Sales of portable audio outpacing home audio components - article

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by LanceJ, Feb 24, 2006.

  1. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Moderators: I didn't know exactly where to put this so (of course!) feel free to move it if needed.

    Saw this over at another forum (to read the article itself on the original site requires registering, but a member over on the other forum posted the entire thing):

    Excerpt from the Twice.com article:

    The article goes on to say that portable sales are now nearly twice that of home components. [​IMG]

    As I've mentioned (or whined about depending on your point of view [​IMG] ) here several times before, I've noticed the past three years or so that in pretty much every retail outlet at all price points - Wal-Mart, Best Buy/Circuit, Tweeter and full-blown hi-end shops - the home audio departments have been nearly deserted. And, I just couldn't believe EVERYONE was purchasing their gear online; and anyway, wouldn't some of those online purchasers at least be looking/listening to that gear at a brick-n-mortar store before ordering it from the Internet?

    To make things clear, I'm not against portable audio gear itself but as a audio hobbyist for 27 years, I do get pretty bummed out contemplating a future where most people think a 120kbps MP3 file & a $50 docking boombox gizmo is the height of audio fidelity and technology.

    Anybody else have any thoughts about this?
     
  2. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Just agrees with what I already think:

    The iPod generation doesn't care much about sound quality, or multichannel music.

    [​IMG]

    It's all about convenience.

    The only saving grace is if you create your own MP3's, you can use a higher, variable bit rate to get better sound quality than most of the stuff available on download sites.
     
  3. mackie

    mackie Supporting Actor

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    I for one like portable players and the convenience they bring. I remember cassette tapes and the walkman. These new portable players sound much, much better than those. Because I do care about the quality of sound, I rip my music as ACC lossless, 320 kbps, or 256 kbps, and it sounds very good. I also use a headphone amp and Sennheiser HD580s as I listen too. My music sounds great...much better than the walkman.
     
  4. Dick Boneske

    Dick Boneske Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, the quality of these portable units is far better than Walkmans and other previous portable devices. Sound quality IS important to people who use these devices. With good headphones, they rival the best home audio systems.

    What is puzzling is the interest in watching videos on 2" or smaller screens on ipods and listening to music on a cell phone (some in stereo!!). These are strange trends that I can't believe will grow like personal audio devices have.
     
  5. mackie

    mackie Supporting Actor

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    I don't get this either. Going from big screen, high definition to 4" screen? I'm afraid they will catch on as people have less time to sit and watch their favorite shows. Unfortunately, I can't take my big screen with me in the car or to work.
     
  6. AlbertD

    AlbertD Stunt Coordinator

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    I care about sound quality which is why, like a lot of you, I invested money and time (in large quantities) into researching, buying, setting up, and fine tuning my electronic gear. But what portable audio has done for me is to make available my entire music collection. I have close to 500 CD's not counting my wifes'. Looking through a collection that size gets to be a chore so I find that I don't listen as often as I used to. Also when I travel (which is a lot) its hard to take music with me. But putting my entire CD collection onto my iPod, I now find I listen much more frequently and I also listen to things that I haven't heard in years. It just makes it easy. As far as traveling, it has helped quite a bit. I put on my noise cancelling headphones and simply dial up whatever I want. Sure makes the time go fast.

    Yes, quality sound and music is important to me, but not always. I can still sit back in my media room and critically listen to Alison Kraus, but I can also listen to her on the plane, albeit the quality isn't as good, but there are compromises and portable audio has given me more choices.
     
  7. ScottCarr

    ScottCarr Second Unit

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    As some one mentioned it is a matter of convenience. As much as I love my 42 inch plasma it is just a little too bulky to carry around with me.

    I think the number of shows and movies that have fair to mediocre sound tracks far out number the number the shows and movies that have great sound tracks.

    I would rather watch an episode or comedy on a 2 inch screen than not at all. The ipod video is great for music and portability. The accessories that make them a mini boom box is a reflection of the society.

    My house has one HT system and 4 varieties of ipods. I haven't been in a store looking for components in over 2 years. So I guess I am contributing to the validity of the article.

    scott
     
  8. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Sorry, no. Do the math. [​IMG] Most MP3's you can download are at 128 kbps. That compares to a rate of 1.411 mbps for CD. There's no way you can throw away over 90% of the info and get sound quality that "rivals the best home audio systems."

    Higher and/or variable bit rates can help, but compression is compression.
     
  9. Robert_Gaither

    Robert_Gaither Screenwriter

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    Cellphones are killing a lot of electronic fields thru integration of other electronics into itself. I have friends who don't carry an organiser, wear a watch, have alarm clock (they use their phone), have a landline, and most likely get rid of their ipods/mp3 players when the phone quality audio improves in storage and ease of use. Whatever portable electronics comes out in the future will most likely be a 1-2 year fad before they get absorbed by the cellphone market as well (my next bet, credit cards).
     
  10. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    I'm surprised more people haven't commented on this article (only 96 views so far).

    I don't think the article was criticizing portable gear, but simply pointing out the large drop in popularity of home gear and why that's happening.

    While I can understand why music-only home components aren't as popular anymore, I still can't understand why HT audio gear is also experiencing crappy sales.

    Here's my guesses:

    * despite home theater gear being available for more than a decade, most people still haven't heard an HT system - at any price point - so they literally don't know they are missing. This is just my opinion, but the audio portion of an HT rig is what makes any size TV into a true home theater. Your eyes can be fooled into seeing smaller versions of reality, but your ears know when a couple of 4" full-range speakers are trying to squeak out a movie soundtrack so the brain's suspension of disbelief thing is much harder to maintain.

    * as the article mentioned, few people get to hear a demonstration of audio gear. With few exceptions, if a retailer even has a HT demo rig from what I've seen it is turned off(!); configured so badly it sounds like crap; or the movie being shown has a 2.0 channel soundtrack.

    * (this is related to the above) when a demo rig IS finally present, almost without fail it is at the store's top-most price point. Umm, when the economy is as crappy as it is (for 98% of the population that is) & sales of ALL home audio gear is incredibly crummy, this doesn't seem like a logical thing to do.

    And for the same reason, stores should stop pushing those damn power conditioners and overpriced exotic cables ("Yes sir, these component cables cost more than the dvd player they are connected to." Wtf?!).

    But if someone only watches movies made before say, 1970, then I wouldn't really push the audio portion. But if they did watch the occasional "big" movie like The Matrix, then I would at least recommend a decent *stereo* audio system (and a subwoofer too but only if they clearly enjoyed powerful bass or they don't like looking at small floorstanders or even bookshelves with a 5" woofer).

    But hey, this is just all my opinion. [​IMG]
     
  11. Shane Harg

    Shane Harg Second Unit

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    Good points, Lance. This is a disturbing trend, indeed. As an acoustic musician, myself, I'm always searching that ever elusive transparent experience in home audio gear, but I'm not rich, nor do I have huge room in which to place large tower speakers, so I go with the best components I can afford, but which my room will accommodate. Furthermore, I have to balance my budget between gear for my two obsessions - listening/watching and playing - which tightens the noose even more on home audio gear. My listening gear is therefore much better than most people settle for, but more humble than some. I just bought a full HT from scratch, less a DVD player, on a budget of $5000 and feel I faired really well with the limited choices - especially with regard to speakers - over here in Japan.

    While I don't disagree with Lances points, here is my own list of reasons of why I think people won't spend good money on home audio components.

    1. Spent it all on the display - most people in this world are visual and fewer and fewer grow up listening to music, which merits anything more than that which can just play it LOUDLY. I can't tell you how many people I run into who brag on their "home theater" only to find out later that they have a $5000 display and a $200 surround sound system from, where else? Wal-Mart. I have advised many people who were planning home theaters. The ones who listened to my advice (which amounted to balancing the budget between the display and the sound), were always happy in the end and never complained. The ones who just ignored me and were determined to go it on their own almost always had regrets or complaints in the end - especially if they experienced my setup either before or after, which goes back to what Lance said about people not having heard a decent demo.

    2. It's the "convenient" digital information age - Why listen at home when I can listen anywhere I have to be? I remember when they said computers were going to make more time for us to do the things which mattered most. Now, I don't know about anybody else, but that hasn't worked out too well for me. The only reason I have time to sit on my couch and enjoy music on my home audio system is because I MAKE the time. Music is a very important part of my life and besides that, I'll be darned if I'm going to let all the money I spent on the system and on the LPs, SACDs, DVDs, CDs, etc. go to waste. Most people in this world can take it or leave it. They'll buy an iPod (at very most) and download the music for free from the Internet. People just don't put a very high priority on that which they didn't have to work very hard to get.

    3. Where's the bass? It started in the '70s. If it can play loudly with lots of bass, why, that's good enough. I've had the police sent to my door for playing music on acoustic instruments with no amplification, but I've never seen or even heard of a car getting pulled over and ticketed for being able to hear and feel the subs, which fill the trunk, pounding from 2 miles away. Much of today's music just doesn't demand quality from the system. "Gimme the subwoofer and screw the rest!"

    Very few people take time to "stop and smell the roses" anymore, which I think is the biggest reason (problem) of all. Who do you know that actually takes time out their day to simply sit in the living room, listen to and become totally engrossed in music? That seems almost too ridiculous a notion to even consider for most people, today. And what of today's popular music can you actually imagine anybody doing that to? To the few, it's meditative, almost spiritual to just listen to an uplifting piece of music and let the stress of the day dissipate. For everybody else, it's just a backdrop to the "more important things" which fill the day.

    "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
    -- Berthold Auerbach

    "Do I listen to pop music because I'm miserable or
    am I miserable because I listen to pop music?"
    -- John Cusack (from High Fidelity)
     
  12. Shane Harg

    Shane Harg Second Unit

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    This is a point somebody at the original forum brought up, which I thought was totally true, but hilarious in the way it was said.
     
  13. mackie

    mackie Supporting Actor

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    I'm going to argue another side of this for the sake of discussion.

    Because of downloads:
    I'm listening to a larger variety of music than ever before.

    I spend more time listening to that music.

    Regardless or what some same, MP3 and compressed music at high but rates can sound very good.

    I listen to more of my music because it is easily accessible.

    When I use my ipod, I use good headphones or IEMs, and I usually rip music at 256kbps, 320kbps, acc lossless, or wav. Also, I've bought all, well 90%, of my music and rarely download music.

    I tend to agree that the audiophile industry has a hand in fewer people discovering how good music can sound at home.
     
  14. Robert_Gaither

    Robert_Gaither Screenwriter

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    Well it seems we all agree it's due to convenience (a la McDonalds) and not quality, but then what do we expect when they push pop groups on society to keep the sales on-going?
     
  15. AlbertD

    AlbertD Stunt Coordinator

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    I would suggest that "We" let society do what it wants and we do what we want. I would argue that most of the people involved in home theater and music that are on this site are outside the norm and rather immune to those types of pressures. I haven't seen or heard a lot of sheep on this site!!!

    If somebody pushes a "pop" group on society to keep sales of MP3 players going, and somebody buys one for that reason, so what? We all have different reasons why we make purchases and one is a valid as the other.
     
  16. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Mackie: I think what bothers most here about this situation is that unlike yourself, the Average Joe* doesn't rip his MP3 tracks at high bitrates like you do (and i've met very few people who know what FLAC is, including several computer techs). And AFAIK iTunes and other similar services only offer lo-fidelity files like 120kbps for purchase, and most headphones & docking boombox devices don't offer very high quality sound reproduction (not even mid-fi quality sound [i.e. like from Pioneer, JBL, etc]).

    And another new format, HDRadio, I think is going to make things even more confusing to the Joe & Janes out there. This is another compressed digital format that is supposed to only operate as high as 96kbps. Bleh! I dunno, maybe the compression system is really sophisticated and will actually sound really nice. And in an interview, a company rep said the letters "HD" don't stand for high definition and in fact, he said they don't stand for anything. So I don't blame any non-hobbyist for thinking MP3s and anything with the word "digital" or the letters HD is supposed to signify high quality (and some people wonder why I get irritated with the marketing arms of so many companies). I couldn't find the original interview on stevehoffman.tv but I did find this article, which is even more revealing. [​IMG] Damn, how many variations on music genres ("sub-subgenres"?) can they come up with!? "Old-fashioned" radio did great without this nonsense. More info on this: possible HD Radio **encryption**

    * I'm not using this phrase in a derogatory manner, but only to describe a person that DOESN'T include audio/video gear as one of their hobbies
     
  17. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    This is really a topic for a different type of forum but I have to add a quick comment to one of Shane's comments:
    BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

    [​IMG]



    (and I like that Auerbach quote)

    Back to audio...........
     
  18. mackie

    mackie Supporting Actor

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    This debate about compressed vs. uncompressed music listen is going to evolve into one of the great debates. There are valid reasons for both sides of this. It'll be the same as tube vs. solid state, LP vs. CD, Ford vs. Chevy...

    I hope three things emerge out of this new way of listening to music.

    1. People are exposed to a wider variety of really great music - this one is happening.
    2. The audiophile industry finds a way to get this crowd to move into higher fidelity. Current marketing schemes aren't working.
    3. As internet connections get faster and disk space gets larger, there will be a tendency to offer music at higher bit rates. I don't think this is impossible.
     
  19. Chris>JEN

    Chris>JEN Auditioning

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    yup I agree
     
  20. Bobby T

    Bobby T Supporting Actor

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    You guys also have to remember that a large percentage of ipod owners are high school and college kids. They don't have the money or space for home audio. And they are not at home enough to use a home system.

    And then there's the percentage of ipod owners like me. I have a home audio system. I use the ipod at work and in the car. It's perfect for that. I also like to use it to listen to audiobooks too as I don't have the free time to read much anymore.
     

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