Do you find that high-end audio dealers are getting more scarce in your area?

Do you find that high-end audio dealers are getting more scarce in your area?
They're disappearing fast
26% (33 votes)
They're slowly going away
38% (49 votes)
Seems about the same
33% (43 votes)
They're actually increasing a little
3% (4 votes)
Lots of new ones all the time
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 129

Last week's question implied that high-end audio dealers are getting scarcer. Let's back up a bit and ask if that's really the case. Do you find that high-end audio dealers are getting more scarce in your area?

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

Home theater is taking over. The utter failure of SACD and DVD-A, and the lacj of anything significanly new to draw people into high-end dealer's "salons," means any given area can support fewer high-end dealers. The fact that "some" high-end dealers have a haughty attitude does not help.

Allen's picture

They really do seem about the same here in Australia. However, most have certainly moved to lower-end product such as video and theater. It seems harder and harder to find a high-end, two-channel–only dealer. I guess this is only natural given that hi-fi is "entertainment"—and with so many other entertainment options these days competing with hi-fi, obviously the market share of each is going to be proportionally smaller.

Bulldogbreed's picture

In the UK, the high-end dealer base is very small and struggling. It's almost impossible to hear some well reviewed brands and I understand the distributors in the UK have restrictive practices that make the process even more difficult. I still want to upgrade much of my kit, but I am finding it difficult ot spend the money! Come on industry, sort yourselves out!

Rich's picture

I voted "about the same" because there hasn't been a real high-end dealer within an hour of me for years!

John L's picture

We had five disappear in the last five years. Only one left. No new ones added. Now I have to travel over three hours to get to a true high-end dealer. Fortunately, there is one left in the NY area whose attitude doesn't suck.

Nathan's picture

The disappearance of the neighborhood hi-fi shop happened a long time ago. It used to be that, within, say, a 20-minute ride, you could find a couple of decent shops. That ended at least 10, maybe 15 years ago, what with department stores and mass retailers offering CD-based systems that did, in fact, sound better than entry level vinyl of the late '70s. Besides, with home theater taking center stage, the allure of high-quality two-channel is thin. Just recall that 25-30 years ago, just about every teen age kid wanted a decent stereo and a car. Now, he wants an iPod, a computer, and a car. Stereo? What's that?

Randy's picture

Still have one high-end dealer in Knoxville. Unfortunately, he has had to cater more to the home-theater crowd and he no longer demos turntables like the TNT in the big listening room.

Kirk Thomas's picture

Absolutely! Some are closing completely, some are going to more of a "private showing", no-store-front model, and basically all are at least changing signficantly. The dominance of HT, coupled with the economy of the past several years, has changed the landscape considerably.

Jim Germann's picture

There are about three in the Buffalo, NY area. But Rochester and Syracuse aren't all that far to travel. NY City is next! Hey, all of you "audiophiles," invite someone in for a listen! It could lead to more purchases of equipment, and fewer dealer shut downs. It has worked here!

DaveM's picture

It's a very tough business if they are focused solely on high end audio. Nearly all the survivors here in Dallas-Fort Worth are involved in home theater equipment and installation.

Dave's picture

High-end audio now co-exists with Home Theater. This is all about "custom installation," which is what's helping prop up the industry.

Tony P., Washington, DC's picture

Same three or four indies, plus one mid-to-high-end local chain here in DC for a number of years now.

RICH's picture


Travis Klersy's picture

The chains are severely dumbing down what they carry, and we only have two independent stores here in Minneapolis. Many of the major brands, such as Naim, are missing entirely from this market.

T.  O.  Driskel's picture

No market, no salons!

Tim Bishop's picture

The big difference is the fast disaperance of the mid-fi dealers. The hi-fi dealers come and go, but the number of them seems about the same.

My Two Cents's picture

Yep, many are turning into home theater shops with a room for limited "hi-fi/high-end" equipment. One shop owner told me that the high end was purely ancillary to his business which was now 90% home theater sales. That the demographics have changed to a young affluent and upwardly mobile buyer purchasing a home theater system. They weren't necessarily interested in the fidelity of the home theater system but the effects—the shock-and-awe factor of the sound and a big screen. Our hobby has taken a turn from a listening experience to a visual experience that couples now use as a home-based form of entertainment. They enjoy the comforts of home with no distractions of the theater audience per se. So the high end room is a limited to accomodating the old-school listeners, which is a shrinking segment of the market. Can Stereophile publish some numbers on home-theater sales vs high-end sales or market-share numbers? These would have to be from the same market segment (ie, high-end shops that now are predominantly home-theater shops).

Keith Y's picture

I live in Minnesota (Twin Cities). We only have two true high-end dealers, a couple of lower level high-end shops, and then there are 100 Best Buys/Circuit City stores.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

Dealers come and go, but in the Columbus area we are blessed with several good dealers. Ohio has more, though I couldn't audition any Joseph Audio speakers when I was last looking, because it would have required an overnight trip.

Wasting away in Modestoville's picture

Heck, except for one HT/audio store, where the audio side is a deformed stepchild; my town has nothing in audio but the big box low-fi crap.

Chris's picture

They are not so much disappearing as they are turning into custom home-theater installation stores. You can still order from them, but demoing before buying is much harder.

Colin Robertson's picture

It's a damn shame. It seems to me that most dealers get replaced with "custom installers." In my opinion, the installer should always be a suppliment to a shop where you can go to compare and contrast different products, not a replacement for them. I think I might just open up my own audio shop/installation service. Whaddya think?

Gerald Clifton's picture

I live in the Los Angeles area. The well-established dealers (those who have carefully built a client base that will respond to new products—those "permanent customers" who will occasionally upgrade or change) have survived by adding home theater to their wares. But a few of the newbies are starting to drop out. My own perception is that the economy is like a beautiful mansion with termites: everything looks fine (that is, the macroeconomic data show no cause for alarm), but that surface is being eroded by increasing levels of personal and government debt. Many potential customers are limit-up on their lines of credit and may see a high-end audio purchase as a low-priority luxury. It is this "marginal" spender that keeps smaller dealers and newcomers in survival mode. If this traffic goes away, these dealers cannot compete with the established businesses. Also, "mid-fi" IS getting better. High-end names (notably Klipsch, Energy, Mirage, and Infinity) are showing up more frequently at Best Buy, The Good Guys, and etc. Systems built around brand-names that used to be available only for 5-figure budgets can now be had for literally hundreds of dollars. Are they as good as "salon" offerings? Of course not. Does somebody making payments on a $50,000 SUV and a $500,000-$1,000,000 home care? No. They get acceptable sound and a somewhat prestigious name. And then there's the that's some tough competition for the consumer dollar. The times they are a-changin'—and in this country, in any business—it's change or die. Why should high-end audio be exempt from the law of the jungle?

Geordy Duncan's picture

It is a shame, but it is happening. However, I am witnessing a bit of a trend in the mad crunch of people that have been sucked in by the big box stores. A conundrum perhaps....such in a way that everything that has a beginning must eventually come to an end. Poor warranty, bad service, sub-standard products and a blatant lack of knowledge by most modern big box store staff members will eventually kill off their own creations. And it seems to me that people are getting fed up with that kind of treatment. Point is...people will eventually go back to quality and they WILL pay for it. One can own only so many Ford Festiva's and Geo Metro's before eventually realizing that the corvette is the way to go. High end will be back. We just need to be patient...

Tony R.  Harrison Sr.'s picture

So sad but accurate, true high-end audio dealers have about disappeared, at least in the part of the country in which I live (Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia area). A few still exists, but even those have or are slowly becoming video and home theater shops. Unfortunately, it appears that the days for high-end audio shops, as many of us have come to know, love and enjoy, are slowly coming to an end.

Al Marcy's picture

We be no longer the bad fad. :(

Anonymous's picture

The fact is that there are none in Washington DC that I am aware of.

Drew's picture

I'd say they're disappearing fast (as oppposed to slowly going away), but most have already disappeared.

Andre's picture

There never were any in my immediate area. Although there were more stores devoted to stereo in the '70s, their components weren't any more high end than what one finds at Best Buy today. It seems to me that high-end stores have always been scarce, so are their clients.

Steve Chapman's picture

Getting scarce? This question really shows the coastal bias of the Stereophile staff. Those of us not living in NY or SF saw many, if not most, of our high-end stores disappear long ago. I live in a metro area of over five million but know of only two high-end dealers within the city limits (not counting dealers working out of their home) and a few more in the suburbs. Most former high-end dealers in the area have closed (years ago), became home theater stores, and/or have been purchased by national electronics chains like Tweeter. Although I do support my remaining local dealers, they can only carry a limited number of brands (we're not talking Sound by Singer here, folks), so I'm forced to deal with out-of-town dealers for many of the items that interest me.