“Youth is wasted on the young.” Those immortal words by George Bernard Shaw might not be ascribed to audiophiles directly, but the sentiment does, to a certain extent, ring true. How many of us have said some version of “if I knew then what I know now!” These days, anyone I hear making such comments are, for the most part, talking about days and likely years gone by – high school, sports, personal fitness and, of course, girls. Sometime in the future, youth of today will be making similar comments and looking back with fondness on the “glory days of 2019.”
In our little corner of the world, most of us have spoken out in support of bringing young people of today into the glories we all know as the audiophile hobby. The art of finely reproduced music. Music better than some type of cell phone with things stuck in one’s ears – perish the thought.
It stands to reason that in order for our hobby to prosper and thrive, and by the way, continue to provide income for those whose business it is to make and / or sell a product, new customers are a literal lifeblood. Without new customers, fruit withers on the vine.
With so much high performance attention and focus aimed towards Millennials, Gen X-ers, and whatever “term du jour” is euphemistically bandied about today, it stands to reason older audiophiles who have been in the game for generations are looked upon with a certain measure of discord. They are, quite possibly, not given their due because it is felt they will no longer be a continuing, vibrant customer.
Is that especially fair?
I look at my own situation and wonder why it is anyone who sees fit to ignore those of us in our 50’s and 60’s are inclined to do so? If I were building equipment, or I was an audio dealer, I would have a marketing plan aimed specifically at older audiophiles in addition to whatever I was doing to entice twenty-five-year olds. I would have equipment that is hopefully what an older listener will like and enjoy. It could have any number of attributes – styling, features, simplicity of use, and dare I even write the words, cost? Yes, cost. Because for many “older” audiophiles, writing the check is far simpler than it will be for the average 20 something struggling to pay the rent and keep gasoline in a battered-up car.
Now it stands to reason not all older audiophiles will be easily able, or perhaps even interested in spending untold sums of money on a stereo. But some will. Many have the financial wherewithal to write that five figure check for a, you name it – speaker, amp, DAC, cable or power cord. There are, I have to imagine, a disproportionate number of audiophiles in their fifties, or older, who are able to invest in a six-figure audio system than there are twenty something year olds capable of doing the same. I can’t really speak for any manufacturers, but I’d rather have something for these “older” buyers that puts some Jing in the bank. Then of course there is that other intangible requirement – knowledge. Older audiophiles have had years of time to learn the hobby, and likewise offer their wisdom to younger enthusiasts.
We can talk at length about how an older person’s hearing begins to suffer, especially at the extreme ranges of human hearing. We can babble on forever how these older guys don’t do this or can’t do that. And whatever amount of truth there is in the supposition that older audiophiles are happy with that 1970’s system, I would posit that for every older guy not buying there are one or two that are. In fact, I have spoken with a few dealers that all tell me the most expensive equipment they sell is sold to older adults, many of whom are longstanding customers. Many of whom are making changes to their systems on an ongoing basis.
It would be a foolish statement or sentiment to ignore the younger buyer. Doing so is absurdly ignorant. It is also not a smart move to disregard trying to bring young people into the audiophile hobby. It is furthermore disingenuous to assume all young people cannot afford luxury expenditures. Such stereotypes are as misguided as saying all older people are never going to buy anything new. That said, just as sure the sun rises in the morning, older audiophiles will eventually run their course in the audio arts. Ours is a hobby that passes along to each successive generation and the young buyer of today will eventually be the older buyer of tomorrow. And it makes perfect sense that making the attempt to capture a twenty somethings attention now will hopefully mean they will be a customer and a practitioner of audiophilia for many years to come.
I also think it unwise to forget or ignore the “older” sect of high performance devotees. Ask yourself this question – if you were an audio dealer in need of making a sale today, and a pimple faced kid walked in wearing jeans with holes in the knees just before that salt and pepper haired, distinguished looking gentleman came in, which one would YOU think had the better likelihood of actually buying something? Stereotyping? Perhaps. Still, I think it a valid question.
Youth might be wasted on the young but don’t forget older folks. Most have paid the price, literally. Many are able to pay the price, today. And you can’t go wrong there.