Here we are in the dawn of the busy season for audiophiles and all i keep reading about is how we, as a community, have been alienating the public at large. There are kilobuck cables, tweak fluids, dampening devices... Those attending college today have barely heard about the joys of vinyl, other than the retro coolness it may bestow. Meanwhile the iPod, with its compressed, lossy music format may further reduce the quality of today's pop music where dynamics have been squashed to death. Perhaps the music industry themselves have killed the audiophile desire?
Let us be honest with ourselves, the music industry generally does not give a damn about the sound quality of music. The bottom line is sales and that the music sounds more grabbing than the nearly endless commercials that preceded it. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), an organization that cares only for the business interests of various music labels, appears to care more about piracy than mentioning the recent sales growth in music. While this may seem untrue, looking at the RIAA's website will show how they write many articles about piracy and sales loss, while not mentioning the recent sales uptick.
Yes, today's college student may have enjoyed stealing intellectual property (music), yet we need only look to the Chinese and Russians to see how rampant theft is. But this is not the point. The main point being the quality of products being offered to the mainstream music lover is so far below par that the public at large generally has no clue of audiophile possibilities.
i am not referring to megabuck tube amplifiers and super huge tweaky hornspeakers. We need only to mention such manufacturers as Aperion, Linn, NAD, Polk Audio, Rotel, etc to see there are many great, high quality products at relatively reasonable prices. Another problem may be in the lack of a mainstream audiophile magazine.
Many of us remember Audio with both joy and of great loss. During the magazine's prime it educated the public while also reviewing both high value and also high dollar products. Think of it as a publication that offered both an introductory, and occasionally, a few tidbits into better audio. Some called it a mid-fi magazine with aspirations to high-end audio. This was a great venue to bring in Joe/Jane Q. Public while also acting as a 'bridge' to bring the more avid reader into high-end audio magazines of the time. Today there is no print publication that has filled this gap.
So today's party people, the age group from 15 to 25 years old, have virtually no resource to educate them in a gentle manner about better music reproduction. Sure they can share lossy audio files and endure highly compressed music both in file size and dynamics. A depressing one-two knockout punch if you will. So why should any of us care? Because it's the music stupid!
Those of us deeply passionate about music owe it to other music lovers to act as a 'bridge.' With Audio magazine gone and no other mainstream publication filling the gap, we only have ourselves to rely upon. The silver lining within our proverbial cloud is that new music formats are inherently capable of near master tape quality. The industry standard DVD-Audio (and proprietary SACD) format has only shown a glimpse to what is truly possible. With Blu-ray right around the corner we music lovers who feel that vinyl is better than any digital format may have to rethink the digital possibilities.
No matter how many bits or the sample rate, audiophiles will need to educate others about the lack of general sound quality in today's popular music and low-fi music reproduction equipment. This is not to say all popular music is lacking, yet as recording studios have been feverishly upgrading their digital products the possibility of incredible sounding recordings opens up. Like any new format, there will be various growing pains and increases in perceived sound quality during the first few generation of products. Still, the ease of use and home networking issues are already solving themselves. Joe/Jane Q. Public likes ease of use and overall convenience.
As the long winter months are approaching, more people will be seeking indoor activities. This is a perfect time to have friends over to hear the possibilities. Forget mentioning the tweaks, the expensive cables, etc. While it may boost one's ego, it may also scare away those who desire better music reproduction. Because in the end what really matters is that we all....