The future of hi/end audio & a rant on honesty in reviewing…..addendum

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Speedskater

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  • Kevin
It was the IAR "Hotline!" numbers 1 through 8 that were on red paper (1980-1981). So that they couldn't be photo copied.

Hotline! #7 tested 15 interconnect cables.

The red paper was hard to read in 1981 and it's harder to read now.

jimtranr

The skoffing strikes me as spoofing. Its sizzling tone and uncompressed dynamics give it away.

Having waded into the audio swamp as a teen with a mono Webcor portable in the mid-'50's and worked retail in the late '70's (primarily at San Jose's Garland Audio, with brief stints at Oregon's Toad Hall and Coffee Tea or Stereo), I relate to John Marks' perspective--with a qualifier. However much current technology may be to "blame," it seems to me that the fundamental problem for high-end, affordable or not, is one which Aaron Copland addressed years ago in his What to Listen for in Music--the listener's attention span. And the related issue of focus was alluded to as early as 1950 in the film "Young Man with a Horn," where Hoagy Carmichael's character explains to Kirk Douglas' that the up-and-coming generation cares not about the music or performance--just the lyrics. So neither problem (from the high-end industry's perspective) is a new one. All technology has done is give each a super-Gatorade boost.     

bdp24

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Excellent post --- and a very good question.

I think a variety of forces conspired to energize the original push for home hi-fi. When I was selling audio in the late 70s, families came in to buy a stereo every day. It was a cultural push - a fad. And a certain number of those who entered the game with a receiver followed the invitation of Mr. Hafler to explore the next level. From there the Reagan go-go, penny stock yuppie thang emerged and the Krell was born. From there the ranks thinned and the prices escalated until we reach today when few are buying ridiculously high priced gear at enormous discounts. The families are still buying receivers but now they have a lot more than 2 channels. And the kids, mostly they just want their portables. A phone and ear buds are enough to keep them happy. It affords them a game console, video and a communications center in a compact, portable and personal package. High end audio is on life support. Reviewing is too.

What I see now is a society and culture in which people can't sit down long enough for even the length of time it takes to hear an entire album. Attention spans have been drastically reduced in the last couple of decades. Yes, a family will watch a movie---it demands two of the senses. But music? Not a chance. Listening to music used to be an end in itself, and dedicated listening rewarded the listener with greater involvement and appreciation of the music, as did a better Hi-Fi. Music has become just background sound for other activities. It's interesting that this phenomenon has developed simultaneously with the reduction in quality (IMO) of the mass market music being consumed. That music does not have any rewards to offer dedicated listening; it barely deserves even casual listening! I was drawn to high-performance gear by my love of music. If people today really loved their music, wouldn't they too?

bdp24

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The skoffing strikes me as spoofing. Its sizzling tone and uncompressed dynamics give it away.

Having waded into the audio swamp as a teen with a mono Webcor portable in the mid-'50's and worked retail in the late '70's (primarily at San Jose's Garland Audio, with brief stints at Oregon's Toad Hall and Coffee Tea or Stereo), I relate to John Marks' perspective--with a qualifier. However much current technology may be to "blame," it seems to me that the fundamental problem for high-end, affordable or not, is one which Aaron Copland addressed years ago in his What to Listen for in Music--the listener's attention span. And the related issue of focus was alluded to as early as 1950 in the film "Young Man with a Horn," where Hoagy Carmichael's character explains to Kirk Douglas' that the up-and-coming generation cares not about the music or performance--just the lyrics. So neither problem (from the high-end industry's perspective) is a new one. All technology has done is give each a super-Gatorade boost.     

Excellent! We were both commenting on attention spans at the same time! I don't think I know you Jim---when I purchased my pair of Fulton Model J speakers from John (the Garland Jim referred to) in '74 he had just opened the shop, and it was still a one-man operation. I didn't see him for years after his serious automobile accident, until the late '90's, at CES. He looked the same but with grey hair. He must have kept his customer files, because in the mid-90's I had received a voice mail from him offering his current product line, in home auditions only. Weird. I still have the Garland Audio newsletter, with Leonard Norwitz's recommended LP list on one side of a page, and a picture of the shop's Wilson Audio WAMM's on the other. When my pal Brooks Berdan died he had a pair of them, taken in trade for some new Wilson's. Those were the days, ay Jim?! Actually, I think equipment is much better now (Roger's amps are certainly far better than the Audio Research everyone had back then---and now!), and better value is available now if you know what you're doing. Still, I always think of the original Quads, and 50's recordings, to remind myself of how little progress has been made, in some ways.

Doublej

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Hint, the $$$ has moved onto home theater a looooooooooooong time ago. The people I know willing to dedicate a room, do it for home theater not 2 channel audio. You guys are lamenting the death of the friggin' typewriter. Get over it!

Where have most of the manufacturers been in incorporating new technology? A B S E N T until very recently.

We are just starting to see things like Bluetooth (gasp), networked audio devices (gasp again), powered speakers with DACs (heart attack!) from high end companies.

If high end two channel audio has any future at all, it will come from young designers that understand and are not afraid to incorporate new technologies into their designs and from the rediscovery of old technologies like loudspeakers that sound good in a typical placement in a real room.

bdp24

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     True, but pretty bad Home Theatre sound. About the same budget, but for five lousy speakers instead of two mediocre ones. I went into a Best Buy to take a look and listen to the cheap Pioneer speakers everybody is raving about, and they weren't in the "listening" room (actually, looking room. People are somewhat picky about picture quality. Sound quality? An afterthought.). Do ordinary consumers know enough to ask to hear them? It's the same old story---people only know what they hear about on TV. Bose. It's not young designers there is a shortage of, it's young audiophiles (I mean that in the best sense of the term).
     As for the typewriter analogy.....I submit that there is far more good literature that was written on them than on computer keyboards. I'm not sure young whippersnappers have the attention span to even read a whole book anymore. It's part of the whole dumbing down of Western Civilization. Too dramatic? Time will tell! Tower Records closed because there weren't enough music customers to make the store profitable. The only department making money was the DVD one. Music has been marginalized.

jimtranr

Excellent! We were both commenting on attention spans at the same time! I don't think I know you Jim---when I purchased my pair of Fulton Model J speakers from John (the Garland Jim referred to) in '74 he had just opened the shop, and it was still a one-man operation. I didn't see him for years after his serious automobile accident, until the late '90's, at CES. He looked the same but with grey hair. He must have kept his customer files, because in the mid-90's I had received a voice mail from him offering his current product line, in home auditions only. Weird. I still have the Garland Audio newsletter, with Leonard Norwitz's recommended LP list on one side of a page, and a picture of the shop's Wilson Audio WAMM's on the other.

I first wandered into John's upstairs shop in mid-1975, where I was dazzled by the Tympanis and saved up enough to buy a pair (1Cs) that December. I went to work for him in 1977 and--apart from a brief "side trip" to Oregon--left in early 1980, but stayed in touch into the mid-90's. I actually wrote and edited a couple of his newsletters, including one after I left that was distributed at a Bay Area audio show where he shared a demo room with George Cardas and Mark Brasfield. Fun times.

bdp24

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I first wandered into John's upstairs shop in mid-1975, where I was dazzled by the Tympanis and saved up enough to buy a pair (1Cs) that December. I went to work for him in 1977 and--apart from a brief "side trip" to Oregon--left in early 1980, but stayed in touch into the mid-90's. I actually wrote and edited a couple of his newsletters, including one after I left that was distributed at a Bay Area audio show where he shared a demo room with George Cardas and Mark Brasfield. Fun times.

I sold my Tympani I's to get the Fulton's. The honeymoon was short-lived. I soon missed the open and cohesive sound of a one-cross-over planar loudspeaker (the Fultons had many drivers and crossover points). The Fulton's provided the highs (via those nice RTR ESL tweeters) missing in the Tympani's, and the lows, but just sounded like a good box loudspeaker. Back to planars for me!
« Last Edit: 6 Sep 2014, 06:00 am by bdp24 »

fastfred

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  • Fred Petersen
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FF---Thanks for the link to the interviews. I just read the one with John Marks, and it's great. His ideas for high-performance audio stores attracting new customers should be put into action. Come on dealers, get creative! High-end stores are just like Audio Research customers (coincidence?)---the same people buying the same thing (revision after revision) over and over again. Well, those customers are getting old and dying, and no one is taking their place. There are a lot of reasons for that, cultural, artistic, and economic. Having a good system was important to my peers (except, ironically, most musicians) and I (I'm 64), to enable a deeper musical experience. But that generation may be the last gasping breath of Hi-Fi; the vast majority of people just plain don't care. How do you change THAT?

Headphones?

Hint, the $$$ has moved onto home theater a looooooooooooong time ago. The people I know willing to dedicate a room, do it for home theater not 2 channel audio. You guys are lamenting the death of the friggin' typewriter. Get over it!

Where have most of the manufacturers been in incorporating new technology? A B S E N T until very recently.

We are just starting to see things like Bluetooth (gasp), networked audio devices (gasp again), powered speakers with DACs (heart attack!) from high end companies.

If high end two channel audio has any future at all, it will come from young designers that understand and are not afraid to incorporate new technologies into their designs and from the rediscovery of old technologies like loudspeakers that sound good in a typical placement in a real room.
[/b]

I don't know how to resuscitate our hobby, to me it is a hobby. I have friends who are in the DIY community who have built kits that sound great. Their focus is more on the music than the equipment. Perhaps a good headphone system (as JohnR suggested) which has enough power to drive efficient speakers is the answer. McIntosh makes a good one, with 50 wpc.

quote from doublejj  "Where have most of the manufacturers been in incorporating new technology? A B S E N T until very recently. I think that if we all participate in online forums & complain about the bad technology. Switching power supplies for example ( not a topic for debate )! Perhaps a new underground audio press can grow. I bolded the last sentence in the doublejj quote because I believe that 2 channel hi/fi is the correct way to listen to music, I hope Ben who is working with Roger is reading this thread. He is one of the new upcoming designers. I'm sure Roger will be steering his students towards this goal.

                                                             ....................... fastfred

p.s. oops almost forgot you JohnR:

  More on the headphone issue..........
SAR Labs a small one man show up here in the great white north which makes affordable hi/fi as Roger does. Roger (Music Reference) & Walter (SAR LABS) both build audio equipment more as a labor of love than to charge mega bucks for their equipment. You can't find a review anywhere for (SAR Labs), in the mainstream audio press. Reviews for Music Reference are pretty rare too. I know Walter has built a few one/off headphone amps. The RM-10 would be a good platform for a headphone amp as well. Or maybe something with less power. The ability of a headphone amp to also be able to drive speakers is important to me. Because I'm a fan of high efficiency (90 to 100db) point scource (coaxial/dual concentric) speakers, power out put between 20 to 50 wpc should be more than adequate for me. ( maybe this is a good idea for a new topic? )



                                               

Freo-1

I have a Stax SRM-007tA and SR-507 obtained second hand for a very reasonable cost that sounds outstanding!   When I changed out the 6CG7 tubes to NOS, it improved even more.  Very difficult to beat this setup.

Roger A. Modjeski

We made a pair of Push pull EM7 amps for a planar headphone customer that double nicely as 10 watt amps. All triode, no feedback. I was very happy with the result. I particularly liked the lack of distortion often found in SE amps.