The impermanence of trends

June 12, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Trends are nearly impossible to see in the moment.

When I was growing up men all wore hats and women were daring if they wore pants. That’s just the way it was.


Only, normal is a trend: a temporary condition that feels relevant at the time but in hindsight is only a passing phase.

Trends are rather pervasive in high-end audio. First it was owning a console with everything built-in. Then we moved to separates. Turntables were all we knew until the CD came along. No one considered a subwoofer until it’s not cool to be without.

I think it’s healthy to separate trends from qualities that deserve permanence.

A love of music is timeless.

A desire to strive for better feels eternal.

It’s not a trend to fall in love with a great performance in your home.

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32 comments on “The impermanence of trends”

  1. And now the trend seems to be to put everything back into one
    ‘box’ again, & even to put said box into the loudspeaker cabinets.
    Not on my watch!

  2. I think all Paul is describing is fashion, which is different depending where you live and lots of people ignore it entirely.

      1. Why do my local band always have the last word?

        And when he does his little rounds
        ‘Round the boutiques of London town
        Eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends
        ‘Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion

  3. What’s are the current “trends”? Darker Grey’s or stark white finishes…
    In audio. What’s really new except for the way source material is presented.

    Headphone listening is reaching a maturity. Passive Speaker Design is reaching a pinnacle. Amplifier circuits are fast approaching a ‘climax’.

    The ‘love’ of music hasn’t really changed. The way that music is enjoyed is what changes. One of the reasons the high end audio community pushes so hard to stay relevant.

  4. I don’t really consider a subwoofer a trend. The age old issue I have had with every speaker I have owned is that the room placement for optimal bass has never been the optimal position for imaging. I always ended up positioning them where there was the least compromise, but realistically compromised both. I also tried all kinds of bass traps, diffusers, absorbers, etc. in various positions. Separating the two simply helps get past that.

    I think the issue with subwoofers is something that is another subject, which is age old things people told you NOT to do. I think a lot of adversity to these and similar solutions is birthed in the “path purist” mentality, as to optimize subwoofer usage you most likely have to implement a variable frequency crossover or some type of room correction (whether in the subwoofer itself or processor).

  5. Being able to hear musical performance in your home has only been “normal” for about 130 to 150 years. Before that time if you wanted to hear music you either played a musical instrument yourself, had someone in your house play a musical instrument or you went to a venue to hear live music.

    In 1877 Edison invented the phonograph ( trade marked the Gramophone in 1887 ) and in 1895 Marconi invented the radio.

    As a child in the 1950’s I remember my grandmother had a windup tabletop Victrola. I was amazed by the thing. My other grandmother ( who lived next store to us ) had a console record player / radio. All we had a home was a tabletop AM radio. In the mid 50’s the grandmother who lived next door to us got a black and white TV. The whole family was mesmerized by the thing.

    Today for many the new normal is a smart phone with wireless earbuds and streaming both audio and video.

    High performance audio is a niche that most to not even know exist.

    1. I have made a concerted effort to get out and listen to live music more and less inside my house, anything from the symphony to someone good at a local bar or winery. I’m amazed at how many audiophiles I talk to never get out and listen to live music…. and I’m talking even before the COVID thing.

  6. I’m old school. My next big trend is buying a quality vacuum tube amp. I’m narrowing down my choices for a decision and I’ve already bought the tubes I wanted.
    Tubes will never die. As the growing trends of “all in one box” rages on, tubes at the very worst will become a luxury item, which in some cases regarding NOS Tubes is already a reality.

      1. Oh? Oh my. Now that would be a sight to see and for the record I absolutely love the look of the EL 34’s. My favourite are the NOS Tesla’s from the Czech-republic. Man those are cool but they cost a ton.

  7. So the latest trend to do things at home. I’m wondering if the high end audio industry has been able to take advantage of that. There was a time in the 70-80s where stereos were a given. You had one and it was welcome to have a very good one. Or have they simply priced themselves out ?

  8. There’s an old adage on Wall Street: “The Trend is Your Friend” which essentially means, you typically can’t go wrong when you move with the crowd, but be prepared to jump when the trend runs out of steam and starts reversing. If you doggedly stick to a trend too long, you might get left behind.

    On the other hand, trends are cyclical and complete abandonment is not always wise. Vinyl records and tube gear, for example, have intrinsic value that eventually brought them back in style.

  9. Another new trend in audio is my amplifier identifies as tubes, but is solid state.

    I keep buying these KT88’s with no place to put them. The amplifier made me drill holes so the tubes would fit.

    Its normal. 😉

  10. Extinction is the norm. Mankind is a trend.
    Take a look at Venus and all life itself is a trend.
    Look at the big picture and you will cherish your humble life
    and appreciate your music more,
    however grand your system may be.

  11. Audiophiles will spend whatever they can afford to get the best possible sound. Music closer to what we hear live is an essential part of existence for audiophiles. It is for me.

    1. Hey Joe. You know what else, my friend. It is to experience the differences in audio gear like for example Tube and Solid State Amps. If you love the hobby you’ll want to truly hear the differences offered rather than something being totally flat-out better.

      1. I heard a nice tube McIntosh amplifier. Sounded great. I would to buy a tube integrated amplifier someday and see if I like it better than my Creek 5350SE integrated, B&K ST140, Proton D1200 amplifiers, and my Technics SA800, SA600, SA500 vintage receivers. Those are the amplifiers I’m playing around with now.

        1. Now that is a lot of damn good variety. Also I like the Mac Amps. Have a great design. Love the green glow in their tubes as well. 🙂
          I’m planning on getting a really good headphone tube amp. Just finishing up getting all the accessories to accommodate it and utilize all its features.
          This hobby is damn fun.

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