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.