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How is the High End CE Industry Responding to the Economic Climate? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 December 2009
Article Index
How is the High End CE Industry Responding to the Economic Climate?
Bryston and THIEL Interviews
What the Future Holds

In what might be the biggest blow on the press side of the industry, Stereophile, a U.S. based audiophile print publication, watched its parent company, Source Interlink, file for bankruptcy in a bid to restructure their debt. Other magazines have lost circulation, let staff go, or have shut down completely, as is the case with a few well known European publications. Advertising revenue has been shrinking steadily, as well as attendance at high end audio trade shows.

Looking Ahead

Is it all gloom and doom? No, not really.  The high end audio industry has looked towards the future with many designers betting on the future of computer based music systems.A number of new DAC technologies have appeared, and companies like Soolos, Olive,NuForce, Sonos, and many others have brought to market audiophile grade music servers that work perfectly well with traditional high end components. At the budget end of the spectrum, Cambridge Audio’s DacMagic and and Musical Fidelity V-DAC, both under $500, have garnered universal praise for their price performance ratio.

All these products seem to be converging with the much anticipated death of physical media, with all signs pointing to high resolution downloads as the way consumers, or a at least audiophiles, will purchase music. Even the personal computer industry is positioning itself for a cash-in, with audiophile grade tweaks such as high end sound cards, high quality network connections, aftermarket power cords, silent fans, and touch screen monitors.

The irony of the situation is that, if left up to many audiophiles, the hobby would continue to shrink to prevent any watering down of the quality of product offerings, keep out the non believers, and shake out any half-hearted hobbyists.  While this may have a romantic glow to it, without revenue and customers, high end companies cannot continue to make ends meet, introduce new products, or stay in business to service legacy products. One may argue that high end audio is a luxury market and, as with all downturns, it is cyclical. However, many would agree it may never have been this bad. 

Hopefully what goes down must go back up. The consensus among industry experts is that as long as audiophiles remain passionate about excellent sound, technologies advance to become more affordable, and younger people are exposed to the hobby, it will continue to attract new interest. I for one agree.


* Special Thanks to James Tanner of Bryston and Ken Dawkins of THIEL for their insight!

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