In the Forum: The Problem with Hi-Fi

Forum member “jgrossman” wants to know what’s stopping more people from getting into hi-fi. Is it the high cost of audio components, the hobby’s steep learning curve, the lack of hi-fi dealers, or something else?

Anton argues that audiophiles are the problem. “I have seen the enemy of high end audio,” he writes, “and it is us.”

What do you think? Talk about it in the Forum.

wheelspray's picture

I confess to be an audio nut and yet struggle with all the black magic claims from many esoteric products like super expensive cables, spikes, etc,

A moment that grounded me:

My father was rated top 10 trumpet player Down Beat 1958.  Played with Sinatra, Dorsey, Kenton, Ella, Peggy, Mulligan to name a few.  I was playing hifi recordings for "Dad" on my "stereo" and was suprised he was apethetic; couldn't care less.  We talked about it.

 He said that he listened to crap radios to here Parker, Coleman, or Elington, etc.  "It is not the sound but what they play."  Wholly cow, that blew me away.

I proceeded to play a great recording of Ben Webster and he enjoyed it almost as much as the fidelity had me.







Ian dylan's picture



My thing that I notice is this, and maybe I'm just over sensative as I can't afford to lose any hearing as I'm a blind guy. What I'm saying is this. After having attended the Capitol Audio fest here near the nations capitol, my feeling was not, dam it sucks that I can't afford this stuff, it was more like, hey, my system isn't so bad really. Though sure there were rooms that more or less blew me away, any room I was in for long enough provided me with something to complain about if I felt moved to do so. I think that the probloem is that,people who seek to sell us something forget that, even though I may not be the answer to all their problems, that I do never the less deserve the extra thought that might go in to asking a few questions such that we together can decide if they have something that will work for me given my wants and budget. Also, there needs to be more of a bigger interest in what those not rich might want that's above the usual ipod doc. The Brittish have been actually pretty good at that it would seem. 

Timbo in Oz's picture

Someone brings CD's to my place, all of them pop recordings especailly Linda Ronstadt on which the Aphex Aural exciter is clearly audible and tells me that there was severe midrange distortion.

But it was on the CD! I only ever use simple stereo recordings of acoustic music on instruments - that I know.

"You MUST buy /solder in this $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ capacitor / resistor" - (or I can't take you seriously!!!!)

"Your speakers are over 25 years OLDDDDD" (I can't take you seriously!), right here on Stereophile in one of the topics of yore IE before the fora. And they are that old! I wonder if he'd dared say that if they had been QUAD 57's, or big dewhizzered-Lowther driven horns. They were voiced and measured into good-sounding MF plastic caps and all air-cored coils, way back then.  I actually bought them instead of a pair of newish black  57's, of Yamaha NS1000M's, or LS3/5A's plus PP-dipole subs.

"You're using VALVEs!!!!!!!!!!!!?????",  and so and on and on.

People who just can't get that all measurement and hypothesis testing involves value judgements and is therefore only objective IF those choices are discussed - as to their aptness in the case - in the report and are then discussed willingly and happily with critics. Along with other aspects of the test's design.

Need I continue?

Ferrethead Farnarkle,

aka Timbo in Oz







sgibson389's picture

Computers and gaming. There are only so many hours in the day.

bondmanp's picture

I agree with the other posters, but there are other issues that I see.


First, is the marketing.  During the golden age of hifi, hifi and it's appeal was everywhere.  Hifi stores were everywhere, ads for gear ran in newspapers and general interest magazines.  Part of the appeal was status, or keeping up with the Jones's, but I think much of it was that, if you were serious about music, you showed it by investing in gear that let you hear it well.  That's how I got started in the 70's.  I heard a cousin's rig and decided I needed to experience my LPs like he was.


There's video, of course, and the now unusual idea of listening as a destination activity.  While it exists among the younger generations, it is rare.  Thats's a chicken and egg issue, IMO, since poor sound quality discourages listening as a destination activity, while a lack of listeners reduces the demand for better sound quality (in both the software and hardware areas).


Today, the public is constantly bombarded with the message that the iPod or a Bose system is all you need to have a great listening experience.  How many of the iPod generation kids have ever heard a great system, like my cousin's of old, so that they would realize that they have been sold a lie?  Not many.  A much younger coworker of mine was researching flat screen TVs.  I helped him out a bit, but then mentioned that I was more of an audio guy than a video guy.  He was curious, since he is a real music buff.  Well, to make a long story short, this coworker has joined our local audio club, and will surely be buying a nice, entry-level hifi when he can afford it.  His epiphany ocurred after a hifi club meeting, where he had written down the titles of some music that he liked.  He went home, downloaded the MP3s of those titles, and listened on his laptop.  "They weren't the same songs" that he had heard at the meeting, on a great system, he remarked.  A budding audiophile was born.  But if I hadn't seen him shopping for a TV, he would never have been exposed to high fidelity sound reproduction.  I even gave him a 1-year subscription to Stereophile as a Christmas gift.

chipz's picture

The biggest proble I see is that most people are unaware that there is better sound available at a reasonable price.  Most of the younger geeration have, unfortunately, lost much of their hearing due to the extra volume used to ke their music stand out.  Go to a rock concert and try to listen to the music - it's impossible with all the gigantic speakers pushing the sound that is distorted just by sheer volume levels.  Putting that aside, modern hi-fi is out of reach of most ecause of the ultra-high costs of the equipment.  Whatever happened to good sound being availale at a reasonable price?  The choice whe have now is go from the ipod to a $10K system.  Young people starting out in life don't have that kind of discretionary income available to them - they have other things to pay for like housing, utilities, student loans, and such.  Good quality equipment is just not availabe a reasonable prices.  Get the people interested by offering lower pruces quality sound and they will eventually upgrade to better and higher priced equipment.

ritafinley's picture

I'll agree with the original poster: audiophiles (and publications geared towards them) can definitely intimidate newcomers.

On certain audio hardware related forums (I won't name names), I've seen hardcore audiophiles tear newcomers to pieces. 

Hi-Fi is an exact science with plenty of numbers involved. It can intimidate the most technically astute newcomers. This is another reason why I don't see more people adopting it as a hobby. As a woman, I find myself rather alone in my hi-fi hobby. 

I have a longer, more detailed response here

es347's picture

Home theater...oh, $150K amplifiers and $40K speaker cables didn't help.  Next question cool