My speakers can beat up your iPhone

High quality speakers are a much better investment than phones, cameras, computers, tablets, etc. Nothing gets old faster than new technology.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The day the iPhone 5 goes on sale, millions of people will happily line up to buy Apple's latest marvel. How could they resist? What with the temptations of the iPhone 5's rumored smaller 19-pin dock connector, in-cell technology that enables the screen's touch sensors and LCD to be consolidated into a single layer, global LTE networks, and oodles of other goodies, it's no wonder Americans on average replace their cell phones every 21.7 months. Computers, digital cameras, tablets, and other gizmos have somewhat longer useful lives, but their owners never develop long-term, decade or more relationships with their stuff. One soulless product inevitably leads to the next, an endless parade of tech. Great audio gear can last practically forever, and not only that, you might want to keep it forever.

Four years ago I wrote about a friend who was using, on a near-daily basis, a turntable he bought 30 years earlier . He's still using it. I have another friend who will never part with his 30-year-old speakers he bought 20 years ago. He has zero interest in buying more modern speakers. So while high-end audio gear is expensive, it might wind up being cheaper to own than buying a series of disposable and inferior-sounding products over the years.

I'm referring to analog gear; few audiophiles use CD players they bought 20 years ago, mostly because few players are built well enough to last that long, and changes in the tech make old digital stuff irrelevant. Likewise, I doubt too many of you will be playing your 2012 Bluetooth or Wi-Fi speakers in 2017 or 2022, assuming the speaker still works. Nothing gets old faster than new technology. Most 10-year-old home theater receivers, even top of the line models, are now hopelessly out of date. Analog-based stereo receivers, even 30-year-old ones , are still sought after and sound great.

Some high-end audio manufacturers build gear that can provide superior sound for a long, long time. Take, for example, McIntosh Labs and Audio Research. They've both been in business for more than 40 years, and still provide affordable service for almost every component they ever made. That level of commitment doesn't do a lot to fatten their bottom lines; they do it because they take pride in the stuff they make.

Sadly, most high-tech companies don't need to offer that level of support; they've trained their most loyal customers to keep buying the latest triumph. That's an awesome marketing achievement, and one that makes these companies hugely successful and profitable.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.

 

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