Time to Redefine High Performance

Design, installation and calibration are often overlooked when enthusiasts and dealers discuss what makes a great system.

By Robert Archer
April 18, 2012
Audiophiles, and now home theater enthusiasts, continue to perpetuate the myth that expensive equipment equates to high performance.

Only within the past several years have audiophiles begun to understand the significance of speaker placement and room acoustics. Alan Parsons, renowned Pink Floyd and Beatles engineer, will attest to the importance of room acoustics.

And organizations such as THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA), the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), CEDIA and experts such as John Dahl, Gregg Loewen, Gerry Lemay, Joel Silver, Anthony Grimani and Joe Kane have educated a small amount of professionals who now understand the fundamentals of A/V performance.

But despite these best efforts, there is still a prevailing notion that expensive gear solves all problems. A perfect example of this attitude can be found in a recent CE Pro story that details the whole-home audio system of Boston Red Sox pitcher Mark Melancon. The comments on the story, which bash the quality of Melancon’s Niles Audio system, reek with elitism.

This attitude is detrimental to the growth of this industry. Neophytes will determine that our industry’s products are unapproachable without a fat wallet.

Expensive gear can’t overcome horrible room environments, bad system designs and poor installations. A well designed and installed system that uses less expensive gear will outperform more expensive solutions that are not well designed and correctly implemented.

Audiophiles typically get pigeonholed into the A/V geek association, but there are dealers just as guilty. It’s understandable why custom electronics professionals would want to sell expensive components, but there is a danger in that approach: If that high-performance system does not meet the client's expectations, that business has blown an opportunity to enhance its reputation within its local market.

Like Niles, Monitor Audio and Paradigm, a speaker does not have to be high-end for dealers to make money and for clients to be satisfied. Take Bose, for example, which is the most recognized consumer electronics brand. The Bose line offers dealers strong margins and arguably the strongest Internet pricing protection policy in the industry. For high-end integrators dealing with affluent clientele or audiophile-level customers, it is likely not a suitable line. But, according to one veteran industry rep, Bose is an ideal line for 75 percent of integrators to sell and for most consumers to buy.

Maybe the biggest thing that is overlooked in all of this is that electronics professionals can market and sell their expertise as system designers, calibrators and installers. And if those skills are applied to the design, setup and calibration of the industry’s fantastic products, dealers can exceed their clients’ expectations and deliver on the promise of real high-performance audio.

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