I have been into Hifi since I was 16. I remember the day clearly l. My dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said I would like a proper Hifi, not a Sony all in one unit with all the flashing lights with a ridiculous equaliser like most of my friends at the time.
So off we went to the nearest dealer who was a stockiest off NAD back then and I ended up with a NAD amp and CD player with some Kef Q15 bookshelf speakers.
From that day I was hooked.
For those of you that know the Kef Q15’s you might be thinking they were around not to long ago.
This brings me to my point. I am 33 and love listening to music and Hifi. I am intrigued to know where people believe this industry is heading.
Since getting my system friends have never followed suit or shown any real interest but all love music.
Is the Hifi world dying with a lack of younger generation following suit?
I, too, got into hifi at the age of 16, though my interest developed two or three years previously - without ever hearing any sort of hifi, just music from radios (either valve tabletop or transistor portable), my parents’ wind-up 78 rpm gramophone, and at some point my brother getting a Dansette-type record player. I hadn’t even heard any system in a hifi shop, no friends had aanything and I was unaware of what their parents might have. But through interest in electronics I stumbled across books on hifi and learned about music reproduction and hifi and loudspeaker design etc, and fell in love with what I imagined it would sound like.
So asking for birthday and christmas presents from family to be money, and saving most of my wages from two daily paper rounds in a year I had £60 to spend (equivalent to about £900 today). No way an autochanger with a crystal cartridge, the deck for the masses at that time, and with speakers designed and made by me and a kit form amp, all to maximise buying power, I created a system, completing it round about my 16th birthday - and it sounded every bit as good as I imagined, and then some!
It sounded fantastic to me - and my friends agreed. I upgraded everything over the next few years when I started work, and by the time I was 26 I had upgraded everything. Meanwhile my friends bought ‘music centres’ and the like, just going to Comet (a discount bulk electricals retailer of the day) and buying whatever they had at whatever low price they wanted to spend - all of them I thought significantly inferior to my very first system. And typically they played their music centres with the simple box speakers sat next to each other, or on top of one another, or completely opposite sides of the room! For those people their systems were just a means of playing music, with no thought for the quality of sound. I did not meet another hifi enthusiast until I was in my mid 30s…
So in my experience hifi enthusiasts have always been in the minority - I am not sure it is necessarily any different today.
I don’t think it’s dying but evolving. Funnily though my daughters now both mid 20s stream into their Roberts radios but when they come home with their partners they will ask to hear the Doors on vinyl.
Regarding young people I know today, at home one of my 20-something year old sons listens through headphones on his computer, some things online and some downloaded. Other son listens through (originally my) IMF TLS50 speakers though at fairly low level (not inherited my taste for “realistic” level listening), fed by a NAD amp but played by his computer and its sound card. When out and about both use iPhone and earbuds. They never seem to not be listening to music. Both are musicians, one pianist other cello, amateur/own pleasure only (though younger was in a youth orchestra for several years after leaving school).
Two just thirty-something nieces with a vinyl enthusiast father, one only seems to play music with her phone through earbuds, the other I have never heard play music when I have visited.
Probably a generational thing that goes back deeper. When I was studying back in the 1990s, most of my friends had old kit gifted or loaned from their own uncles, dads and grandads - which nocked spots out of my own budget system. This older generation was for sure the early adopters that had aspirations and cheaper mortgages.
A few of my friends around my age with young families have music in the house, but are holding off going down the Audiophile route until the family is older. Not to save speaker tweeters being pushed in and other such, but from the costs involved in bringing them up with the huge price of mortgages and amenities these days.
Being an audiophile doesn’t have to cost a fortune of course, but does require some considerable time and effort in researching what’s what and keeping up with the latest developments. Time that some would prefer spending posting on social media.
There are many more ways of listening to music these days. The amount of people listening on mobiles / headphones and the proliferation of streaming services have altered the way people listen to music. You are no longer tied to a system at home to listen to music in pretty high quality and you don’t need a music collection. I remember as a lad in the 70’s most of the music systems in my friends homes were the typical music centre type unit. You could say that the Sonos / Muso type systems have replaced this now and at much better quality.
Most Hi-Fi forums are full of people who like to fiddle and upgrade and the ownership of the equipment is all part of the experience. Outside of these forums, I doubt most people give a toss about the equipment and just want to listen to their favourite music. Look at any of the pictures from Hi-Fi shows or dealer open days and the demographic is distinctly middle aged and up. The exception here seems to be the Canjam type shows where young people are interested.
An interesting thread anyway.
Mortgages are cheap these days, compared to when I first bought a house in 1875, the mortgage rate was something like 10%. I was lucky enough to qualify for a Greater London Council low-start mortgage, that IIRC started at about 6%, going up annually over 5 years, however I moved out of London a year and a half later, so lost that benefi, and the interest rate was something like 12%. think the average rate from then until well into the 1990s was around 10%, and at one point the rate went up to 17%!
Once I was i had a mortgage my disposable income was negligible for many years, meaning every hifi upgrade, and every record purchase, had to be carefully budgeted for, and that is when I started to realise the value of buying hifi secondhand.
I think the difference these days with young families is they have got used to having more disposable income in the first place, and still want their flashy phones, eating out and designer wear, hifi coming last for many.
Seems to be the age when the interest starts - for me over 50 years ago!
I window shopped for a year and then bought a system from RSC (don’t know what happened to them). Cost me £45 which I paid for over 9 months and consisted of an RSC branded amp and speakers, plus a Garrard SP25 Mk2. It was absolutely wonderful and lasted for a good few years until the upgrade bug bit.
I must have spent a fortune on HI-Fi mags too, putting together imaginary systems. Finally saved up and bought an LP12 for £340 in 1983 which I still use today (not with the RSC kit, I hasten to add!)
There seemed to be more Hi-Fi shops, more choices at an affordable level and more shows then too.
The higher up the hi-fi chain you go the less choice there is but that’s the case in most things generally, I guess.
Can’t remember when I first had an interest - used my brother’s stereo in the room we shared (he’s 7 years older than me). My other brother also had separated but neither pursued any distance up the hifi ladder. When I was 17-18 I remember looking in Ericsson’s (not sure if that is the right spelling or even the right name - hifi shopnin Bradford) and age 18-21 often looked in the audio T shop window in Cardiff when at university. Got my first separates age 21 (only afforded it cos I won a couple of prizes in my final year at university). This in the 80s
My daughters (who turn 18 and 16 this week) are happy with music on their phones via Spotify. No interest in hifi. In time, maybe
1875 ? Your that old?
I got into it at 16 too, inherited my dad’s system of a Sony reciever, Garrad DD turntable and KEF floorstanders don’t remember any models. I later inherited a NAD amp of my brother in law, at 17 I started going to hifi shows as a got a job in a local electronics retailer. Soon after I had an Cambridge Audio P40 Amp(before they got bought by Richer , Sounds), B&W floorstanders and the same TT. At 21 I got a Linn Basik original model with Akito arm. I only sold it 2 years ago when I upgraded to a ClearAudio Concept.
I built my daughter a nice wireless speaker system from some old Celestion F1 I had lying around and rapsberry pi and amp board. It sounds pretty good as a start. She can use Roon, airplay and Spotify connect on it. Does she use it, no she listens on her phones speaker most of the time or in the crap.apple headphones you get with iPhones.
I still have the boy to convert when he’s a bit older.
You’d be surprised though as to what a lot of teenagers listen to, they’re not all in to Ed Sheeran, I know quite a few that are well in to Zep and Pink Floyd etc but in terms of systems I suspect it goes no further then a smart phone and decent headphones
The history of audio reproduction has always been one where portability and convenience trumps sound quality. Hi-Fi as an interest has always been a minority thing. Contrary to others here I think that is actually changing considerably for the better.
The baseline for audio quality was a dansette or a copy Walkman style cassette player. Today’s baseline is a smartphone, which outstrips both of the above in most circumstances and offers listening through built in speakers; external speakers or some kind of headset. Even at their most basic they are vastly superior to the former and in many cases easily qualify as very high quality if not high end. Most people today have good quality audio at their finger tips and would not accept any less. It’s a great starting point.
Given the many other distractions today I think audio as an interest is morphing and showing a tremendous resilience. That others may listen on different devices to different music in different ways is nothing to the point. They always have.
My son is 17 and loves LZ, Floyd, Sabbath and a lot of contemporary music. To him and his pals it’s just music regardless of when it was made. We don’t differentiate between Elgar and Mahler [I don’t…] and neither do the current generation, they have easy access to everything.
Agree with Mike above, that a phone + a half decent pair of h/phones is a country mile better than the Woollies cassette player I had when I was 15. My journey began when I was 14 and a school mate bought himself a Sharp music centre from the Gratton catalogue and we discovered Yes, Patrick Moraz, AC/DC, Led Zep etc and spent too long poring over HiFi mags of the day wondering how on earth anyone could afford to spend £100 on a turntable.
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