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Ajani
01-24-2008, 05:27 AM
So I was discussing the apparent decline in High End Audio with Musical Fidelity Boss Antony Michaelson the other day (Ok, ok, let me stop trying to pull a Melvin on you - The truth is that I read some claims by Musical Fidelity on their website and in Stereophile... heck, I've never even met a sales rep from MF, much less Antony)....

Anyway, the point is that while many have attributed the 'decline' in high end audio to the growth of Home Theatre/other distractions or Snakeoil products and ridancullously (I wonder if I spelt that correctly... lol) high prices... MF seems to think that consumers just aren't being wowed by what they hear in hi-fi shops anymore... specifically products lacking any real horsepower (ummm watts)...

Now when I first read all the claims, I really just regarded them as a cheap attempt to push MF's high powered amplifiers and their new 550K Superchargers (550 Watt Monoblocks - I really want those).... But having given the topic some real thought, I realised that:

There really may be a disconnect between mainstream audio and 'High End'.... Just look at what drives the sales of Mini-Systems and even HT-in-a-boxes ----- Louder sound and deeper bass.... Just look at the number of claims of '500 - 1000 watts of power and thunderous bass' made by theses products (even if those 500 watts are the combined output to 5 speakers and a sub at 3 ohms & the bass is bloated and disgusting)...

Now imagine trying to convince a consumer expecting more volume and deeper bass, that he should pay 20 times as much for a product that he can only play at moderate listening levels (without clipping)... A product that would require the addition of a subwoofer to produce any meaningful bass... a product that may only sound really good with him sitting exactly 8 feet from it in low chair with his head tilted slightly to the left... to be enjoyable...

Is there a disconnect between what High End audio companies are producing and what the consumer wants? Are companies like MF correct that what the industry needs is more power? Products that can go loud and deep?

Is Audio really even dying or has it just settled into a comfortable (maybe niche?) market?

If it is dying, but MF is wrong then what are the reasons for its death?

Feanor
01-24-2008, 06:21 AM
...

If it is dying, but MF is wrong then what are the reasons for its death?

... Vinyl is calcifying its existance :frown5:

Ajani
01-24-2008, 06:29 AM
... Vinyl is calcifying its existance :frown5:

I'm no vinyl lover (that technology is way too incovenient for me).... but I wonder just how much impact a product like vinyl can still have.... I haven't read any sales figures for vinyl compared to CDs/MP3s or even SACD/DVD-A, but I suspect that vinyl must be at most a niche market product in 2008....

mlsstl
01-24-2008, 02:03 PM
I don't think high end audio has died or is dying. Rather it is changing. And change makes people uncomfortable, whether we're talking hi-fi or any other subject.

Hi-fi has never been a true mass-market pursuit. However, one of the primary problems these days is fragmentation. There are simply a lot more brand names out there. Add in the HT market and the new formats and things get additionally confusing.

Think of TV. Just a few decades ago there were only three national networks in the US. If you lived in a big city, you might have an independent TV station. Most of America had the choice of two to four channels to watch. As such, it was pretty easy for a hit show such as Ed Sullivan to garner a tremendous percentage of the viewership.

Today, with satellite offering over 250 TV channels, specialized interest channels are "narrowcasting" and that makes it impossible for the broad, general interest viewer trends of the past. Yet, the many networks have still figured out a way to fill those programming hours and advertisers still pay for access to their target audiences.

Audio isn't much different. In the old days, serious music listeners had LPs. Open reel users were a very small segment of the market and FM didn't get going until the 70s or so. Serious listening was pretty much only done at home.

Today you have LPs, CDs, FM, DAB, lossy downloads and high-res downloads, DVD, SACD, plus others. A lot of music listening is done in cars or on personal portable devices such as the iPod. You've got digital music servers competing with traditional turntable and CD players. You've got radical changes in how equipment is sold, with the brick & mortar outlets far less important than in the past.

Just like the old-school TV networks have lost market share and have to work ever harder to keep what they do have, the audio market is in similar straits. There is a lot more competition from a lot more directions.

However, in both cases, the viewer/listener is far better off in terms of choice and variety.

So, is high-end dead? I don't think so. It is no more dead than TV is dead. It simply just doesn't look the same as it did 25 or 50 years ago. If you value musical fidelity, you can still put together a damn fine system on a budget, especially if you shop used. If you want to spend beaucoup bucks, you can do that in spades. If you are into DIY, there are plenty of kits or forums where you can discuss design theory from scratch. You name it, and you can still do it these days with more options than ever before.

audio amateur
01-24-2008, 02:13 PM
So I was discussing the apparent decline in High End Audio with Musical Fidelity Boss Antony Michaelson the other day (Ok, ok, let me stop trying to pull a Melvin on you - The truth is that I read some claims by Musical Fidelity on their website and in Stereophile... heck, I've never even met a sales rep from MF, much less Antony)....
..Walker really is a legend among us:cornut:

StevenSurprenant
02-06-2008, 09:35 PM
mlsstl is correct in that it is changing. It is changing to surround sound. I almost never speak to anyone who has any interest in highend audio today. If there is any interest, it is usually in surround systems.

Back in the sixties and seventies, music appreciation was very strong and many people had stereo systems. Also, there were relatively few channels of television and so very little to choose from.

Today, we have a hundred or more channels of TV available and DVD rental stores peppering our towns. With the advent of large wide screen TV's, surround sound, and sub woofers, the entertainment level of home movies has skyrocketed.

Most people have limited funds for these types of purchases and given a choice, they would prefer a surround system over a stereo.

To make matters worse, high end audio stores highlight their expensive gear and cram the affordable speakers onto shelves in a small room where they sound their worse. It's no wonder that their sales are faltering.

They need to learn to cater to the masses rather than the well to do if they are to survive. How many $5,000 to $30,000 systems can they sell? Most people would walk away from that.

What I'm trying to say is that a high end store cannot survive on selling only expensive gear. They have to cater to the average joe with the possibility of an upgrade path. In addition, they have to sell "complete" affordable system packages set up correctly in their own rooms and forget about carrying a hundred brands.

A few stores do it right, but many are setting themselves up to fail. Highend audio stores cannot survive in a world where surround sound is becoming the norm. They must learn to cater to both markets and remember that a low cost teaser system is a great way to bring customers back.

Finally, take them speakers off the shelves!

Anyway, that's my two cents..

filecat13
02-06-2008, 10:43 PM
Thirty or forty years ago when I bought my first serious music system (Kenwood KR-6160 receiver, Dual 1219 turntable with Shure M91E, JBL L100 Century speakers), I could start with a system like that, then go back to the same retailer and work my way up the stereo food chain if I wished. That's tough to do today.

I can get some entry level stuff at BB or CC or RS if I want to deal with underqualified sales persons, I suppose; or I can do the ID thing and deal with raw marketers; or I can get some ridiculously expensive stuff at a high end boutique where commissions drive the sale; but there's no longer any place I can go where I can build a relationship and grow my system with people I know and trust.

Fortunately, I do not need to at this stage of my life, but at one time it was essential. I don't know how kids will move from MP3 players and iPod docks to solid entry-level systems, to mid-level systems to high end stuff.

My two cents: I think lack of vertical integration in the audio/video business chops the market into segments that tend to separate over time. This works well for marketing companies like Bose who prosper in a segmented market by selling the illusion of high end, but it works against companies with true, full range product lines that cannot get more than one or two models in a store, because the rest of the line is too upscale, too pedestrian, or too close to the upscale or pedestrian models. So the middle gets lost, and few make the transition from entry to high end.

I'm amazed at the number of people who think their $1500 sound system ($500 for receiver, $100 for DVD player, $700 for speakers, $200 for cables, interconnectors, and "power conditioner") is already high end and all they'll ever need. Since they'll never go to one of the high end stores, if they even know where one is--and if they do some snooty jerk will pi$$ them off so they'll never return--the only place they will see the path clearly is at someone's house.

filecat13
02-06-2008, 10:50 PM
Some folks here have $10s of thousands of dollars of equipment, some have much less. Everyone is welcome, regardless, and we (more or less) respect people's passion as well as their gear since we all know we're in a constant state of motion regarding the high fidelity thing.

But there are lots of people I know who come over for "Dinner and a Movie" night and look at my simple stereo set up in the bedroom and think I'm crazy because it cost a few thousand dollars and because it's not Bose. When we go down to the music room and they see the multiple stereo pairs that can be played from one source via a switcher, they think I'm certifiable for having so many speakers and dumping so much money on them. Then when they go into the HT for the movie and see and hear the MC sound system and it sounds better than the last time they were at the movies, they start by saying I must be insane but end the evening by stating, "Wow, I need to get one of those."

So then I become the trusted and knowing person who does pro bono consulting as they pursue their high fidelity dream.

So what I'm really saying is that the vitality of high end audio depends more and more on personal example than the retail market place these days. There is more great stuff available today than ever before, but it's a vast and confusing place for most people. So those who know at least part of the landscape will be the ones to guide those who do not.

We already do this for each other in a sense by posting here.

Ajani
02-07-2008, 05:28 AM
I agree with StevenSurprenant & filecat13.....

There is too great a disparity between audio stores... not enough focus on creating dreams and an upgrade path.... I've been in too many stores that offer only entry level gear (often poorly setup) and then been into another store that focuses almost exclusively on ultra-expensive gear...

Where is the upgrade path???

I actually believe some of the younger ipod generation (I guess I'm probably included in that bunch as well, though I don't currently own an ipod) would be willing to invest in good sound if their imagination is inspired.... I know so many people who buy MP3 players and immediately upgrade the headphones for better sound quality... I think that's the first step towards becoming an audio enthusiast....

I think part of what we need is to let go of the attitude that things like ipods and computer audio are crap, and instead build great setups around these items to inspire younger generations to join the audio hobby....

Don't be snotty, provide encouragement... that should be the motto at our high-end audio stores...

emaidel
02-07-2008, 06:11 AM
I fondly remember the "good 'ol days" of the industry, when there was a stereo shop on every street corner, and a high-end shop on about every fifth corner. Those of us in the industry at the time really enjoyed our jobs, especially when we could evaluate one another's products and do so over and over. Almost any manufacturer would be willing to "lend" a "sample" of his products to anyone else in the industry, and many of us were able to have a good many different pieces of equipment in our houses before we made the final decision as to what to buy.

I have to confess that I haven't been in a high-end audio retailer in well over 10 years. There are two reasons: first, there's no possible way I can afford the newer (and better) equipment that would improve the sound of my existing system, and, two, I'd be all but clueless wondering just what a large number of the products available today actually do. I have a lot of fun looking at the turntables, tonearms and cartridges listed on The Needle Doctor's website (I had an excellent working relationship with its owner, Jerry Raskin, for a number of years), but I'm all but flabbergasted at the price tags on so many of them.

I spent a good deal of my career working for cartridge companies, but when I read some of the threads here on AR discussing newer turntables and MC cartridges, I'm a a loss as to what many of them are talking about. I'm also flatly astonished that anyone would say that $800 for a step-up transformer/pre-preamp for using an MC cartridge is somehow a "deal."

High-end audio may, or may not be dying. My gut feeling is that it isn't, but is very much the "niche" market it's always been, and continues to shrink, rather than grow. I've also always maintained that most consumers simply don't know how good a quality audio system can sound. I love the sound of my system, but know that many others eclipse its performance. Still, and this happens each and every time, when someone unfamiliar with audio products (other than Bose) hears it, that person is plainly and simply astonished that something can sound that good. This is how I've always felt: people just don't know how immensely satisfying it is to listen to music on a really good system, and accept mediocrity instead. I guess you can say that about just about anything, no?

O'Shag
02-08-2008, 01:19 PM
I don't think that the high-end audio industry is dying at all. Like anything else its rhythms are connected with the ebb and flow of the world economies. When times are good, people spend more to get what they perceive to be the best. When there is a recession, such as the one we are entering into, then buying will slow down, because people in general (even many higher-income earners) cannot afford to be so frivolous about spending.

By the way, take what Musical Fidelity's Anthony Michaelson is saying with a grain of salt. Musical Fidelity's whole marketing strategy is based around high-performance for lower cost. The reason Mr. Michealson is harping on about power, is because MF recently released and is heavily marketing the Supercharger, and their value pitch is and for some time has been heavily based on the 'watt-per-dollar' proposition. I do like a lot of Musical fidelity products, and they can offer exceptional value for money... but you have to distinguish the company's excellent products from their clearly biased marketing jargon. Hi-Fi and the high-end are not going anywhere, just constantly changing to suit the market.

Ajani, I would recommend you listen to a decent vinyl rig. You'll be surprised at how good it sounds.

filecat13
02-08-2008, 01:41 PM
There are places in the world where the high end market is thriving, just not so much in the US.

There are amazing shops in Japan and audiophiles (in the true sense of the word: lover of sound) who spend far more for their gear than their apartments or furnishings and who actually intensely listen to their gear, They have listening parties. They go from home to home enjoying each other's gear. They preserve/revere the greatness of the past and tweak in the present.

Music and high fidelity is a passion, and much of it is borne out of their own musical achievement. I'm amazed at how many of them still play an instrument as an adult. they love to pull out the clarinet, trombone, guitar, whatever, and of course, sing, sing, sing.

I'm a child of band and choir, having participated in both in school and church. Loved it. Those experiences shaped a deeper appreciation for music and a desire to be surrounded by good music, diverse music, interesting music.

Most of the kids I work with in the tough parts of LA have no music in school. They don't play an instrument. They can't read music. They don't know how to sing. But they can spew out a string of expletives in a rap or hip/hop explosion and imitate their favorite, vapid pop artists.

Maybe part of the problem here is that for a couple of generations music has been largely an external experience, and all that can produce is imitation. I think that if one starts with music in his or her heart, the odds of becoming a true audiophile and high end seeker are much improved.
:17: :6: :7:

Mr Peabody
02-08-2008, 03:46 PM
I don't believe high end audio is dead. Like was mentioned true high end was always a nitche market. How many people did you meet growing up that had real high end like a Mac or ARC system? I don't think too many, if any.

I believe things like Audiogon and Ebay has had a large impact on high end retail, which is bad for them and in the long run will be bad for us if they disappear. The positive is more people with limited funds have access to high end audio. If all we have to buy from is the web we are in trouble. How many of you are willing to buy multiple brands off the web and bring them in for audition? 99% will buy and say, it's good enough. Unless it just absolutely blows. We need local B&M stores to go into and put our hands on the stuff and give it a listen. To bring home gear to try. Wake up! BB & CC are merely warehouses and they don't care if you are unhappy, look at the herd still coming through the door.

It's interesting to see that you all realize the problems with audio stores but the public is what allowed this to happen. You run to BB & CC with their total lack of customer service and respect for the customer to save a buck. So the mom and pop stores who have to charge a couple dollars more to keep the door open and is willing to do what it takes to keep your business has to shut down because everyone thinks they are saving a buck. No one realized the big picture, who is there after the sale? Everyone complains but they keep mindlessly coming back. You have what you created. People here will complain about spending a little more from Crutchfield who has the apitomy of customer service then buy from some fly by night website to save a couple bucks and then are left on your own if a problem occurs. You voted with your wallets and now you have what you chose. Back when we had private stores a customer used to be able to bring a broken piece of equipment in under warranty and get an exchange. Can you do that at BB & CC? Sure you can, IF, you bought their extended warranty. After you've done that what have you saved? Nothing, you actually paid more. Mom and Pop did that as a service for a mere few dollars profit to live on. What's done is done and will never change. We can't go back once the damage is done.

If high end audio is dead then who is buying all the Chinese tube gear coming over here? Who is keeping all these cable companies in business? Where's all the stuff coming from on Audiogon?

When I went into my first high end shop if the guys didn't show me stuff and let me listen I might not have ended up on the path I did. The visit planted the seeds, I didn't buy that day but I have spent enough since. If a shop snobs people off they won't be in business long. My last visit I posted about I listened to a lot of gear with out buying. Shops have to be willing to do that.

There's no doubt that Home Theater has impacted the industry and even high end, now we have preamp processors and multi-channel amps but I don't think it has harmed the high end. Many people who now have HT in their house are not likely to have had a "high end" system. I mean people aren't going to say forget the Mac or Krell, I think I'd rather go and buy me a Yamaha HT set up. The only thing that has changed is people who are receiver people now have a limited choice of stereo only receivers. People who want high end either still buy it or go for the higher end preamp processors.

Another point of confusion is people get price mixed up with high end. You tell a guy who just spent $2.5k on a Denon HT receiver it isn't high end. Well, it isn't, it's expensive but a $2.5k Krell integrated will kill it in terms of just sound quality and power. High end equals a high level of sound quality. The guys $2.5k went into multi room capability, all kinds of video and interfacing and a host of other bells & whistles.

hermanv
02-08-2008, 10:45 PM
No one has mentioned content and it's impact on sales of high end gear. When I grew up a major focus of the music industry was artistry, I know people who love Jazz or Classical and it is possible to buy truly first class sounding recordings of any of the the older music genre. Each of us tends to favor music we grew up with, that's normal and fine by me.

I'm having trouble in making my point. Where I'm heading is that for todays future audiophile, does Britney Spears actually sound any better when an SACD of hers is played on Levinson and Sonus Faber? Does Rap music improve on a high end system? Of course it will all be somewhat better but the intrinsic musical quality and performance was never much (IMHO). So what's the point of playing it on a $30,000 system?

Ever see gold CDs or SACD of today's pop artists? Maybe I'm just out of touch, but it seems the production values of todays albums are far more concerned with fluff and appearance than they are with artistry or sound quality.

One probably shouldn't expect todays young people to save up for exotic and expensive equipment so they can play first class copies of Duke Ellington's music.

Ajani
02-09-2008, 02:49 AM
No one has mentioned content and it's impact on sales of high end gear. When I grew up a major focus of the music industry was artistry, I know people who love Jazz or Classical and it is possible to buy truly first class sounding recordings of any of the the older music genre. Each of us tends to favor music we grew up with, that's normal and fine by me.

I'm having trouble in making my point. Where I'm heading is that for todays future audiophile, does Britney Spears actually sound any better when an SACD of hers is played on Levinson and Sonus Faber? Does Rap music improve on a high end system? Of course it will all be somewhat better but the intrinsic musical quality and performance was never much (IMHO). So what's the point of playing it on a $30,000 system?

Ever see gold CDs or SACD of today's pop artists? Maybe I'm just out of touch, but it seems the production values of todays albums are far more concerned with fluff and appearance than they are with artistry or sound quality.

One probably shouldn't expect todays young people to save up for exotic and expensive equipment so they can play first class copies of Duke Ellington's music.

Ummm.... I see your point... but I think it's a bit off.... Much of the music made today is poorly recorded and crappy... but not all... even some of the modern pop are well recorded (yeah I know what I just said....lol)....

Some of these pop and rap artists produce their albums on high-end equipment and the albums really do sound much better with quality electronics.....

The problem is that audio products seem to be geared towards specific genres of music... so some clearly favour Classical, Jazz etc.... but others handle modern music excellently...

When I audition speakers I always bring a wide range of music from Classical and Soul to Rock, Pop and Rap.... While some speakers (most noticeably B&W) have tended to make my modern music sound terrible, others (Monitor Audio especially) have mastered the art of making modern sound amazing.... I will never forget how magical the opening of Billie Jean sounded on a pair Monitor Audio Gold Series 20s....

Yes music changes, but it still inspires generations and will sound even better with the right gear....

Ajani
02-09-2008, 03:43 AM
I don't think that the high-end audio industry is dying at all. Like anything else its rhythms are connected with the ebb and flow of the world economies. When times are good, people spend more to get what they perceive to be the best. When there is a recession, such as the one we are entering into, then buying will slow down, because people in general (even many higher-income earners) cannot afford to be so frivolous about spending.

By the way, take what Musical Fidelity's Anthony Michaelson is saying with a grain of salt. Musical Fidelity's whole marketing strategy is based around high-performance for lower cost. The reason Mr. Michealson is harping on about power, is because MF recently released and is heavily marketing the Supercharger, and their value pitch is and for some time has been heavily based on the 'watt-per-dollar' proposition. I do like a lot of Musical fidelity products, and they can offer exceptional value for money... but you have to distinguish the company's excellent products from their clearly biased marketing jargon. Hi-Fi and the high-end are not going anywhere, just constantly changing to suit the market.

Ajani, I would recommend you listen to a decent vinyl rig. You'll be surprised at how good it sounds.

I know vinyl can sound excellent, but I'm more of an audio enthusiast than an audiophile... so I'm more about enjoying the music... so it has to both sound good and be convenient to listen to... Vinyl is just way too inconvenient for me...

Feanor
02-09-2008, 04:57 AM
I know vinyl can sound excellent, but I'm more of an audio enthusiast than an audiophile... so I'm more about enjoying the music... so it has to both sound good and be convenient to listen to... Vinyl is just way too inconvenient for me...

Once again, I'm kinda with you, Ajani. I never cared for the riduals of handling and caring for LPs. (My experience of the medium goes back to the days before CDs, and there were no real options to LP. When CD came along I switched my emphasis there.)

I've never been tempted to go back to vinyl even though CD wasn't a better sound overall, at least in the beginning, apart from clicks & pops. In my case the type of music I listen to isn't available on LP any more.

As discussed before, what I think is unfortunate is that the rigid, reactionary adherence to vinyl by many alternatives has retarded the acceptance of superior media such as SACD, especially given the multi-channel potential. I actually resent the intractability of vinylphiles because it works against the advancement of good sound.

mlsstl
02-09-2008, 06:10 AM
Feanor wrote: ...the intractability of vinylphiles...
Good point. I've got a fairly large music collection which is almost completely converted to a music server. Probably 40% or more of my 20,000 plus tune collection has been digitized from vinyl.

I know there are golden-ears out there who will disagree with me, but when I do a conversion from LP to digital I find the difference in sound quality between the two primarily resides in my imagination. In fact, the digital usually sounds better simply because I can get rid of any clicks or pops that had become permanent residents on my LP copy.

However, you make an excellent observation in pointing out the "rigid, reactionary adherence to vinyl" by some. I've heard lots of crappy sounding LPs and plenty of wonderful sounding CDs. I know both can deliver wonderful sound and they can equally disappoint. Ultimately though, both are just a medium for transmission, nothing more. That means it is the care and attention taken during the process of creating the music that counts. The skill of the recording engineer, the care taken during mixing and/or processing and the attention to quality during the actual manufacturing process are all far more important to me versus whether I get a 12" piece of plastic or a 5 1/4" one.

Mr Peabody
02-09-2008, 06:23 AM
I really don't think that playing vinyl detours that much from better digital formats. Even though I feel vinyl has made a come back of sorts, I just don't think the impact is large enough to stop a good new format. I believe the lack of acceptance of SACD has nothing to do with vinyl. In my case, I was really dredding collecting another format BUT if it was better and I could get the titles I wanted, I would have.

I can see both sides of the discussion of music, on one hand I remember playing Alicia Keys on my Krell system and being amazed at how great the CD sounds for a R&B/Pop album. On the other hand, I played some other music, let's say Nelly, for instance, and the Krell had such a control on the bass response that the normal bass rumble from Hip Hop wasn't there. I mean everything was there and it played the various frequencies but they were very tight and clean. This could be conceived, and has been by others, as a lack of bass. A friend who I don't see very often visited me a while back when my Krell gear was hooked up and he actually told me I needed an EQ. You can imagine how difficult it was to control my emotions at that point, humor, amazement etc. But he was one of those guys that hooks up more speakers to a system than it is intended to drive and a sub turned up to 11. He had no concept of what a system should sound like. And, you can imagine what the bass sounded like on a sub cranked, you hear it going down the street all the time. Krell would be quite a contrast. I couldn't convince him my system was better, in some aspects he conceded but not on that lack of booming bass.

Ajani
02-09-2008, 06:59 AM
I really don't think that playing vinyl detours that much from better digital formats. Even though I feel vinyl has made a come back of sorts, I just don't think the impact is large enough to stop a good new format. I believe the lack of acceptance of SACD has nothing to do with vinyl. In my case, I was really dredding collecting another format BUT if it was better and I could get the titles I wanted, I would have.

I can see both sides of the discussion of music, on one hand I remember playing Alicia Keys on my Krell system and being amazed at how great the CD sounds for a R&B/Pop album. On the other hand, I played some other music, let's say Nelly, for instance, and the Krell had such a control on the bass response that the normal bass rumble from Hip Hop wasn't there. I mean everything was there and it played the various frequencies but they were very tight and clean. This could be conceived, and has been by others, as a lack of bass. A friend who I don't see very often visited me a while back when my Krell gear was hooked up and he actually told me I needed an EQ. You can imagine how difficult it was to control my emotions at that point, humor, amazement etc. But he was one of those guys that hooks up more speakers to a system than it is intended to drive and a sub turned up to 11. He had no concept of what a system should sound like. And, you can imagine what the bass sounded like on a sub cranked, you hear it going down the street all the time. Krell would be quite a contrast. I couldn't convince him my system was better, in some aspects he conceded but not on that lack of booming bass.

Good points....

I agree that the reason SACD/DVD-A failed to take off was probably due to consumer's reluctance to collect a new format and likely had little to do with Vinyl... Vinyl is nowhere near being a mainstream medium anymore, so it's relatively tiny market share can't account for much of SACD's failure....

What has taken off is downloadable content... and part of the reason (apart from the obvious convenience) is that it doesn't mean you have to ditch all your existing CD's/Cassettes/Vinyl, as you can easily convert your collection into the same format... Consumers want to gain and not lose on an upgrade...

I think the best move for a superior format like SACD, would be to focus on the download market and start offering SACD quality downloads on itunes etc... Really give consumer's all the choice in the world... AAC for people who could care less about compression, Lossless for people who want exact CD quality and SACD for people who want premium Multi-channel capable sound...

StevenSurprenant
02-09-2008, 07:40 AM
A friend who I don't see very often visited me a while back when my Krell gear was hooked up and he actually told me I needed an EQ. You can imagine how difficult it was to control my emotions at that point, humor, amazement etc. But he was one of those guys that hooks up more speakers to a system than it is intended to drive and a sub turned up to 11. He had no concept of what a system should sound like. And, you can imagine what the bass sounded like on a sub cranked, you hear it going down the street all the time. Krell would be quite a contrast. I couldn't convince him my system was better, in some aspects he conceded but not on that lack of booming bass.

This reminds me of a posting I read many years ago. One person (Let's call him Sam) had a very good system and his friend (We'll call him Paul) told him that the music that was playing didn't sound right and that his (Paul's) system played it correctly. Sam told Paul that his system was not playing it the way it was recorded. To prove his point, Sam used a digital recorder and recorded Pauls system playing the song. Then Sam played it back on his system and it sounded the same as it sounded on Pauls system.

basite
02-09-2008, 08:17 AM
A friend who I don't see very often visited me a while back when my Krell gear was hooked up and he actually told me I needed an EQ. You can imagine how difficult it was to control my emotions at that point, humor, amazement etc. But he was one of those guys that hooks up more speakers to a system than it is intended to drive and a sub turned up to 11. He had no concept of what a system should sound like. And, you can imagine what the bass sounded like on a sub cranked, you hear it going down the street all the time. Krell would be quite a contrast. I couldn't convince him my system was better, in some aspects he conceded but not on that lack of booming bass.


maybe that's one of the points why 'high end', is often described as 'a waste of money'.

The masses who buy bose and sony and other HTIB's think the sound they're getting is 'the real deal', so the masses influence the adopted meaning of 'good sound'. The masses think good sound is supposed to be loud, no real highs, no real lows, superficial, flat and with boomy, muddy bass. Why? because that's how everything sounds in the shops like BB and CC, where the masses get their gears.

Then there is a moment when they hear a really good sounding Hifi system, and is completely 'different' than the crappy HTIB's.
Then you'll get reactions like: 'why are they so big, my bose system can go louder, has more bass than yours and is a fraction of the size'. but they don't realize the Hi-fi system is actually much better, just because the masses think 'good sound' is that that comes out a HTIB.

of course, this is just a simple theory, slightly more complicated would be a two step flow theory, in which there is a middle person, influencing the receiving person. and some more theories, but this is the easiest. This theory, however, does not go for everyone.

Then,

IMO, high end audio ain't dead yet. far from, actually...

It's just that the quality level of absolute entry level products (the ones you find in BB and CC) is lower than it was in the 'golden age of audio'. Back then, everything was of a certain 'quality', it had metal somewhere, was useable, and could actually sound somewhat acceptable. Now, the cheapest products lack even every sense of quality, it's completely made out of cheap plastic, has wobbly knobs all over the place, looks like crap, ...
and the market is being flooded by those things. A bose system looks like 'THE real deal' compared to those cheap things. there is just so much crap out there that it looks like the real High end products are near extinction. But that's not true at all, they are just less known...

There are more high end products now than there ever were before. it just takes a little longer to find them, which causes lots of people to rather go with a bose system than with a high end system...

Keep them spinning,
Bert.

Mr Peabody
02-09-2008, 08:34 AM
An interesting experiment would be to take a line like maybe Jolida and put it in a store like CC or maybe Ultimate just to see how it does. I haven't been in those stores in a long time but I think CC at least has a listening room to put a resemblence of a system together. I wouldn't bother with BB, whatever you put in there would be just another piece on a shelf. There is no possible way anyone could make an informed purchase there.

Ultimate may have already answered my question though, when they first hit town they had a few higher end lines like Adcom, Sunfire and even Martin Logan but they have lost them all, at least in my market.

basite
02-09-2008, 08:41 AM
that would maybe be a good idea.

I do think it would be easier to start with a well known brand first though...

Maybe B&W or Monitor Audio, and Rotel.
then if those work well (and I assume they will, Here in Belgium, if you go out on the street, and you ask someone to name a 'high end' audio brand, they'll either say bose or B&W), they could maybe add less known (or smaller, more audiophile minded) brands too...

However, before they could try that, they would first need employees with at least a basic knowledge of audio...

Keep them spinning,
Bert.

Feanor
02-09-2008, 08:51 AM
Good points....

I agree that the reason SACD/DVD-A failed to take off was probably due to consumer's reluctance to collect a new format and likely had little to do with Vinyl... Vinyl is nowhere near being a mainstream medium anymore, so it's relatively tiny market share can't account for much of SACD's failure....

What has taken off is downloadable content... and part of the reason (apart from the obvious convenience) is that it doesn't mean you have to ditch all your existing CD's/Cassettes/Vinyl, as you can easily convert your collection into the same format... Consumers want to gain and not lose on an upgrade...

I think the best move for a superior format like SACD, would be to focus on the download market and start offering SACD quality downloads on itunes etc... Really give consumer's all the choice in the world... AAC for people who could care less about compression, Lossless for people who want exact CD quality and SACD for people who want premium Multi-channel capable sound...

The day will come for hi-rez downloads will come, I believe, but with today's bandwidth it isn't quite feasible. Two things would convince me to download hi-rez multi-channel:

Dowload an hour's worth of 6 channel hi-rez in 15 minutes, and
Pay no more for the download that for a hardcopy.Right now $1.30 per "song" at 320bps or even lossless is marginal value at best if you're classical music listener.

hermanv
02-09-2008, 11:50 AM
We have been taught to be bargain hunters. Many of us know that buying the cheap product is actually false economy, the quality product will significantly outlast the cheap one and provide greater enjoyment.

Unfortunately the nature of high volume production means that the mediocre HiFi keeps getting cheaper while the high end product cost remains pretty much constant in old dollars. So the actual cost goes up and the disparity between mass market and high end grows bigger.

I am as guilty of this as anyone, and given today's economy will probably continue to act against my own long term best interest. Thank god for the used audiophile market, without that I simply couldn't own the system I have.

Even high end stores provide no opportunity to switch back and forth between high end and mass market. A long time friend of mine was convinced I was nuts. His acoustic memory was too short to hear a difference between my system and his when he got home. Finally we prepared an A-B switch so we could hear the same source switched instantly between two systems. His comment on the sound; "I get it! All the dirt is gone!".

If you think about how most people listen to their music today it becomes a little clearer. Compared to computer speakers or portable Flash players with earbuds, even mass market gear sounds pretty good.

Ajani
02-09-2008, 02:49 PM
We have been taught to be bargain hunters. Many of us know that buying the cheap product is actually false economy, the quality product will significantly outlast the cheap one and provide greater enjoyment.

Unfortunately the nature of high volume production means that the mediocre HiFi keeps getting cheaper while the high end product cost remains pretty much constant in old dollars. So the actual cost goes up and the disparity between mass market and high end grows bigger.
I am as guilty of this as anyone, and given today's economy will probably continue to act against my own long term best interest. Thank god for the used audiophile market, without that I simply couldn't own the system I have.

Even high end stores provide no opportunity to switch back and forth between high end and mass market. A long time friend of mine was convinced I was nuts. His acoustic memory was too short to hear a difference between my system and his when he got home. Finally we prepared an A-B switch so we could hear the same source switched instantly between two systems. His comment on the sound; "I get it! All the dirt is gone!".

If you think about how most people listen to their music today it becomes a little clearer. Compared to computer speakers or portable Flash players with earbuds, even mass market gear sounds pretty good.

That only applies to companies like Mark Levinson that produce only ultra-expensive gear... other Brands that produce full ranges of products such as Revel, B&W, Musical Fidelity and to an extent Krell are able to benefit from mass production of their lower models and trickling down high-end tech into their cheaper lines....

If you judge high-end by the price of ML and other ultra-exclusive brands, then the prices will never go down as these brands only cater to the rich....

hermanv
02-09-2008, 03:30 PM
When first class capacitors cost $50 each and wire is $5 foot, RCA jacks are $30 each high volume production doesn't help much.

Having built electronics gear I believe that there is far less mark-up than you assume. While it is true that M-L caters to the rich, their prices reflect the costs more closely than you might think. As I've said previously, if anyone could build an amp of equal quality for 1/2 the money you bet they would.

There just isn't enough volume for the high volume production savings to apply. It is true that you can get close for less money, but that last step in ultimate quality is a big one financially. Statement products require statement components and those will always be high priced. By the way Harmon Specialty Group (owns Levinson) builds a number of brands, I'm quite sure any available economies of scale are utilized.

When my friend and I built our 3 way speakers we found that silver foil inductors had a small sonic edge over copper foil inductors, the improvement was quite disproportionate to the price difference, but if you want that last tiny increment, you need to pay for it.

Ajani
02-09-2008, 04:48 PM
When first class capacitors cost $50 each and wire is $5 foot, RCA jacks are $30 each high volume production doesn't help much.

Having built electronics gear I believe that there is far less mark-up than you assume. While it is true that M-L caters to the rich, their prices reflect the costs more closely than you might think. As I've said previously, if anyone could build an amp of equal quality for 1/2 the money you bet they would.

There just isn't enough volume for the high volume production savings to apply. It is true that you can get close for less money, but that last step in ultimate quality is a big one financially. Statement products require statement components and those will always be high priced. By the way Harmon Specialty Group (owns Levinson) builds a number of brands, I'm quite sure any available economies of scale are utilized.

When my friend and I built our 3 way speakers we found that silver foil inductors had a small sonic edge over copper foil inductors, the improvement was quite disproportionate to the price difference, but if you want that last tiny increment, you need to pay for it.

Sure I have no problem agreeing that to get that last tiny increment you pay through the roof... but the question I ask is whether high-end only starts when you get that last increment? Maybe for you, but not for many of us... If someone produces an amp that sounds 90% as good as a Mark Levinson piece, but for half the price, would you still call it "mediocre HiFi" ?

The absolute top may stay out of reach for an indefinite time, but many manufacturers are getting suprisingly close.... and I would never regard their efforts as mediocre....

StevenSurprenant
02-09-2008, 05:06 PM
When first class capacitors cost $50 each and wire is $5 foot, RCA jacks are $30 each high volume production doesn't help much.

There just isn't enough volume for the high volume production savings to apply. It is true that you can get close for less money, but that last step in ultimate quality is a big one financially. Statement products require statement components and those will always be high priced. By the way Harmon Specialty Group (owns Levinson) builds a number of brands, I'm quite sure any available economies of scale are utilized.

When my friend and I built our 3 way speakers we found that silver foil inductors had a small sonic edge over copper foil inductors, the improvement was quite disproportionate to the price difference, but if you want that last tiny increment, you need to pay for it.

I can attest to that...

When I built my speakers I bought Newform R645 tweeters (which retailed for $1300), Seas woofers (which retailed for $700). That's $2000 total, but I could have bought the completed Newform R645 for $2500. That's only $500 difference. Of course I am using different woofers than their model, but theirs weren't probably much different in price.

Then I spent over $600 for caps for the tweeters and then a couple of foil inductors for about $70. This would have put the price of the speakers over what the production model would have cost. Their tweeter caps probably cost them about $20 max. But I had to have the best I could afford. By the way, like you I choose silver (with oil).

The only thing that made this feasible was that I was able to buy both the tweeters and the woofers (new) from a gentleman that had bought them to build his own and never got around to building them. They cost me only $550. I feel like one lucky man because of this and if I could have met that person, in person, I would give him a big hug because I love these speakers!

Then there was the cost of building the boxes and eventually I will have to buy crossover parts for the woofer section.

Just in case you were wondering, I am by-amping them through an electronic crossover. That's why I don't need a passive crossover on the woofers yet.

......

I just came back from Newform's web site and the price of these speakers have increased to $3,568.

Anyhow, they are still worth every penny of that.

hermanv
02-09-2008, 05:22 PM
Sure I have no problem agreeing that to get that last tiny increment you pay through the roof... but the question I ask is whether high-end only starts when you get that last increment? Maybe for you, but not for many of us... If someone produces an amp that sounds 90% as good as a Mark Levinson piece, but for half the price, would you still call it "mediocre HiFi" ?

The absolute top may stay out of reach for an indefinite time, but many manufacturers are getting suprisingly close.... and I would never regard their efforts as mediocre....There is no relationship between cost and the desire for good sound. I have no idea at what price point hi end starts, the way the original thread question was posed, sort of implied a higher than normal cost to get high end.

I do feel that for the most part, you get what you pay for, but if I were suddenly in a financial position where I couldn't afford expensive gear, I would still tweak what ever I could afford to get the most bang for the buck. I would still consider myself an audiophile and I would still listen to music in a way my neighbor describes as active listening. i.e most certainly not as background music to some other pursuit.

Rock&Roll Ninja
02-10-2008, 10:53 AM
Hi-End certainly isnt dead... there are hundreds of companies making products. now performance carburators are dead. How many aftermarket carbs could you buy in 85? Know how many you can buy now? 2. Edelbrock & Holley. and you won't find them at any autopart store...mailorder only.

But seriously, people on this site (and others) are not the average American. You either had good stereo before, or know enough to go look for it. The vast majority of people do not.

Example: Rolling Stone, the most popular pop music magazine (at least thats what they say) in America. I bought a copy a few months ago. It had 16 car ads (talking-up premium audio systems from Bose and Mark Lebinson), 3 ads for Monster cable, ipods, and few guitar ads. There were NO stereo or loudspeaker ads of any kind. Not even Bose. I have never seen a TV ad for a loudspeaker (I thought I did once but it was for memorex tape). What does this tell Joe Consumer? 'If you want a stereo, it comes free with your car'.

Then factor in stores: Anytown USA does not have a boutique dealer. I live off Ft.Drum NY (15,000 GIs with disposable income... all in the proper age range for pop music + the 30,000 civilians in town) and we have 3 car subwoofer installers, but no home-stereo stores (1 installer does sell denon HTiBs, but not denon seperates or other speakers). We also have Wal*Mart and Best Buy. Wal*Mart (obviously) gets the dregs of humanity..... ($50 for a Durabrand 5.1!!), and BB does slightly better with low-end Klipsch and JBL. But an uninformed consumer has no idea that "better" exists at all.

A highschool kid with a tabletop boombox wants to upgrade, his options are A: a boombox with "1500watts*!!!" for $399 or a pair of Klipsch Synergies and a cheap SONY receiver. Since the cheap sony has no LED graphics (and doesn't boast 1500watts) or blinky lights and the Klipsch doesn't have the boombox's '4 powered subwoofers!' that are really just 5" drivers, the uninformed teen is 99% more likely to get a boombox. Unless you live in a major city you are unlikely to ever see a store carrying Mid-Fi or Hi-Fi products.

Then there is modern music. I won't suggest "musical content" is any worse (that is subjective in every respect), but production quality has suffered greatly. And its not MP3s or iPods that make new music ****ty. its CAR CD PLAYERS. As soon as CD players went into affordable domestic cars record companies had to compress everything to be heard at a constant volume above road noise.

Example: Take a 1st generation CD of Kansas - Kansas and a newer "remaster" (anytime after 1994). The remaster is loud, compressed and has no quiet parts, the older CD which would be played in homes has amazing dynamic range because it didn't have to compete with road noise....just the dishwasher ;)

Add in ProTools (not to dogpile.. thats the only actual product of this type I know by name) which studios use make everything even more-same (for cars and now ibuds 15 years later). Play Dethklok - The Dethalbum (2007, a speed-metal album that sold incredibly well) on a home system and it sounds bad. The drum beats all sound exactly the same. I know that an actual drummer made the music, but the studios tinkered to make every note as same as possible, like a MIDI drum file set to repeat. Play this same CD in a car with a generic car subwoofer or the aformentioned '1500watt' boombox and the synthetic drum sounds more impressive. an impressive steady thump-thump-thump-thump-thump (Listen to the track Awaken...11 kickdrums/second! :eek: ). This is what sounds good on the system teens buy in Anytown USA. A "live" album would sound more like real instruments, but wouldn't be as impressive on anything less than a Mid-Fi stereo.

And speaking of music-content quality: I have noticed GUITAR HERO and ROCKBAND videogames seem to be introducing younger people to 70s & 80s rock. I really think this help recorded music as gamers transition to real musical instruments and want their purchased CDs to sound more like the real instruments they are buying. And the local musical instrument seller (Dr. Guitar) has said sales are on the largest upswing he has seen since opening the store...... these videogames honestly drive sales of real instruments (generally low priced Fenders & Hammer basses). More musicians can only be a good thing for music. (The town now has an almost semi-regular posting for garage band hows at bars..... I haven't seen those regularly since the late 90s).

Rock&Roll Ninja
02-10-2008, 11:04 AM
Maybe for you, but not for many of us... If someone produces an amp that sounds 90% as good as a Mark Levinson piece, but for half the price, would you still call it "mediocre HiFi" ?

The absolute top may stay out of reach for an indefinite time, but many manufacturers are getting suprisingly close.... and I would never regard their efforts as mediocre....
+1. This is also highly relevent to domestic automobiles (when even I, a jaded Germanphile can not ignore) which have undergone a HUGE step in improvement in the last 10 years.

a 1995 Cadillac was a joke of a car but a 2008 CTS is only a quickstep behind a BMW-5 or Mercedes-E for $10-20,000 less (depending on options like sat nav or AWD....AWD in a caddy!)

or possible even more so in a Corvette/Ferrari comparison. A 1988 'vette vs. a Testerosa? Ha! But a new Z6 will go-round the racetrack just as fast (or faster with a very experienced driver) as a F430 for a fraction of the price. Sure the dashboard still smells of ArmourAll and the leather seat dye will stain your new pants..... but a $60k Corvette offering the performance the the $200k prancing pony! Unbelievable! (The Ferrari will still get you laid more...... TV tells me so!)

Mr Peabody
02-10-2008, 12:02 PM
R&R Ninja, I lived in a small town for several years of my life and you paint it pretty well. In the 80's we actually did have a couple stores that sold decent gear,not high end. I worked at one, we sold Kenwood, HK, Infinity for a few. A store that soon went out of business after a couple years sold Denon, Klipsch, Mission, Carver. The store I worked for went out of business in the early 90's and I don't think anyone sells home gear of any relevance but there are a couple car installers, as you say. I really wonder why no one has tried to sell any home gear in that town, especially with the HT boom. My cousin still lives there and he was able to get a big screen and a JVC receiver. When I asked where he got it, he just said from a furniture store. I'd like to go into a market like that and open a small outlet in my home. Carry some affordable 2 channel gear. Of course, today's economy isn't the time to do that type of experiment. Maybe that will be something to think about when I retire.

Ajani
02-11-2008, 05:35 AM
Rock&Roll Ninja & Mr Peabody made some interesting points... While I think High End Audio has become more of a niche market, I don't think it has to be... If more focus was put on attracting younger generations and making the best use of the technology and market trends of today, then good audio could regain mainstream status... Things I think could revitalize the industry:

1) Advertise!!!!!! Why do so many people think Bose is the end-all-be-all of audio? Cuz Bose has the good sense to advertise!!! We need to stop hating on Bose and just follow their marketing strategy....

2) Put more focus on today's popular trends, namely ipods and Computer Audio!!! Some High End Brands such as Musical Fidelity and PS Audio sell USB DACS in either standalone DACS or even their Integrated Amps (Musical Fidelity A1008 and A5.5)... Other Brands, most notably Krell are making ipod docks.... Krell has created a full system centred on using an ipod as the source (Krell Kid ipod Dock + Papa Dock 150 Watt Amplifier)... I know this is blasphemy to many Audiphiles, but there really needs to be less emphasis on Vinyl (and Feanor will hate this) and even on SACD... these products just aren't mainstream....

3) Offer an Upgrade path!!! There are too many snotty high-end only stores that look down upon anything other than a 1950's original Vinyl record played on a $10K turntable... That only frustrates and insults younger generations, it doesn't motivate them.... Don't just pick the top of say the B&W Line (800 Series)... carry everything from the 600 up... Focus on less brands per store and instead on more complete lines from entry to expensive...

4) Not everything needs to be a 550 Watt Monster Amp, but still focus on more efficient speakers and higher powered amps... So people can invite their friends over for a party and not be embarrassed because they can barely turn the volume up to a normal listening level without clipping and having the amp shutdown...

5) Emphasis 2.1 audio setups for those who must have 'killer bass'.... a simple sub will fill the needs for room shaking bass that many people expect... Mini-systems and car audio come with Subs, so provide them for those who want them...

People are probably listening to more music now than ever before, so why aren't high-end audio sales through the roof?

Like Mr. Peabody I really would love to run a little audio store oneday... (I keep trying to convince my wife that it's a good idea.... though first I need to convince myself that I can make money doing it...lol).... I'm too far from retirement to see it a retirement option though :(

emaidel
02-11-2008, 06:16 AM
Excellent post, Ajani, and very well said. I always felt that many audiophile retailers were not only snobs, but very bad businessmen too. If the salesman couldn't convince the consumer who walked in looking to purchase a Shure V/15 of whatever era that the "only" cartridge worth listening to was a moving coil model for several thousand dollars, which, of course, required a step-up transfomer for another huge cash outlay, then that customer was one "just not worth having." Pretty stupid thinking. That's not very different from a consumer looking to purchase a Ford Taurus and being informed that the "only" car he should consider is a Mercedes E-class for three times the price.

Walking potential customers out the door because they don't want to buy what the salesman thinks is the "best," has always been a staple of many salespeople in audiophile retailers. And that's a shame.

Chas Underhay
02-11-2008, 06:43 AM
Personally, I think "high end" is the most condescending and snotty term ever devised.

What exactly does it mean and where is the end? For example; a pair of Quad 2905 electrostatic speakers will set you back about 5 or 6 grand (sterling) and they are rated by some as being about as good as speakers get. Fine, these are obviously very good quality speakers but as far as I can see, it is possible to spend in excess of 50 grand on a pair of speakers. This obvioulsy means that the Quads are not high end at all but must be "budget" speakers. In time, when someone brings out some 100 grand speakers (if in fact they don't already exist); the 50 grand speakers will become "mid price" speakers.

Historically, few people have ever had good quality sound systems, 99% of people had a radiogram that was more of a piece of furniture but were perfectly content with the sound of it. Nowdays they have some sort of mini system and are still perfectly happy with it.

In the early 1970s, if you had for example a Garrard 401, SME 3009 and a Shure V15 into a Quad 33 / 303 driving something like Tannoy Lancasters; your equipment would have been beyond question. (Obviously different gear on the west side of the big pond.) In those days there would have only been a hand full alternatives such as Thorens, Leak and Spendor. Systems like this would have normally been owned by people with a serious interest in music. Whilst expensive; these systems would not have cost a kings ransom - round about 20 to 30 per single item - around 400 to 600 in today's money.

I remember the influx of Japanese equipment in the late 1970s, very flashy and was probably very good but no more.

As far as I'm concerned things really started to lose the plot in the 1980s with the rise of the overpaid yuppy. Hi Fi became a status symbol for these people to impress their freinds with in their Docklands Warehouse apartments. The likes of Linn and Naim cashed in on this big time. I can even remember occasionally visiting the odd dealer in those days and when you told them what equipment you had; they would look down their noses and suggest that you hand it in at the nearest police station.

As far as I can see the bubble had to burst, there are a lot less overpaid yuppies around now and those that do remain would rather inpress their friends with their home thearters.

Ajani
02-11-2008, 07:34 AM
Personally, I think "high end" is the most condescending and snotty term ever devised.

LOL... so true... In my earlier post I was tempted to use the term "Good Sound" instead... though to be honest, even that can be seen as snotty... but to me Good Sound doesn't need to be expensive.....


What exactly does it mean and where is the end? For example; a pair of Quad 2905 electrostatic speakers will set you back about 5 or 6 grand (sterling) and they are rated by some as being about as good as speakers get. Fine, these are obviously very good quality speakers but as far as I can see, it is possible to spend in excess of 50 grand on a pair of speakers. This obvioulsy means that the Quads are not high end at all but must be "budget" speakers. In time, when someone brings out some 100 grand speakers (if in fact they don't already exist); the 50 grand speakers will become "mid price" speakers.

There have been speakers in excess of $100K for quite some time.... The only limit to speaker options is how deep your pockets are.... Good point though... Read Stereophiles' Budget Components and you'll see $1.5K integrated amps listed.... Now my real question would be: How many people really think that a $1.5K amp (that can only run 2 speakers and has no tuner) is a budget product? In the 'high end' audio world - many, but in the real world, that's a lot of cash for a very simple product...



Historically, few people have ever had good quality sound systems, 99% of people had a radiogram that was more of a piece of furniture but were perfectly content with the sound of it. Nowdays they have some sort of mini system and are still perfectly happy with it.

True... though I think that there are many people who don't realise that better can be had... the Mini system is the standard audio product in major retailers... Now someone owning a mini system will not be impressed if you tell them that they need to spend at least $10K to get a 'respectable' system.... I think showing people a simple ugrade path would progress many from the mini system of their teenage years into better quality audio gear....


As far as I'm concerned things really started to lose the plot in the 1980s with the rise of the overpaid yuppy. Hi Fi became a status symbol for these people to impress their freinds with in their Docklands Warehouse apartments. The likes of Linn and Naim cashed in on this big time. I can even remember occasionally visiting the odd dealer in those days and when you told them what equipment you had; they would look down their noses and suggest that you hand it in at the nearest police station.

As far as I can see the bubble had to burst, there are a lot less overpaid yuppies around now and those that do remain would rather inpress their friends with their home thearters.

The Bubble had to burst eventually, though part of the change has been the focus more on big screen TVs as the must have luxury product... Still, there is room in the market for more than just HDTV and Home-Theatre-In-A-Box systems...

filecat13
02-11-2008, 09:24 AM
Excellent post, Ajani, and very well said. I always felt that many audiophile retailers were not only snobs, but very bad businessmen too. If the salesman couldn't convince the consumer who walked in looking to purchase a Shure V/15 of whatever era that the "only" cartridge worth listening to was a moving coil model for several thousand dollars, which, of course, required a step-up transfomer for another huge cash outlay, then that customer was one "just not worth having." Pretty stupid thinking. That's not very different from a consumer looking to purchase a Ford Taurus and being informed that the "only" car he should consider is a Mercedes E-class for three times the price.

Walking potential customers out the door because they don't want to buy what the salesman thinks is the "best," has always been a staple of many salespeople in audiophile retailers. And that's a shame.

I've gotten this treatment a few times over they years, and each time was the last time that I went to the particular establishment that treated me this way. Needless to say, I was blissfully happy when one of these places went out of business. I always bore unsuspecting listeners at parties (with good sound systems) as I regale them with how witty I was in putting that uppity salesman in his place.

The last time was at a Ken Crane's here in SoCal. I went into one of the stores to look at some of their gear and happened to be looking at a "value" component (which are pretty inexpensive as Ken Crane's is really a mid-fi and big screen retailer) when a salesman pounced. Well, the dumba$$ salesman proceeded to lecture me on why I shouldn't buy the product they were selling that I was looking at and that I should really upgrade to the $2500 version, which actually would be able to do what I wanted. So I asked why they were selling a product that they couldn't recommend. His insulting reply was that all their best customers, when purchasing a car, would pick a Mercedes rather than a Toyota, when buying food would go to Bristol Farms not Ralph's, or when shopping would go to Macy's not Target. However, the chain's owner (presumably Ken Crane) insisted on having something for the Toyota crowd, just in case...

Well, I told him I drove in in a Hyundai, bought food at Albertson's and shopped at K-Mart, so I must not be the demographic they were interested in and asked to see the manager. I reamed him out for three or four minutes, then left. :incazzato: :dita:

Subsequently I spent over $40k on HT gear, and Ken Crane's didn't get a cent of it. :ihih:

Chas Underhay
02-11-2008, 09:27 AM
There have been speakers in excess of $100K for quite some time ...

I was think in sterling $50k which roughly ties up but you obviously see my point


QUOTE=Ajani] True... though I think that there are many people who don't realise that better can be had... the Mini system is the standard audio product in major retailers... Now someone owning a mini system will not be impressed if you tell them that they need to spend at least $10K to get a 'respectable' system.... I think showing people a simple ugrade path would progress many from the mini system of their teenage years into better quality audio gear...[/QUOTE]

The trouble was Ajani, that it was so much easier in the old days especially before CD. You didn't think much of the BSR auto changer with flip over ceramic cartridge in your parents radiogram tracking at about a pound and chewing up your new Jimi Hendrix records so you saved up and bought a Garrard SP25 with a budget MM cartridge. There were plenty of kit amplifiers around that were quite inexpensive and most of the major speaker manufacturers sold speaker chassis so that you could put them in your own boxes. Once you got it assembled and working, the leap in quality was phenominal, probably mostly due to the turntable and cartridge. Once you started work you then could upgrade to something like a Thorens TD150, an SME3009 (there wasn't much choice in the UK in those days) and a decent cartridge and wow!!! revelation yet again. That would then be followed (when funds permit) of a speaker upgrade then an amp upgrade.

A modern mini system will play CDs very well and will perform far better that the radiograms of old. The thing is that a good modern mini system will perform so well (relatively speaking of course) that the obvious upgrade paths of old probably aren't so obvious or viable any more.

In the old days you would aspire to owning equipment that was as good as the music was originally recorded with and that remained just about affordable. It included such items as Quad 303 power amps and Spendor BC1s (BBC monitors), which incidentally I still have and still have maintained every 10 years or so by the factory.

The way I see it; high end audio has moved on from high quality audio into some sort of fantasy land.

filecat13
02-11-2008, 09:51 AM
Personally, I think "high end" is the most condescending and snotty term ever devised.

I understand your pique, but the most condescending and snotty ever? Maybe it's just me, but I've been dealt terms and phrases that were far more condescending and snotty. High end is a fantasy, to be sure, as you've aptly pointed out.



As far as I'm concerned things really started to lose the plot in the 1980s with the rise of the overpaid yuppy. Hi Fi became a status symbol for these people to impress their freinds with in their Docklands Warehouse apartments.

As one of the aforementioned overpaid yuppies, that status enabled me to truly raise the bar in every area of my life. While I assiduously avoided the pretentious, boutique brands that seemed to spring up everywhere during that time, I kept climbing the audio/video chain, an ascent that started in those hi-fi shops in the early 70s.


The likes of Linn and Naim cashed in on this big time. I can even remember occasionally visiting the odd dealer in those days and when you told them what equipment you had; they would look down their noses and suggest that you hand it in at the nearest police station.

You hit the nail on the head here. The superiority sneer became an art form at some dealers. Yet, if you asked what the sneering salesmen had at home, it was universally overpriced and underperforming gear that they had probably gotten at a 50-60% discount which was much closer to its actual value. I could never get one to invite me over to see and listen to it though. They probably didn't even have what they claimed.


As far as I can see the bubble had to burst, there are a lot less overpaid yuppies around now and those that do remain would rather inpress their friends with their home thearters.

Well, home theaters can be impressive, though it's usually the image and not the sound that gets the lion's share of attention. Someone will buy a $3k or $4k video system, spend $2k on seating, then come on here or AVS or elsewhere and ask how to get the best 5.1 or 7.1 system for $1500 or $1000. :frown2:

Feanor
02-11-2008, 09:57 AM
...
The way I see it; high end audio has moved on from high quality audio into some sort of fantasy land.

So very true. Circa 1970 you could buy say, a McIntosh C22 preamp, MC275 power amp, MR73 tuner, Thorens turntable with Shure V15 cartridge, and a pair of KLH 9 electrostatic speakers for around US$3500. That gave you pretty much SOTA. Based on general inflation rates, that cost translates to about $20,000 today.

You can indeed buy a very nice system today for $20,000, but few hardcore, (or in any event, afluent), audiophiles would consider it SOTA. Nowadays you can easily spend that on just your speaker cables, e.g. Transparent Opus MM 12' length, (see page 7) (http://transparentcable.com/resources/Retail_Pricelist_2007.pdf), $35,000.

One of my favourite stereo, (not mulitchannel), systems is Mikel's (http://cgi.audioasylum.com/systems/663.html). This could easily be in the $1,000,000 range, perhaps more. Note that Mike uses at least two pairs of the aforementioned Opus MM cables per channel.

SlumpBuster
02-11-2008, 10:11 AM
2) Put more focus on today's popular trends, namely ipods and Computer Audio!!! Some High End Brands such as Musical Fidelity and PS Audio sell USB DACS in either standalone DACS or even their Integrated Amps (Musical Fidelity A1008 and A5.5)... Other Brands, most notably Krell are making ipod docks.... Krell has created a full system centred on using an ipod as the source (Krell Kid ipod Dock + Papa Dock 150 Watt Amplifier)... I know this is blasphemy to many Audiphiles, but there really needs to be less emphasis on Vinyl (and Feanor will hate this) and even on SACD... these products just aren't mainstream....


Here is a product that actually got my attention. Usually these things blow right past me. But this one just seemed to be a perfect combination of current trend, high-end, tubes, and low Chinese cost. This all in one gizmo from Shanling has a tuner, pre amp, CD player, Ipod dock and a tube amp with a blistering 3 watts of power all for about $1000. I really do think it is cool, although I read at least one review that said it looked like the Sharper Image catalogue threw up. But Shanling really should mate it with some optional speakers. Not many Joe Consumers will know how to mate this thing with speakers to achieve good synergy.

http://www.blogsmithmedia.com/www.engadget.com/media/2007/07/mc3-03.jpg

Ajani
02-11-2008, 12:34 PM
I was think in sterling $50k which roughly ties up but you obviously see my point.

Oh yeah, you made a good point... though assuming these speakers are real, then they do cost over $100K Sterling.... http://www.audioreview.com/cat/speakers/floorstanding-speakers/german-physiks/PRD_119557_1594crx.aspx


The trouble was Ajani, that it was so much easier in the old days especially before CD. You didn't think much of the BSR auto changer with flip over ceramic cartridge in your parents radiogram tracking at about a pound and chewing up your new Jimi Hendrix records so you saved up and bought a Garrard SP25 with a budget MM cartridge. There were plenty of kit amplifiers around that were quite inexpensive and most of the major speaker manufacturers sold speaker chassis so that you could put them in your own boxes. Once you got it assembled and working, the leap in quality was phenominal, probably mostly due to the turntable and cartridge. Once you started work you then could upgrade to something like a Thorens TD150, an SME3009 (there wasn't much choice in the UK in those days) and a decent cartridge and wow!!! revelation yet again. That would then be followed (when funds permit) of a speaker upgrade then an amp upgrade.

A modern mini system will play CDs very well and will perform far better that the radiograms of old. The thing is that a good modern mini system will perform so well (relatively speaking of course) that the obvious upgrade paths of old probably aren't so obvious or viable any more.

Good points as well... The bottom of the audio chain is far superior to what it used to be... even considering more modern trends... I'd take an ipod anyday over my old cassette walkman from when I was a kid... The upgrade path is more to sell on ebay/Audigon/Canuck Audiomart and buy something a little better now-a-days than to mod gear...


In the old days you would aspire to owning equipment that was as good as the music was originally recorded with and that remained just about affordable. It included such items as Quad 303 power amps and Spendor BC1s (BBC monitors), which incidentally I still have and still have maintained every 10 years or so by the factory.

The way I see it; high end audio has moved on from high quality audio into some sort of fantasy land.

Agreed... The top end is just ridiculous... but to be honest, I don't think there's anything wrong with that... leave the ultra-expensive gear to the ultra-rich... the rest of us can still find really good quality gear at far more affordable prices....

Ajani
02-11-2008, 12:58 PM
So very true. Circa 1970 you could buy say, a McIntosh C22 preamp, MC275 power amp, MR73 tuner, Thorens turntable with Shure V15 cartridge, and a pair of KLH 9 electrostatic speakers for around US$3500. That gave you pretty much SOTA. Based on general inflation rates, that cost translates to about $20,000 today.

You can indeed buy a very nice system today for $20,000, but few hardcore, (or in any event, afluent), audiophiles would consider it SOTA. Nowadays you can easily spend that on just your speaker cables, e.g. Transparent Opus MM 12' length, (see page 7) (http://transparentcable.com/resources/Retail_Pricelist_2007.pdf), $35,000.

One of my favourite stereo, (not mulitchannel), systems is Mikel's (http://cgi.audioasylum.com/systems/663.html). This could easily be in the $1,000,000 range, perhaps more. Note that Mike uses at least two pairs of the aforementioned Opus MM cables per channel.

Feanor, could you please stop sneaking into my house and taking pics of my stereo!!!

Ok seriously though, I love the room... though I guess I'm way too cheap, since with a room like that my dream system would be a pair of Monitor Audio Platinum 300s ($9K), a Musical Fidelity A1008 ($5K) and just an apple macbook as my source....

SlumpBuster
02-11-2008, 02:56 PM
Mikel has a beautiful room, but it exemplifies one of the problems with hi-end. No matter how much he puts into it, I'll guarantee that there is some jagoff that will point out that he is using halogen lights and dimmer switches. I'm sure he has them well isolated, but some purist is sure to claim their mere presence is problematic and surely messing with the noise floor or blackness or whatever. There seems to be as much sport in the hi-end world in bagging on someone else's system as there is in appreciating someone else's system. "You're a fool for not using the clever little clock!" "Oh yeah? Well, you are a fool for using the clever little clock!" (not that that crap is hi-end, but just an extreme example) I would have problems inhabiting an audio world where so often faith seems to trump science and common sense.

Ajani
02-12-2008, 10:10 AM
Mikel has a beautiful room, but it exemplifies one of the problems with hi-end. No matter how much he puts into it, I'll guarantee that there is some jagoff that will point out that he is using halogen lights and dimmer switches. I'm sure he has them well isolated, but some purist is sure to claim their mere presence is problematic and surely messing with the noise floor or blackness or whatever. There seems to be as much sport in the hi-end world in bagging on someone else's system as there is in appreciating someone else's system.

LOL.... so true, a lot of high-end is about being condescending... much the same with other hobbies like cars.... lots of bragging and insults...


"You're a fool for not using the clever little clock!" "Oh yeah? Well, you are a fool for using the clever little clock!" (not that that crap is hi-end, but just an extreme example) I would have problems inhabiting an audio world where so often faith seems to trump science and common sense.

Yep, it is hard to get past all the snakeoil and blatant stupidity, in order to get to useful audio advice.....

I read an explaination of the benefits of modding audio gear on a site once... The company running the site both sells and mods gear and were explaining why it is more economically feasible for the consumer to mod the gear than for the manufacturer to just do it in the 1st place.... Since an age old question about modding is: If this $5 fuse/wire/whatever will make my $500 CD player sound like a $2000 CD player, then why didn't NAD/Cambridge Audio etc.... just add this part in the 1st place???? Anyway, the explaination was so circular and drawn out that by the time I finished reading it, I forgot what the topic was...

Now don't get me wrong here, I have no doubt that if I buy a $500 CD player and spend another $500 on modifications, that the end product will sound as good as any $1k player... but I do have a huge problem with the notion that a $100 mod on a $500 player will turn it into a $1.5K player....

mlsstl
02-12-2008, 12:18 PM
Ajani wrote:
I read an explaination of the benefits of modding audio gear on a site once...

While people often do things for more than just one reason, I think a major factor for many in modding equipment is the strong human desire to possess unique things. It is one way for a person to demonstrate they are special. The smaller and more exclusive the group to which they belong, the better.

Look at the pride that comes from owning an original piece of artwork. Or a first edition of a book. Or a mint condition classic car. This list could go on at some length.

Sometimes one acquires that special status simply by having enough money to purchase an expensive item. Or, sometimes the item is more modest in price but is thought to be only appreciated by connoisseurs who are "in the know."

However, another way to get to the same spot is to take a relatively common item and then modify it in some way. From a status standpoint, you have instantly transformed an ordinary item into a special one. Look at the language that is often used to describe the now special item; one reads of "massive" or "huge" changes when the strong suspicion by others is that any real change was perhaps a bit more on the subtle side of things.

There are certainly people who will take offense from the above, but as noted, people often have multiple reasons for doing things. Whether an ego boost is the main reason or just a side benefit will obviously vary case to case, but it is still a component. Otherwise the person wouldn't bother talking about it.

Ajani
02-12-2008, 02:44 PM
While people often do things for more than just one reason, I think a major factor for many in modding equipment is the strong human desire to possess unique things. It is one way for a person to demonstrate they are special. The smaller and more exclusive the group to which they belong, the better.

Look at the pride that comes from owning an original piece of artwork. Or a first edition of a book. Or a mint condition classic car. This list could go on at some length.

Sometimes one acquires that special status simply by having enough money to purchase an expensive item. Or, sometimes the item is more modest in price but is thought to be only appreciated by connoisseurs who are "in the know."

However, another way to get to the same spot is to take a relatively common item and then modify it in some way. From a status standpoint, you have instantly transformed an ordinary item into a special one. Look at the language that is often used to describe the now special item; one reads of "massive" or "huge" changes when the strong suspicion by others is that any real change was perhaps a bit more on the subtle side of things.

There are certainly people who will take offense from the above, but as noted, people often have multiple reasons for doing things. Whether an ego boost is the main reason or just a side benefit will obviously vary case to case, but it is still a component. Otherwise the person wouldn't bother talking about it.

I think your analysis applies to more than just modding, possibly even to the majority of high-end audio.... With some it's about the ultra-expensive, limited edition audio products... others automatically dismiss anything too popular as 'mass market junk'... Ever notice how many audiophiles would never even dream of being caught listening to a B&W or Paradigm speaker, and insist that only a hand-made obscure brand of speakers made by an unknown manufacturer are worth buying?

It's just human nature really... some want to fit in (buy what is popular), while others want to be rebellious (buy rare/obscure/modded items)...

Ajani
02-12-2008, 02:54 PM
When I started this thread, a major question was whether High-End Audio is really dying...

More and more, I wonder if it really is.... I am seeing some encouraging trends... NAD, Cambridge Audio, Rotel and Marantz are all expanding their 2 channel audio lines... Pioneer and Onkyo have made critically acclaimed returns to 2 channel recently...

Many brands are expanding their current electronics/speaker lines both in the more expensive and the budget areas....

And even the "mass market" brands seem to be pushing more 2.1 hometheatre products with better speakers, than just the tiny 5.1 and 7.1 HT-In-A-Boxes that have flooded the market in recent years....

Mr Peabody
02-14-2008, 04:59 PM
What has Pioneer done?

StevenSurprenant
02-14-2008, 05:37 PM
Mr.Peabody,

Not to change the subject, but what is your opinion of your PS Audio Quintessence power conditioner?

Ajani
02-14-2008, 06:53 PM
What has Pioneer done?

Nothing special really... launched 2 new integrated amps and matching SACD players... and have received a few 5 star reviews from WhatHifi? (UK)....

I just take it as an encouraging sign when brands that have been more focused on HT Receivers are now trying to get back into dedicated audio...

Mr Peabody
02-14-2008, 07:41 PM
I like the Quentessence a lot. It noticeably reduced noise, or made the background quieter. It's not like I heard noise before but you can tell when it's gone, if that makes sense. I also felt like my picture was brighter on my TV. Some one else hear tried one based on a thread I posted here about it but he didn't seem to notice as much difference. For all it does it's priced reasonable too. What it potentially will do for one has a lot of variables but I definitely think it's worth trying and for what it done for me I feel it's worth the money.

I hadn't realized Pioneer put out any integrateds, are they in the Elite line? Maybe companies are starting to wake up and realize by going all HT they left behind a sizeable customer base. I think companies like Pioneer will have a tough time competing in that market though going against brands like Rotel or Cambridge which are established as that mid hi fi area. Unless you come out with a knock out product like the Onkyo 9555 it's a task to get respect once you've been branded a mass market bottom feeder.

Ajani
02-15-2008, 05:17 AM
...........
I hadn't realized Pioneer put out any integrateds, are they in the Elite line? Maybe companies are starting to wake up and realize by going all HT they left behind a sizeable customer base. I think companies like Pioneer will have a tough time competing in that market though going against brands like Rotel or Cambridge which are established as that mid hi fi area. Unless you come out with a knock out product like the Onkyo 9555 it's a task to get respect once you've been branded a mass market bottom feeder.

Yep, they're in the Elite Line... and I totally agree that they will have a really hard time competing with the established Rotel, Cambridge, Marantz and NAD products....

I really hope this is the start of a strong 2 channel return... As I have noticed quite a few 2.1 channel HT offerings being pushed now... as it seems that many people are finding 5.1 and 7.1 setups very difficult to set-up (in terms of both placement and price)....

Personally, I haven't had a multichannel setup in almost 10 years.... So I guess I'm a little biased towards 2 channel... :)

emaidel
02-15-2008, 05:39 AM
Personally, I haven't had a multichannel setup in almost 10 years.... So I guess I'm a little biased towards 2 channel... :)

Insofar as seriously listening to music, I would have to agree with you; however, when it comes to home theatre, I have to say that I prefer the multi-channel setup. Before I moved from Colorado to South Carolina, my home had an "average" HT system with a cheapo JVC receiver, in-wall Niles speakers and a Yamaha 10" powered sub. Not something I particularly enjoyed listening to music on, but an absolute delight when watching DVD's.

When I moved, I installed a high-quality 2-channel setup to which I connected my new HDTV and Satellite receiver. It consists of an Adcom GFP-565 preamp, a rotel RB-980BX amp, and a pair of B&W 802F Specials. Certainly equipment of a considerably higher order of fidelity than the JVC-based setup in my other home. So, which one do I prefer? The JVC setup, and by a very significant margin. There's just nothing like having the sounds swirl all around you to give you a more visceral feel to that which you're watching.

The bass performance of the 2-channel setup, as well as the overall fidelity is superior to the multi-channel system, but the overall effect of the mult-channel is one I sorely miss.

E-Stat
02-15-2008, 08:41 AM
The bass performance of the 2-channel setup, as well as the overall fidelity is superior to the multi-channel system, but the overall effect of the mult-channel is one I sorely miss.
You've just described some of the reasons why I have separate music and HT systems. From my point of view, the objectives are different and conflict with each other. Since I do not have a projector arrangement, the last thing I want to do with the music system is to put a big box between the speakers.

It is also a frequent occurrence when the wifey watches her TV shows on the big screen and I'm upstairs or in the garage listening to music.

rw

SlumpBuster
02-15-2008, 08:52 AM
I think your analysis applies to more than just modding, possibly even to the majority of high-end audio.... With some it's about the ultra-expensive, limited edition audio products... others automatically dismiss anything too popular as 'mass market junk'... Ever notice how many audiophiles would never even dream of being caught listening to a B&W or Paradigm speaker, and insist that only a hand-made obscure brand of speakers made by an unknown manufacturer are worth buying?

It's just human nature really... some want to fit in (buy what is popular), while others want to be rebellious (buy rare/obscure/modded items)...


There is another option where modding, thriftyness, and obscurity intersect: The DIY crowd. I don't have a dedicated two channel right now. My wife has promised me a man cave in our next house (years away now with the housing collapse), but I'm still constantly thinking about what my two channel will be. When it comes to speakers, I can't stop thinking about buiding my own. I'm a decent woodworker and have plenty of patience so why not? How about some full range Fostex drivers in horn loaded boxes: Obscure, thrifty and high end all in one package.

Feanor
02-15-2008, 10:30 AM
... I can't stop thinking about buiding my own. I'm a decent woodworker and have plenty of patience so why not? How about some full range Fostex drivers in horn loaded boxes: Obscure, thrifty and high end all in one package.

Slump, forget those full range thinks. Go for a high quality multi-driver system with high-order crossovers. This is a design I worked out a while ago, but haven't built yet ...
http://ca.geocities.com/w_d_bailey/Accuton_design.jpg

Note: you might have to add baffle shelf compensation to the design depending on speaker placement.

Ajani
02-15-2008, 11:59 AM
You've just described some of the reasons why I have separate music and HT systems. From my point of view, the objectives are different and conflict with each other. Since I do not have a projector arrangement, the last thing I want to do with the music system is to put a big box between the speakers.

It is also a frequent occurrence when the wifey watches her TV shows on the big screen and I'm upstairs or in the garage listening to music.

rw

I think comparing HT to a dedicated 2 channel setup is kind of like comparing a Luxury SUV with a Corvette... Sure, both are cars... but which would you rather race around the track and which would you prefer to drive when collecting your new big screen tv?

E-Stat
02-15-2008, 12:18 PM
I think comparing HT to a dedicated 2 channel setup is kind of like comparing a Luxury SUV with a Corvette...
Well, I don't think that is an entirely fair perspective. I've heard one spectacular sounding and looking Magneplanar based MC/HT system where the Nordost Valhalla cables (for everything) alone cost as much as my music system. It also uses a new Sony three gun projector (and 100" screen) which eliminates the problem I have with the "big box" in the middle. Quad powered Nola Titan subs deliver better first octave extension than you find at an IMAX theater.

It is a profound understatement to say it is very nice, but way too rich for my blood. For any budget, however, I would still prefer splitting the functions into two systems.

rw

Feanor
02-15-2008, 12:23 PM
I think comparing HT to a dedicated 2 channel setup is kind of like comparing a Luxury SUV with a Corvette... Sure, both are cars... but which would you rather race around the track and which would you prefer to drive when collecting your new big screen tv?

I agree about the different objective of HT versus a music system, but music system isn't synonomous with 2 channel. If I had the money and space, I'd live a multi-channel music system. Perhaps E-Stat would give us his impressions of Harry Pearson's M/C system.

E-Stat
02-15-2008, 03:47 PM
Perhaps E-Stat would give us his impressions of Harry Pearson's M/C system.
That's the system I described above. Who else would have a dozen $2k Valhalla power cords in a system? :)

There is no question that it is by far the very best HT system I've experienced. The arrangement is a bit short on cosmetics, but performs incredibly, both visually and sonically. As you indicated, it is also the MC setup driven superbly by an EMM Labs transport and SACD DAC. The last time I was there, we listened to the TAS Telarc sampler (created by HP of course) which really introduced me to what MC can do. I know this is gonna sound strange, but I just wasn't blown away. It was most certainly very nice, but it just didn't have the holographic magic of the main two channel system. Yes, there are very nice hall cues that lend a certain natural sort of spaciousness to the sound, but as good as the Maggies were, they just couldn't compete with the $350k Nola two channel setup.

Sir TtT and I debated this topic a while back. Assuming a fixed budget (that is less than half a mill or so), one must necessarily compromise the quality of five channels vs. two channels. While each person may choose a different set of trade offs, I am by far more taken with a two channel system that can float an enormous holographic image in front of you that seems to span fifty feet wide by as many deep. One where you hear everything in the mix and its recording space. Subtle details of cuts you've heard hundreds of times before are now laid bare in a way you simply haven't heard before.

I'm not saying MC is gimmicky, but by comparison, a two channel system with that kind of information retrieval (on all sources) can be downright spooky. I was planning on going up there this month but my business travel plans were canceled. He's got the latest VTL 7.5 MK II preamp and Siegfried amps on the main system. That is what I want to hear next. :)

rw

Mr Peabody
02-15-2008, 04:38 PM
Estat you are a lucky guy.

I would hate to give up my MC for HT. But as good as my processor is and my LINN amp music just doesn't sound as good as my 2 channel system. To be fair though I have not used the analog inputs of my processor. This could be a significant difference. As my systems have different jobs I just haven't experimented.

SlumpBuster
02-15-2008, 08:28 PM
Slump, forget those full range thinks. Go for a high quality multi-driver system with high-order crossovers. This is a design I worked out a while ago, but haven't built yet ...


Thanks, I saved the design. In all seriousness, single driver attracts me, but some of the designs are so ugly. I'm a big believer in the equipment looking as good as it sounds (i.e. your gear). So much of the DIY crowd is populated by a "looks don't matter" mentality. You get people posting pics where you can see their underwear crumpled on the floor. Or piles of equipment all sitting on those stainless steel commercial kitchen racks. But, DIY still has an irresitable pull. A simple well designed two way can be put in a box that meets the dimmensions, but that still incorporates design elements that make it look good. i.e. quality laminates and finishes over MDF spraypainted black.

PS: I checked out the Accutons on Madisound, very nice. You've gone a long way towards corrupting me.

Woochifer
02-16-2008, 02:04 AM
That's the system I described above. Who else would have a dozen $2k Valhalla power cords in a system? :)

There is no question that it is by far the very best HT system I've experienced. The arrangement is a bit short on cosmetics, but performs incredibly, both visually and sonically. As you indicated, it is also the MC setup driven superbly by an EMM Labs transport and SACD DAC. The last time I was there, we listened to the TAS Telarc sampler (created by HP of course) which really introduced me to what MC can do. I know this is gonna sound strange, but I just wasn't blown away. It was most certainly very nice, but it just didn't have the holographic magic of the main two channel system. Yes, there are very nice hall cues that lend a certain natural sort of spaciousness to the sound, but as good as the Maggies were, they just couldn't compete with the $350k Nola two channel setup.

Well, I also think that part of the reason is that some of Telarc's mixes tend to place too much into the surround channels. Among the acoustic 5.1 mixes I have, some of the Telarc mixes are among the least impressive as far as their depth perception goes. Telarc's two-channel mixes are done to create a mid-hall audience perspective, whereas the multichannel mixes seem to create a perspective forward of the conductor's podium. I actually like Telarc's studio multichannel mixes better, since at least those are not trying to sound "real."

Did you have a chance to hear any other source material on that system? Some of the best mixes that I have are actually the old Vox quad mixes (newly transferred to SACD). They capture the hall ambience in way that I've never heard from any two-channel system.

And the 5.1 mixes on the SF Symphony's Mahler series are a stunning capture of the experience inside of Davies Symphony Hall (which I visit about 2-4 times a season). The two-channel mix subjectively sounds quite good in its own right, but by comparison it sounds more like an exaggeration of the live experience. I can understand someone having a preference for the two-channel mix, but knowing how the orchestra actually sounds inside Davies Hall (which does not have great acoustics), the 5.1 mix is the only way to go if you're trying to capture the live experience as authentically as possible.

Feanor
02-16-2008, 05:35 AM
Well, I also think that part of the reason is that some of Telarc's mixes tend to place too much into the surround channels. Among the acoustic 5.1 mixes I have, some of the Telarc mixes are among the least impressive as far as their depth perception goes. Telarc's two-channel mixes are done to create a mid-hall audience perspective, whereas the multichannel mixes seem to create a perspective forward of the conductor's podium. I actually like Telarc's studio multichannel mixes better, since at least those are not trying to sound "real."

Did you have a chance to hear any other source material on that system? Some of the best mixes that I have are actually the old Vox quad mixes (newly transferred to SACD). They capture the hall ambience in way that I've never heard from any two-channel system.

And the 5.1 mixes on the SF Symphony's Mahler series are a stunning capture of the experience inside of Davies Symphony Hall (which I visit about 2-4 times a season). The two-channel mix subjectively sounds quite good in its own right, but by comparison it sounds more like an exaggeration of the live experience. I can understand someone having a preference for the two-channel mix, but knowing how the orchestra actually sounds inside Davies Hall (which does not have great acoustics), the 5.1 mix is the only way to go if you're trying to capture the live experience as authentically as possible.

Unfortunately there are too few really well done M/C recordings. You have to believe that it's hard to create good 2 channel, judged by typical stereo recordings out there: add three more channels and it's that much harder for those lame-assed producers and engineers. But when they get it right, it really works.

I agree about the Tilson Thomas Mahler records, at least the 1st which I own, are quite good. Another really good M/C that comes to mind is Gregiev's Shostakovich 5th & 9th on Philips 470 651-2. The stereo sound isn't outstanding but the M/C is very effective.

The issue of listener's perspective is a big thing with me. Certainly in stereo I hate a podium perspective, give me 12th row orchestra any time. But with M/C, based on limited examples so far, I believe the podium perspective can be done enjoyably.
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