To Doug Schneider,

This may sound like age discrimination, but I wonder if the idiot who thinks the LS50 uses the same drivers as the LS3/5A or the other moron you encountered are under 40, because I've found that there are a lot of younger people who are extremely successful, yet extremely mediocre at what they do.

A good case in point is one of the newest writers for Stereophile who couldn't figure out why the channels on his home system were reversed, because it wasn't the speaker connections, and had to actually consult John Atkinson, who had to explain to him that it must have been the interconnects between his CD player and amp! And this person writes for the #1 audio magazine in the U.S.!

Other examples are the numerous musicians, actors, writers, and other "artists" who have no talent, but are laughing all the way to the bank! Many of these "musicians" can't write, can barely play their instrument, and can't carry a tune, yet sell millions of records. And there are hundreds of "actors" on TV and in movies who have no talent at all, yet it doesn't seem to matter. Mediocrity is the new excellence!

I rest my case.

Aloha from Hawaii,

I didn’t ask the ages of the gentlemen in question, but if I had to guess, one was nearing 40, while the other was well over 40. That said, I’m not sure if age has anything to do with competence, at least not in audio. I think the problem is that today’s salespeople simply aren’t that well educated when it comes to audio -- at least not like they were back when. I don't want to get into actors or movies, at least not in this response, but I do think you're right that in audio, mediocrity seems to be taking over.

I think this downward trend doesn't have to do with age, but with education, experience, and exposure. I started buying audio equipment in the very early ‘80s. Back then, almost all the stores had trained service technicians on staff who were very knowledgeable about products being sold -- they had to fix them, after all. And most of the salespeople I met also had a firm technical understanding of their products and knew how they worked. In fact, quite a few were DIYers, which probably helped give them this footing. What’s more, the salespeople back then would promote good products to their buyers even if no one had heard of the products, or there were not many (or any) reviews. In fact, that’s how I discovered PSB speakers -- it was a salesman, not a magazine, who introduced the brand to me. These days, I rarely find salespeople who have an in-depth understanding of what they’re selling, and there are few I’ve encountered who are willing to try to sell products if they are not backed by some over-the-top review, even if it’s penned by a writer who can’t connect the wires in his system correctly. This actually bodes well for publications such as ours, but I don't think it's good for the audio industry.

Will anything change this current trend toward mediocrity? I have no control over what goes on in the stores, but in my opinion, the press can have an impact, which is something we’re working on here. Mostly, it comes down to speaking frankly about good products versus bad ones, doing measurements, and taking a far more critical approach when it comes to reviewing equipment. Of course, readers can help by writing relevant letters for us to publish, just like the one you sent to me. . . . Doug Schneider