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j_j
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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I think that the new path to high end audio is through headphones.

Good luck getting the right HRTF's that way.

dcstep
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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I think that the new path to high end audio is through headphones.

Good luck getting the right HRTF's that way.

Perhaps you only read one line of my post. My point is that the serious, young listeners (18-34) are deep into high quality headphones and supporting systems. They are as passionate and serious as any generation of audiophiles. As these listeners mature and gain larger living spaces and other things, like wives, they're migrating to two-channel, speaker-based systems. (Some are lost to HT, but that'll always be a competing genre).

Wise dealers will be aware of this trend and even validate and support it by carrying high quality headphone systems for audition. As the users migrate and upgrade, the dealers that have established an early relationship will continue to earn their business.

Dave

lwhitefl
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

I'm sure good headphones can provide a lot of musical pleasure. But earphones certainly won't give you the same audio experience as a well setup & tuned stereo system, especially imaging. Although I could certainly see myself using a pair of good headphones when I'm away from home.

RGibran
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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But earphones certainly won't give you the same audio experience as a well setup & tuned stereo system, especially imaging.

Sounds like a personal problem


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I'm sure good headphones can provide a lot of musical pleasure

Well we wouldn't want that!

sharpnine
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

I think you need to consider the type of music that young people listen to (and the style of the recordings). These are very different from audiophile type recordings of acoustic instruments and simple mic techniques. Most music today is heavily produced using many digital techniques, the compression that we all dislike, rhythm tracks, remixing, etc. It's largely synthesized. But people love it, compression, digitization and all. That's what they want to listen to. I like lots of it also, the good stuff anyway. But the classic concept of judging the audio equipment by how close it gets you to a live performance is completely, utterly useless for this music. Rather, a live performance is likely to be judged by how close they can simulate the recorded work. We can't be putting value judgements on this and at the same time be trying to figure out why young people aren't into the same audio hardware we are. Rather, we should accept that people like what they like, and that over time their tastes will change, as ours do. Having good audio equipment will change their tastes, no doubt about it, eventually.

Younger people like to go to clubs and listen to music played by DJs. These places generally have very good sound, for what they are playing. Not hi-fi, not even stereo, but very clean, good tight bass, good crisp highs, and equipment that takes a beating (pro equipment). They can play loud without distortion. A lower cost sound system that brings the quality of a club sound into your house could pick up where home theater leaves off.

I wouldn't rule out turntables, young people I know all like them. My son and grandson mostly listen to turntables, and my son does DJing. I actually got back into vinyl in part because of his interest. Tubes are cool too. Those little ipod dock systems that use tubes and cost under $600 are attractive and affordable for most, and sound great with a pair of grados or some efficient mini monitors.

Headphone systems are important. Again, think the type of music. Lots of popular music isn't really designed to image great or sound natural. The "in-your-head" sound you get with headphones can be very enjoyable, and someone can afford good sound through headphones a long time before they can afford good sound through speakers. I personally dislike the in-ear earbuds, they always hurt my ears and tend to move about and come loose if I move about. Audiophile headphones are comfortable but somewhat clumsy and nerdy-looking--perhaps someone needs to market really nice looking, compact outer ear phones.

I think there is a huge potential in the DAC market. Everyone needs these, and they can easily improve the sound quality of most consumer digital sources.

dbowker
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

An interesting corrolarty: Swiss watches:

From last week's Economist Magazine about watch maker Hublot:

"At Hublot, a watchmaker that he has run since 2004, sales are down by only 15% this year

KBK
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

One of the big problems is that there is a high education barrier or learning curve. It tends to be, for the larger part, that we all stumbled into high-end audio as an accident, a chance meeting or similar.

It tends to have much to do with how much you enjoyed music as a kid, or if family members played instruments. For example, me gramps was a fiddle player in true Quebecois fashion, my grandparents (both sides) had stereos, my uncle introduced me to quad and stereo, my dad spent today's equivalent of $4k on a bad ass high powered console stereo unit, I was in 3 choirs when I was a kid over a period of 9 years, etc, etc. It also depends on capacity and desire for discernment, and a music bone, ie a part of you that really jibes with-is actually 'romanced' by the groove, the sound the feel, it gives you rushes, highs, etc.

Not everyone can identify with such things.

So the path is one part pre-disposition, and one part luck.

Formulating that for broad based consumption is not going to be an easy task to complete. Young guys love the visceral attack of extreme bass, but what wild juvenile monkey does not like the thrill of escaping a tough spot-one stepped into willingly? I've seen birds, cats, and squirrels play with the road for the fun of it and grown men do it too. I mention this as it falls into what ends up drawing young men into audio----car audio..to start. Iffin' they are not deaf by the age of 30, that is.

It's a tough thing to can and dole out in metered and formulated amounts and ways.

First, frame the question in and to perfection...and generally the answer will find itself.

dcstep
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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I'm sure good headphones can provide a lot of musical pleasure. But earphones certainly won't give you the same audio experience as a well setup & tuned stereo system, especially imaging. Although I could certainly see myself using a pair of good headphones when I'm away from home.

Imaging is not really the problem with headphones, it's the lack of viceral impact on your body from the bass. The imaging is different from two-channel speaker stereo, but it's there. Importantly, it's pretty easy to get the dynamic range and frequency response right on, without the problems of timing between the speakers and room (seldom done right in speaker systems, no matter the cost).

Still, my point is that these mostly young people are seeking high quality sound at a very high level and they are moving up to speaker-based systems as they have more space and money. They're just as serious about their music as we were in our 20s and 30s.

Dave

dcstep
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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I think you need to consider the type of music that young people listen to (and the style of the recordings). These are very different from audiophile type recordings of acoustic instruments and simple mic techniques. ..

IME, you're wrong about what young people are listening to. Many are listening to "world music", trad jazz, singers and acoustic music. One very popular group they listen to is Radiohead, which is a direct descendant of Pink Floyd and others from the 1960s and 1970s. Those classic groups spawned many an audiophile.

The youth are using cans because they're coming from iPods and earbuds, not because of the music they listen to. There listening is just a varied as ours was and it still include acoustic instruments.

I think you're generalizing based on the least denominators in that population. There are still plenty with eclectic tastes and wanting the best sound possible.

One of my 22-year old daughter's friends stopped by hear a couple of months ago. He flipped when he saw my AKG 701s, Woo Audio single-ended amp and Pro-ject TT. He also knew that my Rowland Continuum 500 was capable of 1,000 watts into 4-ohms. He wasn't familiar with Vienna Acoustic speakers, but he was asking me if I knew about Sonus Faber. He was between 20 and 25 and several thousand cuts on his iPod, covering an incredibly wide variety of music.

Dave

sharpnine
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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I think you're generalizing based on the least denominators in that population. There are still plenty with eclectic tastes and wanting the best sound possible.

Sorry, don't get me wrong. Of course I understand that many young people are into classical, jazz, world, and everything else. And many/most will appreciate a good sound system when they hear it. I am not sure what you mean by least denominators--I am not making value judgements about music styles here. As I said I like and listen to nearly all types of music at least on occasion (with smooth jazz as the primary exception).

I wasn't meaning to generalize so much as to acknowledge there are a lot of different types of music that are very popular, and for which the traditional high-end audiophile concept of duplicating the live performance doesn't apply so much. (Or rather, playing of a recording in a club is the performance we want to duplicate.) I am thinking hip-hop/trance/goth/electronica/chill-out/industrial/etc. etc. And this music sounds great on a traditional club-type sound system with great sub-woofers and pro amplification. I don't think it's too much about imaging and subtleties of performance, or fullness of tone. It's a lot about PRAT. I have a nice hi-fi setup which cost me quite a bit (more than most young people can afford) but doesn't really give that club sound. It sure sounds great for jazz and classical. However, I can plug my ipod (better yet a turntable) into my PA (I am also a musician) and it will sound quite a bit like a club. If that was the main kind of music I listened to that's probably more what I would use for home listening. And it would be a lot better than most consumer home audio.

As much as I would like to encourage younger people to get into high quality audio, the cost is certainly a problem. Most of them I know can't afford health insurance.

I would sure like to see a lot more pieces of gear that cost under $300 but which really provide much better sound than costco/best buy stuff. They are out there but hard to find (for someone who doesn't devote a good portion of their time to searching them out like most of us probably do).

dcstep
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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As much as I would like to encourage younger people to get into high quality audio, the cost is certainly a problem. Most of them I know can't afford health insurance.

I would sure like to see a lot more pieces of gear that cost under $300 but which really provide much better sound than costco/best buy stuff. They are out there but hard to find (for someone who doesn't devote a good portion of their time to searching them out like most of us probably do).

They'll grow into the financial capacity, just like we did. Hanging at www.head-fi.org you see many investing thousands in their headphone systems. They generally do it over time, just like we did. Starting with "good" cans and moving up every so often. By their third to fifth set of cans they've graduated to top of the heap.

Selling to these people today is going to be limited to headphones and mini systems, with self-powered speakers likely. Being able to audition those in a high end store could lead to customer loyalty and future sales is all I'm saying.

Given your handle I knew you were probably a jazz musician. I'm a "talented amateur", playing trumpet with the some of the semi-pro symphonies. I used to play lead with a funk/rock/soul band in Dallas but dropped that when I moved to Denver. I also play jazz guitar, but not real well. I mainly listen to combo jazz, but also big band, American song book vocals, classical and a bit of rock.

Dave

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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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Quote:
I think you need to consider the type of music that young people listen to (and the style of the recordings). These are very different from audiophile type recordings of acoustic instruments and simple mic techniques. ..

IME, you're wrong about what young people are listening to. Many are listening to "world music", trad jazz, singers and acoustic music. One very popular group they listen to is Radiohead, which is a direct descendant of Pink Floyd and others from the 1960s and 1970s. Those classic groups spawned many an audiophile.

The youth are using cans because they're coming from iPods and earbuds, not because of the music they listen to. There listening is just a varied as ours was and it still include acoustic instruments.

I think you're generalizing based on the least denominators in that population. There are still plenty with eclectic tastes and wanting the best sound possible.

One of my 22-year old daughter's friends stopped by hear a couple of months ago. He flipped when he saw my AKG 701s, Woo Audio single-ended amp and Pro-ject TT. He also knew that my Rowland Continuum 500 was capable of 1,000 watts into 4-ohms. He wasn't familiar with Vienna Acoustic speakers, but he was asking me if I knew about Sonus Faber. He was between 20 and 25 and several thousand cuts on his iPod, covering an incredibly wide variety of music.

Dave

Hmmm... being 29, I think I still fall in the category of younger generation (by audiophile standards anyway)... And yes I do listen to an eclectic mix of music as does my younger brother (25)and many of my friends, etc... However, the point made by the other poster is valid... Much of the music I listen to is not the traditional 'audiophile' fare... Much of it was heavily processed in the studio, rather than recorded live or with a single mic and an actual band... So trying to recreate the live event is irrelevant in those cases... I tend to look more for detail, PRAT, Dynamics than for pinpoint imaging / soundstage...

Headphones work just about perfectly for most of my recordings... which is why I use AKG K701s & a Benchmark DAC1... However, I still like speakers and have a pair of active speakers as well (hopefully soon to be replaced with some Revel M22s and an Integrated)...

My point is that Headphones make a lot of sense for younger generations... In fact, the biggest shock I had was several years ago when my non-audiophile friends were planning to buy some top of the line Sennheisers (I think either the 600 or 650)... I thought maybe they had converted to audiophilia, only to be told that the 'phones were for online gaming...

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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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Selling to these people today is going to be limited to headphones and mini systems, with self-powered speakers likely. Being able to audition those in a high end store could lead to customer loyalty and future sales is all I'm saying.

Agreed... That's exactly what I believe... if the hi-fi dealers start focusing on having the right entry level 'drugs' for the younger generation (Headphones and Active Monitors) they can certainly convert a percentage of those customers to more expensive speakers/amplification/media servers combos later on...

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Re: High End Audio Business Model

"So the path is one part pre-disposition, and one part luck."

I'd adjust that to nine-tenths predisposition and the rest is luck and determination. Despite my Dad being way into music in his youth we had NO stereo, or even kitchen radio in the house. Somehow I just loved music more than anyone around me and looked for any opportunity to get more of it. It started as a transistor radio at 8 yrs old, a Walkman at 11, an all-in one Sears stereo at 14, and once I started making money I combined it with any gift holiday I could and by 18 had a better than decent teenager's component system.

But then one fateful day Freshman year in college I walked into this high-end audio store that looked like a slobs apartment. And they had the REAL stuff- all the best tube gear, VPI, Rega, Thorens, a slew of great speakers- the works! It was all over- I found what I had been looking for! I got a Creek 4140 integrated in months, the next year some Spicas, the next a Rega TT.

Now my son- he loves music and will grow up exposed to great sound AND a few thousand albums from my wife and I. He gets a big head start. That's the luck part.

Grosse Fatigue
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

My girl friend is a concert violonist with the CSO and could not care less about my audio system. She owns a $900,000 violon and passes by all my precious speakers without even looking at them or asking questions. The only thing that excite her is to watch a good movie on my big screen. She is educated, has travelled all over the world with the CSO, she is a child prodigy recruited by Solti and she could not care less about audio.

KBK
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

Bummer for you; she has to save her hands for work.

On a more serious note, it's been my experience that those who create music appreciate audio but put more of themselves directly into the making of music. A simple position and point if you think about it for a bit. Talking to her about nuance and music is like trying to talk about fast cars with Micheal Schumacher.

So for the heck of it, I go to goggle and try to find some 'in car' footage of Micheal driving... and I find (first thing, too!) the perfect corollary to this post.

Grosse Fatigue
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

True for her hands: she can't lift or hold anything heavy.

As far as audio is concerned I think there is also a burn out phenomenum. Between concerts, rehearsals and teaching the violon she has no room for audio.

lwhitefl
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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As far as audio is concerned I think there is also a burn out phenomenon. Between concerts, rehearsals and teaching the violin she has no room for audio.

That's certainly one plausible explanation for her disinterest in audio. And while I know generalizations are often misleading, I think many women are more visually oriented whereas many men use their imagination. My wife will listen to music she really likes from my audio system, but as background. But she enjoys watching movies with me.

KBK
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

It's primarily the left brain-right brain thing. People that are more interested in music than the average person are 'known' to be (this has been tested, more than once) more 'balanced' in their cranial usage, or less left brained than the average male, and more of a balance between the two. For those not familiar with the aspects, the right hand is connected to the left side of the brain, and that is 'linear' thinking. Math, etc. Right brained, means more intuitive, less linear in thinking, more creative. It might be possible to say that engineering types (left brained -right handed) can figure out all the myriad ways to count rocks but cannot speculate on how the rocks arrived in front of them (that task required the right brain-left hand). Like some sort of pre-ordained control mechanism that disallows escape from dogma, for that would require non-linear thinking. Right brained (left handed) thinkers can reach the new and the unexpected far easier as the right brain can make leaps of logic as it is not captured by the need to shape will and thought (external recognition systems, the shaping of visuals, etc) via stabilization/permanence of form and structure as a method of decoding reality. Women are considered to be more right brain dominated than men.

But, as said in many other posts, many audiophiles are more cranially balanced, thus their capacity to accept what they hear without the inherent mechanics of fear tied to a need to count rocks to maintain a sense of reality. They can accept that something sounds different without the need to resort to mathematics in order to prove that as a point in reality. The other 50% (right brain) of the brain tells them so. That other 50% of the brain is not wrong, it is just that the linear thinkers (left brain) cannot reach it. And each time you tell them that they are wrong for dismissing the evidence in front of them, the cannot..as their left brain/right hand dominance does not even have the capacity to 'go there'. Which is why arguing with those who cannot hear differences and require differences to be categorized in totality via 'science', 'engineering' and 'measurement'.... is a complete waste of time. Those types have left a full 50% of their brain on the floor and in all seriousness - - are not wired to retrieve it. This goes back to the dark ages with the left handed being branded as being 'In League with Lucifer', as they could think in the non-linear fashion required to decode new subsets and new levels of reality, the kind of thinking that defies the groundpounder's counting/sorting/categorization requirements for comfortable existence and basic interpretation. We see the same limited cranial capacity based persecution of even the basic knowledge of audiophiles when audiophiles say that they 'hear something' and the dogmatic engineering brained types say it can't possibly be true-hang that audiophile - burn him!!

The linear thinkers were wrong then and they are wrong now. But they cannot see it, their brain is not wired for it.

All is not that bad, though..as a capacity for mathematics is many times inherent in many musicians. However, you can walk into any school of engineering that exists to day and challenge anyone there to pick up a pencil or chalk and attempt to write with their left hand, or to pick up a fork and eat with their left hand. The number for failures in those attempted tasks compared to oh, let's say a cooking class filled with women, or the Art school of the given university....would be statistically far higher in that engineering school.

So yes, the major physiological and psychological symptom or 'basis of existence' of those who dominate engineering and science is that of dogmatic reality that is incapable of the leaps of thought required to move man forward. No matter how you cut it, that is pretty darned fucked up.

I mention this, as with respects to society, human integration happens on a more base (visceral) level than that of our internal musings as individuals, so our individual (internal) musings will not fit the model of social and human interaction when it comes to solving this issue of how to get more people interested in good quality music reproduction if the working model is not complete. One has to be aware of the nuances and minutiae of the backdrop in order to get a handle on things and formulate a fix. I say all of this so that we may recognize the face of the 'city hall' that we grapple with.

The connective tissue to our issue on these last points is that we are all controlled in the formation of thought and reason via the hindbrain, and emotional aspects of the baser parts of the brain. meaning, we form logic and thought out of our emotions. Ie, the voice that appears in the individual's head, ie in your head, right now, as you read this is based in your hindbrain or emotional core, your reptilian core.

Your basis of logic formation, word formation, subvocalization, even deeper, prior to words and subvocalizations.. is entirely controlled via this mechanism, thus any attempts at logic and thought are dominated to the point of near complete coloration via emotion. Knowing this tends to be a left handed-right brained phenomenon as it requires a deeper and more connected aspect of thought patterning in complex abstracts, and thus... linear thinkers don't know that their logic is dominated (nay, created by) via their fears and emotions. Thus the rise of dogmatism in the mainstream aspects and control mechanisms within the overall herd or the group of people that are involved in what we like to call 'The sciences'. It sits there unrecognized, of course. My point - exactly. Psychological illiteracy of the self is rampant in engineering and the sciences, and this is part and parcel of the inability of man to move forward.

50% of the brain has been left on the floor, thus the brain cannot be cross-connected in logic formation and the truly higher levels of thought cannot be entered that would be emergent in the cross-connection of the brain and mind.

Do you see it now?

absolutepitch
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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As far as audio is concerned I think there is also a burn out phenomenum. Between concerts, rehearsals and teaching the violon she has no room for audio.

I too have found that musicians seem to prefer making music to sitting and listening to audio systems. When they do listen, the can tell what is a good system or a bad one. They also concentrate on the music performance even on a bad system, so sound is not #1 when listening to audio. But everything is #1 when they perform music.

I find it the same with me, except that I'm an audiophile and everything matters in getting a good sound system.

absolutepitch
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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Selling to these people today is going to be limited to headphones and mini systems, with self-powered speakers likely. Being able to audition those in a high end store could lead to customer loyalty and future sales is all I'm saying.

It's a good start. I'm looking for a good set of headphones for my kids. They can appreciate good sound, due to my system.

One of my younger relatives was into Nintendo as a teen. I inroduced him into computer technology; he now works for a computer company. I introduced him to audio. The last I heard, he went for top-of-the-line stuff.

On the other hand, a co-worker came to hear my system. His reaction to a female soloist on a CD he brought: "She's right there!", pointing to the space between the speakers. The last I heard, he's hasn't converted to high-end.

The relative is still young, in late 20's. The co-worker is in that 35-50 range. Seems like one has to have the interest after he is shown the 'good' system to make the move, as both are financially in the ballpark.

Grosse Fatigue
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Re: High End Audio Business Model


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It's a good start...

I totally agree with that. Anyway the sound quality of their headphones, epods or whatever is far superior to anything with had in the sixties and seventies, including the turntable, some of it due to the much better quality of the source material, soundwise. High end audio is fairly new. I think that we maybe in a transition period and that eventually those kids will grow up and buy real good audio systems for the home. Those boring bearded old men will have to make the connection though. Maybe a new generation of audio dealers will. I remember the pretty girl who would spin for me a 45rpm of the Everly Brothers in the Gallerie du Lido in Paris.. I wanted to go to America (I could not stand Piaf). Maybe we are up for an explosion of high end audio.

sharpnine
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

The best sounding systems I ever heard were in the homes of audiophiles, not in an audio store. I actually have only experienced great sounding systems, other than my own which is getting pretty good, a few times (I don't really know any other audiophiles). I do have the good fortune to work two doors down from a great audio retailer, with a huge shop and great selection of 2-channel gear, analog and digital, new and used. I spend a lot of time there on breaks!
The guys that work there are all very skilled, and set up systems regularly in the shop, with lots of very expensive gear (they always use good cables, power conditioners, etc.) However I am usually less than blown away by the sound of the systems in the store. Once and a while they hit it on the button, and a setup sounds really good. However, I think a lot of times the shop isn't doing justice to the gear.
I wonder why is that? One thing is they move stuff around, take things down and set things up a lot, for lots of obvious reasons. New gear comes in, old gear goes out, potential customers want to hear x with y, etc.
It seems to me that putting together a really good sounding system takes a long time, and lots of work, even for an expert. It doesn't happen overnight. Gear all has to break in, then you have to tweak it here and there, make substitutions. The sound of a system keeps getting better and better, and that takes a lot of time. Plus, the shop is in a building without the best acoustics, which they have to contend with.
I think it's a great shop, but I still think the best sound is going to be found on people's home systems, that have been lovingly built up over years.
Also, is it possible that someone can ever have a really great sounding system in their home without actually learning the ins and outs of audio setup themselves? Few people can afford to pay an expert for the number of hours required to tweak a system until it sounds really good. It would cost more than they spent on the gear. I've been pretty serious into audio for five years now, and still feel like a beginner.

KBK
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

Power conditioning of the RIGHT sort, specifically in the big city, as it where, is a critical aspect to obtaining 'good sound'.

One company, a large well known Eastern Seaboard retailer of renown, has a problem where if a certain time of day is hit, and a certain nearby business is at 'full boil', their systems would sound very very bad. Even the +$500k one, which is expected when you think about it, as the better the system the more revealing of flaws, and being high power in this case - very sensitive to AC power quality.

AC regeneration that is about 50% overspecced for the given application, and then going to balanced AC out of that via an overspecced transformer tends to be about as good as one is going to get.

My preference is to go from a 208-220V three phase input AC re-generator, then to 240-220V single phase or dual, depends, into a step-down transformer that has balanced AC outputs for 120V. That cleans up AC about as much as you can.

I also know of a retailer who tried to run a one man show in a big city..and found out that closing his door to the public and moving away was the best advice he ever took from himself. Business overhead was reduced by a huge amount and business improved in that every call was and is a 'real' one. One of the primary reasons he shut down was the constant attacks of shoplifting attempts, some which were successful and even one in a real high end shop can ruin profitability - for months. One thing to do, is to limit the # of people allowed through the door. The younger set are (primarily) the ones we may want to romance (or simply make aware), but they are also the core group of thieves with regard to age bracketing. This can be a huge part of the problem for some shops, due to the given shop's locational demographics.

In any big city, a public shop with big ticket items (BMW, or lambo, Porsche, etc) ~MUST~ have a person or a few persons who's job it is to keep the given public who wanders in through the door from stealing or breaking/damaging stuff. Besides acting as sales people. This is a huge problem when it comes to the idea of people feeling comfortable when walking through the door.

How to make audio accessible when some of the monkeys are only there to steal shiny stuff?

The other things is we do mechanical and acoustical noise control. We can and have demonstrated that when we remove all of our acoustics treatment from the given room and remove the mechanical treatment from the system..and remove the AC conditioning (my preference is for simple balanced AC transformers), the given system collapses to something that is nearly unrecognizable from what came before.

When we do shows, at the end of the show, we gather the relevant people in the room they've been listening to and becoming accustomed to for about 3 days, and then remove the given system/room 'mods'...one by one. Each removal of a correction system reduces the clarity and quality of the system to a notable degree.

What happens is that our 'so far' perfect score of having the best sound at the show, collapses to something that is very mediocre, in comparison. Mechanical and acoustical noise control in the world of audio perfection is a critical point that many retailers miss. They have no experience with it and cannot relate to that which they do not know.

However, subliminally speaking, each time we do these things at a show, in the given hotel room, we always garner praise from those who wander in...of having a great and specifically 'comfortable, relaxing' room that 'sounds great'.

Thus, one of the greatest assets to creating an atmosphere of perfection in audio are those three things when added up together. AC purity and dynamic delivery, room acoustics, and mechanical noise control of the room and gear. From my experience in these areas I'd say that as much as 50% of what we get from audio can be related to and/or 'pulled from' these three things. Knowing that and applying that properly, can take a lifetime to learn, as it is part of the last things audiophiles look at. Yet the three are so critical, in the end.

What I'm saying is that the best acoustical, electrical and mechanical noise control should be enacted at all levels of audio system presentation in audio shops, specifically the entry level systems. How you gonna get the people (first timers) to be romanced by music... iffin' the best 'correctives' only apply to the most expensive gear in the 'closed door' back rooms?

In my experience with getting neophyte ears and neophyte audio people to be romanced by average and moderately priced gear, the correctives for the system, are KEY. Meaning... AC power correction, with mechanical and acoustical noise control.

To put it into perspective, a $3k system can be elevated to that of a $200k system and beyond-when it comes to the initial impressions of a 'first timer' hearing them both, if the correctives are applied to the $3k system and not the $200k system.

sharpnine
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Re: High End Audio Business Model

Ken, thanks for that great response. I find your message inspirational, as I, like the many others you allude to, tend to put off things like power conditioning and room adjustments.
The good power conditioning is definitely something I can see working on. However, WAF is important, and putting treatment objects around the room just doesn't seem like it will be worth the marital controversy. I have already filled the room with gear and media, and it just seems like adding more things around the room is the straw that breaks the camel's back. However I am inspired by your post to look at things I might do which would be non-intrusive and attractive. Fortunately I think my listening room is not bad, acoustically, but how do I really know without trying some things?

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the biggest impediment to these things I speak on is the general illiteracy of most people as to the importance of these things and how to enact them in a way that aids the system more than it detracts from it. We regularly do things in rooms, that when put up against the popular models of how electrical function becomes acoustical and when the lesser bits, percentage wise, are corrected by such things -these given corrections defy the 'popular model' and understandings of how the ear works.

Getting a 'number on paper' out of a given treatment as a numerically recorded acoustical or electrical differential (comparatively speaking-before and after) is very far down the list compared to that of knowing what human benefit will be brought to the table, when it comes to creating the musically sublime in the given place.

It's typical zen/etc thing. You have to go full circle before you can come back to the start and know what the circle means. Then you don't need the circle anymore, just the knowledge from that traveled path.

Meanwhile, everyone else (for the larger part) is still walking along that circular path, or hasn't even got onto it yet. if..one makes a living off of that knowledge from traveling that path and completing the circle..and one attempts to use that knowledge to further the situation for others but in a way that protects that knowledge as a source of income, then ridicule can be the most basic and common response. And from experience in the direct sense, I can assure you that the ridicule is very common.

For example, in acoustics, many and most people, specifically many acousticians or wannabes think that the whole science of acoustics is a finished and sealed subject. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the whole issue of the bell/bowls from Ted Denney and Franck Tchang clearly illustrates. I'm not saying whether I feel that either of them has the perfect solution or not, but that it does something that the standardized model of acoustics simply falls apart at on the fundamental level (As it is popularized, that is), with regard to either explaining or aiding in analysis. Anyone who disregards that point is full of their own bile or crap and needs a mental enema of some sort so they can open their mind up, possibly for the first time for some of them. The wise man is ALWAYS open to new avenues to expand their knowledge base and their capacity to muse. The fool has the closed mind, besides the closed mind being dangerous to the rest of us.

This sort of thing that the bowls expose does play into the other areas of analysis that I have stated as being key components to enacting a great sounding system.

Once again, this can take a lifetime to learn. This also makes telling the charlatans and 'partial key holders' apart form the real experts very difficult for the average audiophile. I've got direct experience with multiple episodes of people taking the little bits I'd like to share to illustrate my competence... and then those people running off and proclaiming themselves the 'masters of the universe' in that given field when they really don't have clue as to what the fundamentals are. So, the real experts tend to be VERY tight-lipped about what they know. It is a great shame to us all and it can be laid squarely at the feet of the human model that we are all forced to live by, in this particular world of being in audio or similar-and needing to make a living from it.

To give you and idea where I'm coming from, and I apologize for the seeming promo, our cables are of a liquid metal nature. I've got over 20 years of looking into the atomic and temporal dimensional fundamentals of transmission line theory. I've got about 5 years of looking into the same with regard to what that means to electrical signal conduction as applied to MHD or MHD combined with other aspects of fundamental physics and atomic structure and the current models -and what lies beyond. By necessity the research varied VERY widely. There is no path but the whole all-encompassing one..just to reach a simple single answer. Life can be and is like that.

As a bit of a joke and a 'poser' I have presented the entire audio world with a puzzle that has not been worked out via ANY known or suspected avenue of science. Not one single person here today or anywhere I am aware of from Fermilab, to Cern, to Harvard, to Cambridge, MIT, Caltech, or anywhere --can tell you how our cables work. I know exactly what they do and how they do it - but I ain't talking. In their case, it is a lack of knowledge of the existence of the thing and a lack of putting time into explaining the phenomenon. However, it is known that it is impossible to model what the full complexity of what the situation is. Yes, it is that ugly.

The acoustics thing with Frank Tchang and Ted Denney are on the same level of complexity. oddly enough, when you go back to texts that occurred before Einstein's models became the norm, all is explained. heh heh. The Cern Super Hard-on collider is another example of unneeded hardware if only people knew their history and their fundamentals- but specifically HOW those fundamentals came about and what was written down as they were formulated and what was written prior to their theories (the fundamentals-which become unalterable dogma-hence the problem!). They will go full circle with the Cern collider and then find out that if they paid more attention to where the error occurred in their theoretical formulations...they never would have needed it in the first place. Same thing that always happens. This is true,as remember, they are spending horrific amounts of time, effort, and money to solve a problem. Time and results will eventually show where their fundamental mistake is. The only thing more important than correctly recorded history, is the understanding of it's context.

As an example, a doctor, just the other day, reported that he found the cure for MS. And it has nothing to do with the decades and billions poured into MS. Nothing whatsoever. This doctor has already permanently cured hundreds who suffer from MS with a simple easy to enact cure. One with no side effects. You can imagine that the status quo people are crying bloody murder. That's a lot of funding that is slated to dry up over night. Suffering people bring in billions, dont'cha know.

These points illustrate one of my favorite self created axioms, which is that 'the more impossible and difficult the problem is to solve-the more fundamental the mistake'. This axiom has never failed.

This all goes full circle back to the point of this thread. How to fix audio as it is presented to or viewed by the common man, with regards to a need of exposure of such -to them?

By the above axiom, the mistake must be fundamental in nature. And it is.

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I think a lot of the anxiety and "upgrades" in audio often comes from the fact that speakers are not paired to the right amplifier and vice versa. Sometime a bad preamp or a bad CD player (Meridian first players had no bass whatsoever) will lead a newbie wrongly to get rid of his speakers. Sometimes he'll buy a 700 Watt amplifier to get more bass and he will get none.. then he'll replace his speakers and so on ..... In my experience the hardest thing to buy in audio is an adequate amplifier, one that will drive your speakers correctly. Often you have to buy an amplifier that is several thousand dollars more expensive than your speakers. A newbie always go cheap on an amp and put all his money on his speakers. He'll add a turntable for showoff after reading Stereophile.

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Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
In my experience with getting neophyte ears and neophyte audio people to be romanced by average and moderately priced gear, the correctives for the system, are KEY. Meaning... AC power correction, with mechanical and acoustical noise control.

This is surely for the converted. If we talk to the ipod generation about AC power correction they will rightly look elsewhere. Any intro to audio has to be simple, and "cool"...a sexy pair of quality headphones seems a great start.
The ability to invite people to hear their iphone as never before is important but we should not overestimate the power of the "wow" factor without serious preconditioning.
There may be a bigger opportunity to get someone on the first rung of he ladder in an Apple store especially if the gear looks cool.
The long term goal might be eye candy electronics for home and office in the new movie releases, and on youtube / blogs / mtv.....tubes would be there if we were in the 60's looking very desirable......but in the short term I agree with Dave....the route is through the headphone (and maybe the car).
Let's make the first step as easy and affordable as possible. Complication can be introduced once the fish is hooked and drugs have been taken....oh the joys of the upgrade trail.

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Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
In my experience with getting neophyte ears and neophyte audio people to be romanced by average and moderately priced gear, the correctives for the system, are KEY. Meaning... AC power correction, with mechanical and acoustical noise control.


Quote:
This is surely for the converted. If we talk to the ipod generation about AC power correction they will rightly look elsewhere. Any intro to audio has to be simple, and "cool"...a sexy pair of quality headphones seems a great start.

I agree with you, but I think the point is rather that dealers ought to pay attention to such things in the show room: make that a stunning experience (even with modest gear) and you're going to hook some.


Quote:

but in the short term I agree with Dave....the route is through the headphone (and maybe the car).
Let's make the first step as easy and affordable as possible. Complication can be introduced once the fish is hooked and drugs have been taken....oh the joys of the upgrade trail.

I agree - along that line I do think B&W has the right idea with the Zeppelin. I know that most here wouldn't consider that serious hi-fi, but it looks cool, sounds better than what most iPod users have ever experienced and is sold at the Apple store. I also wouldn't be at all surprised if B&Ws upcoming headphones will be sold at the Apple store, too.

These things just might just get some people curious enough to explore a little further and discover that there is a whole world of hi-fidelity beyond anything they imagined.

KBK
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Yeppers. A key point or requirement is 'gateway' audio drugs. I don't care who does it, it could even be McDonalds. I really don't care. Noel Lee is in a position to do it, via his connectivity to Best Buy, for example. However, it could be messy unless very well thought out. And it is, of course, very very tough to squeeze quality out and to get people to recognize it when the entire market is designed to the lower common denominator.

Getting the thought into people's minds is key. After all the programming is near complete in one aspect. How many times has anyone walked into best buy and had a kid (in disguise as salesman) try and sell you an upgrade on your flatscreen LCD purchase via an HDMI cable... through the mechanism of 'perceived visual quality'?

This illustrates that a channel does indeed exist to attempt to get the message through, or that it is possible to build one-as someone actually has done that exact thing.. in this case it is Noel and Best Buy attempting to increase each others bottom line.

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I'd love to see low-end and midrange rooms at a hi-end dealer built around lossless iTunes/iPod. I walk in and rooms are still based on CD's and (maybe LP's). I started out with a $200 turntable years ago, the dealer didn't demo his speakers and amps using 78's or reel/reel. The mainstream customer 1st has to have his current needs met before being brought down the dark alley's of power conditioners and speaker cable mystics. My 2 kids live with an iPod on trips, it's where their music is. It's also lossless as I demonstrated to them the difference and told them HDD space is free. I've got 2 high end systems in my house and both have iPod docks so the kids can plug-in and play. The IPod is no longer the weakest link, it's the hifi manufacturers/dealers deeper integration of that new digital standard.

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I just called three of the most well-known and respected hi fi shops in NYC - In Living Stereo, Stereo Exchange, and Sound By Singer - to see if they have any protractors to align cartridges. They all replied that they don't... I don't see this as acceptable. Not only are they not succeeding in attracting young people to good sound, they are not catering to their target demographics well, either. All three shops carry excellent, drool-worthy turntables and cartridges and tonearms, and emphasize that they care about analog playback... but when it comes to the little things that truly matter, seems that they drop the ball. I understand that these business need to sell and have to leave profit margins just to survive, but just selling the bread without butter won't do anyone any good.

KBK
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I tend to use multiple protractors and average the set-up out against a set of them. Nothing like being anal....

Recently, I lent my protractor set to a friend. He says he gave them back to me,and I've not seen them since, which is a bit of a PO, as you might think.

Perhaps they want you to bring your suffering turntable in to them? Did you ask if it was a current (out of) stock issue or a never stocked issue?

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Good luck on selling a "stereo" system to anyone under the age of 30 unless it meets a variety of needs beyond analog music reproduction. Personally, I wouldn't bring an amp to market right now that didn't include an array of digital inputs and a DAC. Try finding that from most mid or high end companies...

John

KBK
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What you are talking about is called a surround receiver from Yamaha, Sony, Pioneer, Denon, Marantz, or whomever. There are a million of them in the market at at $300 a pop.

All sound abysmal.

Doing it right costs money. So...we tend to see separates and the number of specific 'all functions combined' devices that are properly built and that can be sold is --- limited. Specifically when upgrades at that point (with the singular complex device) would be VERY pricey.

I can see building a card slot for MM/MC and a second slot for A/D and D/A in a given chassis but to not take it beyond that. Slot type as these cards can then be upgraded. However, slot type designs also have their compromises. Plug type connectors with screw mounting is the second choice and the better one, and you see that quite often...if you go looking for it. Many of the bigger surround sound amplifiers are built that way. Basically series of cards with specific functions. Preamp, digital surround functions, input card and then the now more common HDMI/component upscale card. All on a backplane assembly/chassis/amp section, with ribbon wire connectors.

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Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
What you are talking about is called a surround receiver from Yamaha, Sony, Pioneer, Denon, Marantz, or whomever. There are a million of them in the market at at $300 a pop.

All sound abysmal.


And all sell in quantities - units and dollars - that high end companies can only dream about. You're going to have to come up with devices that interface with how younger people listen to music. Like it or not, it doesn't involve line level interconnects...

John

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Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:
Good luck on selling a "stereo" system to anyone under the age of 30 unless it meets a variety of needs beyond analog music reproduction. Personally, I wouldn't bring an amp to market right now that didn't include an array of digital inputs and a DAC. Try finding that from most mid or high end companies...

John

Well, this is where Peachtree Audio comes in! And their integrated amp was just named budget component of the year for 2009 in the December Stereophile.

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Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:

Quote:
What you are talking about is called a surround receiver from Yamaha, Sony, Pioneer, Denon, Marantz, or whomever. There are a million of them in the market at at $300 a pop.

All sound abysmal.


And all sell in quantities - units and dollars - that high end companies can only dream about. You're going to have to come up with devices that interface with how younger people listen to music. Like it or not, it doesn't involve line level interconnects...

John

I've got no argument with your premise, but results learned via prior attempts teaches otherwise.

The big thing is the proper sort of creation of awareness and attempting to create great audio at cheap prices has always been done, to varying levels of success. The bigger point is getting the message across that there ARE variations of the norm when it comes to audio -And getting that out as a message to the general public.

Not that it will ever be possible to get the entire public to the table of high end audio, for if it did come, we audiophiles would simply move -further out. This is a human nature/culture/individual issue. Like how many people read books of quality these days? first you have to argue what quality literature is, then..*sigh*.

The thing about it is that a TON of people do like high end audio and what it does. HOWEVER, getting the message out to as many people as is possible so the few fish who might bite can KNOW that for the FIRST time in their lives, that is the trick. That one thing, is the best that we could ever hope to do.

This is what I mean by viral marketing techniques need to be employed that spread on their own or infect many for the effort and $ involved.

For example, one could walk around in the London underground with freaky high end audio shirts with great advertising but one could never afford to use the signage spaces in the underground, it's far too expensive.
Viral. Man in chicken suit out on the corner, waving at customers. Old School.

For example, all the high end dealers in the NY area, running a full page advert in the NY times. Specifically a SIMPLE one that does it's best to alert people to the idea of high end audio even existing.

Triggering in people requires for example, Apple marketing a 'high end' iPod as a model. One with superior design in the digital domain clock designs and analog conversion, among other things. However, this would mean less profit for them per dollar swung into the world of expenditures, so it is simply not going to happen in this lifetime. Business models depend upon one getting a certain % back from every dollar in the coffer that is re-invested, no matter how it is spent. There is no way around this, it's all money over time (money/time) and this is inescapable in the manufacturing business.

Catering to audiophiles is a money loosing proposition to big corporations, simply as their money will garner better returns if spent elsewhere.

The only reason that we had such great gear (from japan) in the 70's-80's is that the Japanese got into it. The Japanese have a greater cultural and overall awareness of high end audio, population percentage wise.

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I tend to use multiple protractors and average the set-up out against a set of them.

A man with one protractor knows the angle; a man with many protractors is never quite sure.

KBK
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Walking sandwich boards.

"The High-End is Near"

It should be all about viral marketing, not viral product marketing. The latter will not work. It's about ideas and ideals transference. This sort of thing requires maximum minds reading or 'getting' the message, and then those in the crowd who would gravitate toward audio, will do so. The rest will not.

The esoteric do it by leaving signage everywhere. people see it but do not know what they are looking at. Those who are predisposed to understand it, puzzle over what they are seeing and then begin to recognize it, they try to puzzle it out. Unless you are predisposed to understand what you are looking at -you will never know.

We, in the world of audio, are looking to catch the pre-disposed. The rest will never get it.

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Quote:
The thing about it is that a TON of people do like high end audio and what it does. HOWEVER, getting the message out to as many people as is possible so the few fish who might bite can KNOW that for the FIRST time in their lives, that is the trick. That one thing, is the best that we could ever hope to do.

This is what I mean by viral marketing techniques need to be employed that spread on their own or infect many for the effort and $ involved.

For example, one could walk around in the London underground with freaky high end audio shirts with great advertising but one could never afford to use the signage spaces in the underground, it's far too expensive.
Viral. Man in chicken suit out on the corner, waving at customers. Old School.

For example, all the high end dealers in the NY area, running a full page advert in the NY times. Specifically a SIMPLE one that does it's best to alert people to the idea of high end audio even existing.

I think your premise that "a TON of people do like high end audio and what it does" is faulty if you mean "high end" as it currently exists. The challenge moving forward will be to meet new generations raised on PCs, Ipods, videogames and downloads on their terms, not ours. SQ is only part of the equation for them. You're fussing over laser levels and quarter inches of speaker placement and they're demanding that, at some point in the playback chain, the whole thing fits into their pocket. That's a huge gap to bridge and high end companies seem painfully slow to recognize that. We're not talking about better or worse, we're talking about different and you're not going to get there with the vast majority of existing high end products...

John

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Quote:

Quote:
I tend to use multiple protractors and average the set-up out against a set of them.

A man with one protractor knows the angle; a man with many protractors is never quite sure.


I have a protractor that is customized for my arms; but I wanted a simple generic protractor to give as gift to a friend who just bought a TT. Didn't think it would require a purchase at an online store.

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Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
I tend to use multiple protractors and average the set-up out against a set of them.

A man with one protractor knows the angle; a man with many protractors is never quite sure.


I have a protractor that is customized for my arms; but I wanted a simple generic protractor to give as gift to a friend who just bought a TT. Didn't think it would require a purchase at an online store.

Dude, do you, like, have deformed arms, or something?

I'm glad they make protractors for the arm-impaired!

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Quote:
I think your premise that "a TON of people do like high end audio and what it does" is faulty if you mean "high end" as it currently exists.

Please keep in mind, JohnRobert, that a ton of audiophiles is only about a half dozen.

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Re: High End Audio Business Model


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
I tend to use multiple protractors and average the set-up out against a set of them.

A man with one protractor knows the angle; a man with many protractors is never quite sure.


I have a protractor that is customized for my arms; but I wanted a simple generic protractor to give as gift to a friend who just bought a TT. Didn't think it would require a purchase at an online store.

Dude, do you, like, have deformed arms, or something?

I'm glad they make protractors for the arm-impaired!


Hehe... yes, I am Quasimodo from Notre Dame d l'Audiophile. I have arms of varying lengths, so just on one protractor, I have different arcs accounted for. Cheap, too! No need to spend $200+ on those crazy protractors:

http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/vinyl/messages/73/738343.html

P.S. - speaking of L'Audiophile, a friend from France tells me La Maison de L'Audiophile is closed!

KBK
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What I meant was that a TON of people would recognize and desire high quality sound -if they had a chance to hear it. What I mean is a group that definitely is larger than the extant group of audiophiles.

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What I meant was that a TON of people would recognize and desire high quality sound -if they had a chance to hear it. What I mean is a group that definitely is larger than the extant group of audiophiles.

That is my experience as well.

Then they tend to get annoyed when they go back to their own systems.

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Quote:

Quote:
What I meant was that a TON of people would recognize and desire high quality sound -if they had a chance to hear it. What I mean is a group that definitely is larger than the extant group of audiophiles.

That is my experience as well.

Then they tend to get annoyed when they go back to their own systems.

Maybe, but many of them still won't spend the money for the upgrade....

So many of my friends and family have heard setups I've had over the years and been surprised by how good they sounded... but that's where it ended...

Only one friend went out and bought some audiophile approved speakers afterwards...

Just about everyone appreciates better sound quality, but only a small percentage of persons are willing to pay a lot of money for those improvements...

KBK
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There is evidence to show that if one monkey picks his nose or scratches his backside in public, many others will do so as a reflex action, like a mirror. We don't need many to bring the ranks up, as the ranks of audiophiles percapita show in North America or western society in general, any amount of people (at all) picking up on 'high quality' audio reproduction in the home - would virtually double the number of audiophiles in the west, overnight. The ratio of 'pick up' vs percapita in the east is slightly different (historically), which is why I mention it this way.

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