Ever wonder why old tech appeals to audiophiles, but videophiles not so much?

Audio

by Steve Guttenberg December 24, 2016 10:47 AM PST @AudiophiliacMan

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Most music lovers first got acquainted with digital audio in 1982, the year the CD came out. TV remained 100 percent analog from the very earliest broadcasts right up through 1997 when the DVD debuted, and analog over-the-air broadcasts in the US only started to be phased out in 2009. That's not so long ago, but since then analog TV has vanished without a trace. Audiophiles, on the other hand, still love LPs -- and not just old ones they pick up in thrift stores. Sales of new LPs and turntables go up year after year.

All of that illustrates just how far apart audiophiles and videophiles are. I have yet to see any videophiles clamoring for the return of analog tape formats like VHS or Beta, or all-analog LaserDiscs. I doubt any video companies will be releasing "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" on VHS tape, but new music from Lady Gaga, John Legend and the "Jackie" soundtrack are available on LP. The audiophile/videophile gulf extends to the hardware: big and bulky CRT (tube) TVs aren't coming back, but audiophiles are still buying new tube amplifiers.

From where I sit, there's not much love on the video side for old tech. No one services 10-year-old TVs; broken displays are unceremoniously dumped in the garbage. To make sure I wasn't missing something, I checked in with CNET Senior Editor David Katzmaier, and he said something that surprised me: "There is definitely a 'You'll have to pry this plasma TV from my cold, dead hands' mentality out there still. That has everything to do with the fact that they're [plasma displays] are still really good televisions, even though they're older, and only 1080p, yada, yada, yada." So I learned that a small group of videophiles still have an appreciation for old tech and aren't rushing out to buy the latest 4K TVs.

Even so, I still think that, for the most part, audiophiles and videophiles come from very different places. There are many high-end audio companies making brand-new tube amplifiers, but there are no signs that tube TVs are going to make a comeback.

Nothing gets older faster than the latest new technology, but the best vintage high-end audio ages gracefully.

Steve Guttenberg

I know lots of audiophiles that prefer decades-old speakers, turntables and amplifiers, and even some of the ancient ones from reputable manufactures have at least some chance of being repaired. McIntosh services its electronics from the 1970s, or even earlier -- that's why McIntosh amplifiers hold their value. By contrast, a $12,000 panel from the early 2000s is nearly worthless. When my friend's Runco IDP800 video projector stopped working, he couldn't get it fixed. It sold for $15,000 when it was new in 1993; now it's junk. I assure you that a similarly priced high-end amplifier of the same vintage would still be worth thousands of dollars today.

Fifty-year-old vinyl records, if they're in good condition, still sound amazing. The very best of them, played on first-rate audio systems can sound awfully close to live music. VHS and Beta tapes, even if they still work, look like crap. Old tube TVs, even restored ones, are nowhere as sharp as an LCD display. Progress in video technology is impossible to ignore.

Nothing gets older faster than the latest new technology, but the best vintage high-end audio ages gracefully -- except for digital components, which are more like video and get no love from audiophiles.

So it appears that audiophiles and videophiles don't equally share an appreciation for analog media or vintage tech, or as my friend Allen noted, "Hearing and seeing are vastly different sensory processes!" Maybe that has something to do with it.

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