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More thoughts on the “Wife Acceptance Factor”

More thoughts on the “Wife Acceptance Factor”

Motivated by my friend Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney’s article on the same subject that you can read here, I must say I agree with her, but for some different and more wide-ranging reasons.

Having sold hifi years ago, I remember customers getting all excited about a system only to say, “My wife will never go for it.”  Granted, there are a lot more attractive speaker choices these days, but this was always a bullshit line, and my friends that sell automobiles say the same thing.  It’s usually a way to get out of wasting a salespersons time on things you can’t afford – throw your wife or girlfriend under the bus because she’s not there.  This is even more of a bullshit line because if you’ve been paying any attention at all to the person you’re married to or cohabitating with, you should have a really good idea as to what they deem acceptable or not.  And if you don’t, you’ve got way bigger problems than what speakers to try and put in the living room.

I can’t tell you how many people’s homes I’ve visited with massive televisions, and when I ask the fateful question, “how did you ever get that monster past your wife,” the answer is almost unanimous – “she’s the one that wanted it.”  Which leads me to believe that women aren’t the firewall between guys getting cool stuff and not getting cool stuff.

We’ve made fun of the dreaded WAF on more than one occasion, and our first cartoon in issue two of TONEAudio, drawn by world renowned New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly says it all.  Her feminist sensibilities have always helped to make light of our wacky audiophile world.

Ask any Meridian Sooloos dealer how many $15k Sooloos music servers they’ve sold and who the ultimate buyer was – it’s almost always been the gentleman customers’ wife or girlfriend that perked up when she saw how easy to use and engaging the Sooloos is.  It’s the same reason I have used their server since day one and continue to this day, even though there are better sounding choices out there. I really just want to listen to music, and though I’m engulfed in technology all day long, I’m tired of screwing around with it.

We’ve been seeing a similar response to the Devialet; men and women are tired of having that big rack system and loom of cables in their home.  Back when that was the only option, we had to deal with it, but after years of high performance gear that doesn’t look like something stolen from the set of a Mothra vs. Godzilla movie, there are clearly more stylish choices available.

How and why we buy

However, the further ranging issue here is how we shop for things. Having attended a number of hifi shows and events across the world, I tend to gravitate towards the women in the audience because I’m always curious what level they are participating.  They are usually kind partners in crime, hanging out with their significant other because they love gear, reluctant partners that would rather be anywhere else but here or women that own and appreciate fine audio. The first group is always affable and further discussion usually reveals that they love music and more often than not are leaned on heavily during set up because they have more acute hearing than their buddy that’s obsessed over said gear in the first place.  The second group is no fun at all, and the final group is incredibly intriguing to me because my limited experience with female audiophiles reveals an entirely different consumer.

Some broad sweeping generalizations

Granted, my experience with female audiophiles is limited, but much like my female friends that ride motorcycles and love automobiles as much as I do, I’ve noticed a similarity in approach.

The women I’ve chatted with see the hifi system as a means to an end – a way to listen to and enjoy music, and they tend to make a higher initial purchase than most men I’ve talked to.  Where guys more often than not are really caught up on the gear, and the constant upgrading of the system, women tend to actually enjoy their systems more.  One female customer I talked to at an event said, “If I need a $50k system to get the job done, show me why and if it makes sense I’ll write the check.  Don’t sell me a $10k system and then try and get me to keep upgrading it, I’m not interested.”

Talk to the average hifi guy and the first words out of his mouth tend to be bragging about his system, how it’s the best and how it kills, destroys, annihilates (etc. etc.) everything else out there, especially the substandard gear you own.  I’ve never had this conversation with a female audio or auto enthusiast.

My friend Kathleen Thomas, who works for AudioQuest recently said on Facebook, “Is the man cave the room with the shittier hifi?”  And I’d have to agree.  Most so called man caves I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of visiting were chock full of neon beer signs and a stereo system I wouldn’t give to my neighbors kids.  Now a dedicated listening room, that’s another story, albeit a luxury relatively few people can afford.

In the end, will we see more women interested in hifi?  I certainly hope so, because our industry needs more enthusiasts if it’s going to survive, but the bigger problem (and a great subject for a whole series of articles) is really free time.  Male or female, we live in a more accelerated world from hifi’s humble beginnings back in the late 1950s.

While we are bombarded with more data streams than ever before, perhaps it’s a better reason than ever before to sit back, relax and listen to some of your favorite music without distraction – something that both sexes enjoy.

7 Responses to More thoughts on the “Wife Acceptance Factor”

      [...] the last couple weeks there has been an interesting gaggle of columns and blog posts on the lack of women in the audiophile hobby. For those of you more comfortable with [...]

    -Audiophiles, Women, and Domestic Space | The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World / December 10th 2014, 6:13 am

      [...] piece lit a fire under TONEAudio publisher Jeff Dorgay who penned “More thoughts on the “Wife Acceptance Factor” not 24 hours [...]

    -Girls aloud: gender issues in the hi-fi world | DAR by DAR__KO / December 8th 2014, 4:41 pm

      I have the luxury of a life partner, my wife, that allows me to purchase whatever audio gear I choose. Fortunately we both love music and to that end, she too enjoys our multiple systems. In the end this is about enjoying music and film. Bigger is not always better nor is more expensive always better than more modest. This is where a a great local audio / video retailer is worth their weight in gold. Take the family and some favorite music and have a go at listening. Acceptable is the system that makes you "ALL" groove. It may be larger, but that tends to be okay with all if involved and grooving.

    -Kevin / December 8th 2014, 6:10 am

      When I was married, I would never have been allowed to spend what I did on Audio. My ex was more sensible and would have wasted the money on bills, food, etc. In fact, audio is about the only thing good about a divorce.

    -jrsmith / December 7th 2014, 1:24 pm

      Funny you should say "...we live in a more accelerated world from hifi's humble beginnings back in the late 1950s." Because I think that's exactly where we should look to bring a broader audience—especially women—to high quality audio. By that, I'm talking about the large, credenza-size console stereos that were popular at the time. Even from the early days of radio, equipment was designed like furniture, so that it looked like it belonged in a living room and not a laboratory. My take on a modern console would be largely the same as the old ones, except it would not include any source components. Just analog and digital inputs, amplification and loudspeakers. It would be intended to interface with something sophisticated like the Sooloos, or even something as simple as an iPhone. Just put it up against a wall, plug it in and you're ready to go. And because there would be no source components, it wouldn't need a lid to access them so the top of the console would be the perfect place to put the ubiquitous large screen TV.

    -TheAudioGuild / December 7th 2014, 10:08 am

      Right on! My wife and I read this article out loud to each other and were nodding vigorously! When we got together she set to work in making my stereo "acceptable" as we upgraded a couple of things, and also added Vinyl playback. She also insisted on dragging it out of the "mancave" and put it in our living room (relegating the TV to the mancave turning it into the "TV room") where it remains our main source of entertainment. I think that if the Audiophile world could well and truly welcome women, there could be more music, reproduced well, for everyone!

    -Bromo Audio / December 7th 2014, 7:51 am

      [...] TONEAudio's publisher, Jeff Dorgay, adds his two cents worth about the dreaded Wife Acceptance factor and how it applies to high end audio  [...]

    -Why I hate the Wife Acceptance Factor | Music e... / December 7th 2014, 12:53 am

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