BLOG #13. “To Dine Out with the Rich You Have to Feed Breakfasts to the Poor” – AN EPILOGUE TO THE MOSCOW “HI-FI & HIGH END SHOW – 2016”


BLOG #13. “To Dine Out with the Rich You Have to Feed Breakfasts to the Poor” – AN EPILOGUE TO THE MOSCOW “HI-FI & HIGH END SHOW – 2016”

This show was 100% predictable and completely followed its pre-written script: to exhibitors it was another desperate shot (sic!) at the (Russian) roulette; to visitors it was just an entertaining circus to see what’s going to happen as a result of it.

Despite the heavy discounts from the show organizers, and despite the festive atmosphere of the show’s first three days, I am certain that for the most of the audio exhibitors the experience was more bitter than sweet, as the most of them were spending there their last rubles in a futile attempt to prolong their agony.

The visitors of such shows never saw the current state of the High End Audio as the direct result of their own actions. The course of their decision making was manipulated in a way so they’d believe that they’re always making a right choice.

And that they’ve got absolutely no responsibility for their personal input to the common, for the whole industry, outcome.

But the signs of the disaster, both sound-wise and economically-wise, we’ve been seeing at all the last audio shows, are the direct results of the “irresponsible” customers’ wrong perceptions, wrong decisions and wrong solutions support.

As at such shows you’ve got a chance to interact with a statistically significant number of the potential audio customers, you can easily draw the corresponding conclusions.

I believe that a proposition with content of real value will survive no matter what (even if some initial support from wise customers would never hurt).
At the same time a proposition with inferior content, and with “a negative” feedback loop from its customers will become extinct from the market, and rather sooner than later.

In my previous BLOG#12, in anticipation of the show, I described “the room” as the most significant and the most expensive home audio component, and also pointed out that without a serious onslaught on a room’s acoustic properties it’s absolutely useless to even start to discuss inner sonic qualities of an audio component operating in that environment.
The only demo at the show which demonstrated a hint of recognition of this axiom was A.P.Technology’s “Grimani Systems” active loudspeakers system. And, I am afraid, only because Tony Grimani was there visiting in person. So, coming to our local soil from, so called, “a more civilized place”, I would imagine, he insisted on that.
I really doubt if A.P. Technology would have done this if Tony would not be coming.
The acoustic room treatment devises he used looked very nice, but as the room still sounded weird, I doubt their significant effect on the “Aquarium” room sonic properties. I am sure that the shipping cost from the US to Russia per kilo of weight was the most limiting factor at the “Grimani Systems” demo: it was obvious that not only a lot more of suchlike acoustic treatment pieces, but a much wider nomenclature of those, were necessary to tame that evil room.
Then it was another indirect example of a hint of the recognition to the above “room” axiom at the show: Gong-Stereo’s set up in the middle of an exclusive huge hall on the 6th floor. But, actually, in the absence of any proper acoustic treatment (except for some brass cymbals resting on the “strategically placed” chairs, and, most likely, borrowed for the show from, already hired, a funeral band), more than anything else, that demo was an example of recognition of a different principle: that “money talks”.
Nevertheless, my irony aside, this` demo, definitely, demonstrated the best sound at the show, which fully complies with a fact that Gong-Stereo had much better room than any other exhibitor.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, in my 25+ years spent in High End Audio I can count all my customers, who seriously treated acoustic room properties issue, with the fingers on my one hand. That’s why I can say that now the vast majority of the audio customers at such shows are “reaping what they personally sown”. They haven’t been voting for the right ideas about the most important audio component – the room - with their dollars, and, eventually, at such shows they get what they deserve.
Nevertheless, the show visitors are still not fully aware of what’s going on, so they came to this latest circus performance, and they still spend a lot of effort foolishly argue between themselves about the virtues of different audio components that briefly flashed there in front of their ears.
… Even if these talks would be as useless as the discussions of the cinematographically significant features of a movie that has been shown in a theater in which the projectionist forgot to turn off the light.

At my seminar at the show titled “How to Build a Sonic Bridge from Home High End Audio to Its Portable Version” I started with a statement that if twenty years ago all of us used a telephone land line, now all of us are using cell phones, and without any loss in quality of communication.
Our common – from manufacturers to the consumers - goal in building this “bridge” is to try to transfer the most of High End Audio’s old values and sonic accomplishments to the new technological platform of portable audio. Applying for that process all the established ideology, knowledge, skill and experience we accumulated through the years spent as hardcore home audiophiles.
We need to build this “bridge” not only because the new technological platform would allow music lovers a better fit to the new reality (lifestyle-, demography-, economically- and technologically- wise), but also because in the process of building it we can get rid of the biggest stumbling block of all to attain a great sound – the listening room.
When asked at the seminar why home audio buffs are not interested in high performance portable audio, my reply was that it’s a “chicken and egg” scenario: in the absence of proposition there were no demand, and vice versa.
And now the situation has drastically changed: more and more recent proposition of excellent quality is becoming available, so it’s only sheer insistence on being “narrow-minded” that stops the traditional audiophile community from forming a consolidated Portable High End Audio demand.

As the show visitors’ reaction to our own StereoPravda SPearphone SB-7 In-The-Ear Monitors demonstrated, in the absence of the room, and when the listening environment of an ear canal becomes more or less the same for different individuals, the reaction to the sonic qualities of a product becomes universal. Everybody hears the same sonic result, including the product developers. In all four days of the show I heard exactly the same description of the sound of our earphones from a lot of different customers.
Of course, hearing the same doesn’t mean that various show visitors’ dispositions to different aspects of our ear monitors design, including the looks, the feel, etc are the same: for instance, some people still think that we need to further “comb” their looks, while others think that it’s good as it is. The same goes for our monitors’ physical dimensions: some found the ear canal fit comfortable, but some found, at least, initially, that it’s not.

As much as we would like to come up with a perfect product, at the same time I am fully aware that a lot of the visitors’ prejudices are the direct result of their Consumer Electronics industry upbringing (including its High End Audio segment, always clinging to its “Big Brother” for all sorts of inspirations).

That upbringing has always been related to the industry’s widely spread awareness that:

“To dine out with the rich, you have to feed breakfasts to the poor”.

Not literally poor, of course, but “the poor” in our parochial sense.
When, for instance, a fast food joint over-the-counter cashier can be listening to “Tosca” while riding back to a Moscow suburb on the subway after his morning shift, so for him a good quality earphone, for which he’s been saving for the whole year, can be like “dining with the rich”, while a visiting president of his corporation will be, like, “eating breakfasts” fed to him by a CE manufacturer when, after a pretentious night at the Bolshoi opera and a dinner at “Turandot” restaurant, he’ll be snoozing at his first class seat on his way from Moscow back to New York to a soundtrack of the Lady Gaga’s last offering via “8-bucks-in-cost” (according to Apple’s Tim Cooke) Beats earphones.

What I mean by “the poor” in our specific case, is a “poor” demand, not necessarily due to a lack of available resources. This “poor” demand is often based on a lack of passionate interest in the field, can be also a direct result of poor awareness of what constitute a real content, a real system of values in an audio product, poor awareness of the appropriate tech issues, and, specifically, for High End Audio the “poor” demand can be due to a total confusion over the correct priorities in assembling a decent system, of which an adequate evaluation of a manufacturer’s intentions to come up with a product can be a necessary condition to properly consider an audio component as a high performance one.
A symptom of this “poor” demand, as another parochial example, would be a case of a someone, who would buy a pair of some pretty ordinary speakers, then would bring them to a wrong room, would just slap them against a wall, and who would, obviously, get a terrible sound in that room, and who, as a remedy for that fiasco, would typically rush to buy a new set of audio cables.

The unavoidable logical conclusion from the above upbringing leitmotif is a socio-political one:

“To make sure that you will continue to dine out with the rich, you must make sure that the poor will continue to stay poor”.

Yes, this does contradict quite a few reasonable economic theories, and, I agree, wide acceptance of this principle in audio is one of the main reasons why we’ve been having a serious problem in our industry for the last several years.
But why it continues to perpetuate itself in many manufacturing industries is another story.

As a result of that Consumer Electronics upbringing it looks as many “poor” in their demands not only don’t mind this scenario, they even insist on their right to stay “poor”.
Time after time, and through the many years, the vast majority of audio show visitors, and even in their spending mode, proved this in front of me.

That’s exactly why, despite all the doom and gloom hanging in the Moscow April air above the exhibitors, and despite them dining out in the hotel cafeteria instead of some expensive restaurants of the past, this “updated” version of the original CE leitmotif became the show exhibitors’ only hopeful inspiration.

And that gospel became the (unofficial) motto of the Moscow “Hi-Fi & High End Show - 2016”.

20.04.2016 // Author:  (Bigmisha) // Number of views:  2039

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