This week you’ll notice there’s been a theme on What Hi-Fi?. Specifically that we’re running a special week-long British Hi-Fi event where we’re celebrating the best audio tech, past and present, to come from our home nation.
As a part of that, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to plenty of big names from some of Britain’s most iconic audio brands including Rega, Monitor Audio and Cambridge Audio to get their hot takes on topics like
spatial audio, car hi-fi and what’s changed in the past 50 years.
And though for the most part, I’ve loved every conversation, there’s one topic that’s reared its ugly head in every chat, that over the past few weeks has slowly eaten away at me.
This started at the end of February with a casual comment from Cambridge Audio CEO, Stuart George when I asked him if they have many younger customers and he said in no uncertain terms:
“I don't know if the hi-fi is necessarily relevant for them yet.”
Innocent enough and true - when I was in my 20s I certainly didn’t have piles of cash under my pillow for floorstanders, in fact, I could barely afford my breakfast avocados.
Things then escalated when Monitor Audio’s technical director Michael Hedges commented, “I think this is something that every audio company probably struggles with,” when I asked him the same question in a separate interview.
The final nail in the coffin then landed when I was going through a transcript of What Hi-Fi? managing editor, Becky Roberts' interview with Rega, when design engineer Ashton Wagner commented:
“I think there's a lot of people out there who just haven't had the opportunity to have the experience of quality music playback.”
Seeing a pattern here?
All of us are having a problem getting younger people into hi-fi. Now as a journalist who writes about the topic, that’s a pretty important problem as I really do like having a readership.
And that leads me to the point of this article - we all need to find ways to show younger music fans the benefit of hi-fi.
Thankfully, I’m not alone in this thought, with Rega, Monitor Audio and Cambridge Audio all agreeing with my sentiment. I think Monitor Audio’s Hedges put it best when he said:
“What we find is you can have a long conversation with people about how great the loudspeakers are - how it measures, what it does, what the distortion is - and it's kind of semi-meaningless. [It's not] until you sit them down in front of those speakers [and they can hear] why it's better than their Sonos system.”
The complexity comes from the question “how” as it’s not like we can make people under the age of 25 sit in front of a proper set of speakers and stay put until they understand the majestic benefits of listening to Rush in stereo - trust me I’ve tried with my god-daughter, it didn’t end well.
And it’s here that no one I spoke to agreed. Every one of us had a different thought.
Some think that it’ll organically happen as hi-fi fans pass their kit down to the next generation. I’m not doing that, my hi-fi’s going into the ground with me.
Others mused that serious music fans would naturally go on their own journey, potentially driven by a desire to own their music on vinyl or a CD rather than relying on streaming. The low-fi movement certainly lends some credence to that thought.
But regardless of the answer, it is a problem that’s keeping me up at night, and one I hope we as an industry can answer, as there’s so much good music in the world that deserves to be heard properly on a decent hi-fi setup and not a cheap pair of poor-sounding Bluetooth in ears.
What do you think? How can we encourage the next generation of hi-fi fans? Let us know with a comment below!
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