Our own worst enemy

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In a recent Facebook post Michael Beckerman posited:

“High-end audio, in every iteration, is essentially a victim of it’s own success. They have been so good at what they do, for so long and have gotten so close to absolute perfection, that they have essentially pulled the rug out from under themselves with their own (technical) success. What do you tell (mass market) customers when what they already have is closer to perfect what they ever dreamed possible? How do you sell them new stuff when what they have now is more than good enough in their minds? When you are that close to a point of optimality, how do you continue to sell anyone on the idea of “better”? “

This is a very insightful observation but one that could benefit from breaking it down and changing its thought just a little. There are two interesting concepts at play: bringing the mass market into the fold, and where do we go once we’re in.

Bringing the mass market into the fold has long been the holy grail of the high-end. We even had our own lobbying group called AHEA that would try and route the unwashed into high-end audio. It didn’t succeed for any number of reasons, not the least of which was all the petty bickering amongst its members. But, I digress. I believe this idea of broadening high-end’s appeal is possible but not by trying to change minds about the purpose of a home stereo system. Rather, the equipment itself needs to change to suit the habits and goals of newbies. What success the French company Devialet has had would bear that thought out well.

The bigger question of where do we go now that we’ve arrived at the point of near-perfection is a subject worthy of an entire post, which we’ll cover tomorrow.