo is essentially an appliance, worthy of a consumer reports evaluation, parts cost + kinda deal, is for me the root cause of much of the anger. People wanting McDonalds prices for a Peter Luger dinner.

michaelavorgna's picture

...they were, shall we say, really expensive. Yet, I didn't see any hate, I saw aspiration. My earlier example of the Van Gogh selling for $60M+ at auction was news beyond the art world, yet I don't remember any hate directed at art, art collectors, or Van Gogh (he was long dead, of course). No one, as far as I can recall, pointed to high prices in the art world as the beginning of the end.

There are $30k purses, $50k watches, and on and on hate. No one telling Hermes to stop before they ruin handbags for everyone.

So I wonder why, in hi-fi, we seem to tell people to stop based purely on price.

cgh's picture

I suspect that one (large) driver is that Hermes doesn't target lower wage earners (and there are accepted knock-off markets to supplant desire for status). The alienation factor is lower. The guy that introduced me to hi-fi in the 80's was highly intelligent and working class. In fact, I think he might have stolen his speakers. Most of the people that I know in audiophilia are working class or lower income professional. Many that I know that are in the lower tax brackets have systems because they "know a guy" or traded up for 20 years on the 'gon. They are not paying retail.

Anyway, I am only speculating here. In a liquid and profitable market with a ton of runway this stuff would have been disintermediated in a heart beat a long time ago. There is no chance of disintermediation in hi end audio.

michaelavorgna's picture

...are you suggesting getting rid of distributors and dealers? Selling direct?

cgh's picture

I honestly have no idea how it would manifest. I am not close enough to this industry to speak in any authoritive way about what form it would come in. I am referring to the over-hyped "disruptive innovation", a la Christainson's Innovator's Dilemma. Current examples are Fintech and Insurtech in Silicon Valley. People leaving banking for Google Brain. Earlier examples would be US Steel, Blackberry. Again, liquid and profitable markets where an ingrained and antiquated business model is up-ended by a nimbler force. Uber. Lemonade. Apple. I have no idea what the analogue is in hi-fi. It certainly wouldn't be on their scale. However, this notion of disintermediating the demand (stemming from those without means) and supply (targeting, perhaps implicitly, those with means) would be the disintermediation and is probably the only thing that I can think of that would resolve some of what (I suspect) is the over arching issue. Now, does an association achieve that? Not sure. Per my first post this isn't clear to me. It may spread risk on the sell side if it is a true association.

michaelavorgna's picture

While I'm not well versed in economic theory, hell I'm hardly versed at all, there's no way, imo, for any single company to disrupt the hi-fi market. One simple reason is people take great pride in assembling their system from various manufacturers. It becomes theirs.

It's also the case that there are very few companies that have the expertise to build every piece of today's hi-fi puzzle. The closest we've come so far is Sonos but they decided not to take on the "high end". A wise move, he says in hindsight, seeing as many high end dealers have made a pretty penny selling Sonos.

I wish I had an answer, as in one answer, but I only have questions. Thanks for your time.

cgh's picture

Sonos- that's interesting. Thanks for the conversation. Certainly appreciate your perspective.

michaelavorgna's picture

...had nearly $1 billion in sales in 2015 ;-)

Bill Leebens's picture

...they also had sizeable layoffs in March, and were caught out by the far cheaper Amazon echo.
They have become the target aimed at by dozens of companies, some of whom will likely outperform them.

The message to me is that there is a demand for distributed music systems in the home that are easy to use and don't require weeks of training to use.

BTW: Unlike any other audio company I can think of, Sonos was funded with VC money from KKR and others--supposedly as much as $300M. And those guys expect serious, serious returns on their money.

Their are capital groups presently holding a number of other audio companies, but none that I know of that were founded with such money.

michaelavorgna's picture

In the context of this discussion, it's interesting to note that Sonos' 2015 sales roughly equal the estimated size of the US high-end market. Ouch.

Bill Leebens's picture the computer biz and most forms of consumer electronics. I think one of the elements which limits the growth of serious audio companies is an adherence to the old brick and mortar only model. While I feel strong B&M dealers are a vital part of the equation, most younger buyers are used to being able to buy anything anywhere at anytime. It's suicide to try and force buyers to buy in a way with which they're uncomfortable.

My employer, PS Audio, has had dealers and has simultaneously sold direct since the company's inception 43 years ago. The company has often taken heat for that, and for having a number of online outlets. In a former life as Director of Marketing at Audiogon, I had to work very hard to convince audio manufacturers that a strong online presence was not only NOT the enemy, but a vital contributor to their survival and growth. These days, that seems me, anyway.

Meanwhile: what companies are stumbling, and which are growing? Just askin'. ;->

crenca's picture

CGH, Michael, Bill.

I find it interesting that most of the "traditional" hi-fi companies are (mostly) not leveraging what I perceive as the most common entry method into hi-fi today: computer/personal audio (I put them together because they are largely inseparable IMO).

I also look at something like the OPPO BDP-105, and ask myself "why don't they put a real volume control on this thing and market it as an all-in-on DAC/Streamer/Media Player (audio + video)/pre-amp/etc. Hi-Fi seems to be having real trouble sizing up their market in a way I don't see in other markets...

ChrisS's picture

Post deleted

Michael David's picture

Mr. Leebens apparently is unaware the high-end industry attempted this 28 years ago. The association, AAHEA or The Academy for the Advancement of High End Audio was founded by Harry Pearson.

Not exactly certain what they accomplished beyond the handing out of plaques, trophies and a lot of back patting at the Award Dinners.

“In high-end audio, we're dealing with companies that do $50k a year, and we've got companies that are dealing with billions of dollars a year.”

Seriously, exactly which high-end audio companies are dealing with billions of dollars a year?

Eoldschool's picture

Yes, we don't need more trophies, JD Power awards (anyone can get for about $15) and such. We do need solid info, genuine ideas and a way of making things better for all involved. I think perhaps Mr. Leeben is talking about that, it's just taking a re-read or two to see it more clearly. Mr Leeben does mention what you said a couple of times, just perhaps not as direct. It took me two reads to see a bit clearer. Of course, with my eyesight being what it is, it takes me doing that on most anything I read or see.:)

Bill Leebens's picture

...of the AAHEA, and knew most of the principals, several of whom were involved in the CEA's High-Performance Audio Advisory Board, of which he---Yikes!--of which I was a part.

I've also floundered around in several attempts to create industry groups since then.

When I spoke of audio companies doing billions, I was including the massive monolithics like Sony and Panasonic/Matsushita/Technics, which have on occasion produced gear as good as anyone's. Like General Motors, their resources are phenomenal, and their people WANT to do it. They just have to be let loose.

Both the companies mentioned have thankfully shown signs of real life, of late.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

There are in fact any number of young people into music who can afford high-priced gear. Many work in the tech industry. They also read Stereophile. And some of them own very big loudspeakers and all the rest.

There are also millions of young people who are into quality audio. They don't only live in the U.S.; they also reside in Asia, Europe, and other continents. But because they look, dress, and speak differently than what we in the U.S. have come to believe is the standard audiophile, and they don't necessarily groove to "Hotel California," some of us tend to dismiss them.

The notion that young people don't care about sound quality is challenged by the rise in sales of quality headphones, media players, and vinyl. (Note Michael Lavorgna's comment about Sonos doing $1 billion in sales.) It is also challenged by the very existence of the author of this interview, and her predecessor at Stereophile, Stephen Mejias. Despite that fact that some people stay stuck in the old paradigm and bewail the imminent decline of the high-end, everything is changing. They who are not busy being born are busy dying.

I just spent Sunday marching with my husband in Seattle's Pride Parade. Our contingent, which led off the parade, was filled with young people from other countries. The youngest person in our 49-person Orlando Memorial contingent was a high school sophomore; the oldest was 73. We were people of all colors, and we spoke different languages. None of that mattered, because we were united by shared values and concerns that transcended socially-imposed barriers.

It is not only forward-thinking manufacturers who are embracing young listeners and the new paradigm. That Stereophile is embracing it can be seen daily, not only in our reviews, but also those on Analog Planet, AudioStream, and InnerFidelity. Manufacturers and music lovers alike are plugging into the new energy of transformation, as well as the music that helps motivate it, and they are moving ahead.

The future is being created as I type. A forward-oriented industry association that recognizes the generational shift, and addresses music lovers of all ages, sexes, and nationalities could accomplish a lot.


Music_Guy's picture

If we want being an audiophile and even being a stereophile (lowercase) to be relevant. This won't come from the top down. This won't come from an "Association."

Beautiful people enjoying beautiful music on bitchin' gear...This is what we need. We want models, musicians, sports figures and movie stars touting better music sources on better equipment.

The "High-End" industry doesn't need any help. The rich will always have money. There will always be a market for the select few in the High-End Industry, the 1%

We want the 10% to covet and support high quality audio reproduction more. The 90% won't ever "get" it or can't afford it even if they do.

We need a Music Lovers Association.

crenca's picture

Your on to something here I think. The 1% will always exist and take care of itself. What "personal audio" has shown is that the 10% are looking for affordable yet high quality sound, and yes the 90% do not and never will care.

I think the audiophile press could help in that regard also. For every $5k and above speaker/component they review, they should be reviewing 3 or 4 speakers like ELAC's new offerings or GoldenEars, etc. I think the split between "inner fidelity" and "outer fidelity" is artificial and does not reflect how real folks are getting into and enjoying hi-fi these days (certainly the majority under 40). I could go on but again, it is all adjusting/adjustment to change in the market...

tonykaz's picture

I was selling PS Audio 4H pre-amps way back in the day, we sold a ton of the Integrated Amps too. In fact my business partner, George Buckley, still uses his PS integrated to drive his Thiel CS-3s.
We loved working with Paul & Stan, that Radio Station talking was amazing stuff. Paul is one of the few things I miss from my Audio days. ( early 1980s ). We were B&K Imports then and Esoteric Audio, in Michigan.

Just today, I ran into one of my Old Audio customers, driving one of my Employer's latest Midnight Blue Corvette products, a Convertible, trying to figure out how to fit his golf clubs into the car. He's wearing a Phonak Bravo system ( like me ), he doesn't even mention the Car Sound System. ( which is a greater than $7,000 addition to his Sticker price )

I just watched Art Dudley's "jiggle-cam" video of his visit to the inner workings Audio Research in Minnesota ( I've owned a few ARC products including a D 76, D 90 and SP 6E, SP8 and SP10, all Trade-ins, all went to Dave Wasserman at Stereo Exchange who bought all our our trade-in stuff). Anyway, looking at ARC today, I'd guess that these guys wouldn't be interested in a Association, nor would Sonus Faber. And why should they? They "claim" 55 Dealers but look like a Town that's been by-passed by the new Expressway.

Dealer networks are thread-bare and sparse.
Likely customers are hearing impaired or deaf.
The Youth are behind on their College loans and can't quite afford to get married unless their spouse is also a Career seeker. And, by god, they already own a phone and nice In-Ear thingys.
Average age of New Car Buyers is 52, the 20-30 folks are buying way-older but fresh looking cars ( hopefully with some warrantee remaining )

I visited Newport, a brief walk-thru. The place was no-where near filled with tire kickers and socials, I didn't notice any "Live" buyers. Except that I fully know the Headphone people "are" buyers, buyers in droves, buyers that hang out at Head-fi, Innerfidelty and a few other places.
Andrew Jones was packing em in with his "cheap" little speakers & sub., phew, what a show he was putting on. But, is Andrew Jones "High-End"? and is his stuff selling?, I'll bet it's selling way better than ARC stuff.

Could an Association get behind something like MQA?, maybe thats what an Association would be good at but does anyone care all that much? In his latest Rant, Jason Stoddard of Schiit says they won't be supporting MQA!, if it won't sell to headphones I figure it's another dud, from a long line ( and list ) of duds.

PS in Colorado looks ok, probably because the guy at the top knows what he's doing. The rest of High-end looks like 1980s Vinyl era with 20X price points.

It's time to move onto LED lighting systems and the 21st Century. Or, buy a used ARC pre-amp for $1,000 and a Grado Phono Cart. 1.5mv output and then move on to the 21st Century.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I kinda wish I had time to sit and listen to one of my previous Systems. Even at my age, I'm way too busy for anything like that, but I carry a pocket system that is superb.

ps.2, Jason comes out! , I hope he's a Bernie fan!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Hi Tony,

I came out in the spring of 1970, organized the New Haven Gay Liberation Front, marched in NYC's first Pride parade, and was active in New York GLF. I have never once gone back in the closet. I do confess to not holding hands in neighborhoods where doing so would most certainly invite physical violence. And I'm not real excited about visiting Turkey or Iran or Pakistan or Egypt or Saudi Arabia or.... But besides that, everyone I meet, everyone I've ever written for, everyone I've rented an apartment from, every health professional I've seen, all the police I worked with in community policing in Oakland, etc. etc. knows. Even my husband....

I have a lot to say about Bernie. But that I'll save for Facebook.

Love to you,

tonykaz's picture

Thanks for the feelings, you're probably the only High-End person offering, I accept.

I'm an Industry watcher, from the perspective of a "Past" Member of the Trade. I'm keeping an Eye on a few Industries ( with an Investor's interest ), I have no financial interest in Audio ( other than the Automotive aspect as a part of being a Auto Manufacturer, Retired )

Well, OK, 1970 it is. Tonight, the Audio World knows, if they don't already, I just hadn't noticed any previous mention, not that I read evvvvvvvvery single thing you've written.

Reads like you are making a statement tonight!, plenty of details, so I figure you are telling the Audio World who you are.

I am Married, 50 years, celibate for most of it, I'm not quite a lovable person as I tend to be truthful and honest in conversations. Not an ideal quality for loving relationships, My Minister Wifey loves a good compliment but I'm more likely to say she's getting old and fat. ( the sad truth )

Scientists love accuracy,

Socials love flattery.

Oh dear, you live in Oakland?, better get outa there!

I regret all that Orlando business, I hope this doesn't pick-up some copy-cat momentum.

I'll be a bit more careful with my pot-shots at reporting and Audio Events but......

Thanks for writing back,

Be careful,

Best wishes,

Tony in Michigan

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

We have escaped East Oakland. July 30 marks two years in Port Townsend, WA. What a blessing to be here. And yes, there are audiophiles who read Stereophile in Port Townsend. One is my MD.

tonykaz's picture

Nice place, like a small town in Maine, without the harsh Winters or folks talking "funny" and no NRA gun toting fishermen wearing Budweiser Hats.
What is it about you Audio Journalists?, Tyll up in the Frozen North, ARC in Minnesota, must be the looooooooooong Winters and having to stay "inside" with not much to do. I'm heading for the other "end" of the sidewalk: Venice Florida, where a person only needs a couple pairs of shorts, a swim suit, a bicycle and a kayak.
My Psychiatrist was one of my Esoteric Audio customers, I'm still his customer. Kinda funny how he got his purchase moneys back and made me do all the hard work. ( he cured me of Serial Killing and Bank Robbing but not my need to poke fun at silliness, I'm not even trying to work on that last one ) I guess I'll remain an old lump of coal, becoming a diamond is too much to wish for.
Maybe we all can hope you pick-up a pair of Infinity IRS and continue the Harry Pearson Sea Cliff traditions, that would definitely put you in the "Must Read" level of Audiophile philosophy writers. You and Tyll would "own" it all.

Best Wishes,

Tony in Michigan

crenca's picture

new stuff like Elac's offerings. I am surprised by how much traditional "hi-fi" companies ignore the "entry" or "affordable" space...

misterc59's picture

Some of the thinking (perhaps) involves a possible "convert" to purchase the whole system, rather than improve your listening experience one (component) step at a time, as I did. This type of expenditure seems more attainable. Depending on what one has to start, you go from there. Of course, it would be most beneficial for anyone to hear the difference between what they are currently hearing and what is reasonably possible, given their means, mine included. For myself, just hearing a difference between components/systems, certainly guided my path to this point.
Just my 2 cents, 1.5 cents US...

Julian Higgins's picture

If you spend $100k on a new vehicle you can be confident that it will behave substantially as you expect. Spend this at a well intentioned high end audio retailer and there is a very good chance - a high probability in the real world that the system will not offer wide bandwidth, low distortion and good linearity in actual residential rooms.
I have seen some really awful in room output images even from reviewed speakers in Stereophile and in client homes it's usually pretty dismal.
Want to get the business moving, dealers need to begin implementing systems in spaces rather than selling isolated hardware. Actual results make for systems that get used and listened to and many expensive systems simply get parked as the owner switches off because their brain (and often their wife) tells them this stuff does not really work - nice shiny boxes tho.
Just an opinion but offering expensive so-called full range speakers without active eq compares to 60's Detroit V8 s with two speed automatics - sorta works but hardly high performance.

monetschemist's picture

Another hobby of mine (which regrettably I have let slide for now), amateur astronomy, has many similarities to the audiophile hobby. It involves doing something that "not everyone gets" (I mean, really, how many times CAN you look at Saturn's rings?); over the last 20 years it has been overrun with high technology and lower-cost products manufactured in China; and there is an elite core of adherents who are prepared to spend 5 - 6 figures on wonderful equipment that the rest of us can only drool over.

And sure there are differences. For example I don't usually need to wear mosquito repellent when I'm listening to the Grateful Dead...

But anyway... one thing that made a huge difference creating a positive impression for amateur astronomy was the efforts of John Dobson.

Dobson was a popularizer of astronomy. He designed easy to DIY telescope mount (made with wood, teflon and formica) that let the builder spend money on the mirror and lenses rather than all the other stuff. And then he spent a great deal of his time with a telescope out on the sidewalk showing people what they could see.

People interested in John's full story could read the Wikipedia article at

I would argue that the industry that supplies astronomical equipment and material to amateurs has benefited hugely by John's efforts; as have the countless amateurs turned on to astronomy by the same.

How could the audio industry capture broad interest?

In a place like Vancouver, one idea might be to rent a room at a local community centre every so often to demonstrate equipment and music. I don't think that would cost too much. Yes it would require time (and probably volunteers). A local dealer, or group of dealers, could organize the equipment and records, but maybe it would work better if the actual event were run by volunteers (to move the commercial aspect one step distant).

I see similar events being run at dealer's premises, but I guess more people might go if it were in their neighbourhood and again one step removed from the commercial presence. Also, if the attendees knew what the music program was going to be...

Anyway. Just a thought.

Ktracho's picture

Something I would like to see and which has been suggested before is a demonstration of systems put together to meet a given budget, be it $2K, $5K, or whatever. It would be great if it could be done at a hi-fi show, for example. It could even be organized as a friendly competition between, say, different dealers, where the audience can vote on the one that sounded the best to them just to increase visibility and interest. (Everyone would quickly realize that the winners are not necessarily determined strictly on the basis of merit in terms of sound quality, but that wouldn't be the point.) When I go to a show, I do enjoy seeing and listening to all the expensive equipment - where else would you have the opportunity to do so? - but at some point I lose interest, and it becomes more of "been there done that" because the relevance is no longer there. I would prefer if it were an ear-opening experience so to speak, where I would be confronted with questions like, "Have you considered this?" or "What if you combined this with that?" Can an industry association help with this?