This week you will notice that there has been a theme Which Hi-Fi?. In particular, we are hosting a special week-long British hi-fi event celebrating the best audio technology, past and present, from our homeland.
As part of that, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to a host of big names from some of the UK’s most iconic audio brands, including Rega, Monitor Audio and Cambridge Audio, to hear their views on topics such as
spatial audiocar hi-fi and what has changed in the last 50 years.
And while I’ve enjoyed every conversation for the most part, there’s one topic that pops up in every chat that has slowly eaten away at me over the past few weeks.
This started in late February with a casual comment from Cambridge Audio CEO Stuart George when I asked him if they have much younger customers and he said in no uncertain terms:
“I don’t know yet if hi-fi per se is relevant to them.”
Innocently enough and true – in my twenties I certainly didn’t have piles of money under my pillow for floorstanders, in fact I could barely afford my breakfast avocados.
Things escalated when Michael Hedges, Monitor Audio’s technical director, remarked, “I think this is something every audio company probably struggles with,” when I asked him the same question in a separate interview.
The last nail in the coffin then landed when I went through a transcript of Which Hi-Fi? editor-in-chief, Becky Roberts’ interview with Rega, when design engineer Ashton Wagner noted:
“I think there are a lot of people who just haven’t had the chance to have the experience of playing quality music.”
Do you see a pattern here?
We all have a problem getting young people into hi-fi. As a journalist writing on the subject, that’s a pretty big deal because I really like having readers.
Which brings me to the point of this article: we all need to find ways to show younger music fans the benefits of hi-fi.
Fortunately, I’m not alone in this thought, as Rega, Monitor Audio and Cambridge Audio all agree with my feeling. I think Monitor Audio’s Hedges put it best when he said:
“What we’re finding is that you can have a long conversation with people about how great the speakers are – how they measure, what they do, what the distortion is – and it’s kind of pointless. [It’s not] until you put them in front of those speakers [and they can hear] why it’s better than their Sonos system.”
The complexity comes from the question of “how” because it’s not like we can make people under 25 sit in front of a good set of speakers and stay there until they understand the majestic benefits of listening to Rush in stereo – believe me, I tried it with my godson, it didn’t end well.
And it’s here that no one I spoke to agreed. Each of us had a different thought.
Some think it will happen organically as hi-fi fans pass their kit on to the next generation. I won’t, my hi-fi goes into the ground with it.
Others mused that serious music fans would naturally make their own journey, possibly driven by a desire to own their music on vinyl or a CD rather than relying on streaming. The low-fi movement certainly lends some credence to that notion.
But whatever the answer is it’s a problem that keeps me up at night and I hope as an industry we can answer it because there’s so much good music in the world that deserves to be heard properly in a decent hi-fi installation. and not a cheap pair of bad-sounding Bluetooth in-ears.
What do you think? How can we encourage the next generation of hi-fi fans? Let us know with a comment below!
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