How great an incredible variety of audio gear exists across the world. I spend/waste a lot of time on the internet looking at online review magazines, and to me the number of international companies making high-end components is staggering. Clearly there are many people around the world who love audio and want to build great components. Here in the USA we get exposure to only a few international brands. Actually, we don’t even get fully exposed to the USA brands. I recently read an online forum post complaining that none of the four Texas VPI dealers had, or intended to get, the new VPI Direct turntable. What?, nobody in Texas has $30,000 for a turntable? But Texas is so big and rich!
In St. Louis we’ve been short of true high-end stores for a long time. Certainly The Sound Room and Music for Pleasure have some fine stuff, but they carry only a small sample of the many possibilities. The recently closed St Louis Stereo was an exception, and now its gone. The successor, Stereo Haven, has a more limited selection. Of course with my own limited offerings I don’t set much of an example, but I excuse myself because mine is a home-based hobby business..
Another thing that amazes me is the reviewer emphasis on higher priced gear. Maybe it’s just my fiscally conservative mentality, but I have to wonder how all these companies survive. Are these companies the toys of rich guys? Or maybe the famous 1% buy a lot more audio than I imagine. Maybe the Chinese and Russians nouveau-riche are the customers. Certainly few reviews are for “bang-for-the-buck” components. Or maybe it’s just that only the expensive stuff gets reviewed because the reviewers get to play with expensive toys for free. That I can understand.
I should be more mature about my reaction to reviews, but every time I read Stereophile or The Absolute Sound I get the impression that they are trying to shame me for having such cheap stuff in comparison to that they rave about. Not that they don’t toss us a bone now and then with a budget component or two, but the bones are too small and too few. Most of the reviewed components give you a choice of a new system, or a new car, or a new house.
I know that some of you are waiting for me to make a point. Stop waiting. I admire Bill McClellan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and if he can make a living writing his wandering style certainly I can do it for free. I just had some thoughts that I wanted to put out there.