The death of the home stereo system
By Todd Leopold, CNN
For many years, it was a rite of fall.
You moved into your dorm room or new apartment. You started unpacking the car. And the first thing you set up in your new place was the stereo system: receiver, turntable or CD player, tape deck and speakers.
The wires could get tangled, and sometimes you had to make shelving out of a stack of milk crates. But only when the music was playing on those handpicked CDs, mix tapes or (geezer alert!) vinyl records did you move in the rest of your stuff.
Daniel Rubio wouldn’t know.
To the 23-year-old, new dorm rooms and new apartments have meant computers, iTunes, Pandora and miniature speakers.
“All I had to bring was my laptop. That’s pretty much what everyone had,” says Rubio, who attended Emory University in Atlanta and now works for a local marketing and communications firm. “It was actually pretty good sound. It would get the job done.”
“Get the job done”? That sounds like the white flag for an era that used to be measured in woofers and tweeters, watts per channel and the size of your record collection.
Indeed, the days of the old-fashioned component stereo system are pretty much over, says Alan Penchansky, an audiophile and former columnist for the music trade publication Billboard.
“What’s happened in the marketplace, the midmarket for audio has completely been obliterated,” he says. “You have this high-end market that’s getting smaller all the time, and then you’ve got the convenience market, which has taken over — the MP3s, the Bluetooth devices, playing on laptops.”
He wishes more people knew what they were missing. At its best, he says, audio reproduction has “a religious aspect.”
“There’s a primacy to audio,” he says. “It’s a form of magic.”