Disposable gizmos vs. high-end audio

It's all disposable tech--with one notable exception--high-end audio.

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

You see it every day, a passing parade of new-tech gizmos crowding the market.

From phones to mobile Internet devices, digital cameras, music players, and mini notebooks--and on the home theater side--formats that whither and die just a couple of years after their much ballyhooed introductions. Every day there's more junk.

Most of this glittering assortment of wowie-zowie tech trinkets are destined to take up landfill space in five years or less. That's apparently OK; nobody expects to keep an iPhone all that long, and besides there's always something new, jam-packed with the latest tech to buy. Why would anyone expect to just buy something good enough to use for a decade or more?

Audio is the exception to that mindset. It seems like I've met a gazillion baby boomers still using the hi-fis they bought around the time of the first Woodstock. One Audiophiliac reader bemoaned the fact that his 20-year-old $600 speakers were now beyond repair. He got 20-something years of use out of the speakers--and that's not enough.

Woodstock-era audio, still going strong. McIntosh Labs

When it comes to audio people think it should last forever, though some of the best stuff comes close. For example, the "other" McIntosh, the audio company, still factory services amplifiers built when Nixon was president. Gee, I wonder if Apple would fix your dad's Apple II?

I covered some of this in my The 30 Year Old iPod blog a few months ago. But when I see all of this techno junk grabbing headlines day after day I stop and wonder: how many of you still use your first cell phone? I wonder why buyers aren't rising up to complain about their $1,000 notebooks crapping out before their time.

That's why investing in quality audio gear makes sense. Sure, it may seem wildly expensive, but when you stop and realize just how long you'll own a great, two-channel music system, it isn't all that outlandish. For example, those $1,875 a pair Magnepan 1.6/QR speakers I raved about the other day are an incredible value--even if they'll "only" last 20-plus years. How much do you think you'll spend on computers over that time period?