Are you a high-end ambassador?

Whether your interests in audio are as a businessperson, as an enthusiast, or both, many are concerned that the community will eventually fade in today’s digital age.  How can we prevent this from happening?  Audiogon user, Last_lemming proposes that we all become “high-end ambassadors” showing others the way into the industry and enlightening them on the pleasures of high quality sound.  However, not all of our users agreed that introducing others to audio is a valuable use of their time.  Is it possible to explain the audio obsession to an outsider?  Or must they find their own motivation to become involved?  Read some of the responses to this issue below.

Last_lemming: Lately I’ve been trying to be an ambassador of high-end. I fear high quality music is a dying breed with the advent of MP3’s and the like. So I try to sway those who can be swayed to begin their journeys into high-end audio reproduction.  When speaking to friends about music, I usually ask if they have ever heard their favorite music on a high-end system. To which almost all say no, and then ask why. A fair question. I usually say something on the order of “if you haven’t heard your music on a high-end system then you really haven’t heard your music.” This bait usually gets them over so they can hear what I’m talking about. And indeed to the uninitiated, even a simple system such as mine can be quite eye opening. It was for me 20 years ago when I heard a high-end system the first time! When they ask how much it costs however, well, that’s another reaction altogether. Usually I get “it’s not that important to me!” And then they ask why is it so expensive?

This is where the audiophile has to try and explain what makes good sound and how the equipment contributes to the experience. I usually try to explain it terms of high resolution photography. I try to compare a low resolution photograph taken from a cheap camera. The picture will be blurry, the colors not as distinct, and the gradations not as varied when comparing the same photo taken with a professional camera. I say both pictures will give you an image you understand, but one will be closer to lifelike. Most people then get it.  How do you try to be an ambassador to high-end? Or do you even try?

Ths364: I let friends hear stuff on a really good sounding vintage system that they could approximate for a few hundred bucks if they look around a little. They can go further or spend more once their feet are in the door. I also get the added benefit of hearing music I have never heard in many cases- so it benefits me also!

Rrog: “I fear high quality music is a dying breed with the advent of MP3’s and the like.” Are you kidding? We are the dying breed. When our generation is gone, high-end audio will be gone too.

Onhwy61: You would be doing your friends acquaintances far better by showing them how inexpensive good sound is than by showing them how expensive and complicated high-end sound is.  I recently got a friend of mine to replace his Bose 201s with Dynaco A25s. He couldn’t be happier. Cost — $35 and some work refinishing the cabinets. He’s using them with an estate sale $30 vintage Pioneer receiver. Is it high-end? No. Does it sound good? Yes!

Bighead63: When I first started out I had nowhere, I mean nowhere to go. I didn’t know what stuff was or what difference it made. I was 23 fresh out of school and wanted to try to put together a HT system.  Never once did music on the HT sound right to me. I found a couple forums, read the crap that it doesn’t make a difference, went to a few dealers and then started with 2 channel. Finally music started to sound more like music and things mattered. Do I wish I could have had someone “show me the way”? You bet. I still would like it if I could hear some other people’s systems to see what differences it makes and what they enjoy for sound. But the problem is I find a lot of people closed off to the idea of allowing a younger person into their home to listen to their system.

Also, dealers are not the most outgoing to the younger generation. Sorry but if you have to follow me around making sure I don’t touch anything then I am not going to buy from you. Heck, I had one laugh at me when I told him what I was looking to buy for new speakers and questioned why anyone my age would be into this hobby. If no one is open to allowing others to experience or hear for themselves what something sounds like how can you expect someone to want to drop 5K on an amp or 10K on a pair of speakers? This goes for dealers but also others in the hobby.

Also it’s funny, I do go out of my way with friends to have them come over hear my stuff. I try to help out a lot of guys I know because even they want vinyl vs MP3 or discuss what a tube amp sounds like. They may not have a ton of money right now but when they are turned off by the way people act in the hobby of the “I’m better than you and only the rich can do this” kind, how can anyone expect them to come back and want to be in this? If you show people how to start out, what different speakers, vinyl vs. MP3 and CD vs. MP3 can sound like, they will start to question as well.

What is the typical response you get when you tell friends, family, and acquaintances of your interests in audio?  Have you been successful or given up on being an ambassador for high-end?  Comment below to discuss!

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