In preparing to write this article, I went back and re-read Part 1, and found myself, inspired by it, also re-reading a number of other articles that I had written,. Here’s where they all come together:
If you’ll recall, in Part 1 of this present article, I said that I had loved and been impress1ed by the Newport Show, but that although I thought the Show, itself, was fabulous, there really wasn’t anything there that had excited me enough to make me want to buy it.
What I actually said was that, although “… there was certainly a lot of good stuff there … with only rare exception, almost none of it was as exciting as it was expensive.” And that although there were plenty of products and systems at the Show that were, either separately or together, as expensive as a car or a house, “…the number of products or systems that I was sufficiently excited by that I would have willingly bought them instead of a car or a house was precisely ZERO.
That all harked back to an earlier article about value (“The Myth of Supply and Demand Part 2”), where I reminded readers that an object’s value-in-trade is not determined just by supply and demand, but also by a third factor: the availability of substitutes, and that ANYTHING ELSE AT ALL THAT YOU MIGHT SPEND YOUR MONEY ON INSTEAD OF SOME PARTICULAR OBJECT IS A “SUBSTITUTE”!
Do you have the price of a house or a car in your pocket? Just exactly how good would a product have to be to get you to buy it instead of sending your kid for an Ivy-league education (Let’s call it US$200-300,000) and buying yourself a new Bentley Continental or Lamborghini Gallardo (each at around US$200,000) to drive him off to school in? The car and the schooling, TOGETHER, would cost around half-a-million US dollars, but I’ve been told that the MBL X-treme system displayed at the Show was the price of a nice Mercedes MORE than that! Even assuming that you were silly rich, buck-for-buck, which would curl your toes more?
And that’s a serious part of the problem. The more expensive a product gets, the more other goodies – serious really good goodies – there are to compete with it for your buying dollar. When the prices get up into the very rare air of the stuff I was just writing about, it’s pretty obvious that the winner – the thing that will finally pry the money out of your clutching fingers will not only have to be good; it will have to be EXCITING, too, and for me, whose kid is already through college, the Bentley AND the Lambo AND a hundred and fifty grand or so of cash-still-in-my-pocket would be the most exciting option of all!
One of the things that I noticed, though, when I went back to re-read the last instalment of this article was that the incident that made me a Hi-Fi Crazy and changed my life forever didn’t really start-out excitingly at all: My father had dragged me along with him to Emmons Audio, here in Southern California, to help his pal Mitch Rose pick-out a Hi-Fi set, and I wrote: “Truthfully, most of what he (the dealer) played was either too “high-brow” or too “low-brow” for my twelve-year-tastes and, as I remember, I was pretty well bored for much of the time.”
Fortunately, I was trapped there with my father, and had no choice but to listen until, as fate decreed, “That all ended – MANY things all ended — when he put on a pipe organ record” Then there was excitement GALORE!
In my case, it wasn’t the music that got me, but just the simple fact of genuine deep bass done extremely well. I had never heard it before; and the dealer’s system did it exquisitely; and I was hooked forever.
Maybe some – or even most – of the lack of excitement I felt at the Show wasn’t the fault of the equipment (or even the always-blamed rooms) at all, but was simply the result of exhibitors playing the wrong music to the wrong people.
One of the exhibitors (at the Atrium) even had a sign outside his room saying something to the effect of “Please bring your own music to listen to. Otherwise we will be forced to play you Diana Krall recordings” IMHO, that’s EXACTLY the wrong approach to take: Exhibitors should always and only play only their own recordings, and, of those, only ones that they have pre-auditioned and been pleased by on their “exhibit” system, in their “exhibit” room.
There are a couple of reasons for this; the first is that the recording the showgoer asks you to play might be AWFUL – either in sound or in subject matter – and it might wind-up chasing away people that you’ve been working hard and paying lots of money to attract. (The solution, for this “play mine, please” problem, incidentally, even with reviewers, is to tell everyone that you will be DELIGHTED to play anything they’d like , either before or after Show hours or, assuming that it’s nearby, in a private showing at your store.) The other reason is that this is NOT a music show; it’s an audio show! REGARDLESS OF WHAT EVEN THEY MIGHT THINK, PEOPLE ARE NOT THERE TO LISTEN TO MUSIC, BUT TO HEAR SOUND!
]]>If Dick Emmons had asked twelve-year-old me what I wanted to listen to, it most certainly WOULDN”T HAVE BEEN a pipe organ! For all I know, at that age, I might have requested Danny Kaye doing “Tubby the Tuba” or some bit of current rock (“Sh’Boom'” by the Chords?), and my experience that night might have had an altogether different outcome. Emmons was smart enough to know, however, that what he was selling was not a song or even a favorite kind of music, but EXCITEMENT, and it worked: Mitch Rose bought the system INCLUDING the big Bozak; my father was happy to have gone with him; and I am still writing about the incident, even sixty years later.
What exhibitors at T.H.E. Show, or Dealers demonstrating for a customer in their own showroom, or even we, showing-off for our friends at home need to remember is that the thing that will get the smile, or the interest, or – if there’s a sale at stake – get the people to part with their money, is EXCITEMENT, and the best way to create and communicate that excitement is by playing the material that will show-off and highlight whatever the product or system being demonstrated does best. With the Bozak B310, back in those “thrilling days of yesteryear”, it was BASS. Now we have a sixty-year bigger library of recordings to choose from; sixty years more technology and experience at both recording and playback; and a whole new array of
THINGS (imaging, soundstaging, and studio “effects”) to show-off that simply weren’t in existence that night when audiophilia first grabbed me by the ears and never let go.
There’s no excuse for the excitement not being there. Let’s do a better job of making it happen and making sure that people experience it.
Excitement is the key to all!