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August 24, 2011

Could High End Speakers Become Popular Again? A New Study Thinks So

Filed under: Question of the Month — Tags: , — Amie C @ 11:25 am

Will the quality of high-end audio finally trump the convenience of portability? Photo credit: Plusverde

Let’s face it: in the 70s and 80s, the bigger the speaker, the better.  Brown grilles, orange woofer detailing – if you were serious about audio, it showed!

And then came the minimalist 90s . . . everything became tiny and invisible and as to quality?  Well, it sounded better than your boom box or Walkman, right?

A recent study published by the Consumer Electronics Association surveyed 1,440 non-audiophiles this summer to determine the state of audio and the notion of quality in audio.  The results pointed at a new trend that surprised them – and may surprise you!  It seems that nearly 4/10 self-defined non-audiophile people are thinking of stepping up to a better audio experience with high end speakers and audio components.

Technology is speeding along and it’s now possible to store larger and larger amounts of data on smaller and smaller devices.  If you’d ever told me my first iPod would be 16GB and hold hundreds of high-resolution lossless songs, I think I would assumed it would be in a case as big as a boombox, not something that I can barely weigh!

My theory is that the fact that you were listening to low-fi wasn’t front-of-mind when compared to the novelty of having all your music available everywhere, in whatever order you wanted to listen to it in.  When faced with that sort of choice, did it really matter how it sounded?  Or was it enough to rediscover your music collection a thousand different ways?

Think about it – if you’re old enough to remember the day your family got a VCR or BetaMax, the novelty of being able to watch a movie on demand was astounding!  You didn’t care if it was on the kitschy little kitchen TV – heck, you’d even watch old George Burns movies at Grandma’s, just because you could.

But then, slowly, quality started to become important.  Instead of everybody having a 25-inch TV, the sizes began to increase, and then when big screen displays were truly best described as ‘pixellated’, the quality of the display became important and we saw 720p and 1080i join the fray.

I think the march to quality will always follow the stampede to convenience. I think we like to ‘gorge’ on novelty before ‘savouring’ quality.  And I think the experience of hearing every one of your favorite artists in high quality is an idea that is bound to spread to a new generation of audio appreciators.  They may be your kids, they may be your parents, they may be people in your office who don’t know a tweeter from a woofer but suddenly, they’ll be learning the lingo and asking you to help them get the ultimate audio experience.

What do you think?  Insightful study by the CEA or pipe dream of audiophiles?

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4 comments on “Could High End Speakers Become Popular Again? A New Study Thinks So

  1. polk tsi400 on said:

    I think the only problem is that kids of today don’t know what “good audio” is. They’ve become so accustomed to compressed MP3 music, most don’t know what they’re missing…

  2. I’d love to see you guys make some no compromise mega towers to rock the house!

  3. worfzara on said:

    I do think kids know what good quality sounds like. Especially if they take part in a music program at school. Learning what an instrument is supposed to sound like when your young can really help this, it did me.

    Lets keep those school programs going!

    Amie, I think you are right on here.

    • I know just what you mean – I played cello going to school and when I test music it’s always to Yo Yo Ma or Ofra Harnoy. Those help me determine how natural the instruments sound better than any other test albums. Not that I sounded like either one of them, but you get the picture! {grin}

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