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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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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