Re: Are we reaching the end of High End Audio?
I think you all are missing the point of why the high-end is dwindling.
It's the music industry.
It started in the 90's with labels fawning over the next one hit wonder rather than building a career. Once each major had their stock of OHW's the loudness wars kicked in. Label execs (and some artists/producers) wanted that one hit to be the loudest thing on the radio, in the jukebox, on your iPod.
I am 32 years old and came to this "hobby" because of my love of music. We always had music playing in the house, never on high-end gear but decent budget gear. For my dad who used to DJ high school dances it wasn't about the gear, it was about the crates of 1000's of 45's and the music on them.
After working long summers and continuing part time during college I began wanting to hear deeper into the recordings. While my friends were busy outfitting their cars with as many 12" subs as they could fit so you could hear them coming from four blocks away I went out and bought a pair of NHT SuperOnes, some stands, an NAD Integrated Amp, a Sony CD player and my first CD...The Beatles - "Antholog Vol. 1". That was around Christmas '95.
I've accumulated over 700 CD's since then and upgraded my gear but I've also run SMACK into a brick wall...a BIG brick wall. The quality of my gear and the training of my ear are far better than the quality of the recordings by my favorite artists.
I listen to primarily what is considered Indie/College/Britpop type of rock music. I've got a respectable catalog of classics from the 60's and 70's along with some country, jazz, and classical. Some of the recordings I have in the latter two genre's sound amazing, especially those on SACD or DVD-Audio (yes I was one of those suckers). The problem is, that's not the music I love.
The music I love and that most kids listen to, popular music, is so compressed (not in the MP3 sense) during mastering that on a good system it sounds like complete crap. There is no soundstage, the levels on everything are maxed, and it's fatiguing after an album's worth of listening.
Most people argue that kids today don't care about sound quality because of the convenience of mp3's on their iPod. That's misleading. The truth is that the favorite song from your average 16 year old's favorite artist played on CD over the best system money can buy will well...not sound that great. In fact, as most of us know, it might sound worse if it's an analytical-leaning system that reveals the source for what it is and exposes, even magnifies those flaws.
Some might think one could tailor a system to lean towards the warm/fuzzy/analog/tube sounding side of things...WRONG. You can't, in any way, polish a turd.
Until there's a revolution within the music industry towards sound quality the high-end will continue to dwindle and become an increasingly smaller niche relegated to status-seeking individuals rather than music enthusiasts. Organizations like TurnItUp have the right idea but not enough people are listening to their argument.
Oh and, BTW, it's not just high-end audio that's going down the tubes...that whole Blu-Ray thing...come talk to me about it in two years when that player's an ugly looking paperweight like my SACD player.