Last Chance for Hi-Fidelity Sales?

By Douglas Weinstein
Published on: July 28, 2017

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<Begin rant> I’ve been experimenting with wireless speaker systems for the past few months. We converted one of our basement bedrooms into a dedicated theater, so I no longer have my main stereo rig in the great room off the kitchen. Ergo, I needed something decent to fill a rather large space and I wanted the type of hi-fidelity I’ve grown accustomed to. Not stupid crazy hi-fidelity, but the kind of sound that makes house guests stop and tune in and say “What kind of system is that? It sounds awesome.”

I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve settled (for the time being) on using my B & W Zeppelin I’ve had in my office for a few years. It gives me the ability to stream music from my phone or iPad. And it sounds okay. Not great, but much superior to the three or four other wireless speakers I tried out from some of the top selling brands. Which mostly sucked. Well, not mostly sucked – they all sucked. Anyway, to make a long story short, I now have my eyes (and ears) set on a wireless system from Europe that is about to storm the United States. And while it probably won’t stand toe-to-toe with my wired rig, it promises great things nonetheless. To quote Anders Rossnes from Audio Fidelity, “There are aspects of the sound that does not approach our reference system, but that should not surprise anyone. What is really astonishing is that both the ability to play loud and with depth is far better than I ever thought possible at this price. And all this with active speakers, a good digital preamp, lots of inputs and simple, hassle-free remote operation from your phone or tablet! The most important thing is the balance, timbre and surprising degree of resolution that combines with the uncanny ability to convey a huge acoustic space. Some might wish for slightly more airiness, but it all sounds like it draws the listener into the music. We had tracks that sounded so good it could make a man religious!”

The brand I’ve landed on isn’t the message. That last phrase, “tracks that sounded so good it could make a man religious!” – that’s the message I want to briefly comment on. Do you talk to your clients and describe the joys of hi-fidelity in those terms? Convey the utter rhapsody of a three dimensional soundfield? With wireless speaker sales skyrocketing, I’ve started to wonder if short-selling customers with tinny, skinny, crappy audio will be the final lost opportunity to expose people to the wonders and thrills of hi-fidelity. Will the industry miss the boat and fail in its professional responsibilities to demonstrate every possibility for the savvy shopper?

Those are some thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been shopping for a wireless music system. It correlates with another item I’ve been shopping for and the difference in attitude of the sales people I’ve encountered. Here’s that ‘other side of the coin’:

I’ve been shopping for a new bike here in the Boulder area. These guys and gals at the bike shops aren’t showing me the $500 bikes just to turn a quick sale. They’re doing their jobs and showing me the upper reaches and letting me weigh the pros and cons. They don’t blush when they ask if I’d like to take a test ride on a $3,500 bike. “Just leave me your drivers license and take a cruise around town.”  It just blows me away when I think how many retailers, integrators and online specialists are settling for highlighting and showcasing $350 wireless speakers and thinking they’re showing customers the “high end”. Utterly amazing. What a waste. What a disservice. <End rant>

Douglas Weinstein

Douglas Weinstein

Doug is the managing editor and co-founder of the Technology Insider Group. Previously, he was the co-founder and Executive Director of the Elf Foundation, a non-profit organization that created Room of Magic entertainment theaters in children's hospitals across North America.

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