It’s the time of year for saving money!
If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you go over to Home
Theater Review and read Jerry Del Colliano’s article entitled “Value Is The
New Luxury For Home Theater & Audio Enthusiasts”. Jerry thinks that US audiophiles are no longer in the market for $50,000
amps and $100K+ speakers. Instead they are buying $500 Oppo universal players and building their own speakers from GR Research kits. I, for
one, think this is great!
For those too old to remember or too young to know, the
whole home audio thang began in the US in the late 40’s and early 50’s when
returning servicemen with skills developed while under Uncle Sam’s employ began
building their own audio gear. They DIY’d for two reasons – most commercially available
hi-fi gear was too expensive for a young person right out of the service. Also
most hi-fis were glorified living-room furniture, not high-performance audio
The DIY sector of the audio marketplace has expanded and
contracted almost in lockstep with the state of the economy. During hard times
more audiophiles explore DIY and kits. But there’s another force at work here
too – not trying to come across as socially out-of-touch. We have entered a new
age where flaunting your ability to buy hyper-expensive stuff of ANY variety is
no longer viewed as the well-deserved rewards of a lifetime of hard work.
Instead luxury goods indicate the owner’s self-centeredness and lack of social
awareness. Even high-end watches (which are in large part merely jewelry for
men) are shifting away from bling towards far more subdued stainless steel
so-called “tool watches.”
As one of a legion of audiophiles that have been burned
over the years by products whose values have plummeted as much as 50 % in less
than a year, I’m not overly excited by news of the latest $50K-plus ultra-fi amplifiers,
regardless of the maker or technology. Even new $5k amps don’t get my juices
flowing. But a well-designed sub $2K amp, now that is interesting…
Another thing that I, and many other US audiophiles are
finding increasingly interesting are used amps, preamps, and cables. Truth. It’s
difficult to pass up a preamp that was originally over $5000 that’s now under
$1K, especially for anyone who remembers when the preamp was THE preamp to own.
Many audiophiles who, just a few years ago, would be at
the top of the list for the latest version 2 of anything that they had version
1 of, now think long and hard before signing up for any premium-priced
upgrades. Instead they’re buying that Mark Levinson ML 2 or Krell KSA 50 that
they’ve always lusted after…
What’s a manufacturer to do? Easy. Deliver greater value.
As I regularly tell fresh-faced new manufacturers, “It’s simple to succeed in
the audio business in the US. Either build a product that is twice as good as
the market leader at the same price or build a component that equals the
performance of the market leader at half the price.”
While this plan is simple in theory, it’s difficult in
practice, but not impossible. Just look at Oppo, or NuForce. Five years ago
they didn’t exist, and now they’re a market-leader. How did they do it? Buy an
Oppo BDP-93 and you’ll see how – great packaging, excellent documentation, and
high performance, all for under $500. Deliver value along with an easy,
comfortable way for customers to purchase and interface with your products and they
will come. I promise.