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When I was in high school, I saved money from my after school job until I had enough to afford every ’80s teenager’s dream: a hi-fi system. By the end of a summer, I had enough for a complete Pioneer home stereo system: a turntable, dual tape deck, receiver, and even one of those new CD player things, along with two tower speakers that provided the most important requirement of all: bass. I upgraded the system here and there, but for the most part, that was my home stereo from age 17 until I finally parted ways with it in my mid-thirties. It sounded good, and it was loud. I even used it as my P.A. at some of my earliest DJ gigs. There were certainly far better-sounding home stereo systems out there, but mine was well above average. I even took the time to hot-glue faux leopard print to the speakers, and build a custom housing for it, complete with a shaggy exterior. I’ve included pictures below, as inspo for you budding interior decorators.

A hi-fi home stereo was something nearly everyone had back then, and everyone wanted the best-sounding system they could afford, because music was important to people. It still is, or at least I think it is, but I wonder if it is as important. The sound quality of music being played certainly isn’t important at all. We’ve gone from music being played on tape, record, or CD, all formats that offer crisp, clean, full-range sound– and yes, tapes sound better than you remember– to the norm being low-quality, highly-compressed, digital files. Even the best mp3s sound noticeable worse than any of the legacy formats I listed, and yet, no one cares. Spotify compresses already compressed files for quick streaming, and everyone accepts the sound quality.

Even worse, most people play those lo-fi songs on lo-fi equipment, either the tiny speakers built into a laptop or tablet, or via bluetooth to a small, lo-fi speaker, or, the worst option quality-wise of all, through earbuds. Sound quality has truly become utterly unimportant.

This makes sense, because in a time when music has been relegated from art to mere “content,” why should anyone care how good or bad the music sounds?

Do you care? Do you have a hi-fi system? If not, why not?

And now, as promised, my former home stereo in all its glory:

the furry cabinetleft sideright side

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