Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

At CES, Plenty of Snake Oil to Go Around

Tyler Hayes, Fast Company:

From the outside looking in, the state of the music industry is tough to figure out. Streaming music was up 54% last year, but so were sales of the decades-old vinyl format. At the CES gadget extravaganza this week in Las Vegas, wireless products have been abundant—Google even announced a new wireless streaming initiative for connected speakers called Cast for Audio—but hardware makers also appear to be doubling down on high-end audio gear. The kind of equipment that’s typically meant for those with supersonic hearing, not average consumers.

Setting aside the woefully incorrect use of the word “supersonic” here, nobody has hearing good enough to notice the difference between a CD-quality file and whatever Pono is selling. Hell, most people can’t tell the difference between a mediocre quality MP3 and what’s on a CD. Hayes is just writing up the marketing package here.

If the trend in the music industry has been for people to stop paying for music, then the companies selling audio products are going to start targeting the outliers who still want to savor music that sounds like it just dripped from the musicians’ instruments. And if companies like Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic can make high-end audio equipment cool in the process, maybe more people will get serious about music.

I’m someone who still pays for music. I’m serious about music. This sort of stuff makes me feel like I’m getting ripped off, not like it’s “dripping from the musicians’ instruments”. Nobody gets serious about music by buying expensive audio gear. At that point, they’re not listening to the music — they’re just listening to the gear.