Andy Oattes, UK &Ireland Sales Director at Fine Sounds UK, argues installers should look to add more high-quality music experiences into their projects.

Do you remember listening to music before the advent of streaming? I do and it was a very different experience to the one that we have promoted and engaged in over the years since networked entertainment became the major driving force.

You could say more comforting in its simplicity, it was (is) very easy to pick-up a piece of vinyl or a CD and play your music. It was simpler but also many times more limited in the amount of content available to us on demand. You could say both good and bad. But the emphasis was very much more towards high performance and the business model for integrators made a lot more sense to me: a happier customer with a system that genuinely thrilled them and the added bonus of better margin for your business a win-win. The great irony has been that with the move towards networked systems, we, for a period at least, traded very consciously, ease of use of the system over the quality of music reproduction. And in doing so, we traded profitability for commodity. Now there are many good reasons for deploying systems that work for your clients – I get that. But I think we forgot about how great sound is a VITAL component of any system. And I think we lost our interest in high performance music systems along the way.

The same can be said about most areas of technology in our homes. Technology has the potential to improve our lives, but sometimes, while the tech is developing, our ability to engage with content in particular in the way we want for us and our clients, is made harder, less intuitive and more costly. Ultimately if not planned and implemented properly, we can have a situation where a high spending client has a poor performing audio and video solution, but a very ‘high tech’ costly system. We are designing the system around the control and not towards performance. Engineering out failure as the priority, can be to the determinant of the end result. I do not know about you, but I generally want to amaze my customers and the surest way of doing that is by pressing the play button on a great sounding system!

The power of music

It has been proven that music reproduction is good for us at a neurological level, and the better the reproduction, the greater the benefit. However, I fully accept that the ability to access your music intuitively matters greatly, but as in many industries, things do go in cycles and I believe we are getting back to a point that you don’t need to sacrifice high performance systems for commoditised solutions because you’re scared of reliability and ease of access. Finally, systems are available that are easy to use, reliable and amazing in their ability to sound superb! That is definitely something to embrace fully. In the last 10 years we saw the advent of systems such as the Logitech Squeezebox and other early networked music devices that were early tech, difficult to use and created a flow of customers and businesses in our space moved away from quality and towards commodity and reliability. However, now I look to streaming services such as Tidal with a play direct capability, Spotify with connect, Qobuz which is marching onwards, Roon with its amazing platform and MQA which has always strived towards the highest reproduction possible and I feel very optimistic about where we are going. Also have you noted that vinyl is still growing year on year? It’s no surprise to me that something so simple and so high performance continues to grow. In this new world of overconsumption, perhaps we need to get back to the simpler pleasure of a great system. If you have never experienced one, believe me, you need to. So, explore high performance audio and video systems in your projects, work with your clients to provide them the very best they can achieve. Make music front and centre of your agenda. I know, many, many customers that have become life-long friends because I did exactly that. They’ve gone on to find a lot of happiness in their homes with a great audio system; make it happen for them and you will create happy customers too. Ci-Fi is simply, Custom Install Hi-Fidelity.

This article first appeared in the pages of Essential Install magazine.

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