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Time to Redefine High Performance

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

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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Article Topics

Blogs · Audio · Home Theater · All topics

About the Author

Robert Archer, Senior Editor, CE Pro
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass.

3 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by infernaldevice  on  04/19  at  07:09 AM


Comments made regarding Grant Clauser’s article, “Red Sox Pitcher Mark Melancon’s High-End Audio System” have everything to do with the author’s mistaken notion that the system consisting of Niles architectural speakers, Niles electronics, and a Sony ES receiver could be considered High-End. 

You correctly pointed out that performance is the goal of quality systems, and that high price does not necessarily equal high-performance when thrown into a compromised situation.  Take a look at the photos from the installation, especially the living room home theater.  There is nothing about the positioning of the loudspeakers that says that performance was even a goal.  So not only are the products not High End- neither is the performance. 

I’m sure the clients love their system.  They got their money’s worth.  Pointing out that this is not a high-end audio system is being intellectually honest.  If that smacks of elitism, then call me an elitist.

Posted by Robert Archer  on  04/19  at  09:30 AM

Thanks for the comment Infernaldevice, and while a partial image may suggest that the install doesn’t live up to a high performance name, you may be commenting without all of the information that you need.

To be honest part of my frustration when I read comments on stories like this is the lack of accountability there is to the comments. That is why I told Murray to use a real name if he wants credibility. I know who Murray is, but it’s too easy to take Monday Morning quarterback shots at these install stories and in the case of Murray it’s not his first time doing it. I have gone to the point to ask Murray to send in one of his job, and guess what—-I am still waiting.

I am sure the dealer—-in this case Modia—-did the best they could under whatever circumstances were involved. Maybe you could say the headline is misleading, but I am sure the client spent a lot of money on this system and as you noted; he is probably happy with the results. I am also willing to say it probably sounds pretty good. It may not rival a reference mastering system, but I’m sure it sounds a lot better than a lot of components that were haphazardly thrown together.

I would like to see more accountability and understanding from industry peers towards one another in these comments however.

Posted by Frank Doris  on  04/20  at  09:24 AM

What about the other side of the coin? I’ve heard extremely expensive audio systems that, to my ears, sounded bad, even terrible. System matching, tweaking, room acoustics and other factors are important, not just spending a lot of money on a system.

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