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Politics and hi-fi

Discussion in 'audio' started by Tony L, Oct 20, 2015.

  1. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    In this months Stereophile, which landed on the doormat earlier, there is a rather interesting response from the editor John Atkinson to a reader complaining about some allegedly political comment made in an earlier issue. I found Atkinson's response interesting and worthy of a thread. The first part mentions global warming and I have nothing to add to that so will quote just the second part of it:

    Do read the linked article too.

    To my mind it's an interesting perspective, one that may possibly explain why I all too often find the current audio market somewhere between uninteresting and utterly irrelevant. Digital aside I find little to lure me from running classic vintage kit, but I'm very aware my interests are somewhat atypical and that is certainly not a sustainable business model for an industry. I'd always assumed audio was in decline as no one wanted it anymore, it hadn't occurred to me that it may be inequalities of wealth distribution may be leaving those who would have bought it too hard up to do so, hence the missing middle ground, if of course it is missing.
  2. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    A pfm member and Atkinson's definition of middle ground might be rather different to the general population. What's yours?
  3. sbgk

    sbgk pfm Member

    argument stands up if you ignore that a lot of people are happy to use their phone as the source for their hifi.

    Guess same argument of middle class decline can be used for camera sales decline, whereas there are more photos taken than ever before via the use of phone/ipads.
  4. SteveS1

    SteveS1 I heard that, pardon?

    In both cases the results obtained from modestly priced equipment have closed the performance gap and increased diminishing returns significantly. I don't regard it as the failure of today's yoof to appreciate quality, they get far more of that than the crappy budget analogue music centres and record players were able to provide. :)

    Both media have become far more disposable too. Streaming means not having to lumber yourself with albums you never play again, but it also reduces the chances that 'growers' will be tolerated beyond a play or two. More photos are taken than ever, that's true. But the majority of those get deleted quickly, or never make it to album status.
  5. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Plug a nice (say £200-300) pair of headphones into an iPhone and listen to 320AAC or lossless and you've got a really nice single user system for sure. One that would have cost an absolute bloody fortune to equal in the 1970s. I do just that myself when out and about, but it's no substitute for a pair of 15" Tannoys when it comes to filling a whole room with music! There is no arguing that digital sources are a real game changer, I couldn't live without them, but there is more to home audio than the source component.

    I don't know, it's one of the reasons I posted the thread! In many respects the stuff I aspired to as a kid/young adult is actually still available; say a Rega deck, a Quad, Sugden or (cheaper) Naim amp and a pair of Spendor or Quad speakers, so one could argue that particular middle ground still exists. It does seem far more expensive to me now than it did then though, e.g. something like a current Sugden A21 and a pair of LS3/5As (Falcon) would run me a hell of a lot more proportionately now than they would have back in say '78. Likewise an LP12, Nait or just about anything that still exists in some form, or at least that is the way it feels. I'm curious what others think? Atkinson cited the $5000 component range, which has always been over my budget, but as stated I'm atypical and consciously took very low-paid self-employment over a well paid career - I value my personal space and free time way above money. I've therefore found other ways of having great audio kit (second hand/purchase as investment)! I'm just the wrong person to ask really!
  6. Joe Hutch

    Joe Hutch Mate of the bloke

    I see that not even John Atkinson realises that the possessive form of its does not have an apostrophe.
  7. merlin

    merlin Avatar changed - Town names deemed offensive.

    I would say that very few can afford to live (around here in the SE of England) in a home large enough and detached enough to truly consider enjoying a big pair of loudspeakers playing their favourite music at levels that make the expense worthwhile Tony.

    Therein lies a problem for me. Living space is at a premium down here - I often wonder whether that is part of the problem.
  8. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    You are just not trying hard enough! I've fitted a pair of Tannoy Lockwoods, a pair of Klipsch La Scalas and a pair of JR149s into a typical Lancashire end-terrace! I've got form on this: I lived in a flat in Shepherds Bush in That London which was, to the inch, big enough to get an Ikea futon, a pair of Isobariks and a stack of Naim kit into. I think I should have been born in Japan.
  9. gavreid

    gavreid pfm Member

    Apple spell checker/predictive text is a blooming nuisance for changing that one
  10. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    I painted my older sister's flat and bought an LP12 with the proceeds. A long time ago. I gave up the middle ground almost that long ago if 5K is the price of admission. Just to pick one, an Amptastic is 100 quid FFS. Add a few FiiOs and you're done. The 'middle ground' price realm is just irrelevant now since if you care about audio quality it takes little effort to find it on the cheap. I think it's probably the Internet that shoved the last nails into the middle ground coffin.
  11. pcutter1

    pcutter1 pfm Member

    I used to teach business studies specialised to the sector of industry I work in, one of my first questions to the students was: When you set up your business who will be your competitors. In variably the answer(s) would be limited to other businesses in the same sector. This was of course the wrong answer. The competition is everyone who is trying to part Joe Public from his money. Thomas Cook is competing with TK Maxx, Nando's, Ford, Pension Funds, DFS, Apple, Dyson, Sky, school fees etc. so audio manufacturers are likewise competing for a share of that same budget. It doesn't help that Joe et al have been sold on the idea that their mobile device can be used a "high performance" MP3 player, camera etc. Nor does it help that in the UK we are "sold" phones at highly discounted prices and with the true cost of the phone hidden in the rental plan (go look at the full price of a phone without a SIM in your local phone shop). Then you have to factor in the cost of housing, fuel, public transport etc. It's probably not much of a surprise that the middle ground has become rather a desert, either you buy the budget basement offer (and go to Nando's) or you have sufficient disposable income to aim for the high end (and go to The Ritz). Thinking back to when I was working as a sales assistant at the then equivalent of Curry's in 1966, the average home had a Black and White TV, a radio, and a Dansette, maybe a holiday for a week in Blackpool, no central heating, maybe a car and possibly even a fridge. Then there were the rich at the other end of the market, in between? Well not much. Perhaps the middle ground is a relatively recent and short lived sector.
  12. merlin

    merlin Avatar changed - Town names deemed offensive.


    I'd love to design a modern equivalent of the old corner horn and reclaim the real estate in the name of good music. One day.
  13. Mick P

    Mick P Retired and content

    quote -

    Originally Posted by John Atkinson Stereophile Nov 2015
    2) There is no doubt that there has been a large increase in economic inequality since the turn of the century, this resulting in a reduction of the middle class's disposable income, which in turn has had a dramatic effect on the sales of high-end audio equipment other than at the very affordable and very expensive ends of the market. The reasons for this inequality were not mentioned in the published letter, but see my essay on it's effects at www.stereophile.com/content/upward-price-spiral


    That is absolute drivel.

    Hifi has gone out of fashion, it is as simple as that.

    Back in the seventies, hifi was cool and everyone aspired to owning a decent bit of kit, preferably with big speakers that were considered even cooler.

    Today hifi is a bit of a joke, it has the image of being a hobby indulged in by old men who have stayed put and not moved on.

    I could not even pay my grandson to take my system away because, in his opinion it looks daft, and his girlfriend would disown him if he took it home.

    Hifi is a victim of changing taste and that is why very few people want it, let alone buy it.

    Back in the seventies, most houses had just one 24" TV in the lounge, now it is normal to have 55" sets in most rooms in the house complete with sound bar etc.

    If the public want something, they will buy it. However if like hifi its image has become dated, it will just die off.

    This forum is filled up with old men, most of whom buy second hand kit. Very few of us will walk into a dealer to buy new stuff because the old stuff is just as good at a fraction of the new price and nostalgia reigns supreme.

    This is all bad news for the hifi industry and the major problem is that although there is excellent new kit being made, most of the retailers in the shops lack the ability to sell a bag of sweets let alone expensive kit.

    The last time I walked into a hifi shop, the so called salesman treated me as if I were a dung heap from the lowest dregs of society. I just walked out never to return. That is not a rare event.

    Hifi died because of crap retailers, who lack sales training, not getting the young professionals into their shops to replace us old geezers.


  14. gassor

    gassor There may be more posts after this.

    Spot on. Listening to music is no longer a communal event. Phone plus headphones gives decent sound, why spend hundreds more and devote countless hour deciding what to buy?

    In my last visit to a hi-fi shop I was told my Yammy NS1000s were only capable of delivering a very 80s sound. Couple of years ago, never been back to one.

    You reap just what you sow.
  15. steveledzep

    steveledzep pfm Member

    I see myself in Mick's post......fair cop guv !
  16. Gaius

    Gaius Trade: Stiletto by Tangerine

    Vinyl is trendy though, still relevant and in many cases sounds better than the rest.

    That leaves you needing something to play it on.
  17. merlin

    merlin Avatar changed - Town names deemed offensive.



  18. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    My first exposure to good hi-fi had nothing whatsoever to do with dealers, though big speakers were certainly a factor - I heard a friend's dad's system back in about '74 or so. I can still remember the system: Thorens TD125/3009/V15III, Quad 33/303 and Celestion Ditton 66 speakers. A seriously good system by any standards. I suspect much of the issue is actually that far fewer people these days get to experience genuinely full-range sound in the home as even if one visits a fancy dealer chances are you are only going to get to listen to some rather bright and thin sounding stand-mounts, certainly nothing that packs anything like the slam of those old 66s, and it was the weight, scale and power that initially hooked me. If I hadn't heard what was possible at such a young age I may well not have been so obsessed in getting a good stereo myself. I bought my first system (Lenco 75, 33/303, JR149s) second hand when I was 15. I have bought a fair bit since!

    I suspect there is truth in the cultural shift thing, but I think Mike is right too in that houses are crap now, just stupidly small and badly made too with poor sound proofing (the shack I live in would be worth a million or two in That London), plus I bet John Atkinson is right too in that the middle is squeezed and that is impacting the market. As with most things it's likely more nuanced than it first appears.
  19. davidsrsb

    davidsrsb pfm Member

    I see the youngsters in my office struggling to pay their car loans, and basic living costs. After that getting pre-paid phone credit seems to be the first priority. Junior graduate salaries have moved far down the bell curve since the 80s
  20. Yank

    Yank Bulbous Also Tapered

    In parts of the world with much less population density than your island, space isn't much of an issue. Detached housing is the norm in the Western Hemisphere, and building for energy efficiency is also good for sound proofing as a side benefit. Yet even with a family of four living in a 2500+ sq ft house, few will tolerate anything bigger than a set of Bose mini-cubes, even though they share a room with a 75" flat screen.

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