My, my how things have changed in our little cottage industry. In a relatively short amount of time, no less. We’ve moved from tubes only equipment to solid state, vinyl to digital, physical media to streamed in a time frame that seems to me to be a mere blink in the space time continuum.
In thinking about this more, I realized recently the result of this is likely due in large part to manufacturers trying to keep up with modern times. Older audiophiles, of which I reluctantly admit I’m one, and any audiophile with decades in the hobby, essentially grew up with “legacy” technologies firsthand. Most twenty somethings, and well, maybe even a few early thirty somethings really haven’t.
Put differently, older audiophiles grew up with many of the technologies on which modern times places less and less focus. And for young kids, it’s almost a matter of “what’s that” as opposed to yeah, that’s cool!
I came to the decision about five years ago that one reason those who love vinyl above all other musical formats is the process of listening itself. Yes, the warm, lush sound of an LP is certainly inviting. I am not speaking to sonics. Rather, I point out the steps most vinylphiles take in actually playing a record – removing the LP from the sleeve, (hopefully) cleaning it, cleaning the stylus, placing the record on the platter, lowering the cue lever, sit down to listen, and frustratingly enough, repeat most of that process about fifteen minutes later. I can attest that on the days when I really crave hearing one of my cherished LP’s, I truly don’t care how long it takes me to get the album out of the rack and get it playing. Don’t care about the effort to do so. Don’t care about flipping the thing over after just getting comfortable. I want to hear vinyl and that’s all there is to it.
I feel that way because I was introduced to the hobby when vinyl was the only game in town. Such is not the case today. Young kids of today grew up with streaming. They, by and large, grew up with wireless. Yesterday’s technologies are just that. Playback systems are more lifestyle products however they may sound – and style may be even more important than sonics.
Such is the new sales prospect in today’s time. They are the goal high performance manufacturers are trying to capture. By making equipm
ent that appeals to a twenty something with their first job out of college, living in an apartment, out from under the dictates of Mom and Dad, yeah, that’s the new potential customer base. Were I a manufacturer, that’s exactly who I would be targeting, and I’d have components priced to do so. Look around, that’s a very viable landscape in high end audio today. And why not, equipment builders aren’t fools.
Personally, I go sort of hot and cold on this issue. I certainly enjoy new audio technology. If I am anything, I am one who tries to realistically keep up with the new and improved. On the other hand, I still see value, well, maybe not value but more appropriately, see considerable interest in legacy. As long as those legacy technologies are sonically on a modern level.
I see sonic value in physical media at a time when the opposite is far and away more popular. I’ll continue to buy CD’s, copy them to my server and enjoy them as long as I am able to do so. And why not. That sounds better on my system than streaming – for a variety of reasons but it is true. I do stream but more as a means to discover new music I want to purchase. Just recently I heard a smooth jazz track on a Polish station on Sonos. Who is that? I found out the name, checked Amazon, ordered it, and despite actually coming from Poland, was happily introduced to a new artist I would have never heard without streaming. It’s now on my server.
My “beef” as it were, is how long will it be before I am forced to adopt a new way of listening as opposed to the ones I grew up with, the ones I prefer, and the ones with which I am most familiar and comfortable? How long will it be before I am forced to adopt a “new and improved” way I see as inferior for whatever reason, be it sonics or familiarity? How long will it be before manufacturers, in their messianic mainstream zeal, force me to adopt technologies aimed at a much younger audience?
Am I being overly dramatic? Possibly. Maybe even probably. Still, it makes me think. In my view, streaming is more a lifestyle product than anything else.
OK, yeah, I’ll be castigated for making such a claim, especially when streaming CD quality or better is now an audiophile standard. Most audiophiles don’t even give it a passing thought. It’s the “now” way to listen to music. My way? Think dinosaur. And I’m okay with that.
Many audiophiles eagerly anticipate the day when wireless technologies will enhance our hobby. Imagine having speakers, and I mean really fantastic sounding speakers, not something purchased at a gas station, freed from those expensive cables that cause so much disagreement and empty checkbooks. Think that might be welcomed? How many who feel that way, and who have a significant, five figure and up investment in their system would, right now today, seriously consider replacing what ever speakers are now in use with a wireless version from the gas station? Umm, I’m guessing none?
I love a fabulous sounding audio system. I have spent a considerable sum, and even bought a new home so I could have what I wanted, within reason.
We all have our limits. I look forward to the changes new technologies will HOPEFULLY bring. I am hopeful some new format will appear tomorrow that will replace everything before and will be indistinguishable from live music. Maybe I’ll live long enough to see that day.
In the meantime, I continue to wonder if today’s new and improved will make my hobby more difficult to enjoy.