What is Zu’s take on the future of hi-fi?

There's been so much talk about the future viability of high fidelity playback that it’s making all of us at Zu sick.

The unraveling of the high end.

The death of two channel.

The iPod kids of today don't care about fidelity.

On and on and on it goes. Why all the talk? Certainly history shows that music is a primal force enjoyed by mankind irrespective of environment, nationality, or age. People will continue to make and enjoy it. Music is ever-expanding, ascending, descending, and reaching to fill our collective souls. But to disregard the large dynamics shifts in the industry of high fidelity audio, and not just in philosophy but in its trade and lifestyle, is to sign up for obsolescence.

“The iPod is a gateway drug.” —Nelson Pass

What Zu is seeing is a return to the fundamental enjoyment of music—all music, harmonic, melodic, soft, loud, and otherwise. It’s simply about the music, now more than ever before.

Hi-fi has lost its mantle of keepers of fidelity. It has lost its regard for new sounds, textures, expressions, and horizons. By and large, it’s leaderless and burdened with assumptions.

Yes, it’s the end as we know it. Hi-fi is being replaced. It is being displaced by systems and devices the new music lover can live with, systems that are capable of recreating the sonic events that move them.

No, it wasn’t hi-fi that saved vinyl. It was hip-hop, the DJ, and the techno scenes. And now it’s the kids, those growing up in the Great Recession and those that yearn for real things and value art. This new generation of music lover is about the DJ, punk, metal, desert, country, pop, alt, ambient, world, space, goth, jazz, classical, bluegrass, nerd, noise, and the bitchin’ and far out. Like most of what is going on in the music scene today, Zu is about sincerity, originality, putting it out there, making it happen. Zu is expanding hi-fi and refuses to pander to what it was in the ‘80s and ‘90s—not all that pretty when stacked up against the golden years of audio.

The original searchers for high fidelity recording and playback embraced sounds in all their forms. The original audiophile embraced ideals, compromise, and new progressions. The original audiophile has much more in common with the new generation and both are a 180 out from where the analytical high-end poser from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s lead us. Hi-fi is returning to its roots, returning to the music.

Here is a bit from Zu’s original communication drafted in 1999, on the eve of our by-our-bootstraps launch:

‘Impressions of new realities struggle and flow—eventual transition. Awareness of surroundings, songs of tranquility and warning—history and intuition instruct that patterns of sound have been a fundamental constant... Observance of nature, both physical and spiritual, teach us of the endless interplay of vibrational forces. While traveling the line of time we can see many periods of increased awakening and technological advancement but none so powerful and rapid as that of the Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment and the birth of modern physics. The dramatic increase of understanding regarding possibility, vibration and energy coincide with our collective ability to listen and express patterns of life.

David Toop in his book Ocean Of Sound paints a powerful image of our modern musical awakenings: “...Starting with Debussy in 1889, is an erosion of categories, a peeling open of systems to make space for stimuli, new ideas, new now, this environment included sounds of the world—previously unheard musics and ambient sounds of all kinds, urban noise and bioacoustics... unfamiliar tuning system and structuring principles, improvisation and chance.”’

In 2005, Zu expanded upon this theme. Condensing and adding to these thoughts, we turned them into a hard hitting marketing statement--

 A Revolution in American Hi-Fi.

It's the return to musical exploration, tradition, and character.

It’s the return to reason, to ease of use, to accessibility for normal homes.

It’s the return to searching for new sounds and insight through them.

A Revolution in American Hi-Fi is the return of sincere craftsmanship and design in the devices that recreate those sonic events.

It’s simply a return to living music.

Zu isn’t trying to capitalize on hi-fi's change. Zu is trying to participate in it, embracing and helping the new sounds and expressions along. We’re trying to grow hi-fi. Zu is carving out its contribution to the art of playback—in its products, music lifestyle, marketing, and sincere attitudes about music, fidelity, and corporate integrity.

Zu has been approached many times by hi-fi industry movers and shakers, asking how to reach out to the youth and tap into younger markets. This question reveals just how lost today’s hi-fi industry is. Zu isn’t ‘reaching out.’ We’re living it, making it. Zu is actually reaching out to the older generations, to those in hi-fi that can help bring about a revolution in the return, where hi-fi is restored to its proper place in the home- out from the cave and back to the living room, back to the first or second thing an eighteen year old kid needs in his dorm or apartment. Sure it’s traditionally been a guy thing, but not in the new scene. Girls are into it- the second and third biggest music lovers at Zu are girls, and that’s pretty normal in today’s music scene.

The fragments of hi-fi that remain must embrace the techno and everything else that has come along since Debussy, Hank, Elvis, Dylan, Beatles, Bambaataa, Lydon.... The new scene, where it’s about the music, is looking back at their heritage. They know Miles, they know old country and even the great composers. The new scene gets it. Embrace them and learn from them.