Friday, February 28, 2014

Daily Matinee: Save The Stereo!

Screengrab from an RCA promotional film for its Living Stereo stereophonic
music systems ("Stereo Victrola") and albums (circa 1958).
1993 ad for Radio Shack's
Optimus surround speakers. 

Over the years, we have seen many technological transformations in the field of home entertainment. Unfortunately, the topic of “high- fidelity audio” is rarely mentioned these days.

While I was working as an intern for The City of Frederick (through their audio-visual department)- my supervisor and I were having an interesting conversation about high-fidelity audio. We were wondering about what happened to the vast array of speaker choices one could find, mediocre selection of music genres/titles in stores (since the demise of Borders Books & Music in 2010), why there aren't many high fidelity components in stores (receivers, speaker models, etc.), and the unfortunate downfall of prestigious audio companies (KLH, Altec Lansing, Kenwood, Fisher, etc.). It was an interesting conversation piece, as we were wondering why hi-fi components were rarely recognized in these times.

In an age where dinky-sounding MP3/iPod docking speakers and overpriced (yet cheaply-made) non-studio headphones are ruling the audio world, there is an advocacy project that is committed to saving high-fidelity audio technology from becoming obsolete.

The website is called Save the Stereo, launched by Gordon and Angela White, with Rob Czetli. This website is for audio enthusiasts, lovers of music, and experts in the audio industry. The goal of Save the Stereo is to promote and develop ideas for future generations of audiophiles and music listeners, so that high-fidelity components will not go the way of an Edison cylinder record. They offer some interesting points- reasons for hi-fi audio, costs/concerns of modern hi-fi components, challenges to audio components, inspirational/spiritual/health benefits of recorded sound, and how daily life can be better and more enjoyable with recorded music. These are just a few reasons for the importance of high-fidelity sound.

1979 advertisement for Yamaha's Natural Sound
speakers and audio components.
Though we are in an age of rapid-changing technology, people are rediscovering the joy of high fidelity sound. In recent years, there has been resurgence in vinyl recordings, along with perfectly-mastered compact discs (titles that aren't heavily compressed), Blu-Ray audio discs, and high-quality MP3 & FLAC files. One doesn't have to spend a fortune on building a stereo system- there are various tales of audio enthusiasts acquiring vintage components from yard sales, thrift stores, etc. Several electronics retailers do sell moderately-priced stereo/surround components and speaker systems.

There is a survey on Save the Stereo, and to readers who haven’t visited the website- feel free to take the survey. Your iPod/MP3 player will sound better through some stereo or surround sound receiver- regardless of the system’s age. And yes, you can crank it up to eleven (in commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of This Is Spinal Tap).

As I've stated on Save the Stereo (after taking the survey), I think that all generations should experience high-fidelity audio at some point in life.

IN MEMORIAM: We lost two icons this week, comedian/actor/director/writer Harold Ramis (1944-2014) and Jim Lange (1932-2014), original host of The Dating Game

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The proprietor of "At The Matinee", Chris Hamby- welcomes your comments and suggestions on any post featured. NOTE: All comments are monitored by the author.