The Best Stuff Is Not In a Big Box Store

Hey-O! Blue Shirts

Hey-O! Blue Shirts

You may be a AV nerd if you walk in to large blue big box electronic store and think to yourself, “I wonder if I can stump the blue-shirt today.” It is most prevalent with audio products, and has almost turned in to a game for me. Don’t get me wrong, most of the guys are friendly and know their stuff. I even used to be one!

For example, “Which one of these audio receivers includes dedicated multi-channel pre-outs?” A simple enough question for anyone who considers themselves an audiophile. The sales guy gives me this look like a deer in the headlights of a freight train. You can almost hear his brain saying, “Oh no, dude, why are you trolling me with a question like this? You already know the answer… I should have helped grandma with her Bose sound-bar…. Where is my department lead?” To be fair this is not the fault of the guy working the floor right then. He needs to know every product on the floor in and out, and this particular product is not there.

The problem is that the product selection in the store has become incredibly limited compared to the past. Often, there is no way to really demo any of the audio products anymore. Do you remember the “boom rooms” from a decade ago? You know the enclosed alcoves on the side of the store where you could actually listen to a pair of speakers, or heaven forbid a subwoofer! They are gone, generally replaced with “mini-stores” within the store dedicated to mobile devices like Apple or Samsung. Today, the speakers sit on a metal shelf in the corner, not connected to anything.

The inability to demo quality audio isn’t surprising given the trend to move towards low quality streaming content. How much of generation Z has even watched a Blu-Ray with lossless multi-channel audio through a descent system? To be fair streaming audio and video quality is improving with better compression. High quality audio downloads are becoming more popular through Apple and other sites, but a lot of people won’t be able to enjoy the improvement as most content is still watched and listened to on computers or mobile devices.  Great sound really isn’t that pricey, and it isn’t a hard sell once you have experienced it, but that experience generally isn’t going to happen at the big blue store.

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