What happened to high end stereo shops I mean real high-end stereo shops. I am 78, my father bought me my first stereo when I was 12, I have been hooked ever since. I remember the days when you can go to a nice audio store and not just audition what they had in the store but if you saw a couple of tuners, preamps or some cables that you liked, you could give them a blank check and take the equipment home to audition on your system. Bring one or both back Pay for what you want to keep or get your check back. I don’t understand how someone can buy an expensive piece of audio equipment and not audition it in their system first. Many places today, you buy it and your stuck with it. OH yes you can sell it on Audiogon or eBay. Reviewers are nice and give good reviews but the problem I have is the equipment they are auditioning is on their system in their treated music room which is going to be different than what you have.
I am only 70, but I know where you are coming from. I live outside Portland Oregon and there are three great stores. I am really good friends with one and he will drop components by my house that he thinks I might like. No check.
But the internet has caused folks to focus so much on cost that the buy stuff on line. I am certain that the vast majority of people with mid-high end systems these days have suboptimal systems because they are assembling from only reviews and buying on line. They sound good… but if auditioning was included in the process, their systems would be much better (given their tastes).
I’m experiencing issues with this right now. Posted a bit ago looking for speaker suggestions and received lots of great feedback. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I’ve gone to several relatively local (within 100 miles) dealers hoping to audition some of the suggested speakers and I keep hearing that they don’t move enough speakers of that caliber to keep any on the floor to audition. I understand not wanting to tie up 25k+ in a set of speakers they might not sell but I’m not sure who’s dropping that kind of money without being able to hear them. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The years I am referring to are the late 60s, early 70s 80s and 90s, since the 90s I believe California lost about 70% of the high-end stereo shops. If I tried now I might be able to find 5 that are within 80 miles from my house, when they were around I could get to one in 15 or 20 minutes.
Agreed, at 67 I remember the small city I live in back when it was about 50000 population. At that time it had 3 shops that carried at least 3-4 higher end brands and a few lower priced. They had passion for music and wanted to help the customers understand equipment and the increased reproduction of music. Now that same city exceeds 100000 and no shops exist. I have to drive 50 miles to Denver to try the same number of hifi shops. Blame the internet and the customer that goes to the brick and mortar shop to audition and decide then buy on the internet. But along with hifi shops so has the same fate befallen the corner grocer, local hardware store etc.
I would add the disposable world. It permeates everything and drives a cheapness and impermanence. A side product can be a caustic customer bereft of civility.
I've owned certain audio pieces for decades because they were/are simply that well engineered and built. They were also expensive initially. But then, not really when calculating their cost divided by service years. Who does that today?
I've a friend who runs a B&M audio shop for over 20 years and has experienced customers in the store listening to equipment and ordering it off the internet by cellphone before exiting. That's healthy. So these customers do not want a longterm business relationship as it's too taxing, beyond their capacities and skill levels of interaction and go for the nickel bag fix.
It's sad, but seems to have irreversible momentum until extinction of that species many of us have known and loved; the consumption of great music with knowledgeable purveyors of stunning equipment and media to excite our senses.
Soon enough we'll be left with Taylor Swift and Apple as our only choices and in the vernacular of middle schoolers "that sucks man".
If I still lived in L.A. I'd still be frequenting high end shops and actual record stores & musical instrument shops. I made myself a nuisance in them, and so did my dad. In any event, now that I've moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere, with the closest high end shop at least an airplane flight away, I've been obliged to take to the aether when component shopping rears its ugly head. But hey, thank goodness for streaming! The world of music at my fingertips...
The demand for HiFi and Hi End audio is diminishing. The younger generations don’t spend large sums of money on this hobby. Yes there is a turntable guy here and there, but the ones they buy to spin records are not high dollar investments in tonearms, cartridges and isolation. It is more a hip trend than a serious hobby. Plus I don’t think they have the money. If they do they spend it on other things...they don’t buy expensive really old vacuum tubes, they buy expensive coffee from Starbucks. One year I bought about $750 in tubes for my newly purchased tube amp. Do you know how many chai tea lattes with soy milk... one can buy for that kind of money?
Dying way of listening to music. Dying sales model. Dying customers. The local shops in my area concentrate on selling equipment and installing theater rooms. Other, but fewer businesses, have adapted to Internet sales. Smart phones and EarPods dominate the market. The photography equipment market has had an identical fate.
It goes back to what the majority of people want. Sadly, it is not quality 2 channel audio. Why is an entirely different topic. There are however, many more stores that sell the audio equipment people want - seems like every where sells bose, or bluetooth speakers, or sonos, or an AVR receiver and HT speakers, or ear buds and phones.
@ghdprenticegot to the first answer I had too, yep "the internet". That happened.
It opened a new world of used gear, then more new gear. It offered up a few hours drive -or- mail order options across a continent which hurt local dealers for sure.
Now people complain about not being able to "go hear it somewhere". Well...
Our last remaining local dealer (2 of 20) in my region is 55 years in business. He survives because nobody offers what he does. Has a loyal following, with lots of experience, and people willing to pay for it. In return they receive lots of amazing musical enjoyment, trade-in options, and more. Offers an experience the internet and forums cannot offer. Some customers drive a full day just to go there.
Some manufactures are slowly getting back to protecting dealers again.
HiFi stores can’t earn enough profit in a market with diminishing customers to afford the rent. The lucky ones own their property or have favorable long-term leases.
this is a good point... so many ground floor businesses, looking at them, you wonder how the heck they survive -- quite often is the answer is they own the building at a low historical cost, so rent is nil and property taxes are low, and these days, retail renters can be hard to find even if they wanted to rent out the space for income... so they stay, just hang in there
Many of the comments offered mirror my opinion. Let me add, I observe that for the many who could spend money today, their easy and ubiquitous access to “a vast library of music” is a higher priority than “hearing quality” of the same music library. They spend money elsewhere. Plus, little patience for hearing old people talk nostalgic about their favorite “equipment.” I sold lots of stereos while in college during the late 70’s, and many, many people just wanted a stereo that “looked good and sounded loud.” For the majority, a system that friends and acquaintances admire for its looks, won over a less dramatic, but better sounding system at the same price-point.
I recently returned from a few weeks without my 2-channel system. I fired it up this morning and realized how much I missed the sweet sound. For me, my satisfaction and my investment is in the content, and the quality. Both components made satisfying this mornings “Chet Baker in Tokyo” hearing experience. For younger folks, it appears they are just as satisfied to dial up and hear “Chet Baker in Tokyo” on their earbuds and phone, ideal sound quality is simply less important.
I used to shop at the Tech hifi store in Brockton, MA. Also used to frequent Spearit Sound in Boston. Both closed their doors long ago. Audio Concepts took over the space where Spearit was located on Commonwealth Ave in Boston, but they were there for only a few years. Now, that space is occupied by an Amazon pick-up store! 🙄...very sad state of affairs. The closest Auduo shop to me would be Natural Sound in I think Framingham, or Fidelis Audio in New Hampshire. Tech hifi and Spearit Sound were the best! Sadly, In Your Ear records closed up shop....what a terrific record shop that was! They were on Commonwealth Ave in Boston for over 40 years! I long for the good old days...
This is why many of us have to rely on YouTube reviews and suggestions from forums like this one. I only have one friend/coworker that is also an audiophile. Most people I know have sound-bars or a home theater in a box.
Well that is one more than I know! I have absolutely Noone that I know that is an audiophile. And when I talk about anything audio to the avg person, it falls on deaf ears. Most people just do not care....happy with their mp3, phone, soundbar, or whatever....I’m in it alone, not a bad thing. This can and usually is a lonely hobby. I can’t even get my wife to sit and listen, what a shame.
One side note re: the younger generation…at THE Show a few weeks ago, one very high end room was spinning Taylor Swift on the turntable. The vendor said he was trying to show the recording quality of the Midnights LP and that there was so much missing with phone streaming, etc. Of course he was correct, but there weren’t many young ears at that show. Time will tell. And maybe someday Americans will learn quality over quantity from their European brothers and sisters and high quality music reproduction will live on.
@audioguy85I am very lucky that my wife enjoys listening to the music I play. She’s also okay with how everything looks. Other than her, no one besides my coworker, who lives states away, cares one bit about this hobby. I don’t even know anyone that buys/collects music like I do.
I agree that it can be a lonely hobby. No one I currently work with has any idea I have this system or my music collection.
I am grateful to/for both. My parents and grandparents who survived WWII (they lived in London) taught me to read before I ever went to school - they were my first and best teachers - and for that I am truly grateful.
Shameless plug - if you are in the USA as I am, consider a small monthly donation ($11 + CC fees = $15.75) to tunnels to towers (T2T dot org).
back in the day i simply had not sufficient fundage to get anything. i was not alone. expanding working class and shrinking middle is what did them in IMHO. a lot of them also were snooty IMHO, looked at me in work clothes with visible disdain. would not answer my questions or even acknowledge my presence. wish it were not so. there was/is one in tacoma that i respect highly as he is good to his customers no matter their station.
Form where I live in MA I have Natural Sound (great place for bird calls, dripping water recordings, wind...you get it) and Goodwin's High End which is neither high or the end...both nearby. Both seem to be doing great...Audio Video Therapy (!) is also maybe 45 minutes away (NH) and is a great place to go if depressed or worried that people dislike you. There are others...
So true with all comments. Even if there are stores the amount of choices are limited - stock on hand is expensive for the store owner. So, you are caught buying what he has on hand. Sure, the items might quench your taste but if not then what. I live close to Upscale Scale Audio in Socal. and they get it - but they are rare in today's stereo world,
I think the younger generation is satisfied with mediocrity. "Meh...good enough" seems to be the way of the young Americans. Beats headphones connected wirelessly to your iPhone sound pretty good until you hear a good mid fi 2 channel rig. Ditto the wireless JBL portable waterproof powered speakers.
My rig was down for repairs for 6 months and my audio was from a blue tooth JBL boom box. I got used to it the way you get used to an old chick- when my rig came home I put on some Allen Parsons and literally had a tear in my eye. I had forgotten how wonderful music can sound.
This begs a question- of the next gen hears really good 2 channel will they dice in or will they even care? I think the latter as half assing things is what they seem to do best.
Some of it may come down to the astronomical rent retailers have to pay compared to the twentieth century, which is the same reason you have to pay ten bucks for a thimble of beer these days. If you're a businessman, opening a retail audio store is not a good bet. Plus, as others have pointed out, the internet has made straight to consumer a more attractive business model. Such a shame.
I’m 61. I live in a smaller community in eastern Ky, population 25k maybe. Back in the mid 70’s Flatwoods had it’s one and only ever Hi-Fi Audio Store! It was called Sound Impulse. I was only around 15 when I first started going there. We walked, because we weren’t driving yet. We couldn’t wait to get there ! We oohed and awed and drooled over all the gear ! The staff and owner were extremely knowledgeable and friendly! They understood that we were financially challenged and sacked groceries at a local grocery store, but they still treated us with dignity. They had both new and trade-in gear. They’d let you layaway too. This younger crowd, they have no sense of worth, value, quality nor taste ! I ask you, what will they have to remember or cherish years down the road ? I believe that we were and still are much better off ! We lived the golden age of audio ! We were waiting for the next Led Zeppelin / Pink Floyd / Eagles albums to come out !!! Things are not the same, they never will be again. The best thing about the Internet to me, is the fact that I can hunt down the pieces I couldn’t afford back then. I can learn how to service and repair it and also find the parts I need ! We are much better off ! We had the best of both worlds !!!
Nowadays the millennials are consuming their music with Apple AirPods. Portable and discrete. But I think money has a lot to do with it. Millennia's don't seem to have the disposable income that I we had years ago.
I used to live in Vancouver (I'm 67) and I remember Joe Weber very well! I bought several components from him including a pair of Mirage M3si speakers and a Tice power conditioner. He was sort of a curmudgeon but a great guy to deal with.
During that period in Portland (late 90's, early ought's) there were several good stores in Portland and I got to know a few of them well enough so that they would call me when something interesting came in or when they had a great deal on a piece they wanted to move. I bought my Krell KSA 300S amplifier that way. Krell was coming out with a new model and the dealer wanted to get rid of their demo. The store called me up and offered me the amp at a great price and I said, "Sold!" The good old days.....
Don't miss out on JS Audio in Bethesda and Command Performance in Falls Church. Outside of NYC I think the DC Metro area has one of the best brick and mortar hifi showings in the US. Add to that having Capital Audio Fest I'm a happy lil' camper.
"Nowadays the millennials are consuming their music with Apple AirPods. Portable and discrete. But I think money has a lot to do with it. Millennia’s don’t seem to have the disposable income that I we had years ago."
To help bridge the generation and sales gap some, my local audiophile level dealer set up a small used vinyl section and started selling small quality tube headphone amplifiers. Also started with a small selection of affordable turntables to get them in the door. It worked. Now they come in and see other stuff, and start asking questions. They sit and listen some, in wonder. They look at used trade-in gear on the side shelves too. Now some are ready to save for that next piece of gear like all of us did as scrappers growing up. I still think there is some hope, we’ll see.
@decooney I am fortunate to have an awesome high end dealer within an hour of me. I'm in NE Ohio, and he's in Western PA, very close to Pitt. Mark at Northern Audio. He has done something similar. On the ground floor of his building there is a top notch record store. Easily the best and biggest selection of vinyl around these parts. Within the record store are several set ups of entry level TT's and systems. All a curious customer needs to do is ask a few questions and they can be directed to the wonderland on the top floor. The place is a real gem. Mark is a great guy and I trust him totally. When I head that way it's like I am back in a warm sweatshirt, in my comfort zone, among my people.
I feel the issue is that for the next two generations there is a great competition with other activities to engage in. Be it video games, sports worship, gambling etc.. (lets face it, it seems like according to ad's, all the next two generations want to do is drink, bet, play video games..) But I think Mark is on to something to attract folks who are looking for something more meaningful, more tactile and satisfying.
When I worked at one of the two real HIFI shops in my town, The Speaker Shop, The winds of change were blowing us toward whole house systems, in wall speakers and surround sound A/V. We adapted and did very well.
IMO the fads will come and go. We may not return to some of the "Golden Days" of HIF like the 50's and 60's, but I really do believe our lovely world is alive and well. IT may not be mainstream and super popular, but that's ok in my book.
Having a good "stereo setup" is no longer a goal for the majority. Few people these days I talk with, and none of the younger generation, have the goal of creating a high-end stereo system. Most don't even care about decent surround sound for movies. Most actually cannot even understand why I have spent so much money on speakers and components over the years. I get the impression that all that matters to the younger folks is how much it cost, and how loud it goes. The topic of accurate sound only comes up from the delusional fans of vinyl that just like to repeat fallacies about how great vinyl is, yet they then show you a turntable that is part of an all-in-one system with speakers and amp all built into a cheap cabinet and sold at WalMart. :-) They just don't get it that even if their source material was good, they have no capability to hear the detail. As long as the music is audible they just don't care. Stereo and audio shops have an almost impossible mission. Most I know of including my McIntosh dealer are specializing mostly in system install work for high end homes and business, and do not have much of a showroom presence, or gear in stock. It's a pretty dead retail niche unless you plan to have more for sale than high end stereo gear. Honestly Best Buy is one of the only retail stores in the area that has a selection of various audio gear and much of it has to still be special ordered as all that is in stock are the displays. It's not just about the internet and online sales, it's a change in perspective, a paradigm shift of sorts. We no longer need to go and listen as the goal for over 60 years has been for the top manufacturers to produce a neutral sound. There is no real need any longer to "match" specific components to get an acceptable sound across the system, even though we hear audio geeks argue about it. It might or might not be true but the people who care about the slight difference in sound are not the majority, rather a very tiny minority. The general public of the last few generations has a completely different view of what matters. A few decades ago every teenage boy wanted to have a stack of stereo components. That is now insane to most who play their MP3 files on a portable Bluetooth linked speaker and have no idea why that is not HiFi :-) They don't care, and never will. They are the future.
"Young Americans," or "goal for the majority," are both funny to me. It's a fact that audio geeks are a tiny minority and have been for years. Sure, people used to own stereos therefore supporting retail shops, but people also used to huddle around little radios to listen to Dark Shadows...things change, hobbies are just that...the fact that this hobby is fun for some and ignored by most is a simple reality we live in and "that's the way it is."
@crlambert While I'm not sure what led to your irrational outburst, what is it you fear from the group you disparaged above. It certainly isn't relevant to the discussion nor is it relevant to a society made up of different individuals with different views. With that said, I happen to love jazz...and I'm grateful for Billy Strayhorn or Bill Evans or the countless wonderful artists who have come along over the years and elevated my musical enjoyment. Regardless of who they happen to love.
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