October 20, 2010

Mrs. Ninja’s RMAF 2010 Write up Part 2

Moving the Hobby/Industry Forward

This was on a lot of people’s minds this year and I was asked how we can get more young people and women interested. “WELL…,” I answered and paused because I wasn’t really sure if they wanted the answer given that the audio world is 95% men over the age of 50 and it was usually them doing the asking. This problem I believe has a few root issues that can be overcome with a few solutions as I will outline for you. (Now if you are over the age of 50 and in the audio hobby I am sure you are as spry as a jack rabbit so you can ignore my generalities an assume I am talking about someone else, unless you own a business in this industry then I am talking about you.)

Root cause number 1: Living in the past
Just for an example let’s look at the Stereophile November 2010 edition available if you don’t already get it at the show. The cover tells us of Manfred Eicher’s 40 years in the biz, Focal’s 30th anniversary, and the Smyth Realiser article has the writer remembering back to the 1960’s. Come on guys. The “when I started in this hobby” stories are fine but to live there in business is just plain irresponsible. Currently the model isn’t killing the industry because the guys with the money are the ones more established (aka older) but in a few years that well is going to start drying up and we have not planted any seeds to replace the crop we have now.

Solution number 1: Futures stock
As children where did your love of big speakers or new music come from? Have you taken the time to teach your own kids about the differences in a MP3 played over tiny ear buds and sitting with a pair of electrostatic cans playing your HDTracks recording or vintage Doors on vinyl? If we do not start educating the next generation we will not have an industry for very long. For example, The Ninja and I have a 13 year old daughter and she as all kids her age has a computer. But, unlike all her friends she has Swan M-200’s as her desktop speakers. Who’s room and for that matter who’s house do they spend the most time? Right the one they can play the music loudest and it sounds the best. Our daughter will never own some crappy plastic speaker that just makes noise because she knows better. I do understand a lot of parents do not want to spend the kind of money involved in the audio hobby on their kids (they won’t appreciate it, or take care of it) but you don’t know until you have tried. If they had to pay part of it I bet they do take real good care of it.

As with our kids our wives and/or significant other should be educated in the hobby and made a part of it. It is sad for the industry too because women have much better hearing then men. It has been proven that we hear more frequencies men can’t and are more sensitive to the top range. We see more color and are in every way more adept at picking out a loudspeaker that would truly fit the family not to mention pick a better “best in show”. Wives are shuffled off on day trips and excluded from learning about the hobby. Many men do not want us in the club, sitting in the room saying how it is (you know we will.) Maybe next year I will hold an Audio for Loved ones 101 seminar and give the basics and start making high end audio fun for the whole family. I mean the High Def TV industry; BluRay and Disney have certainly started banking on the family home theater concept. Two channel music, vintage media, and even high end personal portable audio (the headphone) can go family friendly.

Root cause number 2: Tape and vinyl v/s dreaded MP3
New technologies the young un’s seem the most interested in have teeny tiny files on them to store a thousand songs and still be used as a phone. New artists do not release on vinyl ort (do not even know what they are) and they chop of the tops and bottoms of everything. Where does any of that belong in our world of lossless media and restoration analog projects? It doesn’t until we can find a way to make high quality digital media more accessible/cost affordable. I heard an interesting idea, a music only operating system, seems to me that is something the younger generation could get really into. The more we create products that will make technology retrofit with the past the younger our audience would get.

Solution number 2: it’s here now and proven
In the beginning the old guys (I mean pioneers) of audiophiles were taking things apart to see how they worked, how to make them better and then reached a precipice. Started companies and didn’t want to share anymore in the sandbox. They were modding, tweaking, the loners in basements and garages.

Today modding or tweaking is an activity universal in industries across the board that young people gravitate to that our hobby does not make very assessable (of course you all know The Ninja and I are doing what we can to change that.) But, we cannot do it alone the manufactures also have to realize that they have to give a little to get that new breed of buyers.

Let’s compare high end audio to the computer industry, where building your own computer has become almost the norm for college kids and 20-somethings. They grew up with the tech and now customize to their hearts content. I-apps make it so we can customize our phones, surfers, skiers, snowboarders all can customize their boards, and of course the biggest one has always been cars. In the 1960’s when Shelby started messing around with a Mustang it did not devalue what the car manufacture (Ford) had done. Nor could Ford produce the car on a mass scale, to a public that could afford it, the changes that Shelby had made, as good as they were. But, a perfect symmetry of good design getting pushed to its limit for the people that wanted it was created and the industry has not suffered because of it (other things yes but not because of aftermarket upgrades.) We can make the same synergy in home audio and gain a whole new demographic of buyers and of what we really want …audiophiles.

You could take the last part as shameless self promotion but The Ninja and I are younger than most of you and we know we are right. (Like we are the only modding company out there – PLEASE.)

OK now for something completely different…
So far I have been quite snarky and a little bit a bummer so let’s turn it around. What I liked and didn’t like this year… (Yea I know I said I wasn’t going to do it, sue me)

Liked the sound of the GR Research room, treatments galore thanks to Dave (PI Audio).
Didn’t like the Lamborghini Yellow (aka cat piss yellow) paint job on Danny’s Super V’s. Danny please take the next year and find a cabinet maker worthy of your speaker designing genius.
Liked the German Physiks HRS 120 on the 11th Floor where Laufer Teknik had appropriate sized speakers for the room and some treatments in there.
Didn’t Like the German Physiks Borderland Mk IV on the 10th Floor. The speakers are too big for the room and just placed in there (too close to the back wall) with no treatments or anything. For an omnidirectional speaker it was the worst thing you could have done.
Like Frederik Caroe of Dueland Coherent Audio. Congrats on the new little one, baby at home and the more affordable line of Dueland caps coming out. You have truly earned the name The Mad Capper.
Didn’t Like Vandersteen’s room this year without the cage. Come on guys the 7’s are about the only thing you have done that I don’t hate and you ruined it this year by not treating the room. Now last year you did it right. Make a note for next year.
Well I think that wraps it up for me. If anything else happened I don’t remember because I had one to many scotches at the bar before bed each night.

Mrs. Ninja

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