Personal audio is the future? – RMAF 2014 and beyond
Personal audio is the future? – RMAF 2014
So say some people…
CanJam inspired some people to announce the end of high-end audio as we know it.
PEZ on Audio Circle
“… CanJam on the other hand has literally exploded out of the Marriott convention hall and spilled into the Atrium. It will not only continue to grow in 2 years time I promise you it will surpass the rest of the show. When you see the vendors at can jam selling shoebox sized boxes hand over fist to guys 35 and younger and compare that to the same retired old two channel shlubs with out turned pockets going to the same rooms they were in last year and still not buying anything you start to understand why. Hifi is dead… Long live Hifi!!!!”
Steven Stone on TAS
“Most Important Trend: Portable and personal audio is the future. You only had to stick your head into the CANJAM room to feel the palpable energy and young enthusiasm, even from old goats like myself.”
I will argue that this is completely wrong, both because I believe it to be so, and because I want it to be so.
Personal audio is the wave of the present.
1. The primary argument against this being an enduring trend is that this young generation is the most social generation in the history of the world.
They cannot live 1 minute without checking to see what their friends are doing. And portable and personal audio is inherently a solitary activity.
Sure, someday someone will make it so friends can link their personal audio devices together and all listen to the same thing at the same time. Every group of friends will have their own ‘radio station’ they can tune to. Every school will have their ‘radio stations’ their students can tune to for parent-approved listening.
But in the end, being young is about meeting new people, starting new romances, and personal audio is inherently anti-social [as most of us not into personal audio can readily attest :-)]
2. There are primal forces against personal audio.
a. The beat. FEELING the beat, man.
b. Freedom. Freedom to move around and interact with other people nearby. Talking. Snogging. Being a spousal unit. Being a parent.
c. Employability. There are few jobs where being by default unavailable for interaction with customers, colleagues and bosses is acceptable. Software Development is one of those few, but it still is going to hamper your ability to participate in what is becoming more and more a group activity [see #1 above].
3. It is just too ‘geeky’
Geeky trends hardly ever last. Someone sitting in a corner of the room huddled over a shoebox-sized system? Weird devices in or on their ears?
For this level of geek, I, personally, would want, no NEED, to be plugged into the whole Matrix, not some MP3-deck. I want instant Google direct to my brain. I want infinite memory and infinite knowledge just by thinking about it.
But, hey. YMMV. 🙂
I certainly enjoyed my time at CanJam. People are making a ton of cool gear. Having fun.
About half the companies are new and about half are companies who primarily make large systems, trying to participate in the personal audio wave.
I don’t know. Personal computers did last about 15 years. So….
Portable audio is the future. While I do believe there will always be a demand for hi end home audio (and I hope that never changes) the fact of the matter is society is changing/adapting to a different economy. The ability to live in single dwelling homes is decreasing around the world, and due to the rise of fuel costs, people are utilizing public transportation more and more. One generation homes are on the decline, we now have more and more 3 generation homes, grandparents, parents and children all living together.
Smart phones offering quality sound processing are on the rise as well.
All of this is a recipe for the demand for portable audio. Portable audio isn’t a trend, it is a sollution.
Very good points. Another point in your favor is that, although young people are more social than ever, they have a distinct preference for virtual friends over those right in front of them (diminishing the desire to ‘share’ music with people nearby).
In the spirit of your post, let’s talk trends.
As far a ‘different economy’ goes, there is a multi-thousand year trend of improving economies and expanding middle classes (albeit with stark reversals here in the U.S. over the last 30 years).
As public transportation increases in popularity [one can only wish], the several thousand dollars that would normally be spent on an auto are freed up, some of which goes to pay for $500 smartphones and the rest on home entertainment, primarily home audio gear [one can only wish :-)].
Agree that crowded, strained living environments increase the need for personal audio [unrelated to portable audio here]. Wonder how prevalent this is and whether the it will become a preferred avenue for people to increase ‘family ties’ once again by enjoying certain kinds of media together – primarily video and audio.
You are also right in that it [in this case personal audio again] is a solution to several problems. A major one of which is the unacceptability, to (typically female) members of the household, of having speakers in the living spaces in our homes. [Of course, it is just these kinds of attitudes that actually increase the appeal of having a real home audio system in the first place, (just like the problems with sports cars: higher insurance, impractical to transport more than 2 people, expensive) priming the pendulum for the swing back… 🙂 ]
Rocking out late at night when everyone else is asleep? This is indeed a problem, and has been for 1000s of years, and personal audio is indeed a great solution if you can’t isolate your listening room in some way.
As far as portable audio goes: The way I see most people’s lives [and mine except I work at home and my ‘bar’ is a gym], we go from home to car to work to car to shopping to home to car to bar to home to bed. It is only the shopping leg where I see portable audio having an advantage over the audio systems that exist [or that are allowed] for all these day-to-day activities. Maybe you all live different lives than this? What am I missing?
Thanks for your post!