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The future of the high-end and what's wrong with today's youth


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One of the talks I wished I hadn't gone to at RMAF this year was the discussion hosted by Steven Stone. The title of the talk was "Are We There Yet: Past, Present, & Future of High-End Audio?"

 

I'm still not sure why this talk bugged me so much.

 

It wasn't until he started talking about "The Future" that I realized how lost he -- and many of "them" -- are when it comes to some of the most recent changes to the "audiophile industry". The tone, if not the text, was: The End Is Nigh.

 

In my job, I spend a lot of time talking about Cloud Computing and SaaS as "new" models for businesses. Software-as-a-Service is, roughly, equivalent to a leasing model. Cloud, by contrast, is a pay-as-you-go model -- no set recurring costs as those are totally replaced by usage fees. While referenced obliquely in the talk as some kind of dingo come to steal the baby, I felt it worth discussing them because both threaten high-end audio. Sort of. But both are also very interesting -- from a reduced-costs-to-the-consumer model at least.

 

With SaaS/Leasing, you don't always get exactly what you want. In audio, this means being unable to use your files all the time on any device you want. If you want that, you go to iTunes or Amazon and buy your music. But if you're willing to forgo that convenience and flexibility, you can get a whole lot more for your dime -- said another way, your dollar goes farther with SaaS. The downside is that if you take a month off, you still pay for the service -- it's a contract, binding whether or not you use the service or not. Think Sirius or Pandora One.

 

So, SaaS is threatening because it's limited. If all music is "leased" in the sense that you pay a monthly fee to a provider, you're limited to what they have to offer in their library and to whatever resolution that library is offered in -- it'd be like having to get all the premium cable channels in order to make sure you got access to all the music you might want. If your musical tastes are limited, you might do well with this model. Assuming you can deal with 320bps audio streams. Or whatever that industry settles on as their "premium" offering.

 

SaaS is great because it's easy. There'd be no more pesky CDs. No more USB/SATA/SSD drives to worry about. No backups needed. You pay, you connect, you listen.

 

Cloud is threatening for many of the same reasons as SaaS, but would look pretty much the same to the consumer with one difference -- you'd get a "music bill" at the end of the month that would look a lot like a bill from a utility company instead of the one from the cable company. Instead of paying $100 for water service (or 10 albums), you'd pay for only the gallons of water you "consumed" (you listened for X minutes, or to Y number of tracks). Pricing could easily be made variable as well -- perhaps subject to demand as well as to "quality" -- a hot new single might be $.25 per play for during the time when it was on the Top 100 chart, and others might be $.02 per play. Long songs, say an opera, might be $2 per play.

 

Cloud is great because whatever you listen to, that's only what you pay for. And you still have no "headaches" related to backups or storage. All you "own" is a set of playlists.

 

Both would be subject to the market and a bunch of accountants, not enthusiasts. The bulk of the musical corpus would remain lossy -- it's cheaper to store and stream smaller files -- and there'd be great scientific studies done which would justify this cost savings measure (on the part of the provider).

 

In other words, SaaS and Cloud would look a lot like today's marketplace for the majority of users. It's only us weirdo audiophile outliers that might be dis-served. Sort of.

 

I guess I'm not convinced that we'd all get left out in the cold -- that is, any more than we already are. With one exception -- Redbook might not remain the default standard format. I mean, CD sales are way down. Who knows, they might get discontinued altogether, and 320kbps AAC might become the default resolution at first release. Which would blow. But would it be the end?

 

Getting back to the original point about the talk -- there, Stone was arguing that unless we audiophiles and/or the audiophile industry did something to recruit "the younger generation" of music lovers, we're done for. Not only will we not own our music, but the music we can get to will suck (be lossy) and soon, all those who care will be dead and then it'll be All Over.

 

I guess I find this very difficult to grasp. Yes, it's true -- this generation of folks from 20-30 years old has grown up in a world where music is an anytime, anywhere application. Unlike many 50-60+ year olds, the younger music listeners are multitasking while "doing music". Yes, this might mean that they take music for granted, and that therefore it's easy to imagine that the specialness of audiophile-quality musical playback would be uninteresting, effete, snooty, and therefore, lost.

 

Which is pretty much what the parents and grandparents of those 50-60+ year olds would have told them when they were 20-30 years old. The End didn't happen then and it won't happen now.

 

Yes, audio quality is going down. Sort of. I don't know how many of you recall how hi-fi your hi-fi was back in the 1970s, but the hi-fi at my house wasn't all that. I think the audio quality of that system is outstripped by an iPhone playing 320kpbs AAC files! Regardless, we all know (at least on this site) that "resolution" is only part of the game -- quality mastering is perhaps more important. And what might be different today is that master-tape quality audio is available -- the K2HD Gold disks are amazing!

 

So, even if CDs become as obsolete as vinyl records -- I mean, seriously, who buys those anymore? -- then we might have a problem. Especially if the service delivery model gets to dictate bit rate.

 

But ....

 

Audiophilia isn't going anywhere, IMO. All I can predict is that the gear we use for audio playback and reproduction will get ever better -- and those interested in purchasing such will be well rewarded by the efforts of those interested in providing it. New audiophiles are "born" all the time (I'm 41 and only been an 'phile for the last 3 years) and this market is well established enough that while the market may not actually grow to dominate the audio scene, it's unlikely to die out any time soon.

 

If I had to wager, my money would be on advances in computer audio being the new gateway drug to a deep, abiding, lifelong addiction for the millions to come after us.

 

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Hi Scot - Thanks for the op-ed. All the talk about high-end audio's demise does get a little old. I found two different groups at RMAF this year.

 

1. Those who are willing to embrace computer based playback and figure out how to adapt. There are some great things happening in this group.

 

2. Those who are hanging on to their 65 year old customers with a death-grip and sticking to the same formula that worked years ago.

 

 

One of these camps was excited about the limitless possibilities in high-end audio while the other was intimidated and dismissive of anything other than the status quo.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Who buys vinyl records? Loads-o-people. Not as many as download compressed digital files, but loads of people. Even the record companies have taken notice.

 

But that's off the point some.

 

I think the biggest two points of contention with regard to the hobby are economics and attention deficit.

 

On the first, I am constantly amazed at the discussions on all the web forums about audio. Or most any topic. I'd wager that the number one theme is getting the "best deal" on whatever it is. I get that people have budgets to adhere to and that financial resources are limited for most all of us, but the fixation on this aspect of any activity above all else is really amazing for so many people. I get the idea that "the deal" is more of a gratification than the use of the product ever would be. That's not true for everyone with regard to everything, but it really is a significant aspect to behavior in the modern Western world. Personally, I think that gets in the way of the enjoyment.

 

On the second, well, just look at other threads in this very forum. People love computer audio because of the convenience. They can sit on their couch and rifle through 20 tracks in 4 minutes - track surfing, if you like. That doesn't leave much time to actually get involved with the music, does it? Again, this is not true for everyone, but it is a significant factor in the way things are, IMHO. This is hardly limited to audio, but that is the topic at hand.

 

There is some good/bad news. My wife happens to be a sixth grade teacher. One of the skills most kids that age now are deficient in is listening. As in: They don't, at least for long. What she has been using as a tool to help this is to play old time radio (OTR) recordings of comedy shows, adventures, mysteries, and so on. Programs like The Jack Benny Show, The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger, and others. The kids sit there transfixed. They ask questions after and can answer questions, too. They love it and wonder why there isn't more of that kind of entertainment available for them to listen to.

 

So, there's hope for them.

 

Or perhaps not.

 

When she wanted to use a shortwave radio to listen to various entertainment programs from outlets like the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio Canada, and some others, she was slammed viciously. Why? The parents were totally freaked out over the idea that their kids would be exposed to such scary material. Imagine that their children would listen to BBC dramas or comedy programs? The idea was killed deader than dead.

 

So, maybe kids really are just reflections of what they learn outside of school.

 

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Hi CG - Thanks for the interesting comments. It's cool to hear about little kids getting into radio programs or "Theater of the Mind" at a young age.

 

I also agree with your observations about deals. I don't falt anyone for asking about a deal, but the fixation on price above all else isn't healthy.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Sorry, that comment about vinyl was totally tongue-in-cheek. As I posted awhile back, CA got me thoroughly into vinyl. Odd, I know, but I was dead serious about that computer-audio-being-a-gateway-drug comment -- it's how it happened to me, and now I'm an analog devotee. Oh, and a hardcore dedicated computer audiophile. Nice juxtaposition, no? Well, it works for me. LOL.

 

But the comment about kids being more ADD now than ever ... well, I suspect my parents said the same thing about me. And their parents did about them. Memory is funny that way.

 

Likewise with the majority of those who "use music". Somewhere in that number are those who prize fidelity. Some of those will become audiophiles. So will some of the "clueless majority". Audiophilia is a weakness of a minority. So it was, so it will ever be.

 

But that bit about the school shutting down your wife is just sad. But not surprising. Us parents are WAY out of control. Just like our parents were. And their parents before them. So it was, so it will ever be.

 

I do like the point about the "deal", though. For the majority of us, everything is about getting a great deal. But times are no tighter now than they've been at other points in the past. It's a matter of education. Until you know, you don't.

 

By way of an example, I've recently gotten into food politics. It turns out that we Americans spend about 10% of our income on food, which is less than any other 1st world nation (some might argue that that means that the US has more abundance or better subsidies or something, but it further turns out that all of that is not true). But getting back to spending -- France, Italy & Greece all spend about 50% more than we do. There are many studies showing that all those other countries eat better than Americans do (and, interestingly, all have lower incidences of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke).

 

Are Americans just getting a better deal? No -- it turns out that the reason that our food is cheap is because it sucks. That is, the food you buy at your grocery store today isn't as tasty or as good for you as the food found elsewhere in the world -- or even in our own country 50 years ago. Viva la science! Now, a caveat -- it's not that the "good stuff" isn't there, it's just hard to find, and worse yet, it's more expensive! And we've already talked about how Americans feel about deals. (For those of you curious, go pick up a book by Michael Pollan, it doesn't matter which one).

 

Interesting, no? But is it enough to convince you to go out and spend $4 on a dozen farm fresh, cage-free organic eggs? Or $10 on a whole, organic, chicken? Or spend 2x for aged, grass-fed beef? Or $5/lb for organic, locally grown heirloom tomatoes? Probably not. But what if I fed it to you, side by side with their "competition"? This is really fun with tomatoes -- go to the salad bar at Roy Rogers and grab a tomato slice and bring that home and compare it to a slice from an heirloom from the farmer's market. Yeah. It's like they're different foods (or rather, that one of them is food and the other is some kind of wet plastic). If you did this, might you get hooked on the increased resolution and fidelity? Maybe! But if I did this for 100 curious folks, I can guarantee that some non-zero portion will start seeking out that "better food" as a matter of course. And that's how you make audiophiles. You feed them the good stuff till they're hooked and then nothing less than the best will do.

 

Oh, and those $5/lb locally grown heirloom tomatoes? They are OUT OF THIS WORLD.

 

Life is a crack dealer. There is just so much awesome shit EVERYWHERE. But not all of us have the time or interest to seek it out. We don't know. Until we do.

 

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I plan to fight the downhill slide toward lossy or DRM-laden content delivery every step of the way.

 

I just hope the high-end industry avoids the delusion that opting for low-cost manufacturing will save them. I far prefer paying a competent U.S.-based tech to refurb/upgrade a classic component than resorting to a new one (but not made in a country I'd want to live in) that fits a modest budget. 'Always The Low Price'-thinking by a massive juggernaut of consumers results in very little being made here anymore, and eventually becomes unsustainable.

 

1) Asus netbook/XP > decco integrated > audiodata 88 dB @1W/1m, 8 Ohm loudspeakers[br]2) Rega Planet or Asus desktop/XP > Rega IO > Mapleshade-modded Heathkit SA-2 (2x EL84/ch) > audiodata 90 dB @1W/1m, 4 Ohm loudspeakers

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Interesting thoughts...and this certainly is food for thought (loved the tomato analogy; although I'm not a fan of tomatoes, partly because I've not eaten any really excellent ones).

 

You can't just simply argue about the quality part without bringing in the "price" bit, though. It is, afterall, THE barrier to entry for most people inside my demographic (yours truly included).

 

Take for example my recent thread requesting for ideas on my first proper build (I doubt Chris remembers me, but I came in here some time last year and rambled quite a bit without really doing much). However, for some odd reason, it (the new thread) gets no love.

 

Of course, I could have just happily done a social experiment and put in three more zeros at the end of my budget while keeping the sonic requirements the same. Boy...I bet it would see a sea of responses coming in.

 

But that's the way it is! It is not that we do not want to get into this sport. But it is the associated barriers to entry that the industry imposes on itself. As such, it leaves quite a fair handful of us shut out of the party and in the cold, after being offered a small slice of the turkey from someone kind inside (but realised later by the bouncer that we can't afford the cover charge).

 

That said, some might argue that we should be using the youthful energy to source a way out of the predicament ourselves.

 

Fair enough.

 

(Especially since I come from an engineering background.)

 

After snooping around during that one year period, I know that "budget" components do exist. However, absolutely nothing is done to help proliferate (if you will) their numbers.

 

Instead, what is done (at government level, especially) is to clamp down VERY hard on such things and impose even more ridiculous levies and taxes on them so that local "produce" can remain "competitive".

 

To get a clearer picture on what I'm rambling about, shops don't exist for budget equipment, no one bothers much about them (online, in forums, for those who wish to seek advice) and importing such items (esp. in the EU) can possibly impose a 25736578861536.3764% inflation on their price tag. It also doesn't help when there are also no immediately obvious exit strategies/options if they (youths) find out later that this really isn't their cup of tea. (Someone please remind me to abolish these stupid laws if I ever become PM.)

 

As a result, those who were genuinely interested to take the plunge now have to make an even larger leap of faith and commit even more precious resources (1) just to "test the waters". It's just ridiculous.

 

Oh, and please don't say that us youths can't appreciate quality. I just let a friend of mine try on my current headphones and now he wants it off me. That's only love at first bite.

 

So, unless something can be done about this stupid thing about price, we can all sit here and whine about dwindling numbers and the drop in quality.

 

Or the industry (that includes the component manufacturers) can get their act together and help bring down these genuinely unneeded barriers and save us all from going the way of Lehman Brothers.

 

Just my 2 cents...

 

Footnote (1): A (rough) Key to "youthful" thinking about managing finances. £500 = 200 drinks at the pub = 142 days of public transport = 100 hot meals = 50 CD albums (doesn't quite happen for the "non-quality" demographic) = 20 second hand textbooks = 10 first-hand textbooks (doesn't quite happen for the "pub" demographic) = 6 weeks of rent = 1 entry-level audio setup.

 

My rig is not an oil rig. I sometimes wish it was.

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Yeah, those of us in the 30-50 group have got it all figured out! We just need all of you old heads to retire and you young bucks to grow up.

 

It's an interesting read for sure that raises good points but I'd bet you could find something similar each of the past five decades.

 

Music will always be a bigger part of some people's lives than others (I'm looking at you 20-something Track Surfer!!) and there will always be the same small percentage of those people that will search out better ways to hear their favorite tunes. That small percentage will be broken up much as it is now, with "mid-fi" (hate that term...very elitist) gear getting the largest chunk while the state of the art equipment will often be owned by people with the narrowest tastes in music and cheapest SaaS bill because of it.

 

The biggest problem facing the industry will be the greed of the music industry. We're down to a handful of majors that control the majority of studios and distribution and they don't care about quality. As we all know, that flows downhill.

 

So to take the quality food analogy, I'd apply it first to the music because that's where this hobby starts. Until the near majority of people demand quality recordings or at least show that they are willing to pay for them we'll continue to settle for the watered down odd texture of something that seems to resemble a tomato.

 

I'm 33 (my favorite number BTW) and I'm pretty close to maximizing my kit. Some will take a look and laugh it off because they're elitists but it's got nothing to do finances. It's the fact that the majority of the music I love isn't recorded, mixed, or mastered with much quality in mind. I've listened to some of my absolutely favorite tunes on "higher-end" gear both at home and at friends homes and they either don't sound much better or actually sound worse. I took what many would consider to be two steps backwards because playing a new CD became unenjoyable and fatiguing. So even though some, no, MOST, of my favorite CDs sound like Velveeta, I still like the tunes and enjoy the rare one that shows some effort was put in.

 

The question is, what can we, as a group of concerned citizens really do to change anything? Vote with our wallets and miss out on some great music? Change our tastes towards those already putting in the effort and convince ourselves it's good music and what we should be listening to?

 

I don't know but I'm sure I'll be pondering it again in my 40s.

 

Bill

 

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Mac Mini->Roon + Tidal->KEF LS50W

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Bill -

 

Wonderful response.

 

Here's a funny thing. My wife also acts as a kind of mentor for some kids who have aspirations to be the next major heavy metal act. She has a music background, so that makes sense. Or so she tells me.

 

One of the really great advances over the past decade is what can now be done by people who record at home. Really great recordings can be made with modest equipment.

 

But, you know how these kids spent their parents' money? In a local studio, making a multi-tracked over-dubbed CD. It sounds just like the stuff we all complain about in terms of sound quality. (In my house, we tend to call that sort of thing jackal-barf - YMMV...)

 

The reason why they wanted to do that is so they could be just like the big guys. Seriously. They could've spent the same amount to get two pretty good microphones and a pretty good ADC or even a Sound Devices 702 recorder that would last them for years. They could've tried to distribute their music on one of the many free-download sites or even YouTube. But they couldn't be convinced.

 

This is yet another example of how more expensive is not necessarily better or even as good, but in a slightly different direction.

 

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I would say the world has changed for the worse within my lifetime (at least in the US) when it comes to the real appreciation of the finer things. When I was in high school, it was common for most of my friends to listen to music as an activity, not as background to an activity. I am not speaking of a small select group of audiophiles here, I am talking about the majority of my peers, including girls. We would get together and listen to records as an activity. Some of these people became audiophiles, and all of us appreciated quality in recordings and playback equipment. It could also be argued quite successfully that popular music at that time was of a much higher level than popular music today (note, I am not saying that there is not very good music being produced today, but take a look at the top ten albums from the late sixties into the early 80s and compare that to the top ten albums today).

Attention defecit indeed-life moves at a different pace now, and those who do not take time to slow down, do not develop the ability to really appreciate things deeply.

There are some good things too-the information age has made it possible to access much more, but this comes with a problem built in, how does one distinguish what is truly valuable from what is not-information overload reduces this ability. This problem exists for all aspects of our culture, not just the arts, but food, most types of work, and especially politics. We want it all now, and we are too impatient to study and learn the lessons of history, to develop a real understanding of trends and how things occur.

I suggest we make the effort to mentor our children, neices, and nephews, to teach them to slow down, and try and learn to appreciate the things of quality which life has to offer.

 

Clouds, well, I definitely fear a situation where the music we can access is controlled by a profit motive rather than by it's true quality-In my experience, anytime profit is the top priority, life suffers.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Hello Barrows, once again your comments on a topic are full of insight and in this case even signs of wisdom.

For the majority of young people I am afraid they are possibly falling on "deaf ears".

 

I think the sad fact is that the vast majority treat music as "muzak" in their lives.

Their loss of course, but still a fact.

 

The only true exception to the above I have seen in recent times were all the young people who in hushed silence gathered on the Arena floor of The Royal Albert Hall during the BBC Proms.

There is still hope!

regards Chrille

 

 

 

 

 

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I can only begin to imagine how it would have changed my interests if I had enjoyed the sheer range of options available now.

 

The upshot is that today's youth have a bewildering amount of options to interest them just in technology alone.

 

When I developed my interest in music replay it was largely because there were easily perceptible gulfs in quality between mainstream equipment and quite modestly priced separates. One thinks of Rega and Dual and NAD etc. All using one format, the black stuff. Now you can get very good sounding equipment for peanuts, OK not for the more discerning buff who grew up when things were different, but for innocent civilians absolutely fine.

 

Do a comparison between a well chosen option at £1000 maybe a DAC and pair of active monitors and then £10000 worth of what we would consider worthy kit. Some of the folk here would be impressed by the improvement....most non-Hi Fi owning people I know, particularly the younger ones, would be alarmed at how little benefit they perceive the huge extra spend and additional kit buys them.

 

Diminishing returns has always been an issue - but with the way people choose to consume music today, it kicks in harder and earlier in the food chain and there are so many AV and audio options to consider.

 

The audiophile as we know it will become ever more of a minority I'm sure. But I do think the basic levels of performance for not much money have improved considerably. I had to spend (as a proportion of income) an awful lot of money on an analogue system in the 70s to produce the kind of performance I can easily obtain from a computer/Dac for a few hundred quid. To that end the youth of today are well served, so the need/temptation to get all nerdy like I did is much reduced. I didn't have AV to worry about either.

 

 

 

Steve

 

Audirvana Plus/Dirac Live - Weiss 202 - Lavardin IT-15 - Art Emotion Signatures.  DragonFly Red - Sennheiser HD600s & IE800s.

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I wonder if the goal of recruiting youths to our audiophile music listening paradigm makes sense, because that's not the way youths are socialized to listen to music. Unlike we old geezer audiophiles, who build expensive, elaborate audio systems in a single room, and then go there to listen to music, youths want to hear their music whenever and wherever a listening opportunity exists.

 

Maybe what manufacturers should do is make better portable music players, which will play higher resolution music files with enough fidelity to distinguish them from AAC/MP3 files. Such a player may exist already: the HiFiMAN HM-801 Portable Player, which will play WAV, FLAC, and several other formats at 24/96 resolution-and it also includes a decent headphone amp. At $790, it certainly has a high-end price, but if young Johnny gets one for his birthday and lets his buddies hear it, hopefully it should make potential audiophiles aware there's something that sounds better than AAC files played through iPods into Apple earbuds. If that spark of interest can be fanned, perhaps the need for better sound will drive some of the youthful listeners to want better sound for themselves. There's already an indication that youths have an interest in improved sound--just look at the booming earphone replacement market. I'll bet most of those get plugged into iPods to replace Apple's earbuds. I know I did that, and I'm not even young.

 

Vade Forrester

 

_________________[br]Vade Forrester

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very good point, I entirely agree. For the most part, the affordable gear of today can kick *** on the audiophile gear of the past. With the possible exception of digital stuff. I find there is not much to offer for affordable digital playback that is "good". Even a lot of expensive digital playback gear gets it "wrong". I think the vinyl factor is a big part of how listening has changed, as most digital playback gear is just not as engaging as even very simple vinyl playback. In the 70s and most of the 80s, everyone used vinyl (or, sometimes analog tape).

One thing I find very encouraging is that I run into 20 somethings that are into vinyl, they like it because it is cool and retro-but what I find encouraging about this is that with vinyl they are forced to pay attention, and engage with the process. Additionally, even affordable vinyl setups can be very engaging musically, whereas digital requires much more attention to details to get an engaging sound.

I would encourage anyone who is operating on a very limited budget to consider vinyl playback with one of the relatively affordable turntable/cartridge setups now avaialable from Rega, Project, Thorens and even Clearaudio-you will get better sound out of this approach than from any of the affordable digital gear that I am aware of.

For the poster above looking for affordable gear, try this direction:

The entry level Thorens turntable and cartridge setup

Sim Audio Moon most affordable phono pre box

Sim Audio Moon integrated amp

One of Paradigm's affordable stand mount speakers

OK, so you will end up spending perhaps a few thousand dollars, but this will result in a dynamic, musical system that you can enjoy for a very long time. If one wants a decent system, be willing to spend some money on it. Heck, my system is worth ten times more than my car-it is just a matter of priorities...

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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barrows: "..I would encourage anyone who is operating on a very limited budget to consider vinyl playback with one of the relatively affordable turntable/cartridge setups now avaialable from Rega, Project, Thorens and even Clearaudio-you will get better sound out of this approach than from any of the affordable digital gear that I am aware of.."

 

 

 

I have a cheap HRT Music Streamer II+ which cost 330 UKP (or just over 300 dollars), running into a cheap MiniWatt N3 costing about the same. As far as I'm concerned the HRT wipes the floor with any vinyl front end I could buy for the same price. My own vinyl front out does sound better when it is playing a high quality LP, but it cost about 10x as much. I enjoy the HRT no end and don't think its sound quality would limit my fun and enthusiasm for audio if that was the only source I had.

 

 

 

Today you can buy great sounding systems for very little money and they are hugely more enjoyable to listen to than cheap headphones with an iPod. Yet the audio content industry is completely and utterly failing to sell high quality sound. I don't know why - if you read LP covers from 30 years ago they talk about the type of microphone used, or 'microgroove' LPs or whatever. In those days record companies thought high quality sound sold records, and now they don't seem to think that way. They don't seem to think in fact.

 

 

System (i): Stack Audio Link > 2Qute+MCRU psu; Gyrodec/SME V/Ortofon 2M Black/EAT E-Glo Petit/Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Klipsch RP-600M/REL T5x subs

System (ii): Allo USB Signature > Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu > Chord Hugo > Tandy LX5/REL Tzero v3 subs

System (iii) KEF LS50W/KEF R400b subs

 

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@Steve: The keyword there is the "innocent civilians" phrase. It would be difficult for someone who did his/her homework and wishes to settle down only to recognise later that the signature he likes would possibly cost him a bomb (the exact situation I'm facing now).

 

So yes...you can get "decent" (with fingers doing the quotation marks action) sound for low-end budget. But everything the reviews, etc say only mean it "for the price". Some of the more decent ones (reviews, that is) will come with a caveat of "YMMV". It certainly had been the case for a lot of components, systems, equipment, etc. I came across...

 

For discerning folk, subtlety is key. Of course it is very very infuriating if one had to sometimes fork out double the initial budget just to get that extra 5% improvement. But yet it's that 5% that makes the music "come alive".

 

@Barrows: Thanks for the recommendation. I would love to go into analog (hope I got the spelling right) audio, but the thing is that it would mean drastically changing my musical tastes yet again. If analog audio can be had without a change in musical preferences (no, it's not those Gaga trash - sorry if I offended anyone), I'll definitely be all over it now. Sadly, that isn't going to happen and young folks like us would have to be content with digital.

 

Thank goodness for Computer Audiophile, though!

 

@Richard: Agreed fully on the quality bit.

 

Even with CDs, there is a fair bit of guesswork involved and one just can't simply go around trying to spot some kind of an "industry standard" sticker that would offer some form of quality assurance. (like Red Book, for example.)

 

Pretty much a leap of faith everytime someone buys a CD album nowadays (unless you're really sure with the particular artiste, producer or label, whch is the case for yours truly)!

 

My rig is not an oil rig. I sometimes wish it was.

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totally agree that the HRT stuff offers great value. My point is just that I have not found any value based digital that is musically engaging the way value based analog is. Sure, it can be dynamic, and low noise, and high resolution, and hit all the "hifi" buttons-but it just does not communicate the soul of the music to me until you get into the higher price range digital stuff (and lots of that doesn't do the job either).

As per the availabilty of music on vinyl, it is very surprising how much current music is getting released on vinyl these days. I think you might be surprised that you can find some of your favorite music on vinyl. In any case, I would not expect anyone to change their musical tastes just to listen to a format, I am with ya all the way on that. I will mention though, that better playback equipment often allows one to "get" more music types, and expand their musical horizons over time. This has certainly been the case for me, I never thought I would appreciate singers like Shelby Lynne the way I now.

Recording quality, well, this has always been hit and miss in the more popular music genres. There are quality contemporary rock recordings being done these days, I can think of a few right now: Tool often has very good quality, recent stuff by Robert Plant has been pretty good quality, most of Jack White's stuff is pretty good quality. I am sure others can think of more. And the quality level of a lot of contemporary Jazz and Classical recordings is often very good. So all is not lost here... At RMAF, Nellie, from Audio Federation, mentioned that a guy brought some hip hop recordings he had done into her room, and the recording quality was stunning-this is a good sign, a guy who records hip hop, cruising the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest!

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Oh dear...An audiophile trip to Japan will need to be in order for me now... :P

 

Nope, the last I searched, none of my favourite stuff are on vinyl.

 

Which brings me to something. There is something funny about stuff from the Far East these days (esp. only in Japan). Apparently, if you wanted to get the best quality stuff, it would still be in digital format. But these would be labelled as "First Press Limited Edition" (which I proudly say I own them and pay/bleed a massive premium to get them in on special import basis). They work fine for me except that I need the equipment to really get the most out of them. And that costs!

 

But I totally agree on analog audio being the best way to experience sound. My best experience so far was never at an audio meet/fair or in a shop. Rather, it was at an old cinema (God bless them and don't ever let them change) that still used master audio tapes and 35mm reels (give me these over 4K-HD anyday, I mean it). Stuff like gunshots, special effects and dialogue never sounded so real and lifelike compared to the best of what digital cinema has to offer. Even background music (in a film!) was very convincing, engaging and beautful sounding.

 

So yes, I totally agree on the business of analog audio. Unfortunately, when dealing with certain types that have "moved on" with the times, analog ain't just going to happen for a lot of us "future" folk. Not until the industry recognises this issue about quality again.

 

My rig is not an oil rig. I sometimes wish it was.

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  • 5 years later...

Not sure I share the Cloud / SaaS analogy... the data remains property of the end-user, not the provider, it's more of a leased/outsourced process enablement (the software), infrastructure (server) and stable, seamless unified upgrades (service/maintenance) offering.

 

With music streaming the provider owns the data and offers one time access to it (a play).

 

I get that you could download and install the programs and maintain them yourself as opposed to leasing access to the above, but the benefit of SaaS when done properly should be a business no brainer... music streaming on the other hand offers none of the benefits of Sass, it's only about "you're not downloading my music in case you share it".

 

Modern music is mixed to sound vile on great systems, that's why the future of Hi-Fi has been in trouble for a long time as the youth don't at all get what many of us get frustrated about.

 

;-)

Source:

*Aurender N100 (no internal disk : LAN optically isolated via FMC with *LPS) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch - split for *LPS) > Intona Industrial (injected *LPS / internally shielded with copper tape) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > W4S Recovery (*LPS) > DIY 2cm USB adaptor (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > *Auralic VEGA (EXACT : balanced)

 

Control:

*Jeff Rowland CAPRI S2 (balanced)

 

Playback:

2 x Revel B15a subs (balanced) > ATC SCM 50 ASL (balanced - 80Hz HPF from subs)

 

Misc:

*Via Power Inspired AG1500 AC Regenerator

LPS: 3 x Swagman Lab Audiophile Signature Edition (W4S, Intona & FMC)

Storage: QNAP TS-253Pro 2x 3Tb, 8Gb RAM

Cables: DIY heavy gauge solid silver (balanced)

Mains: dedicated distribution board with 5 x 2 socket ring mains, all mains cables: Mark Grant Black Series DSP 2.5 Dual Screen

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(QUOTE) I guess I find this very difficult to grasp. Yes, it's true -- this generation of folks from 20-30 years old has grown up in a world where music is an anytime, anywhere application. Unlike many 50-60+ year olds, the younger music listeners are multitasking while "doing music". Yes, this might mean that they take music for granted, and that therefore it's easy to imagine that the specialness of audiophile-quality musical playback would be uninteresting, effete, snooty, and therefore, lost.(QUOTE)

Note: This may be a bit US-Centric, but you will get my drift.

 

 

One comment:

 

I submit that music was more important to the 60+ group than it is to the iPod generation. With respect, I give you Vietnam and the draft. Music was, to my generation, an important aspect of a movement. Songs such as Ohio and Masters of War were not background music. In youthful arrogance, we thought we were going to change the world. Music was our banner, our marching bands were the great musical groups of the mid-sixties - we were so young and it faded so fast. We often speak of good audio systems helping us form an emotional bond with music. Well, we did not need Nelson Pass and a $60K amplifier to form a bond in those days.

 

The young today are more freaked out by student loan payments than ISIS/ISIL. (and thank god for that) They don't have the draft to help focus their minds.

 

I suspect we will always have excellent audio systems and someone will always be creating good music. I hope someone listens.

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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(QUOTE)

One comment:

 

I submit that music was more important to the 60+ group than it is to the iPod generation. With respect, I give you Vietnam and the draft. Music was, to my generation, an important aspect of a movement. Songs such as Ohio and Masters of War were not background music. In youthful arrogance, we thought we were going to change the world. Music was our banner, our marching bands were the great musical groups of the mid-sixties - we were so young and it faded so fast. We often speak of good audio systems helping us form an emotional bond with music. Well, we did not need Nelson Pass and a $60K amplifier to form a bond in those days.

 

The young today are more freaked out by student loan payments than ISIS/ISIL. (and thank god for that) They don't have the draft to help focus their minds.

 

I suspect we will always have excellent audio systems and someone will always be creating good music. I hope someone listens.

 

I think the importance of music to any "youth movement" has more to do with socioeconomic status now more than ever. College students are getting virtually no messages from current pop songs, but rest assured that a lot of poorer minorities are getting PLENTY of messages from current hardcore hip-hop..

 

Audio quality can be super-important to the youth of today, unfortunately it translates into how loud and low the bass can go in your car, not accurately reproducing music.

Synology DS1515+ >  PS Audio P10 > Innuos Zenith Mk II running Roon Core > IsoRegen/LPS-1 > Lyngdorf TDAI 2170 > Tekton Double Impact Speakers

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Audio quality can be super-important to the youth of today, unfortunately it translates into how loud and low the bass can go in your car, not accurately reproducing music.
Given that there's no actual conceivable way to create a stereo that objectively reproduces music since there is no such agreed upon set of criteria which to measure its performance, I would say that today's youth are taking the more pragmatic approach to their music consumption experience which is to adjust their stereo in such a way that it sounds good to them and it may very well be that the music that they're listening to was intended to be listened to exactly the way they are doing it.We have to consider that it may actually not be unfortunate or inaccurate at all, given the genre you may be referencing.

If I am anything, I am a music lover and a pragmatist.

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I'm not sure the world needs more audiophiles. Market demand will dictate the size of the "audiophile" industry and whatever size that is, that is the size it should be.

 

For a large segment of the population, listening through higher end equipment will not bring greater musical enjoyment, as compared to listening on a cheap set of Beats headphones. However, I don't think audio enthusiasts need to worry about this fact.

Speaker Room: Lampizator Golden Gate 2 | Viva Linea | Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature Monoblocks | FinkTeam Kim | Revel B112 subs  

Office Headphone System: Lampizator Big 7 updated to GG 2 specs | Viva Egoista | Hifiman HE-1000SE/Audeze LCD-4z

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