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The Absolute Sound

From The Editor...
December 2005
By Robert Harley

A Milestone For The Absolute Sound

  This issue of The Absolute Sound marks a milestone in the magazine's 33-year history: It is the first issue to bear a single-month cover date. Up till now, TAS has been a quarterly or bi-monthly publication. With this issue, we are officially on a ten-times-per-year publication schedule — up from six times per year. You'll begin receiving TAS monthly until next spring and summer when we have combined April/May and June/July issues. Best of all, we've kept the subscription price the same; you'll now receive ten issues for the price of six.

In an era when print magazines are generally in decline, I'm thrilled that we're able to nearly double TAS' publication frequency and deliver to you more equipment reviews, features, show reports, music reviews, news, and HP Workshops. I'm particularly excited by TAS' success because of what it says about the state of high-performance music reproduction. Despite the prognostications about the demise of high-end audio, we find the industry strong and vibrant. This doesn't mean high-end audio isn't facing challenges; the industry as a whole needs to do more to introduce young music lovers to the great pleasure and satisfaction a quality music system can bring to their lives. But, overall, people continue to buy and enjoy the special products our industry creates.

The passion driving our hobby was vividly displayed at last month's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver (full report next issue). The show nearly doubled in size (113 exhibit rooms this year vs. 68 last), attendance was up, the demonstration quality was generally superb, and the enthusiasm of exhibitors and attendees was boundless. I saw perhaps two dozen brands of gear I'd never heard of before. And these weren't mom-and-pop operations, but full-fledged companies who have carved out a niche by creating lovingly crafted components that embody the fundamental ethos underlying high-end audio — the quest to bring the listener just a little closer to the music. This show is a welcome return to the roots of high-end audio and a great vehicle for displaying to the public the special pleasures that come from owning a high-quality music system.

Still, there's much more the industry can do to increase awareness among the general public that high-performance audio systems can reproduce music with a power and persuasiveness that most people wouldn't think possible. Absolute Multimedia, publisher of TAS, is committed not just to growing The Absolute Sound but to finding solutions to the challenge of creating greater awareness and acceptance of high-end audio.

As a first step, we'll provide a forum in the magazine for exploring ideas about what we can do, individually and collectively, to expand the pursuit of high-quality music reproduction from the hobbyist to the public at large. Large numbers of people with significant financial resources buy luxury cars, watches, and other high-end products, yet listen to music on mass-market dreck. Some may bemoan this state of the affairs; we see it as a great opportunity. The high-end audio industry could easily be twenty times larger than it is today.

Can you imagine a world in which the name Mark Levinson is as well-known and respected as Rolex? Harman International, Mark Levinson's parent company, can. Harman plans to spend “whatever it takes” to promote the Mark Levinson brand to a much larger public. It is a sponsor of the current Paul McCartney tour, has produced an extremely attractive and professional television commercial, and is taking out two-page spreads in Time magazine, to give just a few examples.

The Mark Levinson brand is a good place to start because it has a foot in the door by virtue of its presence in Lexus automobiles. Though Harman's campaign is great for Mark Levinson, and a boost for high-end audio in general, what's needed is a collective, world-class marketing effort to raise the entire high-end industry's profile.

The forum mentioned earlier will kick off with a Roundtable discussion among industry experts that clearly addresses the challenges facing the high end and suggests possible Solutions. I encourage anyone with ideas on this subject to join the debate. Who knows? Perhaps owning a high-end audio system will one day be as desirable to the general public as owning a luxury or performance automobile. That goal is certainly worth the effort.




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