As the Boomer-generation audiophile demographics change – i.e.
we die off, I wonder how audiophile rituals and practices will change.
Obviously we are entering the age of portable personal audio. More and more
potential future audiophiles are using headphones instead of loudspeakers as
their principal transducers.
Even the act of having friends over to listen to and share
music has changed since the first boomer brought home a KLH 11 portable stereo
back in 1962. Now sharing music can be done via the Internet, and with programs
such as Apple iTunes Ping or Facebook Apps you can be “sharing” your music
selections with your friends automatically and incessantly, whether they want
you to or not…
Current trends seem to be leading audiophiles away from music
listening as a real-time shared experience. More and more listening, even by
Boomers, is a solitary pursuit. I have only a few local friends who would even
understand what a listening session is, let alone want to attend one. Heck,
I’ve been trying to put together a session with two other people to do some
blind A/B wire listening sessions at my home for over two months now – it seems
harder for us older folks to get our schedules synched.
The good news for audiophile writers is that with less local
and immediate audio interactions, more audiophiles turn to the Internet to get
their audiophile clubhouse fix. And there’s certainly more to read about audio
online now than ever before – but I question whether that will ever make up for
the lack of real-world face time.
Increasingly shows such as the upcoming Newport Beach Show in
June are all that’s left for audiophiles who want to hunker down and listen in
a less solitary and more collegial setting. Except for major metropolitan
areas, the small hometown high-end audio specialist emporium is largely the
stuff of a Norman Rockwell paintings rather than current reality. So that
option is gone, leaving consumer Hi-Fi shows as the primary first-listening and
only group-listening experience for many audiophiles. Given what I know about
the sound at audio shows, this isn’t exactly putting a new product’s best foot
As to whether these fundamental changes to audiophilia will
lead to its death-knell or its renaissance, it’s too early in the trends to
tell. But I do know for sure that our hobby, our passion, and the industry that
supports and sustains us, is due for some big changes and new sustaining rituals.