CNN Ponders the Death of the Home Stereo System

Like many people of a certain generation, I sunk an ungodly amount of money into stereo systems. Not home theatre set-ups:  proper two-channel units with high-power amps and speakers capable of shifting foundations or cracking chassis welds.

But then came along the home theatre revolution and people began to move towards systems that did more than play music in stereo.  Add in the rise of MP3s and the bottom dropped out of the old-school home stereo market.

CNN takes a look at this transition.

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.”

Well, maybe.  But I seem to sense a shift back to more serious listening in the old-school way.  Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.  Continue with the CNN article here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

5 thoughts on “CNN Ponders the Death of the Home Stereo System

  • September 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I actually just re-arranged my house so that the main floor living room no longer has a TV in it and is set up for "more serious listening in the old-school way". Now I just need to do a decent upgrade on my current turntable/receiver/speakers and I'm good to go.

  • September 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    "Actually pretty good sound."

    Ugh I can't stand the sound of music from laptop speakers. Even if it's not my own, I find it distracting and horrendous.

  • September 30, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I've got a hybrid thing happening. Old laptop full of FLAC rips of all my CDs, pumped through a DAC and receiver connected to a pair of thumpers I've had since the days when you could actually buy full-size towers.

  • September 30, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    "Penchansky traces the decline of the stereo system to the early '80s rise of the music video, which brought visuals to the fore."

    Maybe. Or maybe the advent of the cassette brought down peoples' standards. And maybe the advent of the mp3 helped push them further down. And maybe the rise of Youtube added to that.

    One wonders if the inability of TV manufacturers to consistently have an audio-out port for home audio systems hindered the desire for quality, too. Thankfully, we're seeing those ports now; in digital.

    I too am hopeful that the desire for quality sound will increase. So I'm not the only one who listens to an over-compressed MP3 someone is blasting and says "Ewww, those cymbals sound atrocious."

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