Acronym Acquisition Syndrome (AAS)

Acronym Acquisition Syndrome (AAS)

There is a shadow hanging over the audio industry ATM. IMHO, the problem is compromising the sales of some extremely good consumer electronics, not only in traditional audio electronics, but in the worlds of AV, TV, DSLR, PC, and possibly even HVAC. IIRC, the problem has never been so significant. Many will dismiss this problem with ‘LOL’, but MMW if this goes unchecked, the consumer electronics market might be FUBAR’d!

OK, I’m talking about the rise of the acronym. 

The consumer electronics world is diverse and complex. It’s an understandable desire on the part of manufacturers and users alike to ‘chunk’ those diverse and complex processes down into bite-sized subsystems, and then give them a convenient and quasi-descriptive name, which can then be shortened to a pithy (typically three or four letter) acronym. This both explains the processes to the cognoscenti and shuts down the need to keep explaining the processes to the rest of us. It doesn’t always work – the photographic industry is incapable of settling on an acronym that best describes a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera (and yes, it tried ‘MILC’) – but when it does, the acronym has a life of its own: because you rarely need to expand the acronym ‘ABS’, it’s easy to forget it stands for ‘Anti-lock Braking System’, for example.

This convenient chunking of technology into acronyms is extremely useful, but it does have its downside. A pithy acronym can anchor a process in the mind of the user, but that can mean anchoring an unnecessary desire for that process in those who will likely never use it. This can drive whole technologies out of fashion and out of production simply because the market chases the next big acronym.

A relevant example of this was turn-of-the-century DVD players for home cinema/home theater users. In early 2001, universal players began to appear. These supported DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, CD, and Super Audio CD (this was some time before Blu-ray). They began to appear in higher-end players at the time, and almost immediately wiped out sales of high-performance DVD-Video players at a stroke. Many of these early universal players delivered more compromised multichannel audio and video performance than dedicated DVD-Video players, and many of these players were being installed in systems where the chances of playing DVD-Audio, CD, or SACD discs was remote in the extreme. Many buyers at the time admitted they had no interest in playing DVD-Audio or SACD but bought a universal player anyway. Eventually, things began to settle and by late-2002 good performing universal players quickly emerged at all price points, but for about a year, people were buying something in which they were not interested – and that undermined what they were interested in – only because they wanted those ‘DVD-A’ and ‘SACD’ acronyms in little white letters along the bottom of the front panel of their player.

There’s an acronym for that – FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out’.

The seemingly insatiable drive to get the latest and best creates a need to acquire acronyms like they were parts of a collection. This can become an obsession in and of itself – hence my term Acronym Acquisition Syndrome. Let’s say that you attend a demonstration of a component that holds interest. It sounds incredibly good in audition. However, in the listening process, one of those tick-boxes is missing. The natural reaction is to move on and find something that ticks all of those boxes but look closer. If you are deselecting a product simply because it uses the ‘wrong kind of tubes’ or doesn’t support a format that you express no interest, is that really a ‘deal-breaker’?

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