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US vs. UK Audio Experience

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AlanS

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Dec 23, 2007
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An interesting thread as another frustrated ex pat in the US. I'm in a fairly large metro area (Orange County, CA) so have a couple of options, but it appears over the last 10 years or so that the mass market over here had gone from 2 channel audio straight to 5.1. There is virtually no demand for 2 channel kit of any mainstream variety, probably due to the introduction of Apples ubiquitous kit. Convenience over quality

i actually had a chat with a couple of the WhatHiFi guys at CES this year on this very topic. There is virtually no press available on mainstream stereo kit with the likes of Stereophile concentrating on equipment that people can only dream of. I tend to head to eBay for my kit and source out UK stuff where possible as it is tuned to a particular British sound. Cyrus kit sometimes comes up, albeit infrequently. Speakers over here I've pretty much given up on and have got mine during some trips back to the UK.
 

SpursGator

Well-known member
Jan 12, 2012
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Jame5 said:
One thing is just that we're all squashed onto a little island. Most of us can drive to several large cities within a couple of hours.
Ahh, the hubris. This statement is true, as long as you do the driving at 3AM or are willing to use the hard shoulder for most movement.
 

SpursGator

Well-known member
Jan 12, 2012
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I think as a general rule (and someone else said this too) that American amps are fabulous, whilst the UK is much more competitive in speakers. For example, ProAc and PMC are known and respected by audiophiles across the US, and both companies have received glowing and detailed reviews in Stereophile. PMC just signed a distibutor agreement with an American company; I have a friend who just spend big money on ProAcs to go with his all-American system. On the other hand, some of the leading amp companies in the UK (Leema for example) don't even bother with the US market. Others are available but barely known (Roksan). Naim and Linn are well-known, but viewed as being very quirkily British. The US amp market is really strong. McIntosh, Ayre, Creek, Mark Levinson, etc. are tough competition.

I think the problems that the OP alluded to in the US have a lot to do with the sick state of retail in general, though the dominance of home theatre is a factor (Americans are a lot more likely to have the extra space to make into a HT). Independent shops in every industry are on the decline, being battered by internet sales on one side and the onslaught of the mega-stores on the other. The shopping experience in America is so unbeliveably superior to the UK: the service, choice, hours, return policies, and prices are better. But the downside of this is that it is very difficult for small shops to compete. It's great that one can buy pharmacy items 24/7 from ten different big retailers, but imagine the impossibility of opening a small chemist's shop in that environment: it's impossible. There is no way to compete on hours, price, etc. So most small retailing has moved to the internet in a way that has only just begun in the UK, and the physical shops available are either mega-stores (who can survive, theoretically, on volume) or ultra-premium boutiques (who survive thanks to big margins). A midrange shop just can't compete with Best Buy or webshops on volume or on the cost of doing business - so they are gone.

My parents live in Florida. In Orlando, a big agglomeration of two million people, there used to be five or six traditional hifi shops. By the time of the financial crash, there was one, which was put out of business by downturn. There are some upstarts there now, but all have a 'home theatre and custom installation' value proposition, with little apparently in stock.

This is typical of modern American retailing, not just hifi. The incredible inefficiency of the UK retail market (and the relative - for now - immaturity of the UK online market) has ironically resulted in more smaller shops and choice (again, for now - I see all the same trends happening here as usual).

In the meantime, if I were buying American hifi (or rather, buying hifi in America), I would do what every other American does when confronted by the tyranny of big-box shops: buy it all on the internet. You buy it, audition it, and then send it back if you don't like it. Is this more convenient? No, but it's what you have to do these days. At least you are auditioning in your living room.
 

Jame5

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Jun 10, 2010
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SpursGator said:
Jame5 said:
One thing is just that we're all squashed onto a little island. Most of us can drive to several large cities within a couple of hours.
Ahh, the hubris. This statement is true, as long as you do the driving at 3AM or are willing to use the hard shoulder for most movement.
I stand by that statement, but would add the caveat "outside peak times".
 

BigH

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Dec 29, 2012
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One problem in the UK is hearing what you want at one dealer. If going to different dealers it a bit hard to compare different gear because the rooms are all different and in my opinion some of the rooms are not very good. Some dealers may stock a brand may only carry 1 or 2 of their products, so check before going. Some brands only have a bout 6 dealers in the UK.
 

oldric_naubhoff

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Mar 11, 2011
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lindsayt said:
BigH said:
Most reviews in Stereophile of UK speakers are glowing.
Most reviews in Stereophile are glowing.
Lindsayt, that's exactly how I was intending to comment on BigH's statement :)

for this very reason I never bother to waste my time on all that English and jump straight into the technical measurements section. not all and always looks so rosy over there...
 

Benedict_Arnold

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Jan 16, 2013
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lindsayt said:
BigH said:
Most reviews in Stereophile of UK speakers are glowing.
Most reviews in Stereophile are glowing.
All reviews in Stereophile are glowing. That's because they're sh*t-scared of being sued by a manufacturer whose product they don't give a glowing review to. It's the same with all US consumer mags - cars, motorcycles, even (I suspect) toilet paper! And that's why I wouldn't bother wiping my derriere with their pages....

As for the techno-babble - unless you have a degree in micro-electronics they're pretty meaningless. I would much rather read what something sounds like rather than a bunch of graphs. Presumably the graph results are repeatable so the mag can't be sued for publishing them.

A hat's off to WHF for publishing credible, comparative reviews.
 

Chewy

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Feb 10, 2010
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Benedict_Arnold said:
As for the techno-babble - unless you have a degree in micro-electronics they're pretty meaningless. I would much rather read what something sounds like rather than a bunch of graphs. Presumably the graph results are repeatable so the mag can't be sued for publishing them.

A hat's off to WHF for publishing credible, comparative reviews.
I won't comment on the relative independence of magazine reviews here (clearly not the place on a magazine forum), but I for one find the Stereophile 'techno-babble' very interesting. You don't need a degree, just a little insight into how the performance of an audio device can be alluded to when measured by test equipment.

It gives another angle on the assessment of a product and provides the reader/potential purchaser with quantifiable information on an audio product in addition to the purely subjective comments of the reviewer.
 

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