You are here

Log in or register to post comments
lwhitefl
lwhitefl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 12 months ago
Joined: Jul 10 2006 - 10:46am
High End Audio Business Model

As audiophile I

tom collins
tom collins's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 4 months ago
Joined: Apr 3 2007 - 11:54am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

very cogent thoughts len.

for models of success and failure in the motor vehicle world, one can look at cadillac and bmw motorcycles. both are high end products that had appealed to older males with money. caddy decided to remake itself about 10 years ago and changed some of their products to reflect a younger demographic while keeping the ones that still appealed to the country club set. they also poured massive amounts of money into ad campaigns and marketing on tv and in publications that appealed to the people they hoped to convert, not just car mags. they have been successful and are one of the few bright spots in the gm group now.
the other example is bmw motorcycles of which i rode 3 different models over a recent 10 year span. also a gentleman's toy, always expensive and exclusive. they have gone the way of high-end audio. they tried to change their image, but the products aimed at the younger buyers really missed the mark as the company did not take any advice from their american associates. they also do not tend to advertise outside of specialty motorcycle magazines. as a result, dealerships have closed, sales have fallen and like you suggested, only the largest metro areas now have dealers. they probably will pull up stakes within 10 years.
on our topic, a few months ago, my son came across a collection of half a dozen playboy magazines from 79-80. this was a very influential magazine then, though it is kind of a cliche now. if you were a man and wanted to know what was hip (and look at naked girls), you read playboy. it had many turntable, cassette player and other stereo ads in it. it was "cool" to have a good system. now that print media is dieing, i don't know where one can advertise products to appeal to a younger audience. but that is what needs to be done.
i agree with you, but don't have any answers.

lwhitefl
lwhitefl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 12 months ago
Joined: Jul 10 2006 - 10:46am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
if you were a man and wanted to know what was hip (and look at naked girls), you read playboy. it had many turntable, cassette player and other stereo ads in it. it was "cool" to have a good system. now that print media is dieing, i don't know where one can advertise products to appeal to a younger audience. but that is what needs to be done.

Perhaps print magazines such as Men's Health which seems pretty hip to me and also contains health and relationship advice. The Internet may be another place younger people are likely to be influenced. I believe web pages can be targeted based on similar interests. Cnet is another website that comes to mind, although they deal mainly with consumer electronics. But perhaps they could be convinced to start a review section on high end audio.

High end audio retailers had better start thinking outside the box before its too late.

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

Many magazines have tried to put forward an interest in the gear so people can focus on well produced music in the home. Problem being that the staff of most rags don't know Bose from shinola, and if they make it past that, they think that Yamaha, NAD and Adcom (or similar) are the be all end all.

The other issue is that things have run so long and so far in the wrong direction that it would take an extreme long term sacrifice of margins, advert space and written articles that would be slightly forced, at best, in order to correct the public perception of what high end is vs good music reproduction in the home.

A someone who is in the video side of things as well and in the projection side, I see that it took nearly 20 years to 'convince' the general buying public in western society..that flat panel hanging screens on walls is the be-all end-all of futuristic loving life perfection. (there is no pain, time, or lack of beauty in such worlds!)

It gives you an idea of the 'tending pressures' required to be enacted upon the public in order to change direction or to create a mental image in the minds of the masses. It took 100's of millions of $ in advertising over a period of 20 years with careful consistent sculpting to make flat screen TV's the 'go to' mental choice for the general western public.

The other methodology in enacting change in people is to hit them squarely where they live. To put it bluntly, to tickle their nether regions in the process. This can be expressed as a version of 'catechisms' or very much like story of how the president apparently knows the best new jokes within 24-36 hours, as if the jokes are good, they tickle the brain on it's backside and they travel fast, near subliminally, via that pathway through this structured society.

What I'm saying, is that the cheapest, fastest, most workable method of reaching the most # of people to change them fundamentally..is to engage in methods that attack the core or underbelly of the mind in a methodology and communication package that is simple and easily passed on, almost like a disease -but of the mind. 'Going viral', it is called.

The name of the company 'Goo Systems' works as it hit the confusion-funny bone of most of western society. It was specifically chosen and created by me as a method of sneaking past the mental barriers of people's minds. It is a humorous name that is tied to the product's consistency. There is also a subliminal in the visuals, as if you turn the Goo label around (reversed image), it is a near perfect reproduction of the continental 48. That was accidental (the reverse image part) and it took me a few months to catch that one. "Goo Systems Screen Goo" does seem a bit funky as names go, so digging into the hind brain of man to sell him a product is not such a bad thing. You see it in about 50% of the adverts in Stereophile, done with differing degrees of success. Eg, Vince, at Totem, has really gotten into it as of recent. For us, at goo, analysis markets via Google searches, etc, it seems as if the name goo in anything that is attached to the projection market is nearly fully viral and is known by the entire field, as a quick search will show. We totally 'own' the first 50-100 pages of a Google search of our company name. Now if that would only translate to sales.... The audio industry, as a whole, must work into that sort of penetration of the masses and their minds.

It's kinda like the so-called factual story that has the pertinent part of "my bother's friend said that", which is the part where you are supposed to catch the potential lie part of the so-called factual story, to root out the suppositional logic - except in this case it is all subliminal and visually oriented. Bypass the logic component of the brain and associated systems.

As a perfect example, I just heard this within the past 30 minutes. This information, is less than a day old and this has already echoed around the world. You won't find this in any mainstream publication but it will bounce around the world very fast. "Both the Chinese government and MI6 now confirm reports that much of the gold sold by the Federal Reserve Board over the past decade is in fact gold plated tungsten."(tungsten is used for 'salting' [hollowing out and filling) gold bars as the mass is similar enough to hide the salting unless the bars are closely inspected). True or not, it will move fast and I daresay that this comment is already very well known in the associated circles.

If you want to fix high end audio with regards to western society's individual involvement in music via such a channel, then you have to engage in viral practices. No other option is viable.

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 2 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:

Quote:
if you were a man and wanted to know what was hip (and look at naked girls), you read playboy. it had many turntable, cassette player and other stereo ads in it. it was "cool" to have a good system. now that print media is dieing, i don't know where one can advertise products to appeal to a younger audience. but that is what needs to be done.

Perhaps print magazines such as Men's Health which seems pretty hip to me and also contains health and relationship advice.


I wrote a piece for Men's Health awhile back. They massacred it. I don't like the way magazines such as Men's Health are constantly telling you what to do. Do this. Eat this. Wear this. Buy this.

I often wonder what it'll take to make hi-fi cool again. I think it's pretty simple: Manufacturers need to offer cooler products. Young people want small, affordable, good-looking, simple gear, such as the iPod, the Squeezebox, the Wadia iTransport. We need more of these things. Instead, we get more titanic amplifiers and $60,000 loudspeakers. Bah!

But I think things are changing for the better.

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
if you were a man and wanted to know what was hip (and look at naked girls), you read playboy. it had many turntable, cassette player and other stereo ads in it. it was "cool" to have a good system. now that print media is dieing, i don't know where one can advertise products to appeal to a younger audience. but that is what needs to be done.

Perhaps print magazines such as Men's Health which seems pretty hip to me and also contains health and relationship advice.


I wrote a piece for Men's Health awhile back. They massacred it. I don't like the way magazines such as Men's Health are constantly telling you what to do. Do this. Eat this. Wear this. Buy this.

I often wonder what it'll take to make hi-fi cool again. I think it's pretty simple: Manufacturers need to offer cooler products. Young people want small, affordable, good-looking, simple gear, such as the iPod, the Squeezebox, the Wadia iTransport. We need more of these things. Instead, we get more titanic amplifiers and $60,000 loudspeakers. Bah!

But I think things are changing for the better.

Jumping to a new and unknown rock, across a large chasm or across an expanse of water requires solid knowledge, stupidity, great skills, or sureness of position. For what we have here can certainly be perceived as a wide chasm, but it can be tamed with a good plan that is actually enacted in a stable driven way. Like the overall unspoken agreeance in the video business to make flat screen TV's 'the standard'.

The high end audio industry is like a bunch of warring Scots in the highlands, we need to recognize the common enemy and stick to a plan with no falling off, or out -if we are going to get anywhere.... It would be like herding cats.

You cannot move into people's expectations...you have to move people's expectations. But...without them noting that it has been done. That's the kicker.

j_j
j_j's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 8 months ago
Joined: Mar 13 2009 - 4:22pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

The problem, I think, is that 30 years ago it was hard to get high-end reproduction, and every step of the chain had serious limits that could be fixed by good mechanical and electrical design.

Nowdays, except for loudspeakers, the whole chain is, once you get past the really cheap stuff, pretty much completely fixed.

So there's less to tweak, there's less to fix, and there is less need to fix.

Which does create a problem.

However, instead of working on the known problems like speakers, acoustics (yes, some people work on speakers, I know, but...), and room fitting, what's happened is that the industry, by and large, has fallen back on relying on the fallability of human perception.

Now, this is not to say that things like tube amps, with different overload characteristics, etc, do not have their place, because they can add to the illusion for PEOPLE WHO PREFER THEM.

And that's fine.

But the industry, by and large, doesn't admit to what it actually does, and many in the industry are still arguing things like "purity" and so on, when in fact they are creating devices that add to the illusion.

And then there's the ones who simply prey, deliberately or not, on the fallability of perception, and that, I think, does more to destroy the high end than anything else, because most of the people who would otherwise be interested run into that nonsense first, and then just run screaming into the sunset, rather than look into more of what the industry does.

So, I think:

1) The industry needs to understand what it actually does that matters.
2) It needs to self-police, and a lot better
3) It can not afford to continue to defend nocebo and placebo effects as anything more than that.

Then, maybe, we'll see some improvement.

Until then, it will just keep on dwindling, turning into home theatre, and marginalizing itself more and more and more.

Which would be bad, frankly. My experience is that when you expose rational people who say "good enough" to their MP3 players to something better, they actually appreciate it, and show interest. But then they go to a high-fi emporium, and their BS meter blows up, and they turn off completely.

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

As I said, like herding cats.

Kevin Haskins
Kevin Haskins's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 13 2009 - 8:18am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

A business model, is based upon actual economics. Anyone who has followed the industry, and the profitability of its companies, would be a fool to invest in a high-end audio company. It is an over-saturated shrinking market and the only way to survive, is in niches. As an investor, it has to rank as one of the highest risk, lower reward market segments available. Go to the SBA and try to write one of the generic business plans that actually makes sense for high-end audio. Pretend your trying to come up with a model, to attract investors and capital. It is a pretty hard-sell for anything that resembles what we typically think of when we think of High-end Audio Salons and the products they sell.

Growing the industry is going to be an uphill battle until you have products that attract younger buyers in number. That requires less expensive products that mesh with the products that younger consumers actually use/want. That means systems designed around gaming, IPods, and other market segments that audiophiles tend to smirk at (Bose Wave Radio etc...) Home Theater is probably the savior of many high-end companies. Without it, I'd say many of audio specific companies would be out of business. It is a younger demographic than just pure 2-channel audio and it has a wider base of appeal than audio alone.

I don't know if there is a realistic business model that is going to change the direction of the industry in terms of what we view as high-end audio salons. I think that niche, is one that is already over-served in relation to the size of the actual market. There are too many companies competing for too few customers. The actual B&M retailers, who had difficulty keeping the doors open under a healthy economy and before the Internet, are going to be battling some big headwinds going forward.

wgriel
wgriel's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 12 months ago
Joined: Oct 28 2006 - 6:59pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:

Growing the industry is going to be an uphill battle until you have products that attract younger buyers in number. That requires less expensive products that mesh with the products that younger consumers actually use/want. That means systems designed around gaming, IPods, and other market segments that audiophiles tend to smirk at (Bose Wave Radio etc...)

I believe you are completely correct. While this represents a very small example and is in no way going to create a big change in the market, I notice that British speaker manufacturer B&W is going after the iPod crowd and is now (or soon will be) selling 2 ipod docks, computer speakers and a set of head phones that appear to be targeting the iPod user rather than the traditional audiophile.

What is interesting is that some fans of B&W have expressed dismay at this "cheapening" of the brand. I tend to think of it as a very smart move, the kind of thing that may help expose some people to products from a company they never would have heard of otherwise.

Kevin Haskins
Kevin Haskins's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 13 2009 - 8:18am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:

I believe you are completely correct. While this represents a very small example and is in no way going to create a big change in the market, I notice that British speaker manufacturer B&W is going after the iPod crowd and is now (or soon will be) selling 2 ipod docks, computer speakers and a set of head phones that appear to be targeting the iPod user rather than the traditional audiophile.

What is interesting is that some fans of B&W have expressed dismay at this "cheapening" of the brand. I tend to think of it as a very smart move, the kind of thing that may help expose some people to products from a company they never would have heard of otherwise.

I think it is unfortunate, but any high-end audio company that is going to survive is going to need to diversify into products that will be seen as "cheapening the brand".

Audiophiles have a near religious intolerance of anything they see as "cheapening of the brand". Look at the scorn Bose attracts. The reality is that Bose has successfully marketed high-end sound to the average consumer. The Bose Wave Radio gives me hope that average consumers are willing to pay for what they perceive as "better sound". Now... you can heap scorn on the Bose Wave Radio all you want but Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh succesfully sold a gazillion of the things to old people who would never consider reading Stereophile. They paid good money for those things too which means they are willing to pay for better sound if you market it to them in a package that they actually want.

Average people want high-quality sound, they just don't want the high-end industry which is stuck on $10,000 entry level systems and dedicated rooms. Once you define $10K as entry level, you have lost 99.999% of the market.

amey01
amey01's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 years 4 months ago
Joined: Sep 4 2005 - 10:17pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

I think audiophiles need to understand that their hobby is not for everyone, even though it gives us immense pleaseure. Please understand that high-end audio is profoundly expensive, and although we can see the benefits, I it really is putting the "cart before the horse" if you think people will invest that sort of money without first demanding that sort of performance.

Case in point: Would you invest a large sum of money in ....... pick anything, say a desk chair? Probably not, even though you can appreciate a $5,000 desk chair is much better than a $199 special from OfficeWorks. Quite simply, if you're not demanding the $5,000 level of comfort it is a moot point and you're not going to open your wallet.

Alternatively, if you were experiencing back problems and were after something specific, you probably would go out and seek something that would cater for your needs - and if that meant spending $5,000 you probably would.

Same with audio - we audiophiles seek performance, not expensive components. The expensive components are the by-product of the performance we seek. So unless you are seeking that performance there is just no way you're going to drop the required amount of cash.

And finally - not everyone seeks the level of performance that we require, and a lot of people can enjoy the joy of music on systems of far less fidelity than us......and I say "good luck to them".

Grosse Fatigue
Grosse Fatigue's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 22 2007 - 7:04pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

This industry is full of boring bearded old men debating gravely about the pros and cons of turntables.. It needs sexy people to transmit the virus. This is how deseases and learning are transmited, by individuals, not by a piece of hardware. And it needs good advertising like the extraordinary NHT ads of 10 years ago.

The best audio saleman I have seen was the owner of The Sound Lab in Naperville, Illinois, in real life a commodity trader at the Board of Trade. His enthusiasm, dynamism and charisma were infectuous. The quality of the writings of a Tom Norton and Larry Archibald, too, were infectious.

The NRA had Charlton Heston. The audio industry should hire Robert Redford or better: Jennifer Connelly or Uma Thurmam as their mouthpiece and tell the J10s to shut the fuck up. I know Jennifer would get me the audio bug right away.

lwhitefl
lwhitefl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 12 months ago
Joined: Jul 10 2006 - 10:46am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

With all due respect, I think many responders to my original post have missed the point. I can't believe many people in the age group 35 - 50 would really continue to choose low resolution music - if - and this is a big 'if', they were properly exposed to a really good stereo system costing about the same as many people are willing to spend on an AV system today. I'm referring to a complete stereo system with all necessary parts capable of producing an impressive listening experience.

My contention is many in this age group would choose very well reproduced music over an AV systems sound at a comparable price point. Especially when they discover most video doesn't really need all that surround sound, center channel, sub-woofer equipment to sound credible.

Grosse Fatigue
Grosse Fatigue's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 22 2007 - 7:04pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

Video is one way to get them gradually into audio. Today they are not going to start from scratch with a high end audio system if they were not exposed to it before. I would not pooh pooh video. Remember audio is a solitary exercice while video is watched by the whole family. Video gives them an excuse to buy audio.

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

Froggie, this is audio. Not porn. Besides, who doesn't think people like Tim Paravincini are sexy? oh yeah, i was watching ratatouille( you posting reminded me of it) the other day and was thinking..man, the audio for film is generally much better than audio for audios sake..


Quote:
This industry is full of boring bearded old men debating gravely about the pros and cons of turntables.. It needs sexy people to transmit the virus. This is how deseases and learning are transmited, by individuals, not by a piece of hardware. And it needs good advertising like the extraordinary NHT ads of 10 years ago.

The best audio saleman I have seen was the owner of The Sound Lab in Naperville, Illinois, in real life a commodity trader at the Board of Trade. His enthusiasm, dynamism and charisma were infectuous. The quality of the writings of a Tom Norton and Larry Archibald, too, were infectious.

The NRA had Charlton Heston. The audio industry should hire Robert Redford or better: Jennifer Connelly or Uma Thurmam a

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
Once you define $10K as entry level, you have lost 99.999% of the market.

Sheee--iiiit , someone had best give Stereophile the memo.

j_j
j_j's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 8 months ago
Joined: Mar 13 2009 - 4:22pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
I can't believe many people in the age group 35 - 50 would really continue to choose low resolution music - if - and this is a big 'if', they were properly exposed to a really good stereo system costing about the same as many people are willing to spend on an AV system today.

This has been my experience. But, then they go to a stereo store, their BS meter melts, and they never EVER come back, unless it's for home theatre.

Stephen Scharf
Stephen Scharf's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 5 days ago
Joined: Nov 19 2008 - 9:36pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

I think I understand Len's point pretty well, and along those lines, the first two companies I can think of that "get it" are Signal Path, Intl with their excellent Era Design line of speakers and Peachtree Audio components, and Zu, who bring a very fresh, hip perspective to audio. Both companies really seem to be in touch with the needs of today's younger customers (look at the design brief for the Era speakers or the Peachtree Nova, for example). For example, you could build a terrific, dynamite sounding system for about five grand using an Apple TV as a music server, a Peachtree Nova and a pair of Zu Essence speakers (I heard just such a system at RMAF, and Jason Victor Severinus mentioned on the Stereophile show report blog).

In fact, Zu caught on to this, and at the RMAF show in October, were offering a "show-only special" comprised of the Zu Essence speakers, a Peachtree Nova and a $1000 set of speaker cables, all for four grand. I think if the types of customers Len is talking about heard this system, they would totally get his point. And the price point would be such that a very successful business model could be built along these lines; I think Signal Path/Peachtree and Zu are doing just that.

vantagesc
vantagesc's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 4 2007 - 1:02am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:

Average people want high-quality sound, they just don't want the high-end industry which is stuck on $10,000 entry level systems and dedicated rooms. Once you define $10K as entry level, you have lost 99.999% of the market.

Totally agree. I think the hi-end industry is a little lost and consumers are getting smarter.

Talk to your above average electronics consumer. Say he/she bought a top of the line plasma TV. He is willing to spend a little extra for the performance because it is something that he can see and verify with his own eyes. It is a convenient product and it is not 10x the price of a merely average plasma.

Now talk to the same consumer about audio. You're trying to sell him cables that cost thousands, equipment isolation platforms, and expensive cases for the electronics that should cost far less. That value just isn't there compared to the performance offered by main stream / mass produced electronics for the dollar.

Even consumers who have the money and love audio are getting smarter. I'm always meeting someone who used to get wrapped up in all the wrong things that the hi-end audio pushes. I'm not saying these certain things are BS, but the best case scenario is that these items have very little sonic benefit in comparison to what they cost.

My final point is that speakers should be regarded as the problem, not the room, even if that is not really the case. Consumers want something that works with the room they have, just like their HDTV. Make speakers with more uniform polar response...something that doesn't need heavy room treatments to sound good.

Though I've never heard it, I imagine something like the Beolab 5 in a more compact form and a far cheaper price would be the ideal consumer speaker. Tidy, compact, and no separate boxes.

Grosse Fatigue
Grosse Fatigue's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 22 2007 - 7:04pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

Shiit! They put a freak like that in a show room and he has the potential to turn away every single newbie.. This is why normal people with two arms two legs and ten fingers are just not interested in audio. They don't want to join the freak's club.

lwhitefl
lwhitefl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 12 months ago
Joined: Jul 10 2006 - 10:46am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

This business model is targeted at music lovers in the 35 - 50 age group. I rent and like good movies, and have integrated HDTV into my primary sound system.

But I love music and appreciate how good audio equipment (properly setup and tuned) can convey the essence of music. I want to continue experiencing music like that in my home, and good audio retailers are key.

I understand a stereo system cannot truly recreate a live acoustic event, but it does have the potential to produce a wonderfully imaginative experience.

andy19191
andy19191's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 25 2006 - 1:50am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

> Now talk to the same consumer about audio. You're trying to sell him cables
> that cost thousands, equipment isolation platforms, and expensive cases for
> the electronics that should cost far less. That value just isn't there
> compared to the performance offered by main stream / mass produced electronics
> for the dollar.

As JJ mentioned earlier, it is something a lot stronger than poor value. It is BS.

Over 30 years ago the high-end home audio sector opted to drop mainstream technical performance in favour of marketed/perceived performance. This dictated a stronger separation from the mainstream as reflected in more distinct magazines, shops, online communities, shows, brands, etc... The views and products of this relatively isolated inwardly looking community have become progressively more and more extreme in order to keep the juices flowing for those already signed on. From outside, the activities have looked progressively more and more silly as audiophiles are asked to believe that more and more types of product possess magical sonic properties. It is not possible for this process to continue indefinitely. It will be interesting to see how Ted's small magic bowls are presented in the forthcoming Stereophile article and the reader's reaction to it. Could this mark the limit of what audiophiles are prepared to believe in any significant numbers?

I would fully agree that high-end audio shops have got to change their approach and many have switched to home theatre or shut up and gone off to do something more profitable. Having attended the last IFA it was clear that home audio as a distinct sector is shrinking rapidly. Audio in the home may still be growing but it is more integrated with everything else.

tom collins
tom collins's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 4 months ago
Joined: Apr 3 2007 - 11:54am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

when i decided to step back into this hobby 5 years ago, i responded to an ad run by magnapan for a set of $500 small maggies. the website directed me to the local dealer, whose presence i was unaware of prior to. i went over there and after listening to maggies and a few others, we got down to the business of helping me build a system. several hours were spent and after learning what i already had and what my comfort zone was, the decision was reached to start with electronics. arcam was chosen as opposed to ayre, b and k, rotel and naim because it represented the best value for my goals and budget. after a few more trips, i settled on an integrated and cd player. the dealer knew that it was a waste of time to try and sell me speakers (my original reason for going) at that time. that came a year later. then came the turntable, then a trade to a better turntable, speaker wires, cords, cartridges. it really comes down to that customer contact. also, this dealer had an upgrade path at the store, so that i could continue to dream. i am still using the arcam, now as a preamp only until i decide on a dedicated preamp and the arcam cd player.
the challenge for the dealer is getting the people in the door and then handling them right once they are there. if not handled right, the loyalty will not be built.
every store today should have equipment that will accomodate an i-pod if they have any hope of getting younger people. a strong headphone section is probably a must as well. that would be a good way to get someone started. $300 phones and $300 ipod doc and $300 headphone amp.
in fact an ad showing a pretty young thing grooving to tunes with such a setup and saying "hear the music the way it was meant to be heard, all for under $1000" would be the ticket. get them started and they'll be back for the speakers.

Ajani
Ajani's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 years 2 weeks ago
Joined: Mar 19 2008 - 7:07pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
when i decided to step back into this hobby 5 years ago, i responded to an ad run by magnapan for a set of $500 small maggies. the website directed me to the local dealer, whose presence i was unaware of prior to. i went over there and after listening to maggies and a few others, we got down to the business of helping me build a system. several hours were spent and after learning what i already had and what my comfort zone was, the decision was reached to start with electronics. arcam was chosen as opposed to ayre, b and k, rotel and naim because it represented the best value for my goals and budget. after a few more trips, i settled on an integrated and cd player. the dealer knew that it was a waste of time to try and sell me speakers (my original reason for going) at that time. that came a year later. then came the turntable, then a trade to a better turntable, speaker wires, cords, cartridges. it really comes down to that customer contact. also, this dealer had an upgrade path at the store, so that i could continue to dream. i am still using the arcam, now as a preamp only until i decide on a dedicated preamp and the arcam cd player.
the challenge for the dealer is getting the people in the door and then handling them right once they are there. if not handled right, the loyalty will not be built.
every store today should have equipment that will accomodate an i-pod if they have any hope of getting younger people. a strong headphone section is probably a must as well. that would be a good way to get someone started. $300 phones and $300 ipod doc and $300 headphone amp.
in fact an ad showing a pretty young thing grooving to tunes with such a setup and saying "hear the music the way it was meant to be heard, all for under $1000" would be the ticket. get them started and they'll be back for the speakers.

Very well said!!! I've started similar discussions to your point on other forums, so I 100% agree with what you're saying....

While I agree with the OP that something needs to be done to change the current business model, I disagree with the starting age (35 - 50) and the entry price ($10K)... I think we need to be more inclusive in this hobby, to change the perception of an audiophile from being a very rich old man, desperately clutching his original 1950's Vinyl and decrying the demise of HiFi by all these damn iPods and MP3s...We need to change that perception to one where anyone interested in better sound quality is an audiophile.... so whether you are just looking for a $50 pair of iGrado headphones to replace the stock phones on your iPod, or planning to drop $100K on a Turntable, you are an Audiophile...

We need to start early: market headphone upgrades (such as the iGrado I mentioned earlier) to teens and college students looking for better sound... also we need more powered monitors such as the Audioengine A2 ($200) and M-Audio BX5A ($500), that can be used to replace the cheapo computer speakers most persons have or connected to an iPod dock, etc...

Also, we need to have clear upgrade paths in the store... So you can move from a $50 iGrado on your iPod all the way up to some Stax Omega phones and amp for around $5K... You can upgrade from $200 Audioengine Powered monitors to $20K Speaker/Integrated Amp combos...

lwhitefl
lwhitefl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 12 months ago
Joined: Jul 10 2006 - 10:46am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

I did not mean to exclude anyone interested in music. I included the reasons for choosing the 35 - 50 age group in my original post, and I think it's a potentially more productive approach in the shorter term.

I do agree the entire industry and audiophiles should promote good music and high fidelity audio to young people. But I have to be honest I don't think low resolution music is very appealing and certainly doesn't have any wow factor. I'm also not at all sure it would be economically feasible for high end audio retailers to attempt being all inclusive.

I would have never considered high end audio appealing if I couldn't hear a clear and significant difference over radio and at least some similarity to a live acoustic performance.

vantagesc
vantagesc's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 4 2007 - 1:02am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
I want to continue experiencing music like that in my home, and good audio retailers are key.

The problem is not the stores, it's the products they have to sell.

Ajani
Ajani's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 years 2 weeks ago
Joined: Mar 19 2008 - 7:07pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
I did not mean to exclude anyone interested in music. I included the reasons for choosing the 35 - 50 age group in my original post, and I think it's a potentially more productive approach in the shorter term.

I do agree the entire industry and audiophiles should promote good music and high fidelity audio to young people. But I have to be honest I don't think low resolution music is very appealing and certainly doesn't have any wow factor. I'm also not at all sure it would be economically feasible for high end audio retailers to attempt being all inclusive.

I would have never considered high end audio appealing if I couldn't hear a clear and significant difference over radio and at least some similarity to a live acoustic performance.

I understand why you chose the 35 - 50 age range... I'm sure it was not meant to deliberately exclude younger persons, but I just feel that to revitalize the industry we need to start earlier. Someone who has not been interested in better quality audio by 35 - 50, may have the financial means for a $10K system but probably already has many other hobbies that will eat away that $10K...

As for low resolution music: it depends on what you call low res... a youtube video playing audio at 46k (or some low bitrate) well tend to sound pretty bad regardless (though it may sound a shade better on higher quality systems)... an AAC file from iTunes at 256K will sound better and better as you use higher quality components...

Clear differences are not only apparent in $10K setups... The most interested reactions I've received from non-audiophiles was using a pair of $400 M-Audio BX5A Active Monitors... the difference between it and the standard mini systems was very obvious... more importantly the speakers are affordable enough, that even my little brother is interested in getting a pair... Better sound quality can be had at all levels... introduce people to that concept early and you will find that as they grow older and have more spending power, they will likely seek out better and better audio systems (up to whatever their cut-off point is)...

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 3 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

What a great thread and killer topic!

I like pondering this, with personal opinions that wander the gamut.

Regarding expanding the market...

I agree with many of the notions so far, and would add...

I have met audiophiles who were lured into the hobby by wanting 'their home stereo to sound as good as their car stereo.'

Crazy as that seems, many people spend as much or more time listening in their car as they do at home - getting the big name car guys to move into home sound will be a good thing, and that car woofer company has already made a nice home product.

Affordably providing upgrades to mass market sound has always been a good entre, so what people mention about improved headphones and docks is very well stated. As data storage space continues to progress and data compression is no longer required as a compromise we will also see a natural migration to better sound - without having to raise awareness at all, I think. Then, the battle ground will move to sonic compression.

For dealing with the image of the hobby and enhancing awareness, we need the modern equivalent of Hugh Hefner and his original readership demographic to help drive awareness, cool factor, and appreciation of some degree of connoisseurship. Same goes for drinking better, reading better, etc...I have no idea where this would come from, though. Kind of an Oprah/Rachel Ray/Martha person for guys. Chicks seem to have all kinds of lifestyle gurus, men, not so much. Maybe Stephen, Michael Lavorgna, and John DeVore could take that project over?

As a long time audio-nut, I also just cannot relate to where the market has gone. Back in the day, the world's best system might equal 1/4 of an average person's income, now it is in the range of 20 times that amount - audio has gone to Gucci land. It

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 2 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
For dealing with the image of the hobby and enhancing awareness, we need the modern equivalent of High Hefner and his original readership demographic to help drive awareness, cool factor, appreciation of some degree of connoisseurship.


I have always liked this idea.


Quote:
Maybe Stephen, Michael Lavorgna, and John DeVore could take that project over?


Michael Lavorgna and John DeVore are my lifestyle gurus.

Incidentally, I've been reading a lot of Harvey Rosenberg's old "Fashion and Beauty" columns in Art Dudley's Listener, and I think Rosenberg did a good job of playing the lifestyle guru.

jamesgarvin
jamesgarvin's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 2 2005 - 12:22pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

Len, I think you have hit upon a part of the problem. But most people do not find high end audio through dealers. They find it somewhere else first, and then the dealers are there to take the baton.

The first link in the process is us audiophiles. Why is it that we preach the need to instill values in our kids because that is their most impressionable age so that they maintain those values into adulthood, and then expect people in their 30's to all of a sudden become interested in high end audio?

The fact is that by the time people are in their 30's, their interests are largely defined. We may get the occasional straggler, but good luck getting someone to spend what we may consider chump change, $1000.00 maybe, on audio equipment when they did not grow up valuing high end music reproduction.

I can tell you what they are growing up on. Video and computer games. And, when kids are graduating from college, they are spending their money on computers because they were brought up to believe they cannot live without a computer.

When I see audio gatherings with no kids in attendance, listening rooms with one chair smack dab in the middle of the sweet spot, doors to listening rooms which are closed, listening rooms that are designed and set up for seclusion rather than being inviting, I know why high end audio in general, and specifically dealers, are having a tough time. The dealers cannot grow this hobby. That is up to each of us.

I've incorporated video into my audio system. My son and I watched Wall-E last night. There have been many evenings I have suggested that they watch a movie through the audio system rather than the on the upstairs small mono television, even, gasp, if it prevented me from listening to music that evening. I have a sectional rather than the perfect lone chair glued to the middle of the floor. I have toys strewn about the floor of the listening room, and a playroom adjacent to it. We do not own a computer.

I tend to think the chances of my kids becoming audiophiles are better than the typical audiophile's. Rather than discussing the high end business model, perhaps we should be discussing the high end social model.

Ajani
Ajani's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 years 2 weeks ago
Joined: Mar 19 2008 - 7:07pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
Len, I think you have hit upon a part of the problem. But most people do not find high end audio through dealers. They find it somewhere else first, and then the dealers are there to take the baton.

The first link in the process is us audiophiles. Why is it that we preach the need to instill values in our kids because that is their most impressionable age so that they maintain those values into adulthood, and then expect people in their 30's to all of a sudden become interested in high end audio?

The fact is that by the time people are in their 30's, their interests are largely defined. We may get the occasional straggler, but good luck getting someone to spend what we may consider chump change, $1000.00 maybe, on audio equipment when they did not grow up valuing high end music reproduction.

I can tell you what they are growing up on. Video and computer games. And, when kids are graduating from college, they are spending their money on computers because they were brought up to believe they cannot live without a computer.

When I see audio gatherings with no kids in attendance, listening rooms with one chair smack dab in the middle of the sweet spot, doors to listening rooms which are closed, listening rooms that are designed and set up for seclusion rather than being inviting, I know why high end audio in general, and specifically dealers, are having a tough time. The dealers cannot grow this hobby. That is up to each of us.

I've incorporated video into my audio system. My son and I watched Wall-E last night. There have been many evenings I have suggested that they watch a movie through the audio system rather than the on the upstairs small mono television, even, gasp, if it prevented me from listening to music that evening. I have a sectional rather than the perfect lone chair glued to the middle of the floor. I have toys strewn about the floor of the listening room, and a playroom adjacent to it. We do not own a computer.

I tend to think the chances of my kids becoming audiophiles are better than the typical audiophile's. Rather than discussing the high end business model, perhaps we should be discussing the high end social model.

A very interesting point... I think part of what we need is to move away from the 'sole chair' listening rooms, to having a nice couch or love-seat in the listening room (actually my favorite dealer had a couch - he was the only dealer who did that, and it made it really easy to carry along a friend to audition equipment)...

Kevin Haskins
Kevin Haskins's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 13 2009 - 8:18am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

I agree with many points made. I'll just make this observation though. Many of us grew up when hi-fi was cool. When I was a kid, the cool kids had nice systems and everyone had albums, regularly went to concerts and the act of listening to hifi, was a social norm. My kids think subwoofers are cool, like nice stereos but they also have MUCH more competition for their entertainment attention. Lets face it, if we had XBOX360, home theater systems, phones and texting, we would have placed a different importance on hifi also.

The result of this, is that dedicated 2-channel playback is facing a demographic reality. It has significant competition from other forms of entertainment and no matter what we do to attract younger buyers, we are fighting a losing battle.

High quality sound is going to need to diversify to survive. And in terms of high-end audio, if we want ANY converts from the younger generation you are going to have to attract them based upon things they want. You don't write a marketing plan for a company around the idea that you are going to change the customer. Good companies identify what consumers want, and supply it. The ones who make significant changes in a market, identify things that people didn't know they wanted, but once they see it, they want it. There are a certain percentage of the population that is going to be attracted to high-end audio, but that percentage is going to be exceptionally small when we don't embrace $1K systems. If you don't have a ladder for customers to climb, you won't ever get any of them into the tree house. Right now... high-end audio is a tree house in a Redwood Forest and there is no ladder.

lwhitefl
lwhitefl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 12 months ago
Joined: Jul 10 2006 - 10:46am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

Lots of great comments and ideas

I agree most of us need to do a better job of instilling music appreciation in the younger generation, but it's obviously a long term part of the solution. High end audio is badly in need of a transfusion now

I still believe high end audio retailers have a real opportunity to attract new customers using well placed advertising to market affordable stereo systems with a wow factor. There good audio equipment at all price points.

Many of the listening rooms at the 2008 RMAF used comfortable couches and chairs bunched together allowing a good number of people to listen together. I agree high end audio retailers should do the same. But while the retailer listening room should emulate a home environment, it must contain fundamental home compatible acoustic elements which together with synergistic cabling, power conditioning, and vibration control are a fundamental part of setup and tuning.

I agree with part of Kevin's post "it is true good companies identify what consumers want, and supply it. The ones who make significant changes in a market, identify things that people didn't know they wanted, but once they see it, they want it." There's no good reason why any age group wouldn't respond to the type of stereo system being described here.

I also very much like the idea of respected audio journalists mentoring many of the ideas expressed in this thread. Hopefully with their encouragement audio manufacturers and retailers would begin to embrace many of these ideas. Especially once the economy improves.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 3 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

You guys are absolutely right...a focus on a larger "sweet area" rather than a "sweet spot" should be an industry priority.

Cue Kal....

andy_c
andy_c's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 11 months ago
Joined: Dec 25 2007 - 12:48pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
Chicks seem to have all kinds of lifestyle gurus, men, not so much.


Since Thanksgiving is a week from now, I will add that to the list of things to be thankful for .

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

That's why I mentioned viral. For if you feel that High-end needs infusions, now (dammit!), then the some of the more viable solutions center around viral ones, or ones of similar intent and attempt.

malacoda
malacoda's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 19 2009 - 5:40am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

This is an interesting thread.

As a non audiophile who recently upgraded my HT speakers I found the entire process to be the most convoluted, time consuming search I have done in quite some time. The end result was worth it but I can easily see most people giving up before they even start.

I decided to upgrade my old HT speakers at the start of this year and set out doing some research. I wanted quality music playback in stereo mode and the current micro speakers the wife approved of didn

lwhitefl
lwhitefl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 12 months ago
Joined: Jul 10 2006 - 10:46am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

Your post is very interesting and encouraging. Your comments about how difficult it is to build a high quality stereo system is well taken. That's exactly why high end audio retailers should take notice of the ideas in this thread. A really knowledgeable high end audio retailer should be capable and willing to help music lovers sort out these issues. They should have affordable stereo systems that clearly demonstrate the qualities that go into a well thought out stereo system. You're actually fortunate to live near a major metropolitan area that has access to any high end audio. And you did exactly the right thing - you listened with your ears to make the final decision.

amey01
amey01's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 years 4 months ago
Joined: Sep 4 2005 - 10:17pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
With all due respect, I think many responders to my original post have missed the point. I can't believe many people in the age group 35 - 50 would really continue to choose low resolution music - if - and this is a big 'if', they were properly exposed to a really good stereo system costing about the same as many people are willing to spend on an AV system today. I'm referring to a complete stereo system with all necessary parts capable of producing an impressive listening experience.

I really think they might very well continue to listen to low-res music. Unless music is important to them, they may sure appreciate the qualitiy of a real stereo system, but they certainly wouldn't go out and buy their own - especially if it is only to make background music on weekends. Different people, different preferences - nothing wrong with that.

You know what? Why do we care if there are people that are not interested in our hobby? Do you see cross-stitchers hanging around forums saying "If only people could experience a great cross-stitch, everyone would be taking up the hobby" or "if only retailers could expose people to model helicopter flying, everyone would do it".

Come on! Some people are not interested in high-end audio systems - get over it!!

RobertSlavin
RobertSlavin's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 months 1 week ago
Joined: Mar 25 2007 - 8:01am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

I'd agree with the point that some posters have made that the industry needs to be ready to provide high-quality, low cost components. In the 1990s Rotel and Creek were actively making such products. Now what are they doing? Rotel is focussing on home theater products. If I am not mistaken Creek doesn't even sell an integrated amplifier for less than $1,000 now.

Have they been responding to market trends or making these trends? I suppose a little of both.

I believe Stereophile's editor, John Atkinson, wrote in his blog about the recent Montreal audio show that he was struck by how much component companies were focussed on releasing high priced as opposed to affordable gear. This must change for the long-term good of the industry.

As Len has pointed out, retailers need to be much more welcoming to beginners. They should put signs in their windows saying something like, "We welcome newcomers to quality audio." Then the salesman should actually be welcoming and spend time with these people. They should show them the ropes. It is true these customers won't provide the commissions to the salesmen and the profits to the shop that the big spenders will, in the near term. But they are the future.

Too many audio shops just have really expensive, fancy gear in their window. Sure, that attracts the already converted. But it surely turns off many newcomers. They are not thinking they want to spend $10,000 on an amplifier. But they may be thinking of spending a few extra hundred bucks on an amplifier. They just have to not have the store intimidate them and make them feel small. If the store had a good modest piece of equipment in the window, that would help. Perhaps something like the Wadia iPod dock would be good.

As a few have pointed out, high-quality audio needs good publicity. Rolling Stone and Spin magazines (as well as the magazines covering jazz, classical, world, and other musical styles) could help if they gave some coverage. Perhaps even a Web site like Pitchfork could be convinced to give a little coverage. Some audio association or perhaps some people associated with Stereophile could encourage this coverage.

Toussaint

lwhitefl
lwhitefl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 12 months ago
Joined: Jul 10 2006 - 10:46am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
I really think they might very well continue to listen to low-res music. Unless music is important to them, they may sure appreciate the quality of a real stereo system, but they certainly wouldn't go out and buy their own - especially if it is only to make background music on weekends. Different people, different preferences - nothing wrong with that.

You know what? Why do we care if there are people that are not interested in our hobby? Do you see cross-stitcher's hanging around forums saying "If only people could experience a great cross-stitch, everyone would be taking up the hobby" or "if only retailers could expose people to model helicopter flying, everyone would do it".

Come on! Some people are not interested in high-end audio systems - get over it!!

I agree there are people that only enjoy listening to music as background, and I can accept that. But unless the audio industry finds a way to add younger people who actually may want to listen to well reproduced music to our ranks, the future of high end audio is not promising. During my lifetime I believe that will affect my ability to take advantage of advances in audio reproduction. Thus I can't get over it!

ncdrawl
ncdrawl's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Joined: Oct 18 2008 - 9:18am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

""ideal demographic, six figure salary""

well hell, there goes damn near everyone.

only about 6 percent of individuals and about 16 percent of households are in the six figure and up bracket.

this hobby is for the rich or for those that sacrifice dearly(ie me)..it isnt for the average joe..and surely not for entire households..well, just for rich households.

Ajani
Ajani's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 years 2 weeks ago
Joined: Mar 19 2008 - 7:07pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
I'd agree with the point that some posters have made that the industry needs to be ready to provide high-quality, low cost components. In the 1990s Rotel and Creek were actively making such products. Now what are they doing? Rotel is focussing on home theater products. If I am not mistaken Creek doesn't even sell an integrated amplifier for less than $1,000 now.

Have they been responding to market trends or making these trends? I suppose a little of both.

I believe Stereophile's editor, John Atkinson, wrote in his blog about the recent Montreal audio show that he was struck by how much component companies were focussed on releasing high priced as opposed to affordable gear. This must change for the long-term good of the industry.

As Len has pointed out, retailers need to be much more welcoming to beginners. They should put signs in their windows saying something like, "We welcome newcomers to quality audio." Then the salesman should actually be welcoming and spend time with these people. They should show them the ropes. It is true these customers won't provide the commissions to the salesmen and the profits to the shop that the big spenders will, in the near term. But they are the future.

Too many audio shops just have really expensive, fancy gear in their window. Sure, that attracts the already converted. But it surely turns off many newcomers. They are not thinking they want to spend $10,000 on an amplifier. But they may be thinking of spending a few extra hundred bucks on an amplifier. They just have to not have the store intimidate them and make them feel small. If the store had a good modest piece of equipment in the window, that would help. Perhaps something like the Wadia iPod dock would be good.

As a few have pointed out, high-quality audio needs good publicity. Rolling Stone and Spin magazines (as well as the magazines covering jazz, classical, world, and other musical styles) could help if they gave some coverage. Perhaps even a Web site like Pitchfork could be convinced to give a little coverage. Some audio association or perhaps some people associated with Stereophile could encourage this coverage.

Toussaint

For the most part I agree with you... but I need to correct your statement about Rotel...

Rotel has launched both the 2 channel line in their 15 series (starting with the RA-1520 Integrated Amp for $1K) and is now launching the 06 Special Edition series for even less money... the 06SE Integrated Amp costs $700... I'm not sure what the 05SE retails for (but it will be cheaper than the 06SE)... There is also an 04SE in Europe (not sure if it will be released in the US as well)....

michiganjfrog
michiganjfrog's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jan 9 2007 - 11:36pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
I took my CDs and just went to listen. I would estimate I spent the better part of every weekend for 6 weeks driving around town to listen to speakers. My wife went with me a few times but her comments were always the same..."Those sound the same as the last ones which sounded like the other ones....these cost how much?" In the end she said I need to make a choice soon or I risked loosing WAF for my endeavor.

Waah--?? But the "objectivists" have always told us that speakers are the one thing we can believe are not "controversial" and do not require a blind test because they all sound different! In fact, as it was recently stated by an ob here, it's supposed to be the one thing that "objectivists" and subjectivists can agree on. So if what you just said is correct... that means we can't agree on anything! I don't think we can even agree to disagree.


Quote:
If you want to attract new people you need a few ready made systems at various price points around 1k, 3k, 5k and 7500. Once/if they get into this hobby they have something they can then upgrade individual components.

This was -always- the case, for as long as I have been involved high end audio. Most high end dealers in my area had an entry level system at around $1,000, and I'm sure they still do at around that. They were pretty good values actually. Complete, put together for you with love, care and attention. The only work you do is take the credit card out. You don't even have to do that if you've memorized your number. At price points of $3k, $5k, and $7500, you usually get people who know what they want, if they're willing to spend that much, and would rather hear the components themselves. But even so, there doesn't have to be any special price point. If you tell any dealer around me that you want to spend x amount of dollars for a system but don't want to spend time evaluating them, he'll be glad to put together a system at any price point you want.

Regardless of whether he has a website or showroom, if you can find a proper high end dealer in your area that has a good -reputation- for being honest and knowledgeable (though all of mine have showrooms and I'm sure, websites), that should be enough. If he's a good dealer, he'll put together what he knows will work well together, and ensure that you are happy with it.

michiganjfrog
michiganjfrog's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jan 9 2007 - 11:36pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
You know what? Why do we care if there are people that are not interested in our hobby? Do you see cross-stitchers hanging around forums saying "If only people could experience a great cross-stitch, everyone would be taking up the hobby" or "if only retailers could expose people to model helicopter flying, everyone would do it".

The difference is, the people you're talking about are already music lovers. And not music lovers who could not appreciate music being well reproduced in their home but who haven't learned to appreciate that. That is very different than talking about someone who has absolutely no interest in planes or knitting. All of us audiophiles were "not interested in high end audio" before we became interested. You're not born with an interest in this hobby.


Quote:
Come on! Some people are not interested in high-end audio systems - get over it!!

If it were just "some people", that would be easy, since we have always been a minority. But today more than ever, high end appears to be becoming a victim of the high dollar impact of the general consumer electronics industry. They have advertising dollars that have far more reach and influence than any of the niche companies that usually make up high end. So if they tell you that a redesigned Walkman is all that anyone needs, whether at home or outside jogging, the vast majority of consumers gobble it up. For so long, they even grow up on the idea, and anything else is foreign to them.

Some studies were done once that showed kids preferred the taste of Tang "orange (colored) drink" over something they might have been less familiar with, called "orange juice". Should we then forget about this orange juice business and nutrients and just let them feed off of Tang, and whatever cells it might be killing in their bodies? High end audio is nutrients for the soul, remember.

wgriel
wgriel's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 12 months ago
Joined: Oct 28 2006 - 6:59pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:

Most high end dealers in my area had an entry level system at around $1,000, and I'm sure they still do at around that. They were pretty good values actually. Complete, put together for you with love, care and attention. The only work you do is take the credit card out.

You know, I'm relatively new to all this stuff, and that's exactly how I got into the "high end" about 6 years ago. I had bought a new house, and decided that I wanted some kind of sound system. A friend suggested I drop in on a local high end dealer instead of going to a big box store. I thought he was bit crazy, but thought it wouldn't hurt me to take a look.

I didn't audition anything, I didn't even know what questions to ask! But the dealer was phenomenal and put together a very pleasing setup for under 1K, which was competitive with what I'd pay at some electronics box store (it consisted of a Denon receiver, a Denon CD player and some Paradigm speakers). I took this home, set it all up and was completely blown away from what I heard. And at that point I was doomed.

6 years (and about 12K later) I'm a regular in this shop, I'm good friends with the sales staff and I regularly refer other people to the shop. All because I was treated with dignity when I went in there as a total newbie with a limited budget. Had I been treated in any kind of snooty or dismissive manner, I wouldn't have even given this stuff a second thought and I'd now be "enjoying" some cheap home theater in a box from Costco.

tom collins
tom collins's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 4 months ago
Joined: Apr 3 2007 - 11:54am
Re: High End Audio Business Model

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I really think they might very well continue to listen to low-res music. Unless music is important to them, they may sure appreciate the quality of a real stereo system, but they certainly wouldn't go out and buy their own - especially if it is only to make background music on weekends. Different people, different preferences - nothing wrong with that.

You know what? Why do we care if there are people that are not interested in our hobby? Do you see cross-stitcher's hanging around forums saying "If only people could experience a great cross-stitch, everyone would be taking up the hobby" or "if only retailers could expose people to model helicopter flying, everyone would do it".

Come on! Some people are not interested in high-end audio systems - get over it!!

yes, there are 2 ends of the spectrum, but this overlooks all the in betweeners that could be brought in if encoraged in the right way. some cross-stitchers probably like high quality sound wouldn't you agree?

hard core cross stitchers might not come over, but then again some might.

malacoda
malacoda's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 19 2009 - 5:40am
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
Waah--?? But the "objectivists" have always told us that speakers are the one thing we can believe are not "controversial" and do not require a blind test because they all sound different! In fact, as it was recently stated by an ob here, it's supposed to be the one thing that "objectivists" and subjectivists can agree on. So if what you just said is correct... that means we can't agree on anything! I don't think we can even agree to disagree.

It was my wife who has little interest and less patience for this that decided everything sounded the same. I could tell more of a difference at various price points than between manufacturers, but there were some manufactures that defiantly had better sounding less expensive speakers. It seems that their less expensive speakers sounded similar to another

dcstep
dcstep's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2007 - 4:59pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model

I think that the new path to high end audio is through headphones. The 18 to 34 generation is the iPod/EarBud generation. If you look around at www.head-fi.org you'll see a vibrant community of mostly younger people that are serious about sound. They're moving up from earbuds to true, audiophile quality headphones.

Adding CanJam to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest this year is a step in the right direction.

The new generation is into iPod and server-based systems, but they understand that the DAC and amplification is very important to the quality of their sound. More and more hip manufacturers are adding multiple options for digital input into their DACs and now we're seeing integrated systems that consider the server/computer/iPod interface.

Smart retailers will cater to this group. In the Forums at head-fi.org I see them moving up to high quality two-channel speaker systems as they get their own homes, get married and want to share their music, other than trading files.

Most high end shops seem blissfully unaware of this trend. Like dynasours, they'll die off, but they'll be replaced by in-the-know, hip music lovers. At CanJam you could see the next generation, like Jack Wu of Woo Audio showing his wares to an appreciative audience. Lots of the CanJam attendees also went through the RMAF and I'm certain that a few coveted the speaker-based systems that they heard.

High end audio is not coming to an end. The herd will be culled and fresh blood will step forward to move the hobby forward.

Dave

j_j
j_j's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 8 months ago
Joined: Mar 13 2009 - 4:22pm
Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
Now there were a few very professional and helpful places that spent some time with me and let me listen uninterrupted for a few hours. It was at one of these places that I made my purchase. I will return to the same place when I begin looking for my new system.

I'll agree with that, places that will actually allow you to listen without doing a constant upsell.

Also, places wherein when you hear an obvious distortion (and I mean a classic nonlinearity) in the system at quite mundale levels, and who the salesman tells you that no, you're wrong, it couldn't be, you should take his word, well, no I won't buy from those places. This is part of the reason I rolled my own speakers. Geeze.)

Pages

  • X