Music to my peers - A generation missing out
Youth Vs Hi-Fi
Note about myself: I am a 22-year-old Dj. I love music! I listen to it every day and until recently I never knew what high-quality audio was. Growing up I always had a pair of cheap earbuds hanging out the front of my shirt. From there I had a pair of Beats by Dre headphones that I believed was the best sound you could ever get( I now know better ). I can now justify the Hi-Fi experience and explain how good audio is and why we need these luxuries.
So why hasn’t the rest of my generation experienced this?
Today’s youth are listening to more music than ever before; Earbuds, portable speakers, car radios. Everywhere they go, through streaming media like SoundCloud, iTunes, Spotify and many others, they hold access to every song ever recorded. A luxury that we possibly take for granted every day. So why is a generation surrounded by music not interested in Hi-Fi?
Is the price deterring a generation from a good listening experience? Gen Y and Z may not have the same income as their elders ( I know this is not the case for all ) but they also have the luxury of smartphones, streaming services and access to multiple media services. Is this a generation based on media that avoids spending money or takes for granted good sounding audio?
Sounds like a weird concept but is it partly true?
(Many millennials will have streamed, downloaded or copied music for free. After Napster and a variety of other illegal download sites/services, it is hard for millennials to imagine purchasing audio files (I know this isn’t everyone). So a generation/s are listening to new music all day for free/cheap on basic earbuds. For a generation that doesn’t know any better, that’s a massive convenience.)
There is a misconception that high-end audio is expensive! Don’t get me wrong, it certainly can be. With components ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
But does it have to be? – NO, not necessarily.
Many high-end brands create entry and medium level products still with high-end audio.
Active monitors that have the ability to add a subwoofer can also be a consideration,
Or the unfair advantage is a good pair of headphones coupled with a decent headphone amp.
Space / Privacy
Not everyone will have access to their own space if they are living with family, maybe a bedroom, but often there is no other room to designate purely to audio. Do you need a dedicated room to listen to good music?
Firstly, you don’t need a big space to listen to good audio equipment, you need to create an area where the speakers can work best in a room (bedroom or not), often this is about where you place the speakers and where you would set yourself to get the best image. An isolated space where you can listen! A near-field experience can be created when the speakers have placed a greater distance from the wall, so rather than trying to fill an entire room you are creating a focused listening area.
- If privacy is an issue, headphone systems can be an amazing alternative. You can truly enjoy all the benefits of a high-end sound system without the high price tag or housing bulky products.
Wireless / Bluetooth / Wifi; technology has exploded in recent years, especially in the audio world. How could this deter people? As much as this has benefited the industry it also has brought a wave of entry-level products that incorporate these wireless technology with very limited audio quality. These products make ‘getting up to turn on an amplifier, CD player or turntable on’ seem like too much effort when you can Bluetooth or stream to a speaker on the other side of the room.
As someone who has been in music studios for years, it wasn’t until I stepped into a Hi-Fi store that I realised what I was missing.
Now with streaming audio, there are more songs than ever before. The less compressed the better, but if you want quality, you’ll need to look at some premium subscriptions. Deezer and Tidal offer High-Quality subscriptions with virtually no compression.
However, the quality of the audio you are listening to is going to affect the overall experience. Think about the resolution of the audio, is it a Youtube clip, radio station, download or stream? The size of the file will deter how much information could be missing, no investing in quality equipment if the music you are listening to is compressed.
Is modern music now not worth listening to in high quality? After Napster and the plague of low-resolution audio files, is it possible that the generation doesn’t see the need to spend their hard earned money? Until the quality difference can be heard by listeners, downloaded audio files are always going to be a hard sell the generation. I believe that it is a very real issue that the ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ generation simply haven’t heard high-quality audio.
Walking into JB Hi-Fi you will see assortments of speakers/headphones/devices all easy to use and branded specifically to the young market! Flashy colours, celebrity ambassadors and pop cultured designs all help whitewash a market that should be based on quality and use. We all remember when the ‘Beats by Dre’ entered the headphone market and in the space of 3 years, captured 57% of the premium headphone market ($99 and above).
High-end audio branded by pop idols revolutionised what was cool and created a must-have product of high-end headphones. (Please note: ‘high end’ not ‘high quality’)
Do we need Taylor Swift floor standing speakers or a Justin Bieber amplifier to entice the new generations? As much as we can joke; Hi-Fi gear is tailored to a more mature audience. Polished, wood finishes. Now, why haven’t companies tried to capture this market? Or have they?
‘Beats by Dre’ was laughed at for their price point when it first entered stores, until it
whitewashed the headphone market. Beats were targeted to the Pop Culture audiences, speakers and amps are not. This is where Earbuds and Bluetooth speakers thrive!
Where does that leave our Gen ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ customers?
Well, there are plenty of High-quality speakers/products that do offer, quality, usability and are still ‘Cool’.
Devialet’s Phantoms are possibly the best pop cultured speaker on the market. Easy to connect, modern and amazing sound. I would struggle to see many Gen Z’s not foaming at the mouth for these. Issue: Price; quality isn’t cheap!
Active speakers; There are many high-end active speakers in the market that could attract millennial customers. For example, Yamaha and Kef offer great Active speaker options that could easily be the ideal product to ‘Gen Z’. E.g Yamaha NX-N500, KEF LS50. Overing relatively small size and great sound.
Audio Technica’s LP60BT Bluetooth Turntable; offers the ability to wirelessly play a turntable through a Bluetooth speaker or headphones. A unique twist to combine traditional audio and modern technology. There is also a variety of turntables that offer digital outputs now to allow easier connectivity to modern systems.
Not all doom and Gloom!
Vinyl sales in 2017 were the highest sales since 1991! A plethora of customers young and old are enjoying hunting down their favourite records, placing it on their turntable and listening to uncompressed audio. It’s an experience.
It is also not uncommon to have young customers coming into the store searching for a turntable and speaker set up and of course we can accommodate. We have options for any generation and can help find your Hi-Fi solution.
So next time you or your Gen Z’s have a spare day come on down and have a listen to the high-quality sound that Hi-Fi delivers because we all know #MUSIC MATTERS.