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Chris A

Where is the Hi-Fi Marketplace Really Going?

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Specifically, what's happening to the hi-fi equipment and higher fidelity recordings industry now? 

 

Apparently, those with the financial and living-space means to own hi-fi listening rooms/HTs with larger, more capable loudspeakers appears to be surviving and even thriving, with younger generations continuing to buy used and new higher performance loudspeakers. Specifically, this includes loudspeakers that can play at higher SPL without audible modulation and compression distortion. Loudspeakers of the cost and size of Khorns are largely now owned by baby boomers and Gen-Xers (in North America) and other countries where Khorns are found. 

 

In 1970, the median American age was 28.1 years.  In 2016, the median age was 37.9(!)(source)A Gallup poll found that 74 percent of Americans plan to work past 65.

 

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This is the effect of the "aging hi-fi world"--everywhere the general population is aging because people are living longer, working longer, and are in much better health than in generations past. 

 

Associated with this group of the most senior hi-fi aficionados is a preference for technologies and recordings of their past, e.g., phonograph records, old/reconditioned electronics, tube/valve type amplification, and monoamping/passive crossovers, as well as retreaded recordings from the past, repackaged into "higher res" formats (but not actual higher resolution).  This is same the group of potential buyers that probably make up the bulk of current Khorn sales (new and used). There is also those with a nostalgic view of the past, such as the Dave Mancuso "The Loft" rent parties, which is now largely populated by those younger than 50.  But this isn't the only group of horn-lovers.  Go take a peek over at diyAudio at where the DIY marketplace is going.  I'll give you a hint: it's not direct radiating loudspeakers with passive crossovers.

 

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The point of the conversation? Even though the hi-fi community is getting older, it isn't disappearing and younger generations of well-to-do hi-fi aficionados and nostalgia buyers continue to push the price of used Klipsch Heritage loudspeakers higher, as well as buy new Heritage models. 

 

Another observation:  Klipsch Heritage loudspeakers are able to play much louder than typical dome-and-cone-type direct radiating loudspeakers without audibly distorting (i.e., the most offensive type of distortion: modulation and compression distortion).  As the average age of hi-fi enthusiasts increases, this isn't a bad capability to have...in fact, it's an advantage to be able to play the music cleanly at higher SPL.  I think that you're going to continue to see a drift toward horn-loaded loudspeakers over time. 

 

So horn-loaded loudspeakers don't appear to be falling out of fashion anytime soon: quite the opposite, including those with newer technologies, e.g., DSP crossovers and very hi-fi class D amplification, and extremely high quality hi-res digital recordings (among others) are able to provide horn-loaded loudspeaker fidelity that was simply undreamt a generation ago.  A dystopian future in the hi-fi world isn't what I see: in fact quite the opposite as those who are older, better educated in better overall health, and possessing sustaining income continue to build and listen to the hi-fi systems of their dreams.

 

Chris

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49 minutes ago, Chris A said:

A Gallup poll found that 74 percent of Americans plan have to work past 65.

Fixed it fer ya:)

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Like Jimbo said great write up, and good news. It's encouraging there not heading back to headphones and small bookshelf speakers.

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Maybe bring back Quad vinyl.

JJK

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I'm a mid Gen-Xer (51) and have a team of 30 millenials and younger that work for me. I throw BBQs & happy hours frequently for the team and always make sure to crank up the K510/2x12s. I have a number of converts to real hifi that are just waiting to move out of small apartments before they move past the Sonos craze.

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=== this is a great observation but from what I see from my kids, ages 28,33, my step son/wife, ages 40,39 and including their pier groups I’m familiar with, Heresy sized speakers, let alone Khorns are of little to no interest. Even a “slim” floor stand RF style isn’t in the conversation. The interest shown in high quality musical reproduction is nil, zero. They are busy with kids, jobs, climbing the economic ladder. I doubt when their  lives slow down they will think - “ now I have time/money for Klipsch Heritage”. If indeed KGI has seen, will see or is currently experiencing slow Heritage sales I see a very similar problem that Harley Davidson is experiencing. Profits down by 20-25%, sales of Big Twins way off, the “Harley lifestyle” generation is passing them by. It’s not a coincidence HD is now pushing their Livewire, electric motorcycle line. They must appeal to a young high tech crowd as the Ultra Classic buyers leave the market. But in typical HD fashion the Livewire electric bike is $30K. A steep entry to the new “Electric Lifestyle” world of HD. 

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I didn't know that motorcycle sales were supposed to relevant to this discussion, but approximately half of the people that I've helped dial in their setups are under 50 years old, and some have very young children.  I see a strong resurgence in higher end hi-fi audio since the crash of 2008--especially within the last 3-4 years. 

 

If you look at diyAudio for the international view, you'll see active worldwide participation in Europe, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Middle East, Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa, as well as the US and Canada. Japan, Taiwan and South Korea also have well developed hi-fi communities that cater to horn-loaded loudspeakers.  And many horn-loaded loudspeaker enthusiasts are combining their interests with DSP crossovers, etc., as well as DIY multiple-entry horn (MEH) designs that have become quite common.

 

Chris

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I see a shift to the low-fi by many people out of convenience and a continued minority high-end market, some of which, as we all have observed here, spins off into the la-la land of pseudoscience and any price the traffic will bear. Which leaves the middle, where most of us started out, POOGE'ing our Pioneers and Kenwoods and Brand X speakers...and working our way up to better stuff.The middle I see starved for components that are actually good values-there are some but the market tries to ignore them or use them as loss leaders. When Stereophile describes a $15,000 pair of speakers as a bargain, you know "where their head is at." And yes,  I am talking about the infamous Klipschorn review...not taking issue with the product, just the perspective.

 

What kind of blows my mind is that there are so many ultra-high-end brands out there now. But there is a market to support (most) of them and a magazine corps that will yap their praises and would not be caught dead reviewing a speaker under $1K or an amp under $3K.

 

It is debatable whether this reflects growing income disparities in the West in general, or that this "cost disparity" is just a coincidental echo driven by the rise of cheap and easy digital media.

 

 

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I dont see how the true HiFi market for (blue collar) expensive items will actually grow in years to come.   Work, kids and surviving is getting to where it eats all your time and income, not even counting the loss of interest in a niche hobby that has been diluted or erased by the necessities in our lives.  I lived and breathed it up until my first born which came late in life. Now I understand how these luxuries that were a priority of desire are now are almost non-existent.  

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