Written by 8:36 am News

The Wealth Gap in Audio

Are $5000 power amplifiers and $50,000 power amplifiers created for the same customer? Of course the answer is no. But we often see them marketed as if they were. Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the wealth gap in audio…


I know rich audiophiles and poor audiophiles, I even know
middle-class audiophiles. And while their systems’ price tags differ widely,
they are all united by their love of music. Everyone, regardless of their
economic position is trying to assemble the finest sounding system they can
with whatever budget they have to work with.

All the ugliness starts when someone feels that they can’t
afford the level of audio quality they aspire to within their economic means.
Envy rears its ugly head. Sniping about cables and pricing in most audiophile
websites are constant reminders of the economic chasms between audiophiles of
modest and comfortable means.

As a result of this latent “class war,” none of the audiophile
sites with the possible exception of www.Audiocircle.com,
have anywhere near the levels camaraderie I see on automotive, watch, and other
enthusiast websites. That’s too bad.

I have never and will never presume to tell a manufacturer
their product is overpriced. I learned long ago there’s a customer for almost
every product, regardless of its cost. I often ask manufacturers who they think
their customer is, and what distribution model they intend to use to find them.
Their answers are always illuminating. More and more high-end audio companies
are using luxury goods channels and marketing ideas to sell their products.
Needless to say, these are not middle-class or traditional audiophile channel
sales venues. Are Neiman Marcus and John
customers ripe for
audiophile conversion? I sure hope so.

Judging by the posts I see on AudioCircle and ads I seen eBay
for parts, circuits, and power supplies, the do-it-yourself audiophile
community is both vibrant and growing. I suspect that more young and middle-class
audiophiles will be opting to build their own super systems rather than buy
them. I’m sure that part of this growth of DIY can be tied to the current world-wide
economic times, but also the availability of parts, circuit boards and new
designs is making DIY more attractive to a greater segment of the audiophile

During the next year I expect that the most expensive audio
products will continue to increase in price and manufacturers will expand their
exploration of novel distribution methodologies. Meanwhile DIYers’ numbers will
grow, as will their activity, and overall presence. Will we see an uptick in complete
kits ala Dyna of the ’60’s and ’70s? I sure hope so. I’ve just got a new pair
of close-up glasses and Weller soldering gun, so I’m all ready…

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