The Return of High-Components and Specialty Store Style

It was last summer when I first started promoting the idea of the Pure Audio Renaissance. And today, the market seems finally poised to go into what I call “pure audio mode.” At the same time, we are seeing a real increase in demand for high-end specialty shop products and services. Indeed, the entire market seems transformed compared to just several years ago. Mega-stores dominate the consumer electronics market. However, when it comes to specialized, high-end products, such as pure audio and 2-way theater, specialty stores are the most appropriate outlet due to the fact that these products usually come with a demand for service as well. We can now say that we are entering an age where high-end products not found in discount mega-stores are being distributed exclusively through specialty stores which sell some mass-market products as well.

According to a consumer trends survey recently conducted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the number of consumers who answered that they would choose design or service over price considerations is on the rise. This is particularly so for those in the high-income bracket of 12-16 million yen a year. In addition, the findings point out that the products people are most interested in purchasing is consumer electronics. This last finding in particular stresses the fact that a market is already in existence for specialty products.

Currently, electronic manufacturers set aside part of their overall production to make products specifically for mega-stores, serving as a kind of subcontractor for the big chains. This has led to both exhausted sales and production. High-end product manufacturers are now stepping away from this discount-store market environment and instead are seeing higher profits coming from distribution via specialty stores. Because of this trend, we are now also seeing a great acceleration in the establishment of these specialty stores. In spite of what is an undeniable market, if specialty stores sustain what is an outdated style or way of doing business, customers may very well keep their distance. After all, this high-end system is based on having high-quality shops and services. Fortunately, appropriate outlets are springing up one after another and pure audio and theater systems are also on the rise.

With these current market trends in mind, Senka 21 is strongly promoting the nation-wide establishment of a new distribution system more suitable to this high-end market of AV and home theater equipment. Behind this aim is my call for the revival of high-components for pure audio.

It was back in 1993 when I first suggested a new audio system, which I termed “high-component audio.”

My intention was to try and get the high-components market in place on an industry-wide basis at a time when the mini-components market was still strong. At that time, I called for the creation of a 100 billion yen market, and it was around then that we began seeing high-components mentioned in general magazines, including a feature article on the subject bearing the title, “High-Components: the Savior of the Audio Industry”. After this, in no time at all, high-components came to be well known by people.

The concepts below are even today new to us. Not only are the concepts new but the market has also shown a surprisingly large trend of women purchasers.

- Super high quality
- Great attention to design
- Easy operation
- Reasonable price

We are currently seeing the appearance of new high-component products in the market one after the other. For example, in addition to the announcements of the upcoming release of new high-components products by major brands such as Denon and Onkyo, on March 10, Sony will release its long-awaited “pure audio” high-components “System 501,” the first system released on the theme of “pure heart audio” by one of the major audio manufacturers. In addition to high quality sound, the system boasts a depth of only 25cm. Large depth measurements have long stood in the way of design improvements. However, with this new revolutionary Sony system the problem has been solved.

What really interests me about this new Sony product is the way Sony proactively took its test-designs into ordinary people’s homes for extensive test listening, thereby ensuring that its new product would be harmonious with recent user trends and lifestyles. I think this is outstanding, and I plan to keep my eye on this product as something that may create future trends. I am also hoping it will be distributed in specialty stores.

High-components have joined the ranks of the pure audio renaissance. It is my belief that we are poised to see great things from this new market.