Are you ready to downsize your audio system?

Some audiophiles have on occasion downsized their systems, with mixed results.

Steve Guttenberg
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 Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read

It's an open-ended question, but if you have big speakers or a humongous home-theater system, have you considered going for something smaller?

I understand, but if you like the sound you have now, are you willing to give that up? That's the hard part. It's a lot easier if you're not all that crazy about what you've got -- sure, make the change. How drastic does the downsizing need to be? Going from a set of big tower speakers to a pint-size Bluetooth speaker or two might be a disaster. It's like that old saying, "You don't know what you've got until you lose it." Perhaps more modest shrinkage might be a better way to go. Say, swap out those towers for a great set of bookshelf speakers, such as the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5; that would be a better idea.

Enlarge Image
Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Likewise, trading down from a full home theater to a skinny sound bar might be a bad move; perhaps a pair of stereo speakers and a stereo receiver would do the trick.

For a lot of audiophiles, the gear is a guilty pleasure, like so many other hobbies and pursuits. For other folks, they might rationalize buying a boat or sports car, collecting watches, or dropping thousands of dollars on a bicycle. Or maybe spending a week's salary for a concert or sports ticket. I know lots of audiophiles who struggle with the guilt of owning high-end systems.

When I put the downsizing question to my Facebook friends, the responses were all over the place. "Yes, It was something I regretted and would not do again!" Another chimed in with "Not yet. Have always traded up, but can see the day coming that I have to reduce the size of things." Still another said, "I've done it.....twice. First time I needed cash to put down on a new house. I went from pricey separates to a respectable Krell integrated amplifier, and much smaller speakers. Took me a few years to build it back. Then I downsized again, although I kept the large speakers, and it's working out much better this time." I liked the guy who kept his response short and sweet: "No way! I'm still going up!"

If you moved to a smaller house or apartment, you might have had no choice but to get smaller speakers, or even shrink the entire system. It's not that uncommon -- I've had to dial back my system from time to time.

Speaking for myself, I love gear and music more or less equally. If you really think music is more important, sell off the most expensive part of your system, and replace it with something a lot cheaper, but still perfectly decent. Then tell me if you still enjoy the music just as much. If you've downsized, share your experience in the Comments section below.