Too little awe in audio?

I was talking with a friend in the audio industry who was bemoaning the lack of initiative being shown by some retailers these days, writes Andrew Everard. He's been meeting resistance even when he’s trying to sell them a product he believes sets new standards, and on which even the retailers seem keen.

Thing is, he’s been hearing from his stockists that the supply of customers has been drying up, that price-cutting on the internet has been robbing the high street of sales and that in general the whole audio world is slowly going to Hell in a handcart.

“Well,” says he, “Why not phone a few of your regular customers and invite them in to hear this new product you rate so highly?” A shudder, then “Oh no, couldn’t do that. That would make us like double-glazing” – pause for effect – “salesmen.”

Perish the thought: so much better to sit in your shop and wait for customers to be driven in by the magazines or manufacturer advertising.

Mind you, even that isn’t a given: a reader contacted me to ask about some speakers around £500 to use with a relatively modest system. I made a suggestion, even found him a local stockist, and off the chap toddled.

He contacted me again a few days later; the man in the shop had said I was a buffoon, and he needed to spend at least £2000 on speakers. Suffice it to say the reader gave up on the idea entirely.

It made me think back to the demonstration given at the Munich High End Show a couple of months back, where Ken Ishiwata of Marantz played the company’s new high-end system through a speaker set-up comprising two pairs of Mordaunt-Short Performance 6 speakers, one suspended upside down above the other. See here for a picture.

It was outrageous and to some eyes and ears downright daft, but one thing’s for sure: everyone at the show was talking about it...

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.