Over the many decades of retailing high end audio, I have observed many things … the gist of the following is a generalization of ‘end users’:
(I know it may perhaps seem an oversimplification, but an interesting one nevertheless.)
Three categories of audiophile personalities seemed to unfold as my retail years grew. And I must say that I have fallen into each one of these brackets myself at one time or another. (I guess I must have multiple personalities, lol.)
- The Equipment Collector (alias the Gear Head). These people are usually very intelligent, well read and accomplished individuals who are interested in the equipment, the technology and the science. They love the journey … the research … he debates. Their systems, although quite spectacular, are usually not musical. Not to say this is wrong. Quite the contrary. If they love the gear and it fulfils their requirement as a hobby, all is good. Much like collecting antique cars where virtually any modestly priced new car will out perform a classis (and also come with a warranty).
- The Music Lover. These customers are usually less active in reading the forums of high end audio magazines and articles and they are more interested in how their CD sounds - the one that they brought in to hear, and it is usually not a CD that one might choose to demo a system’s potential (more on that later). These are the toughest people to satisfy as they use their emotions and their ears on the one trick pony. They want it to be musical. They want good sound … no ‘Emperors Clothing’ here.
- The Crossover customer. Now, these people are quite conflicted. Too much knowledge in high end audio. Too much love of the equipment and they really love music. So, what is so divergent about this? Well, lots of "great gear" doesn't sound very musical, and having lots of ‘great gear’ is incongruous with the objective of melding sonically with each other. This is where one becomes conflicted with: "I love that amplifier"; "I love that designer"; "I know it will sound better once it warms up”; "It is only a matter of the break-in period then it will sound really good”. No! It usually does not! Sorry!
The Results Please:
- The equipment collector (alias the gear head) is happy.
- The music lover Is happiest.
- The crossover customer between the equipment collector and the musick lover is the conflicted one and either remains on their never-ending quest often listening to their audio system less and less as time passes. This is a shame, as they are the ones that are the most motivated to find musical nirvana.
As a retailer with a conscience, I always asked "the questions" to qualify my clients … and I would then do my very best at assembling a great system to meet their needs … easy as 1,2,3 !
I had an interesting talk with a reviewer from one of the top high end magazines several years ago. Basically, I stated that I believe a retailer, one with a conscience and relative experience, would be better suited to supply the end-user, the consumer, with the right system, personally recommended and compiled just for them.
This reviewer, immediately defended his position regarding his own likes and suggestions by stating that reviewers didn’t have anything vested in the brands and they would be much better equipped to recommend without bias. The problem here is, when the journalist makes a mistake, they receive a few nasty emails whereas if a retailer makes a mistake, they get the product returned - along with a very upset customer at their door. When selecting a new line, I always had to purchase it with my own money. When you invest in many different brands, a retailer really needs to know ‘why’ to carry it. Far too many times I have seen products that have been highly reviewed, then only to be pooh-poohed by the same magazines (and not much later once heard with people’s own ears). Questions find the ensuing answers to developing the correct system for every individual. Understanding the consumer, their room, their musical tastes and finding out if they are they a type 1, 2 or 3 personality helps guide the decision making. After all, it can be a great journey - and has been for me!
Musical musing for today…
“All it takes is one song to bring back a thousand memories!”