Hi-Fi’s high point was the 1970s – postscript

This article was being discussed in a couple of places over the last two days. Opinions were ‘mixed’, shall we say.

One thing is clear: I didn’t do a good enough job of saying what I meant. I wasn’t saying that the 1970s gear was better than today’s (although in one important respect I think the speakers were). I was trying to say that as a hobby and industry, things were more exciting and more positive than today. And in terms of my personal taste, I liked the look of the gear.

There’s no substitute for novelty, and of course hi-fi was relatively new in the 1970s. The passing of this is definitely part of my ‘lament’.

Some people made the valid point that things must be better today because you can buy all the vintage gear at knock-down prices and enjoy all the benefits of modern-day digital streaming, bluetooth and headphones. On a strictly logical, utilitarian level, yes – but you won’t find many people who share your love for the old stuff, which makes it a somewhat lonely preoccupation.

Someone made the point that today’s youth can have the high quality music of their choosing “all the time” because of their i-devices and decent headphones. Again, true, but one point I meant to make in my article was that although I do not mourn the passing of the ceremonial aspects of playing an LP, I do quite like the idea of sitting down in a comfortable room with large, effortless speakers to do nothing but listen to an album without hopping between tracks. I really wouldn’t want to be listening to music all the time.

In the 1970s, a civilian (non-audiophile) could bring someone back to their luxurious pad and impress them with their good taste and ostentatious audio system (which was de rigueur in those days), maybe playing some Kate Bush or other fine music. These days the host would place their phone in a receptacle, and rather more bland modern music would dribble out from the compact speaker.

Or at the other end of a very polarised spectrum, today’s audiophile would probably sequence the turning on of his dual monoblocks and pre-amp then, as they were warming up, carefully take out one of his playing copies of Take Five, avoiding tripping over cables you might expect to find in a power station raised on little ceramic pots, and put it on a turntable the size of a wedding cake, lower the arm and wait for the listening material to emerge through speakers that look like a snail or other trying-too-hard shape.

For the vast majority of people, hi-fi is a paltry experience these days, which it wasn’t in the 1970s. It’s either that, or they become a modern-day audiophile – which is something for a man to do in private and not to be shared with polite company.

Just my own impression of the situation..!


One thought on “Hi-Fi’s high point was the 1970s – postscript

  1. I have to agree with you here to a degree. In the 70’s everyone (almost) had some sort of stereo system even my grandmother had a Capehart Console. Many music enthusiast today have really good play back systems that don’t qualify as audiophile, myself included. Many just enjoy good sound just like the 70’s without taking out a 2nd mortage for a stereo system.


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