Having tarted myself around a number of hi-fi shows around the world recently, Iíve come up with some important observations. First, if there is a Hell, it probably looks a lot like an airport terminal (specifically Washington Dullesí B-gates). Second, even in the face of a small, but distinct, recovery in the world of audio, there are still plenty of people in the audio industry around the globe with faces that all look like a bulldog chewing a wasp.
But perhaps most importantly, it seems there is the beginning of a touch of mojo returning to the audio world. This appears to be happening in all sectors of the market at the same time, just in slightly different levels. In the last few shows, there has been a buzz that simply wasnít there this time last year. Itís the buzz of companies making new products, of new and clever ideas. Itís the buzz of people coming together and sharing ideas. But most of all, itís the buzz of people, old and new, discovering either whatís new in audio or even what this new thing called audio is all
Every audio show I have ever attended has had a disproportionate number of middle-aged men with bad haircuts and poorly fitting clothes, even before I joined those ranks. Time changes, but audio remains an older manís sport. Expecting an army of twentysomethings to start buying highend audio is folly because they never did before. However, at the last few shows, there have been some newcomers looking at what our little world has to offer with keen eyes. Granted, not many, but numbers seem to be slowly growing.
I suspect Napster and the iPod might have something to do with this. Far from killing off the industry, some 13 years after Napster first hit the desktops of the file-sharing twentysomethings of the late 1990s, which so-called Ďlost generationí always took interest in music and is now starting to take interest in music quality just as we did. OK, so their interest right now is focused on headphones and headphone amplifiers, but itís a short hop from high-end electrostatic headphones to electrostatic loudspeakers. And one I am hopeful people will be beginning to make again.
So, maybe our little world is not exactly rosy and restored. Nor will it likely be any time soon. But the sky is not falling, either. We should stop listening to our inner depressive, at least for a while.
Alan Sircom, Editor Hi-Fi+