Hifi in the last twenty or so years seems to be being dragged in two completely disparate directions. On the one hand we have the hifi enthusiast (audiophile) who will go to almost any lengths to achieve the very best audio reproduction in the home and on the other we have a largely disinterested public who are more than happy to plug in their ipod and earbuds and listen to Mp3s they have downloaded.
In short the man in the street has stopped buying hifi and the market is becoming more and more polarised between very expensive hifi and nofi.
I’ve written about this before in my “Dream Hifi” article, but when I was a teenager I lusted after a good quality budget system and the magazines of the day championed budget hifi for those starting out on their hifi buying career. For those of you who were teenagers in the 80s I’m sure you remember the system – Dual turntable, Nad or Marantz amplifier and a pair of Kef or Wharfedale loudspeakers – a system that was not cheap, but was attainable for many.
Where are those champions now and where is the good quality budget hifi they were once promoting? How do we as an industry get Joe Public and in particular teenage Joe Public, interested in Hifi again?
Hifi manufacturers need to realise that offering a high quality, affordable hifi system is good economics – once a teenager realises that they can get a much better sound in their bedroom then they are much more likely to buy into the upgrade concept and in later years spend serious money on their music reproduction electronics. Good quality, budget hifi is a stepping stone drug that will eventually lead to a much harder addiction!
We all love to read about the really serious hifi kit that is out there and we are all guilty of lusting after and reading about the uber high-end hifi most of us can only ever dream of affording and there is nothing wrong with this.
I’m sure many of Hifi Pig’s readers will watch Top Gear (for those of you not in the UK I’m sure you have a very similar show, where a group of middle aged men test drive expensive cars and chat about them in front of the cameras). Top Gear showcases and test drives the most expensive and exclusive vehicles out there. They also have challenges where they go out and buy exciting vehicles on a limited budget. They also talk about good value, exciting cars that the man in the street can realistic go out and buy. The Lambos and the Veyrons are the eye candy, they are aspirational and they are the hook. They are the product that gets the teenage lad (and middle aged Dad) excited about cars and out buying cars that are affordable, but perform well; cars that give a taste of the unattainable without breaking the bank. This is what the hifi industry needs!
The car industry has managed to pull off the magic trick and so have the fashion industry. The top fashion houses know that they will sell very few of their haute-couture range we see draped over top models in London or Paris fashion weeks and it may well even lose them money, but what they are sensible enough to realise is that what they are doing is creating aspirational products that people will lust after, realise they are way beyond their means, but will then go out and buy the label’s diffusion range.
With this in mind Hifi Pig will very clearly set out its stall. Yes we will review and continue to promote the really superb high-end hifi that is out there and yes we will still discuss and talk about achieving the very best audio reproduction in the home, but we will also champion a real entry level system that a teenager can just about realise, or that man Joe can nip out and buy without too much fuss.
We want to show people that there is so much more than the low quality “elevator music for life” they are listening to at present and that once they engage with music and with real hifi then their lives will be greatly enriched.
Over the coming months we will speak to manufacturers and dealers and we will put together what we feel is the best system money can buy for less than £250…NEW…and we will promote this system as being the system that Hifi Pig and our reviewers believe will offer the best bang for your buck! It will be a moveable feast however and if a new and better value, better sounding product happens along that is in budget, then that will be slotted into the system. If a particular component is better suited to a particular genre of music then we will say “If you like Dubstep have a think about using this bit of kit!”
Let us have your comments!