To Jeff Fritz,
Some time ago you were kind enough to respond to a letter that I wrote regarding my experience with the Devialet D-Premier, and I was wondering if you could provide your input on another experience that I had last week. I live in Colorado and decided to attend the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest this past weekend. It was such an exciting opportunity to get to hear and see products from companies like Lansche, Wilson Audio, Soulution, YG Acoustics, Ypsilon, Transrotor, Constellation Audio, and Raidho (among the many others)!
As a relative newcomer to the audio community, I've enjoyed how accessible information about these beautiful products is and have truly appreciated the services that are springing up as offshoots of the industry; the high-resolution download sites such as Society of Sound are some of my favorite ways to discover new music now. Unfortunately, as with any online community, the audio community has its fair share of trolls. Scrolling through the comments sections on The Absolute Sound's or Stereophile's websites is always a depressing experience and one of the reasons I like the SoundStage! websites is that there aren't comment threads attached to the articles. Whether it's the question of manufacturers "ripping off" the consumers, whether cables do or don't make a difference, whether analog is inherently better than digital, whether people can hear the difference between amplifiers or whether they're just rubes being sold an expensive placebo, we have to sift through the obnoxious opinions of people far too invested in indulging their own intellectual vanity to enjoy their stated hobby on any level in order to discuss products designed to enhance our lives!
It was my assumption that this attitude was largely confined to a vocal minority that hangs out online, and that it was not representative of the industry as a whole -- call me naive, I guess. Unfortunately I did not find that to be the case while walking around RMAF. Speaking with dealers, it seems like they all hate their customers. Speaking with reviewers, it seems like they all hate the reps. Speaking with consumers, it seems like they all have their list of manufacturers that are overpriced or overhyped, and these manufacturers are apparently conspiring to rob them blind. I understand that people become jaded with experience, but this is simply going too far.
So, recognizing that there is a problem within the industry, what steps can we take to reverse it? I like that you decided to put an end to TWBAS. I think that removing some of the elitism from the discussion of these products is an excellent way to start and that promoting a willingness to compare products across a variety of price points in order to establish value is a reasonable step as well.
One thing that I believe would be beneficial, and that you may be in a position to facilitate, would be a broader dialog with the manufacturers themselves. Let's get rid of this "good ol' boys" mentality and start talking a little more about what goes into manufacturing these products, the philosophy behind their design, and their ultimate purpose: the reproduction of beautiful music. A prime example would be the head of R&D for the SAM project at Devialet: his enthusiasm for his own product is infectious and speaking with him was the most enjoyable experience I had all day yesterday. I believe that a series of well-publicized and open conversations with individuals like him would really help to re-focus people on why we love these products.
Perhaps I'm off target, but I would appreciate your opinion on these sentiments.
Man, you're on point. And you've made some excellent points that I can add little to. I do think that in any hobby there will always be some banter, even bickering, regarding this brand versus that brand and so on. It is human nature. What we have to do as press is shed light on issues such as value and absolute performance. That has the potential to cut through the noise, and is my focus in my own writing.
Ultimately what will help this industry survive are guys like you who are thoughtful in their approach to the hobby and ultimately willing to expend considerable resources to have great music reproduction in the home. From the sound of your letter, you're not likely to simply follow along with the fads of the day, which would make you eventually burn out on the high end. My advice is to keep listening, keep learning, and keep talking to folks. I certainly invite you to keep in touch with me. I look forward to hearing your ruminations as your audio journey continues. . . . Jeff Fritz