Will the market for high-end audio get better or worse?

Will the market for high-end audio get better or worse?
He's nuts---it'll get better
29% (56 votes)
Worse: limited income
8% (16 votes)
Worse: goofy products
5% (10 votes)
Worse: computers
13% (24 votes)
Worse: all of the above
21% (40 votes)
Worse: other (add comment)
24% (46 votes)
Total votes: 192

In the January '98 <i>Stereophile</i>, Michael Zeugin of Audio Influx asserts that high-end audio is being sucked into a "Black Hole" for a variety of reasons. These include: goofy products, computers taking over the youth market, and boomers' limited income being channeled elsewhere. What do you think?

Phil Sievert's picture

Computers cost too much and take away the money I would have spent on better audio.

Gary Khor's picture

The easy availability of CHEAP home-theater systems will divert precious little disposable income away from Audio products.

Achim Gloger's picture

A lot of new (and invariably very expensive) products have the distinct smell of snakeoil about them. I don't really see the point of spending thousands on cabling, for example, when I have to budget for school fees in a few years' time. There are too many products designed to impress the anorak brigade without any tangible (and audible) sound improvements. Too many manufacturers are only concerned with lining their pockets by offering overpriced gear that does not significantly advance the state of the art. Until the industry faces reality by providing value for money again, consumers will turn to alternative hobbies on which to spend a limited amount of disposable income. I don't think it'll be computers, though . . .

Chris_Hladky@onf.com's picture

Yes, computers do compete for our time resources, but perhaps a bigger problem than this is a real loss of interesting original music. Where is the new Miles? Coltrane? Evans? Beatles? etc.

Frank Doggrell's picture

It will get better, but not for the reasons that one normally associates with high-end. A technological breakthrough will emerge from the computer age that will create wonderful new sound reproduction systems with ten times the capabilities of the finest components made today---and at a tenth of the cost.

Reese Barretto's picture

Absurd high-end prices: $6k for a CD player, $75k for a loudspeaker system, and $4k for a power cord. Based on the above choices, I believe Michael is right!

Trevers Astheimer's picture

While I do not 100% believe that the high-end market will get better, I do believe that it has the potential to get better. This potential would be because of the computer, and not in spite of the computer. With the advent of PC-based music reproduction, I see the computer as another component in a complete music-reproduction system. While a sound card and powered speakers may be good enough for the music now available from the internet, etc., in the not-too-distant future, as the quality gets better, you will need to add a high-end amplifier and speaker system.

Steve's picture

Ahhh, don't think it's so much the goofy products or computers as the natural flow of things; i.e., Generation X, maybe less appreciation for music, computers, MTV, DVD, BFD. Etc. High End will always have a hold in the market, though, as there's always someone who just has to have the "best" and "latest and greatest." So, there ya go . . . .

ImJerryS@ecentral.com's picture

All of the above plus disillusionment with prices of used equipment (Blue Book). Put succinctly, with used prices being just a small fraction of new, the value of new gear is hard to perceive. That creates a very active used market at the expense of new retail sales.

Jim Causey's picture

Among the people I know, fewer and fewer know about the high end, or care enough about it, to lay out the obscene amounts of money for it. All my friends, for instance, love how my system sounds, but refuse to spend anywhere near what I've spent for a system without a remote volume control. The huge number of features that get stuffed into Japanese loss-leader boxes are really killing interest in the high end, as is home theater.

Anonymous's picture

Too many goofy products. Too much coverage of equipment that's "moderately priced" only if you are a Class A-1 hi-fi loony, or have more dollars than sense. We need fewer megabuck wacko components and more that the average person can afford that will afford him/her good value and good (albeit not perfect) sound.

Tdrum8@aol.com's picture

I agree with Mr. Zeugin's observations of the current state of high-end audio with regard to consumers' dollars. But I think the best high-end manufacturers are dedicated to their customers and to the audio community. I would say beware of products and manufacturers who claim "high-end" in their gear, only to get out of the marketplace the next year. Misinformed consumers are spending their money in such a variety of places that it can easily force companies to go for the green. However, those who have made and continue to make quality high-end audio products will be the real winners, and so will we! I just hope it dosen't get any worse than it already is.

Mike Klein's picture

We need to work on the very young. Get them to appreciate music. The gen-Xers are a lost bunch anyway. The BBers have already made their decisions. NEW MARKETS!!!

Stan Verstaendig's picture

Audio is NOT being sucked into any black hole. What is happening is that it is responding to the new technology of today, and consumers are demanding that improvements be made that will accommodate all this new technology. This is shown by the advent of multichannel surround sound becoming more and more common. The end result will be that the quality of the playback equipment will become more three-dimensional, have higher sampling rates, and a wider bandwidth. The most difficult hurdle to overcome in order to achieve all of this is the lack of a true standard. Once manufacturers finally agree on a standard, then we will begin to see the benefit of all of this.

John Atkinson's picture

As long as music can stir the soul, there will be a market for high-quality playback equipment!!

Burford's picture

Goofy products are nothing new. I'm a GenXer and a relative newcomer to high-end audio. I first completed my mobile audio requirements, and, after learning to like high-end stuff, have become dissatisfied with my home setup. I think audio is playing second fiddle to computer gear, but once the mass of gotta-have-the-latest-version computer guys realize that their stereo-only systems are a few generations behind, they'll catch up with the Joneses. The audio/video community could learn something from the computer industry about marketing the ability to have the latest and greatest.

Evan Champion's picture

Green markers and $1000/ft cabling. Need I say more?

mary platts of stereophile's picture

no comment

Louie Jones's picture

Home theater is the sucking sound of cash flowing out of the two-channel showroom.

Tom Hastings's picture

MicroSoft will lead millions into "the Internet is the only way to listen to music" lifestyle. Bose speakers and a "multimedia" computer in every home!

Dan Clark's picture

Why are the selections so lopsided? Five are "Worse" and only one is "He's nuts"? First, what evidence do we have that it is waning? Second, how do we define home theater and multimedia? I think it will improve but change. For example, home theater and high-end are both very expensive, so the average person will combine them using the same hardware to do both. Limited income? Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) should be hitting their stride in terms of salary. Goofer products? Sorry, I didn't read the article, but, I haven't seen much to bother me. Computers? Yes and no. They cost a lot, so less money can go to the stereo, but more may learn of high-end audio on the Internet, and multimedia players through high-end equipment should be amazing.


Whatever the situation is, people from all over the world are relatively getting more affluent. As the world grows in knowledge and life gets better, there will always be even more people wanting better things---and the "latest" gizmo, no less.This attitude in the human race is inevitable when able. There is a growing number of people who are always able. So I contend that it is going to get better because history says so. Moreover, magazines like yours make sure of it.

Kevin Gillespie (kpg55@gillesp's picture

Computers will never become the audio/video center of the home. While computer technology will make its way into more and more products (see Denon), the future of home video will be larger and larger screens, not computer monitors.

Andrew Romeo's picture

Competition creates the highest possible quality at the lowest possible price. High-end will thus improve, and become more accessible. The only guys who need worry are those selling high-ticket line conditioners and cables, etc. They'll just have to find some way to reduce their costs or pinch their margins in order to justify their continued existences.

Bill Richmond's picture

Increasing price of equipment far outstripping increases in buyer disposable income.

Jack Henley's picture

With the high-end products available to the public and the public still growing for home theater, there is no question that the only way we are going is up. Now, although computers are becoming more and more advanced, in no way can they reproduce the sound field and give you accurate imaging the way home audio high-end gear can. DVD has also been introduced for the computer, but it doesn't give you Dolby Digital sound---or, for that matter, Pro Logic---with the picture being only as good as your monitor.

Mark Fitzgerald's picture

After 1997, I hope it doesn't get worse. It'll get better, but it won't be a quick turnaround. Generation-X will figure out what good sound is all about, in time. After all, the Love Children of the '60s are just starting to figure it out. Hi-fi needs to be more persuasive, appeal to the ego. If a BMW or Mercedes is status, why can't a pair of EgglestonWorks Andras and a complete Levinson front end carry just as much status?

Charlie's picture

First, there is only so much room in the average family budget for consumer electronics. Computers are almost a mandatory purchase today, with the next item being a home theater setup. (Don't underestimate Americans' love affair with the TV!) This leaves very little money for high-end audio equipment. Second, high-end dealers' marketing and selling strategies deter the average shopper, who is used to the convenience of the Circuit Citys and the shopping malls (that includes the return policies of the major stores). For example, I have been to six high-end dealers in the PA/NJ area. Not one of them allows home audition of loudspeakers. I can "purchase" any loudspeaker in the store and "return" it for another model in the store. Therefore, I cannot directly compare two speakers from different manufacturers unless the dealer that I shop at carries both. Finally, the target market for audio is aging and dying off. The younger generations today (I sound like such an old fart) do not care about quality music reproduction. They care about convenience, and to them the CD is just fine the way it is. (Actually, the majority of non-audiophiles---which is the majority of the population---feels that way too.) Finally, I feel the only solution to the problem is to have the highest-quality reproduction available in the new DVD audio standard. That way, high-end audio won't have to compete for disposable income with home theater because it will lose the majority of the time.

Jean-Francois Page's picture

I think the computer market (Internet...) is the major problem because all the young people will prefer to buy a PC instead of hi-fi components.

Otto Ruppel's picture

Computer "convergence" will take over if audiophile pricing is not held in check. Not everyone has $10,000 to out on an amp. High-price spread is great to read about, but what do YOU do when it comes time to spend?