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Photography killed the audio store AKA brick-and-mortar is dead - Page 2

post #16 of 36
Thread Starter 

Thanks Dave - once again, someone who seems to get the frustration my convoluted rants are trying to explain.  wink.gif

 

I think we should support companies such as the one you have mentioned, and ignore those who insist that their products need 300 hours of burn-in but you have 30-days from the ship date to return your product. And the last thing I would want to do is pay return freight on a camera which simply didnt feel good in my hands, but as I said I know nothing about photography. 

 

If I can test folks' collective patience a little further, I came upon a small 'stall' style shop selling IEMs and stuff like Beats over-ear phones in a boutique-style mall near the airport in Chiang Mai, Thailand on a recent trip. Normally, any such operation would carry a host of cheapies, including fakes (priced accordingly - I know my FA Eternas are fake, for example, based on the price they sell for elsewhere), but these guys had large signs in English assuring customers that their products were genuine and the packaging/pricing looked realistic to me. Sure, plenty of it was aimed at the Thai kids with too much money and a fervent desire to be 'cool', but they also had a few universals which are quite highly regarded here on Head-Fi - mainly UE and Senn, but decent nonetheless. All in a single display case, and all under the care of a young guy who was probably on the AUD equivalent of (perhaps) $3 an hour. Overheads would have been minimal - rent on the floorspace outside the shops and, presumably, access to a single powerpoint. It was unusual in that I didnt see any other such 'stalls' in the mall - whoever had set it up obviously knew the right people -- but you will find similar 'standalone' vendors selling things like mobile phones - again, an expensive electronic toy - in malls all over Australia. You just wont find a headphone range like the one held by that single displaycase in any mall that I am aware of - you certainly wont find it in an Apple or Sony store. Retailers simply cant afford to have a pair of Westone 4's sitting in a case waiting for someone with over 400 AUD to walk in and say 'Great - just what I was looking for !', yet our friends in the camera game can afford to have a 5K Nikon body sitting in their display case waiting for a customer. The difference can only be that they know their product will find a customer before things like rent and wages drive them into bankruptcy court. You dont build a business spanning decades - as several of the above camera franchises have - by gambling on the fashion choices of teenagers, 

post #17 of 36

I find this thread profound and relevant.

 

I buy expensive photographic and audio gear and I do most of it via internet (either new from an online shop or second hand from a forum like this one) but still do (minor) spending in my local shops as a deliberate way of supporting them before they get out of business.

post #18 of 36
Thread Starter 

Thanks arturo - its reassuring that someone is able to take something from this. Clearly, I have struggled to get anything resembling a point across, but two things set me off:

 

1. Someone blithely telling me I need to audition every component out there before making a decision. They must live in Portland or Singapore. 

 

2. A poster in the US or UK bitching that they don't have any 'headphone shops' in their area. Not sure how many retailers would even consider opening a headphone-centric brick-and-mortar business, but my closest is 3200 km from where I live - same country, but it may as well be in Singapore.I still have the option of getting on a plane, and thats exactly what I plan to do. It all costs money, but there is no way that I would buy the LCD-3 without hearing it. 

 

http://headphones.com.au/psingle?productID=602

 

Marcus has embraced both business models, and I have no doubt that he has to endure plenty of tyre-kickers, but his doors remain open when many niche businesses have folded - including one that was right next door. Yes, I can get the LCD-3 more cheaply direct from Audez'e BEFORE CUSTOMS ADD DUTY TO THE PURCHASE - what I cant do is get a feel for both the sonics and the ergonomics - and I cant do it with someone who has had years of experience with more headphones than I can poke a stick at. None of that ensures that Marcus' musical tastes are the same as mine, but it beats waiting for a courier. 

 

Roll on, 2014. 


Edited by estreeter - 6/27/12 at 3:33pm
post #19 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

Can neither of you see that BOTH photography and audio are niche markets, yet one can still support retail outlets with (presumably) knowledgeable staff and give the customer the ability to actually see what they are buying ? Have you never bought a product online and been underwhelmed by the reality with it in your hands ? Does it not seem strange that the UK has several retail chains which specialise in 2-channel audio yet such a business model seems extinct in many other parts of the world in 2012 ? Here in Oz, they have moved to AV and largely abandoned 2-channel. Innumerable threads here and elsewhere recommending that we audition as many products as possible, and you're telling me that the move to online-only is a natural progression - financially, I cant argue with that, but something is keeping those expensive camera stores open. 

 

The Net is great IF you have the cheap and efficient transport network US customers seem to enjoy. Personally, I loathe waiting for couriers - I guess its different when ALO can guarantee overnight delivery for 10 bucks. 

Hmm.  Very interesting observation.  While high end photography is facing decline, it is odd at how it's doing so much better than high end audio.  I have two theories as to why it might be this way:

1) As my favorite musical legend Bjork would say, people's eyes are trained so much better than their ears! :).  The average consumer can distinguish the difference between a 4 megapixel camera and a 12 megapixel one.  They can see if the photos turn out blurry or if the colors aren't as vibrant as they should be.  Since they can see all of this, buying a high quality camera suddenly becomes a possession worth owning.  On the other hand, unfortunately, the average consumer is ignorant to audio quality.  Their ears aren't trained as good as their eyes.  When friends see me wearing a pair of 200 dollar headphones, they are curious as to why I even bought them.  I'll go on to explain how they are high end headphones (not really high end, they are only 200 dollars.  But you get what I'm saying) and talk about the increased audio quality, better sound stage, etc.  Obviously they will want to see for themselves and will listen to my headphones.  They can't distinguish the difference between them and their apple earphones.  Maybe it's just the friends I have, but this seems to be the trend among audio.  Consumers honestly cannot hear the difference between low and high quality audio.  Their ears are not trained to be able to.  Because of this, there is more of a demand for high end visual products rather than high end audio projects.

 

2) If you take a look at the big names in high end photography, you'll find that Canon and Nikon lead the industry.  These are names that every consumer on Earth has heard of.  They are considered cool, stylish, and modern brand names.  Now, if you look at high end audio names you'll get companies like Denon, Grady, Sennheiser, etc.  Absolutely nobody but the small number of current customers has ever heard of these names.  The names that your average buyers knows is Skullycandy, Apple, Gummy, Bose, Beats.  A little side note: Many people I know honestly believe that Bose and Beats are the only high end audio names.  So what's my point in this?  High end names in photography have promoted themselves to be cool and boundary pushing names.  They have established themselves as the mass market leaders.  Therefore, they have the demand to stay in stores.  High end audio companies haven't done this.  They have slacked off on the marketing side of business and allowed low end audio makers lead the industry.  Skullycandy, Bose, and Beats excel at marketing.  Since they have the demand, they are the ones that stay in the stores.  The only reason high end audio is still here are because of the small number of loyal consumers like us and the professional recording industry.  They have failed to captivate any large consumer base.

 

That's my take on the situation at least.  So basically because:

1) Consumer's are stupid

2) High end audio companies have been slacking on marketing

post #20 of 36
Thread Starter 

I dont know about other parts of the world, but the Senn distributor in Oz has done a very good job of ensuring that you will find  their entry-level cans (and mid-level IEMs) in every major electronics chain I can think of, and often in department stores. They have also ensured that said products are grossly overpriced in terms of sticker price. Skullcandy have no real market penetration here - you can find Bose and Beats in Apple stores, but they aren't as ubiquitous as Sennheiser. When you get down to the bargain basement, it tends to be IEMs from TDK and Phillips and that's about it. As I said earlier, it just doesnt make commercial sense to have a thousand dollar pair of headphones sitting on a shelf waiting for a buyer in a brick-and-mortar store, yet it seems to make perfect sense to have a 2K Nikon body in a display case. I agree that it has to be the relative value that people put on images over sound, but I have known who Canon/Nikon (and Leica/Hasselblat..) were for many years and the most I have ever spent on a camera is $200. I cant remember the last time I saw a TV ad for a camera manufacturer, but I do recall some very nice ads in glossy magazines over the years. By contrast, I would never have considered spending thousands on audio 4 years ago, so I guess things can change, but whatever voodoo is at work with audio jewelry, its not coming from a Madison Ave ad agency. I like the pretty pictures as much as the next music lover, but they are useless without credible impressions. 

post #21 of 36

Good point elegantlie but I think things are changing.

 

We're starting to see the big audio brands Sennheiser, Denon, AT start to release...say...more "consumer" friendly headphones. If these products can catch on with non-enthusiasts, maybe they'll wonder what the higher-end models from those brands have to offer.

 

As for marketing, I don't really care for it. I think you underestimate how big a name Sennheiser really is, especially among people who are even moderately tech savvy. And Sennheiser doesn't even need to market, they can get by on their reputation for quality. And that's what I prefer. Don't give me advertising campaigns, give me a new line of headphones that blows my socks off and makes me respect your brand. I could care less about an image you're trying to sell me. Let the hobby grow naturally, by people recommending products to their friends, or visiting Head-Fi for a new pair of cans after their Skullcandy's break for the 10th time. I don't want to see hi-fi brands redirect resources towards marketing when it could be used for producing better products.

post #22 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by elegantlie View Post

2) If you take a look at the big names in high end photography, you'll find that Canon and Nikon lead the industry.  These are names that every consumer on Earth has heard of.  They are considered cool, stylish, and modern brand names.  Now, if you look at high end audio names you'll get companies like Denon, Grady, Sennheiser, etc.  Absolutely nobody but the small number of current customers has ever heard of these names.  The names that your average buyers knows is Skullycandy, Apple, Gummy, Bose, Beats.  A little side note: Many people I know honestly believe that Bose and Beats are the only high end audio names.  So what's my point in this?  High end names in photography have promoted themselves to be cool and boundary pushing names.  They have established themselves as the mass market leaders.  Therefore, they have the demand to stay in stores.  High end audio companies haven't done this.  They have slacked off on the marketing side of business and allowed low end audio makers lead the industry.  Skullycandy, Bose, and Beats excel at marketing.  Since they have the demand, they are the ones that stay in the stores.  The only reason high end audio is still here are because of the small number of loyal consumers like us and the professional recording industry.  They have failed to captivate any large consumer base.

 

You make some good points here, but it's important to understand the issues of what a brand is, and what it means. Canon and Nikon are brands that are able to sell products from $100 to $5000+. Most smaller brands are not able to pull that off. The pros that use L glass or gold label Nikkors aren't concerned that the entry level Canons and Nikons are basically the same crap as a Casio or Panasonic or anybody else. A Canon lens on a $100 camera is essentially meaningless, but for Canon's purposes and their high-end customers, that doesn't matter. 

 

Denon is a different case than Grado and Sennheiser. Denon makes a lot of electronics, and you'll find them in pretty much any store that sells A/V equipment. Grado mostly makes headphones and a few other items. Sennheiser has a pro audio business and you won't find those products in consumer electronics stores, just like you won't find Shure microphones or Audio-Technica microphones. Similarly, you can find some entry level DSLR bodies at places like Target and maybe a few plastic consumer grade lenses, but that's it. No full frames.

 

High-end audio companies market to where they think their customers are. It makes sense. Meridian is likely to hit a much larger receptive audience with a full page ad in Stereophile or TAS than with a 30 second TV spot. They make a table radio just like Bose, but the average person watching Modern Family probably isn't interested in dropping $3K on that kind of thing.

post #23 of 36
Thread Starter 

I thought the marketing dollar went toward product placement and viral campaigns these days ? It has worked a treat for Apple. I've never seen a TV ad for an audio product - even the iPod. I'm sure I could find one if I trawled YouTube, but here in Oz its all about disposable nappies, insurance and junk food. Garbage in, garbage out. 

post #24 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

I thought the marketing dollar went toward product placement and viral campaigns these days ? It has worked a treat for Apple. I've never seen a TV ad for an audio product - even the iPod. I'm sure I could find one if I trawled YouTube, but here in Oz its all about disposable nappies, insurance and junk food. Garbage in, garbage out. 

 

I remember there used to be iPod/iPhone ads all over TV. I got rid of cable a few years ago so I can't be sure, but I bet Apple still spends money on TV spots. It might be different for you Aussies though.

post #25 of 36

I'm sorry, but the camera stores you see in some downtown cities are NOT the equivalent of hi-fi audio brick & mortar stores.  Maybe it's different downunder, but in the US, with the exception of the *big* names like B&H, Adorama & Samy's, the downtown camera stores are sleaze-pits to sucker tourists and non-hobbyists into buying gray-market gear, bait & switch scams and other scummy salesman tactics.  Have you never seen this site on the myriad of Brooklyn camera storefronts?  Buyer beware!  http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/

 

The ONLY brick & mortar stores that will continue to thrive are those that ALSO have a very well-executed online presence (like B&H Photo).  B&H was doing catalog sales LONG before there was an internet, and the internet was simply a new channel for them to exploit.

post #26 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by billybob_jcv View Post

I'm sorry, but the camera stores you see in some downtown cities are NOT the equivalent of hi-fi audio brick & mortar stores.  Maybe it's different downunder, but in the US, with the exception of the *big* names like B&H, Adorama & Samy's, the downtown camera stores are sleaze-pits to sucker tourists and non-hobbyists into buying gray-market gear, bait & switch scams and other scummy salesman tactics.  Have you never seen this site on the myriad of Brooklyn camera storefronts?  Buyer beware!  http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/

 

The ONLY brick & mortar stores that will continue to thrive are those that ALSO have a very well-executed online presence (like B&H Photo).  B&H was doing catalog sales LONG before there was an internet, and the internet was simply a new channel for them to exploit.

 

Brooklyn camera shops are infamous for that sort of thing, but I've been to a bunch of smaller places in different cities that are perfectly legitimate. Any local shop selling US market cameras with warranties is going to charge MSRP. These camera shops are basically the same as the guys that used to sell speakers out of the back of white vans.

post #27 of 36

Home audio in the mass market went from being the center of attention in the 70's & 80's, to being something that is important as part of a home theater system in the late 90's and early 00's to now being just an after-thought set of micro-speakers added to an LCD flat panel.

 

I think most local audio shops in SoCal are making their money from the design, set-up and installation of:  1) home theaters for wealthy people who are largely unconcerned with the price, but want their home theaters to be part of the design of their homes, just like their Sub-Zero refrigerators and Wolf cooktops, or 2) conference room A/V systems for the executive boardrooms of corporate customers - many of which are the same corporate executives that hire them to build their home theater rooms.  

 

Neither of these markets has a customer that knows anything about the gear they are buying - and they couldn't tell you the difference between a DAC and a coffee maker.

post #28 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by billybob_jcv View Post

Home audio in the mass market went from being the center of attention in the 70's & 80's, to being something that is important as part of a home theater system in the late 90's and early 00's to now being just an after-thought set of micro-speakers added to an LCD flat panel.

 

People listen to music differently than they used to, and have changed their buying habits as new technology has allowed. In the '70s if you wanted to listen to music you needed a turn table, an amplifier, and some speakers. You can still buy a turn table, an amplifier, and some speakers if you want, the production status of those components has not changed. If anything, vinyl is stronger than its been in 20 years. The audio cassette was no different than the MP3. The sound quality sucked, but most people didn't care. They were cheap and portable. You could listen to the same album in the car, in your boombox, or Walkman. That changed everything. Sound took a step forward with the portable CD player (before they became $20 junk, anyway) and then backward again with 128kbps MP3 files in 64MB Rio DAPs.

 

Frankly I'm glad the home theater craze is mostly over. It's become a clown show now, every year Onkyo, Denon, and Pioneer try to one up each other with more and more channels. 9.1! 11.2! 666.666! It's brainless. You can have your Dolby Pro Super HD Double X+Z ThunderCougarFalcon Sound. I'll stick to stereo so I can hear dialogue and explosions at roughly the same level.

post #29 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveBSC View Post

 

People listen to music differently than they used to, and have changed their buying habits as new technology has allowed. In the '70s if you wanted to listen to music you needed a turn table, an amplifier, and some speakers. You can still buy a turn table, an amplifier, and some speakers if you want, the production status of those components has not changed. If anything, vinyl is stronger than its been in 20 years. The audio cassette was no different than the MP3. The sound quality sucked, but most people didn't care. They were cheap and portable. You could listen to the same album in the car, in your boombox, or Walkman. That changed everything. Sound took a step forward with the portable CD player (before they became $20 junk, anyway) and then backward again with 128kbps MP3 files in 64MB Rio DAPs.

 

Frankly I'm glad the home theater craze is mostly over. It's become a clown show now, every year Onkyo, Denon, and Pioneer try to one up each other with more and more channels. 9.1! 11.2! 666.666! It's brainless. You can have your Dolby Pro Super HD Double X+Z ThunderCougarFalcon Sound. I'll stick to stereo so I can hear dialogue and explosions at roughly the same level.

 

I agree - although stereo is certainly not immune to the "more is better" marketing nonsense.  Just look at many of the thin tall consumer speakers that try to break the rules of physics by adding a dozen 3" drivers (without using a real transmission line design) and claiming to be "better" than a good 2 or 3-way speaker.  But, as long as there is a "subwoofer" booming away at 50 Hz in the corner, the consumer thinks they are "hi-fi"...  (especially if it says Bose on the box!)

post #30 of 36
Thread Starter 

Given the money, I would happily get the pros to build a dedicated listening room on the grounds of my mansion, install a '90% invisible' Meridian system - they hand me a single remote and I hand them a very large cheque. I could be wrong, but I  think there is a little more to photography than that - you can buy any combination of gear you like, but without some understanding of the technology the results arent going to approach the potential of that kit. I counted 7 dedicated 'Photography' magazines in my newsagent last week, and a couple on Photoshop - versus a single dedicated hi-fi mag and one that normally focuses on home theatre. (No Stereophile/TAS/Hi-Fi Choice in this burg)

 

Little surprise that WHF tries to be all-things-to-all-people and fails miserably in the process. People want gadgets and they want novelty - smartphone manufacturers know that. We are dinosaurs - the last of a dying breed.  

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