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Is the Hi-Fi industry inherently not adapted to the 21st century (serious discussion)?

AMPaul

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Hi there, i was wondering in the light of last years' events( Covid, chip shortages, etc), that this whole 18months exacerbated the Hi-Fi's industry shortcomings. i think this may end up yet again into a hi-fi Subjective/Objective reviewer thread( but hope not). What i'm saying is that for many years hi-fi was a physical "get there and listen to it" product buying experience. Expensive? yes, but over the years there have been plenty of good accessible products. one can't say this is an "Old white male" expensive hobby. not anymore.

I believe what exacerbated the shortcomings of this industry was the fact that for around 1 year almost no one could go and listen. We had to stay under lock-downs (UK here was REALLY LOONG), and rely on youtubers and other online outlets for our entertainment and benefit of watching someone who has had the opportunity to review a product that many of us may have been interested in possibly buying. Now, do these guys convey the information we so need, in order to warrant an online order without listening to the product? Do they have a certain responsibility to us the customers? I think not. I wouldn't buy on Audiophiliac's opinion on stuff without looking for some as objective as possible measurements ( at least believable). But, then , this industry was not build to support this promotional model? am i right? . will this promotional model weed out the bad guys in a natural way? Are we victims of a CN product super pushy marketing strategy (talking about DACs out of everywhere...)? Why are some old, well established brands not in this?

So, are we missing a reliable reviewing model that actually may work for this industry? Is the industry inherently not adaptable to the online model? I know there are more important things happening in the world but this is an audiophile forum right? :) Please discuss.
 

Koeitje

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I came in expecting a rant about software development for AVR's, because the software on those is hot garbage.
 

Inner Space

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I think the reviewing model works fine - as long as the consumer plays the part required of him. It's like online dating - you look at the photograph, you read the details, you assume that some of them might be BS or exaggerated, but you're intrigued enough to go on a date and check out the situation in person. It's that last part that's failing with hifi. Obviously lockdown was a hiatus, and the demise of brick-and-mortar is a problem, but far too many buy blind. I think we'll migrate toward 30-day trials at home as a universal solution. Lots of packing and shipping, which is a drag, but so is traveling to unfamiliar rooms in unfamiliar stores. Might be a good solution to dating, too.
 

sergeauckland

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As someone who's never bought a HiFi product after listening, I don't see that the current situation (or that pertaining over the past 18 months) is anything of concern. I've even bought cars without a test drive, as long as the seats are confortable for a few minutes, a half-hour test drive isn't going to tell me anything different. Shoes that I've bought after trying them on, they seem fine at first, but after walking two or three miles, only then will I know if I've made a mistake.

Buying on the specs, if available verified or from a trusted source or from a manufacturer with a good reputation, together with good visuals is all I need.

There's very little one can try sufficiently thoroughly to be sure they work satisfactorily over a long period. All one can hope for is that they work OK, and one gets used to their foibles, or if that's not possible, take the loss down to experience or sell them on for a modest loss.

S.
 

Robin L

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The part that concerns me is the recording side of the equation. I spent most of my years as an employee selling recorded music in various physical formats, starting with LPs in the mid-seventies, ending with the precipitous decline of CD sales in 2007. From that time to about 2018 I was still collecting LPs, was also collecting CDs and other digital formats. When I had to move, I dumped all the vinyl and half of the CDs due to lack of space. It wasn't until 2017 that I started to stream Amazon Music, though I had been streaming music via YouTube for some years before that. But there was a pretty clean break in 2020 from purchasing music in any physical format.

When the "recording industry" was mostly about sales of LPs and 45's, royalties from sales could be more than enough to amass a fortune. Just ask Paul McCartney. Now, the bulk of music is heard via streaming, where no musician makes anything like the income rock stars of the seventies and eighties often received from sales of physical product. While LP sales are increasing, the amount of money involved is nothing compared to what it used to be. I would expect, given past experience, that much of what has driven the audio biz in the past was new and exciting recordings. More and more, legacy artists are emptying out the entire contents of recording sessions, warts and all, in what seems like an increasingly desperate attempt to squeeze the last dime out of their catalogs before copyright limits kick in. The new stuff doesn't drive sales of physical product, and the generation committed to the old stuff is dying off.

I don't think the real crisis is on the hardware end. Folks will continue to buy new Bose headphones and Klipsch speakers, go to Forums dedicated to headphone systems and the like. Nutcases with too much money will keep the "tweak industry" alive. But the incentive to create new, professional recordings of new, popular music is in decline. For many years audiophiles were 'record collectors'. To paraphrase: "What i'm saying is that for many years record shopping was a physical "get there and buy it" product buying experience", walk in the store, walk out with something you weren't even thinking about when you walked into that store. But the rise of streaming was given an additional boost because one couldn't walk into a record store for the better part of a year. The "Music Industry's" embrace of streaming has left musicians out in the cold. Without the "buzz" around the latest releases, or meaningful income from those recordings, interest in audio would naturally decline.
 

Soniclife

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The traditional hi-fi reviews of the last few decades are less than worthless, they tell you a story of the product, tell you it's great, then tell you to go and listen and decide for yourself, with your head full of their expectation bias product placement.
 

Soniclife

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When the "recording industry" was mostly about sales of LPs and 45's, royalties from sales could be more than enough to amass a fortune. Just ask Paul McCartney. Now, the bulk of music is heard via streaming, where no musician makes anything like the income rock stars of the seventies and eighties often received from sales of physical product. While LP sales are increasing, the amount of money involved is nothing compared to what it used to be.
The last time I looked at the inflation adjusted revenue going into the music industry streaming was causing a rapid rise back towards the days of CD, so I don't think the money isn't there. Where that money goes is probably the real question.

You also rarely hear a rich person declare they are sufficiently rich, and they don't need any more money, so I don't really listen to today's rich artists pleading poverty, I expect in 40 years time artists of the day will be complaining they'll never make as much money as Taylor swift did.
 

Jim Taylor

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You’re talking about a niche market. The bulk of audio sales are to people who wouldn’t know a Lighto from a Darko.

Very true.

Possession of music is and always has been desirable. In the past, possession was somewhat difficult. Now, possession is absurdly easy. The hardware follows suit.
 

AudioStudies

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I certainly am not very concerned about rich artists getting richer. What concerns me is the more restricted paths for up and coming artists to grow their careers. Indeed, where is that streaming money going?
 

617

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I mean, I live in Boston and even here there are only a handful of hifi stores. For speakers, one only sells Paradigm. One sells uber expensive Scandinavian stuff. One sells expensive typical Stereophile fare (Rockport, ATC, Magico, Avalon.) Nice looking stuff but not really relevant for most true enthusiasts but they do well. One is a B&O.

To me the critical issue in hifi is the housing shortage creating a nation of affluent renters. Why spend money on hifi when you don't have a space you can listen in? Hence the popularity of headphones.
 

Jim Taylor

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What concerns me is the more restricted paths for up and coming artists to grow their careers.

I hadn't considered that. I was thinking of the collapse of the hardware end of the industry. But I see your point. If there is no compensation for emerging artists, then there is no reason for them to enter The Industry.

We may need a completely different business model to prevent the collapse of the music industry from BOTH ends. Jim
 

Soniclife

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I certainly am not very concerned about rich artists getting richer. What concerns me is the more restricted paths for up and coming artists to grow their careers. Indeed, where is that streaming money going?
This is much more of a concern to me as well, I was under the impression that even though it's tough to make money more music then ever before was getting made, but the following link shows that since 2015 the number of albums, and the number of debut albums are both declining quickly.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Albums_by_year
 

JeffS7444

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To me the critical issue in hifi is the housing shortage creating a nation of affluent renters. Why spend money on hifi when you don't have a space you can listen in? Hence the popularity of headphones.
I live in a fairly densely populated part of a small, affluent city, yet through the years I seem to hear fewer sounds of neighbors playing music, TV, even games. When I do hear music, it's likely from a passing car or a pedestrian carrying a portable speaker. And yet I know that people are watching TV, because when I walk through the neighborhood after dark, I can see the glow from the screens, and in 2020, recycling bins were filled with shipping containers which held 55" sets (the popular choice in the USA it seems, even for smaller apartments).
 

Soniclife

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The last time I looked at the inflation adjusted revenue going into the music industry streaming was causing a rapid rise back towards the days of CD, so I don't think the money isn't there.
Fact checking myself, we have someway to go, but revenue has recovered a lot since the 2014 low, and were now back to inflation adjusted levels similar to a lot of years in the 70s and 80s. Full details for the US at https://www.riaa.com/u-s-sales-database/
 

Robin L

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The last time I looked at the inflation adjusted revenue going into the music industry streaming was causing a rapid rise back towards the days of CD, so I don't think the money isn't there. Where that money goes is probably the real question.

You also rarely hear a rich person declare they are sufficiently rich, and they don't need any more money, so I don't really listen to today's rich artists pleading poverty, I expect in 40 years time artists of the day will be complaining they'll never make as much money as Taylor swift did.
Why the Fight Over Music-Streaming Royalties Misses the Point - Rolling Stone
 

JeffS7444

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this industry was not build to support this [online] promotional model? am i right? . will this promotional model weed out the bad guys in a natural way? Are we victims of a CN product super pushy marketing strategy (talking about DACs out of everywhere...)? Why are some old, well established brands not in this?

So, are we missing a reliable reviewing model that actually may work for this industry?
Even in the pre-internet days, there was always an element of trust involved, as not all products were reviewed by magazines, and many were non-refundable special-order items as far as dealers were concerned.

And the value of trust extends to reviewers too: From the sorts of "help me choose a new DAC" inquiries that pop up here, many people do not, or cannot interpret the test data, but they hope that other, better-informed individuals can help them to make a wise purchasing decision. And in that sense, ASR's SINAD rankings are used no differently than Stereophile's Class A/B/C rankings.
 

Katji

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As someone who's never bought a HiFi product after listening, I don't see that the current situation (or that pertaining over the past 18 months) is anything of concern.
[...]
Buying on the specs, if available verified or from a trusted source or from a manufacturer with a good reputation, together with good visuals is all I need.
! +1

All the speakers I've bought were without listening.
No regrets.
 

Wes

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Who wants to "go and listen??

I want to audition in my own listening room which is familiar to me and affords me adequate time to compare. I turned down a local dealer who would not let me do such a trial on Maggie 3.7i's. While I appreciate his issues, they are not mine.
 

FrantzM

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I live in a fairly densely populated part of a small, affluent city, yet through the years I seem to hear fewer sounds of neighbors playing music, TV, even games. When I do hear music, it's likely from a passing car or a pedestrian carrying a portable speaker. And yet I know that people are watching TV, because when I walk through the neighborhood after dark, I can see the glow from the screens, and in 2020, recycling bins were filled with shipping containers which held 55" sets (the popular choice in the USA it seems, even for smaller apartments).
Music listening has moved from the communal to the personal. Technology has seen to it.
Then, what necessitated speakers and a room has been replaced for the newer generation by a pair of earphones and some kind of player, mst often their phones.
I don't really think people are listening to less music; they play and enjoy it differently.
 
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