Musings On the Potential Demise of the Dedicated Sound Room

AR-HT1.jpgIn Jerry Del Colliano's Blog on April 11th, He postulates that Home Theater rooms which look and feel like a mini Quad-Plexes are kaput. Even in homes designed and built with rooms pre-ordained as "man caves" or "home theaters," these spaces are more likely to see use as game rooms, workshops, or wine cellars than as home theaters.

Jerry feels that the dedicated home theater will die due to the changes in the way we entertain and advances in video technology that allow for viewing in less formal, higher ambient light environments. I would like to add a second reason dedicated home theaters will be a less likely addition to new homes - the trend toward smaller-footprint houses and condominiums. A multiplicity of factors are pushing people all over the world into smaller domiciles - increasing energy costs, stricter mortgage policies, higher savings rates, and greener lifestyles are four big ones.

I see the same trend for two-channel and audio-only sound systems - fewer audiophiles with dedicated rooms and more multi-purpose room environments. How will high-end audio equipment need to change to accommodate these new physical realities? First off, I think that big 'ol metal boxes need to get smaller or maybe even disappear all together. Why does a preamp need to have a front panel when all it's functions could be controlled via an iPad? Why not vanish the entire command and control part of a system into a cabinet? And Power amps could become one with their speakers. Active and powered speaker systems could well become the norm. During the next century audiophiles may finally discover how to live with floors devoid of humongous power amplifiers.

And what about speakers? To co-exist in the newer, smaller 21st century family home, speakers will also need to integrate into a multi-use environment. On-walls and in-walls could well become the dominant speaker design methodology. Fortunately Wisdom Audio has shown that it is possible to make sonically benign in-wall speakers, so don't despair. And as rooms shrink, so the size of speakers appropriate for the average-sized room will also shrink. I see the market for smaller-footprint speakers expanding while a larger-footprint speaker will be even more of a limited-appeal item.

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