20 Aug High-end Audio Systems and the Changing Landscape of Sound
I have some observations regarding the changing listening habits and performance standards of my friends, family, and clients. When I first started my business back in 1973, PAC concentrated on high-end audio systems only. That was the only technology that mattered to me. I was constantly in search of the best sounding audio equipment for myself and my clients. I would spend hours auditioning numerous combinations of turntables, tape decks, tuners, amps, speakers. All of my friends and clients were motivated to spend their hard earned cash to get the best audio system they could afford. Sound quality really mattered and the size of the speakers or the lack of remote control did not.
Fast forward 20 years. Big changes in priorities have taken place. Speakers are now being built flush into ceilings and walls. They sound bad, and they are out of sight and out of mind. These speakers are being connected to multi-channel switching systems which further compromises the sound quality. The music sources have become cd jukeboxes and am/fm tuners. The turntable is all but forgotten about. Many of our clients were perfectly satisfied with the performance level of these types of systems.
Now we jump to the new millennium. The latest music source component is now a smart phone, portable digital music player or video display devices. The latest speakers systems sit either in or on your ears. Music from iTunes, Amazon, and other music services is heavily compressed which further hampers the true high fidelity listening experience. We also were handed digital streaming music systems from companies like Sonos that access music from your home computer and control it via smartphone or tablet. Except for several factors, as long as you have strong wifi throughout your home, you are all set. The music is mostly compressed. The equipment is not designed with great sonic performance as a priority. It is all about accessibility and convenience, not about high-end audio systems.
So in a nutshell, the majority of people under the age of 40 have never heard great musical performances from high-end audio systems. They don’t know what they are missing because they never had it in the first place.
I long for the days when having a high end 2 channel music rig sitting in your home or college dorm was second only to a hot sports car sitting in your driveway. I am still committed to providing advice and info regarding products and set up, and even more importantly the demonstration of the products themselves. Listening to a basic 2 channel music system that sells for $3000 will truly surprise the listener that may be comparing it to the method they have been using to listen to music. Or try a mid-range system for $15,000 that will take the listener several step closer to a live musical performance. Or go for the gusto and listen to a rig that prices out at $50,000 or more. Now you really can obtain true realism. All of this is predicated on carefully selected components with the help of an expert. Don’t try this at home. High-end audio systems are not plug and play and certainly not D.I.Y.
Ralph Tarnofsky has been guiding his clients, friends and family towards the acquisition of high-end audio systems that serve the music and the owner equally well since 1973.