In recent years, the audio/video marketplace has changed dramatically. One of the main reasons for this is, of course, technology. Not only has the performance of the products themselves changed for the better, but so has the way we find out about the products. I am one of those high end designers that make all of the tweak toys that you see to make your systems sound and look better, and I have a story to tell.
At the height of high end, around 1995, audio companies had more customers than they knew with what to do. My little company, RoomTune (a tweak acoustical product), had on board 950 dealers in the United States and 37 countries abroad. There was a new high end company opening up every minute to share in the profits. One would think this would be a good thing, but as the new faces came in, there was not an increase in people helping the hobbyists achieve their goals. It was obviously time to move on from the turntable days and the paperback magazine days and time to embrace the computer age. Everything else in our lives, at this time, became computer based. The Internet was exploding with more information than ever before. We had our own personal libraries right where we wanted them.
I remember writing an article back then about how your home systems were about to become computer based and about how the need for many of the parts that we were used to was going to change. Along with that, I talked about the new world magazine, (the Internet or e-magazines) and how, through online magazines, we would be able to increase the quality and lower the price tag of high end. Another thing that I mentioned was that we could engage in a new relationship with our clients (and they with us) that would revolutionize the industry.
And as a matter of fact, after 10 years, the way we look at this industry is completely different. The internet is the world?s user manual. It not only provides a one on one contact between designer and user, but it also provides a real time event report which allows us to be more informed about our particular interest. In my hobby, you had to wait once a month (if you were lucky) to talk about how to help your clients to achieve better sound. The Internet now allows us to talk back and forth as the event is taking place. This is magical for high end. On my forum, TuneLand, we step through a person?s system in a matter of hours now. I, as a designer, can get a firsthand blow by blow description from someone of what that person is hearing and we together can make the necessary adjustments to their system on the spot. The guesswork has been removed from the equation.
Another important thing that has happened to our particular industry is that the cost factor has all been but eliminated. You see, the price of the technology in the computer business is not the only thing that has changed. The research that has been poured into audio is starting to pay off as well. It has been said that a typical high end audio person, over 10 years, buys on average the equivalent of 5 systems to find one that is satisfactory. This has completely changed. The larger audio companies like Magnavox and Sony are producing products at low end prices that are out performing the expensive high end products by a big margin. On my forum we have recently been shocked by how far superior the common Best Buy? type of low price DVD/CD players have compared sonically to the expensive high end pricey front end models. We are finding the same results with some of the other electronic components that we are testing. Here’s my point. Things are moving forward; they may not be they way we thought they would be (change never is), but things are moving forward nevertheless. We live in the computer age and in an age of efficacy. Because of this new age, this bright new world will make us more productive as individuals.