Is the Audiophile Dying Out?

Is the Audiophile Dying Out?

  • Yes. The kids only care about eabuds and smoking weed.

    Votes: 26 57.8%
  • No. The kids are allright.

    Votes: 19 42.2%

  • Total voters
    45
Out-Of-Phase

Out-Of-Phase

Audioholic General
This article showed up in my news feed, and I registered just to comment. I'm a mid-40's engineer who has been a lifelong lover of music, but only discovered HiFi about 15 years ago. Audiphiledom is suffering, but it's not dead. However, I don't think 2-channel HiFi is going to resurrect it.

The problem with HiFi today is rooted in MP3s. The ubiquitous digital music CODEC arrived in the mid-90s and revolutionized how people consume music. A single CD contains about 650-700MB of uncompressed music. In 1995 a 500MB hard drive cost a few hundred dollars! As the cost of storage dropped, people were able to own vast collections of compressed digital music. In time, people got accustomed to favoring quantity over quality.

Even though the conditions that made MP3 music so revolutionary no longer exist today, the average consumer still values quantity over quality. The most popular digital streaming services (e.g., YouTube, Spotify) still stream compressed audio, and most consumer audio gear is only good enough to make sound, not to sound good. Point is: there is an entire generation of people who, for the most part, don't even know what good sound is!

I could continue with more trends, like how big box stores displaced smaller businesses, recession wiped out a lot of boutique high-end audio stores, and now the Internet is cannibalizing brick and mortar shops. The point is, where does one even go to experience HiFi? Especially if you don't know it exists? And if, as this article astutely noticed, you want to consume your entertainment as more than just music absent video, why would you look to invest big bucks in 2-channel audio?

Even when I was getting into HiFi in the mid-2000s there was a perception that more than 2 speakers was somehow impure. And I'm not saying that music shouldn't be rendered on 2 speakers in a traditional HiFi sort of way, but I am saying that one needn't limit their entertainment setup to 2 channels only. For instance:

View attachment 41279

In addition to being an audiophile, I am a prolific XBox gamer. Hence, my entertainment center needed to be more than a simple 2-channel setup for music. I built a 5.1 surround system based on Sonus Faber Cremona speakers with their matched center and sub, and I have evolved that system over the years to keep up with the times. I have a Sony 4K projector for my big screen as well as 2 additional LG flat panels. At any given time I have several XBox consoles plugged into my system; I use an 8x8 HDMI matrix to route video from any of these to any of my 3 screens (and I have occasionally run extra outputs to monitors for even more outputs).

As busy as this setup is, I still have a path to pristine 2 channel audio, using Roon to stream to a Mac Mini hosting an Ayre QB9-DSD DAC into the McIntosh chain and out the left and right towers. It's still traditional 2-channel HiFi, but with lots of extra frills for movies and gaming.

Most of my gaming friends use TVs and soundbars and whatnot. When I've had people over to play on this setup, their heads explode. They are not used to the role that good sound can contribute to gaming--they haven't been exposed to it.

Where I believe audiophiledom may be redeemed is through headphones and personal audio. The fundamental problem that needs to be solved is simply exposing people to high quality music through good audio chains so that the ones who appreciate that kind of experience can make informed decisions about how much to invest in audio. Headphones are at least 10-20x less expensive than 2-channel HiFi for comparable quality experiences. Moreover, China has been producing increasingly excellent head-fi gear at ever-falling prices. Competition is bringing truly excellent audio within reach of what consumers are willing to pay for things like gaming headsets. Sooner or later people are going to discover what their money can buy them, and then just maybe there will be a revolution in demand for quality.

This isn't just theory or conjecture--I have been actively sharing high-end headphones with people for a couple years, and without exception everyone has been blown away by what music they know sounds like when they can actually hear it, lol.

In any case, if people discover what a difference good sound can make to their entertainment experiences, I think that may eventually lead to more interest in 2 channel HiFi or big integrated surround systems like what I've built. But people need to know those experiences exist before they can aspire to them.
The only thing I'd like to have is that little gnome. :D
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
This thread is absolute gold. If anyone could understand the drive to spend more money on a higher-end product that many will see as a "waste"... I would think it could be audiophiles!

I absolutely cannot believe the cognitive dissonance shown by some of the posters here.

We should absolutely celebrate _anyone_ who goes out of their way (and spends significant money) to procure and enjoy a quality product rather than just accepting common crap. That includes:

- Coffee
- Cell phones
- TVs
- Speakers
- Headphones
- Wine
- Hotel rooms
- First-class seats on airplanes
- Fine furniture
- Nice houses
- Whatever!

_Anyone_ who puts intention into their purchases and utilizes significant sums of their free cash to enjoy something "special" to them in life is a-ok in my book. I get much more upset at people who just "let life pass by" without ever actually caring much about having a bespoke experience with any of it...
It's not a matter of seeing a quest for better as a waste, it's about the bullcrap that's troweled out as fact when there's no basis or proof. Why spend more on things that don't make a difference when there's so much more that matters? If I had a choice and could spend $500 or more on cables or put it into better speakers, it would definitely go toward speakers.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
This thread is absolute gold. If anyone could understand the drive to spend more money on a higher-end product that many will see as a "waste"... I would think it could be audiophiles!

I absolutely cannot believe the cognitive dissonance shown by some of the posters here.

We should absolutely celebrate _anyone_ who goes out of their way (and spends significant money) to procure and enjoy a quality product rather than just accepting common crap. That includes:

- Coffee
- Cell phones
- TVs
- Speakers
- Headphones
- Wine
- Hotel rooms
- First-class seats on airplanes
- Fine furniture
- Nice houses
- Whatever!

_Anyone_ who puts intention into their purchases and utilizes significant sums of their free cash to enjoy something "special" to them in life is a-ok in my book. I get much more upset at people who just "let life pass by" without ever actually caring much about having a bespoke experience with any of it...
Do you buy the civet-pooped coffee only? That gets you into foo foo cable territory...the low end stuff.
Cell phones unless gold and diamond encrusted aren't even in the running.
TVs not so much either.
Speakers....well this is where the money should be spent
Headphones....could care less myself
Wine...prefer beer and scotch
Hotel rooms....have no use for them for the most part, prefer to camp out or stay with friends.
First class I did a coupla times as I used to fly as a cargo agent and only paid 10% of a ticket value, if that. Mostly we flew business class, tho.
Fine furniture....meh, am single....but intend on making a few good pieces eventually.
Nice houses....one's quite enough

Bespoke experience? Aren't all experiences bespoke?

OTOH many audiophools out there spending on silly crap with even sillier sales pitches....and often with the caveat hey its my money, I have plenty of it and I don't care if I waste it.....
 
friedmud

friedmud

Audiophyte
Do you buy the civet-pooped coffee only? That gets you into foo foo cable territory...the low end stuff.
Cell phones unless gold and diamond encrusted aren't even in the running.
TVs not so much either.
Speakers....well this is where the money should be spent
Headphones....could care less myself
Wine...prefer beer and scotch
Hotel rooms....have no use for them for the most part, prefer to camp out or stay with friends.
First class I did a coupla times as I used to fly as a cargo agent and only paid 10% of a ticket value, if that. Mostly we flew business class, tho.
Fine furniture....meh, am single....but intend on making a few good pieces eventually.
Nice houses....one's quite enough

Bespoke experience? Aren't all experiences bespoke?

OTOH many audiophools out there spending on silly crap with even sillier sales pitches....and often with the caveat hey its my money, I have plenty of it and I don't care if I waste it.....
Hah - no, I don't personally spend much on coffee (from poop or otherwise)... Keurig most of the time with some Starbucks thrown in for when I'm out.

And my point with the list wasn't to try to say that those are "fine" things that should be sought after... only giving some diverse examples of things people put a lot of time/effort/money (are all of those the same?) into pursuing... and each one is just as valid as any other as long as the person is intentional about it.

As for "bespoke"... no, I don't think all experiences are bespoke ("custom made"). MANY, MANY people go through life only experiencing run-of-the-mill, mass produced, lowest-common-denominator experiences. ANYONE that seeks out something more from life, something "custom" that suits themselves and their desires is good with me - they don't need to have the same likes/desires that I do!

BTW: I'm with you on Scotch over wine :)
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
As for "bespoke"... no, I don't think all experiences are bespoke ("custom made"). MANY, MANY people go through life only experiencing run-of-the-mill, mass produced, lowest-common-denominator experiences. ANYONE that seeks out something more from life, something "custom" that suits themselves and their desires is good with me - they don't need to have the same likes/desires that I do!
:)
I just meant experiences are personal and unique. I don't see the lowest common denominator thing the way you do, tho....there are ways to go about having experiences that have nothing to do with accumulating/buying/consuming things (altho they can certainly help :) ).
 
T

Trebdp83

Audioholic Field Marshall
"The best things in life are free." I still believe it and have never paid for sex.:p
 
friedmud

friedmud

Audiophyte
Ugh,, what a lousy comment. Dude, for instance, i may have the cash to do the max on the sht you're talking about, whatever, all day long. But, i am happier being a fcking skinflint, leading a simpler life and being charitable to those who got dealt an unfortunate hand in life. It all starts to look/feel obscene living like a frivolous materialistic li'l btch when some poor kid out there is skipping meals. I hope life gives you a few beatings and evolves your thought process.
What are you talking about? The whole point of my post(s) (read some of the later ones) is that anyone who is intentional about the way they live... regardless of what they're into (and that does include things you don't need to spend money on) should be lauded. With this post I was specifically responding to people in this thread who are making fun of people who buy things they don't think are worthy (coffee/phones for instance).

I am, in no way, saying that people need to be buying the things on that list - I was simply giving examples of hobbies people are into... and it's all good to me, and I wouldn't look down on anyone for putting their time/money into anything they truly love.

That list is not about me either - I'm into electronics... especially audio and HT gear... and that's about it. I don't personally have much free cash, so I have to pick components carefully thinking about the long haul.

As for life beating me down - you know nothing about me, the path I've walked, and the things I've dealt with in my life. Wishing ill on someone you know absolutely nothing about is just pure nasty.
 
3db

3db

Audioholic Overlord
Audiophiles should die out just like the dinosaurs did before them. Having more money than brains and inventing more stories than Walt Disney himself and blathering on and on unsubstantiated BS to support their purchases. In their world advertising glossies and market mumbo jumbo rule the world. I just don't know how audiophiles survived 7 world extinction events. Dam its worse than the covid virus.
 
J

JengaHit

Audioholic
I don't the audiophile enthusiast has changed much. I remember when I was young (50 years ago) i would visit the old hifi stores and lust after the latest turntables and Reel to Reels. I was the only one in my circle of friends who had the audiophile disease. One of my friends dad was an audiophile and I really enjoyed going over to his house to see the latest. He was the only one I ever new that had such equipment.wasn't allowed to touch it though.
My dad gave me the bug. He had Kenwood separates (reasonably priced) and a Garrard, then Technics turntable. But more important, he gave me a love for music, the whole reason for hifi equipment. He loved big band, Ellington, Basie, Ella, Sarah V, Mahler, Brahms, Strauss, Beethoven, etc. I got hooked on those artists, then rock in HS and college. I started going to concerts in college to hear live music. And then movie sound became experiential, as movie theaters started tricking out their sound systems and directors and sound mixers started getting more sonically sophisticated (Star Wars was a visual and sound landmark for me). Ever since, I've been putting together sensibly priced systems to simulate that live-music and theater experience. Equipment has always served that end and the music, as it did for my dad. Even competent 2.1-ch systems can sound much better and more immersive than sound bars; you don't need to spend a fortune. If millennials are really more interested in experiences, there must be a way to market sensibly priced and more streamlined systems (even 2.1-ch) to help them simulate their concert or movie theater experiences at home.
 
J

JengaHit

Audioholic
I had a cheaper Samsung android phone recently ($100 ish), it was slow and hesitant in several respects (and I wasn't the only one who thought so) so I went a little further up the chain after I broke it to a $300 phone....much better. Plus has more memory capability for music storage :)

I'd never consider an iPhone, tho.
One way to save money is get your phone as part of a family plan. My LG V50 ThinQ was only $40 via the plan, but MSRP at the time was ~ $900. (Think it's since come down to ~$350 for an unlocked version.) Anyway, it has a great ESS DAC, sounds great, and I can expand storage with a SD card. The camera is phenomenal. Like you, no iPhone for me.
 
T

TechToys2

Audioholic
If millennials are really more interested in experiences, there must be a way to market sensibly priced and more streamlined systems (even 2.1-ch) to help them simulate their concert or movie theater experiences at home.
As far as millennial's preferring experiences, I would argue that a nice music/theater system IS an experience (or at least creates one as you say), and one that someone can revisit each and every time they use it. It also need not be a huge financial outlay to get something of reasonable quality today. But one has to experience and recognize the better quality, and the value of it, in order to be interested in recreating that experience for themselves. And that is not limited to millennials.

I purchased my first home theater system around 20 years ago. I wanted something of quality and spent what seemed at the time to be a small fortune for a 5.1 system (even though it was probably considered to be mid-fi and not even close to what many were paying for their systems). We still have most of that system today and my wife, who has little interest in such things, has mentioned to me any number of times that, although she felt it was expensive at the time, in retrospect she believes it was money very well spent as we have enjoyed the benefits of that system for many years.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
One way to save money is get your phone as part of a family plan. My LG V50 ThinQ was only $40 via the plan, but MSRP at the time was ~ $900. (Think it's since come down to ~$350 for an unlocked version.) Anyway, it has a great ESS DAC, sounds great, and I can expand storage with a SD card. The camera is phenomenal. Like you, no iPhone for me.
Hard to do that as a single guy. The phone subsidies aren't what they used to be, tho.
 
T

Trebdp83

Audioholic Field Marshall
Yeah, playin' doctor ain't what it used to be.:p
 

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