Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

CES Trends: Do Audiophiles Really Want to Hide Their Gear?

As I was learning more about the new Linn Series 530 loudspeaker, it became obvious that this product -- which is packaged along with a Linn streamer -- is made for a different kind of audiophile. The cloth-covered speakers -- with your choice of cloth, by the way -- along with the powerful DSP engine that can make the speakers sound like they are placed out into the room, are geared toward the audiophile who doesn’t want to see their equipment. We know a market for this type of thinking exists, and up until now the in-wall/in-ceiling market has primarily served it. The price of the Linn system described above is $19,200. Do people really want to spend that kind of coin only to hide their purchase?

Linn

Probably. But consider most traditional high-end gear: fancy casework, glossy paint, meters, and readouts. If you glance through our coverage, you will see plenty of new products that fit this description. Whether it is the traditionally Swiss, tasteful casework of the new Nagra products, or the multitude of colors that you can choose for your new MartinLogan Renaissance ESL 15A loudspeakers ($24,995/pr.), high-end gear typically demands the attention of the audiophile listening to it. I talked about this aspect of ownership in a recent SoundStage! Ultra article, “High-End Audio and Well-Made Things.”

MartinLogan

Maybe the price point is also relevant. I imagine Naim will sell containers full of their new Mu-so Qb compact audio system. Yes, the Qb ($999) does come in many color options, and does have a cool acrylic base, so its appearance has clearly been taken into account at the design stage. But the Qb is also tiny by high-end standards -- it’s almost amazing to me that this little guy has five active drivers and a passive radiator all squeezed into its small form factor. So really, the person who buys the Mu-so Qb has the option of hiding the thing because of its small size, or buying it in a color that fits a room’s decor so that passers-by can see it.

Naim

Ultimately, I think there are markets for each approach. I love the manliness aspect of big, well-built loudspeakers. But I’d also like to have a Naim Mu-so Qb sitting in my kitchen. Options are good.

Jeff Fritz
Editor-in-Chief, SoundStage!