[SOUNDSTAGE!] Marc Mickelson is the
Editor-in-Chief of SoundStage!
Please send comments to
Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
November 2005

Bumper-Sticker Wisdom

Audiophiles and audio writers constantly consider and lament the future of our hobby, and often try to devise ways to engage the next generation of audiophiles. It's tough going. There is so much to draw the attention of adolescents and young adults nowadays, and their generation has grown up used to it all, having been programmed practically from birth to be involved and generally keep busy. Soccer, karate, dance lessons, and college-prep courses follow the school day, with the high expectations of well-meaning but over-demanding parents as the driving force.

In comparison to all of this, a high-end-audio system seems like a technological anachronism -- a bulky handheld calculator in these days of Internet-ready camera phones. But we know that interest in music exists -- the earbuds whose cord disappears into a jacket or backpack are proof. How do we reach the potential audiophiles of the future?

Imagine you're one of these young people and have the first twinge of interest in high-end audio -- a 20-something male who enjoys his iPod but wants more out of music, feels there must be more to be had from music. You head to the newsstand and see a couple of magazines that look like they offer what you want, but you're not sure. That they're six bucks a copy, more than a Big Mac meal, makes you even less interested in taking a chance on them.

So you start poking around the Internet and stumble across various audio-related chat sites on which all manner of subjects are discussed, many of which seem like they're digitally encoded to you. You find people debating the validity of products you've never heard of, technologies you didn't know existed, and reviews -- a few of which you skim as you surf. The products discussed are expensive -- you knew they would be -- but the posts you're reading condemn any reviews of them. Or do they? You're not sure.

Suddenly, the simplicity of an iPod seems so much more appealing.

Passion is part of being an audiophile -- if not for music, then for audio equipment. And that passion creates energy, often in the form of ideas for reshaping the audio landscape in order to attract new audiophiles. With good intentions, we discuss and argue how to do this, amidst other discussions and arguments -- about the obvious dishonesty of the audio press, how audio companies are cheating consumers, how products aren't nearly as good as someone says, and all kinds of twisted permutations of these topics, including some creative insults. This goes on every day online, so it's unavoidable if you've Googled "high-end audio." The collective guidance of audiophiles is often baffling and contentious, and contains little or no discussion of music.

A well-worn bumper sticker has urged us for years to "Think globally. Act locally." This doesn't just apply to the environment, but also to the future wellbeing of the audio hobby. Ask yourself this: If you were someone who wanted to derive greater pleasure from listening to music and you stumbled into the audiophile community today, would you want to join it? If you can't answer with an enthusiastic "Yes!", perhaps, as another bumper sticker counsels, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

...Marc Mickelson

Copyright SoundStage!
All Rights Reserved