The Golden Age Of Hi-Fi
It's almost a cliché for editors and writers in today's audio world to proclaim it a 'Golden Age', but it's said for a reason. While that first Golden Age of Hi-Fi saw the birth and proliferation of stereophonic sound in the home and that second Golden Age was the start of that 1970s underground movement that became high-end audio, today's audio world is one of huge scope; you can carry your entire your hi-fi system (and your music collection) in your pocket, or you can devote whole rooms to playing and storing your music. And people happily do both!
Similarly, when it comes to buying that hi-fi system, you can spend less on your sounds than the cost of a takeaway pizza, or more than the cost of fitting out and staffing a Michelin-starred restaurant. And, for the most part, it's all good!
Sure, there are super-cheap no-brand earphones that drag the standard down – and a few style-led record players that not only sound bad but can ruin records played on them – but in the main the quality of even extremely affordable audio equipment today is very, very good.
This can spark the 'why spend more?' argument, but this argument frequently folds under cross-examination. Spending more on your audio equipment gets you over the hurdle of mass-market tuning with overpowering bass (and sometimes a thin, forward treble), and usually results in a system that has greater volume and dynamic headroom, a wider, more accurate frequency response, lower distortion, and reduced noise. These sweeping statements are a coat that buttons up over many other aspects of performance, but in broad terms, this is what you pay more for!
Of course, there is another issue that is frequently dismissed by the more puritanical parts of the audio fraternity; you spend more because you want something that looks and feels better. Maybe you don't just want a vinyl wrap and would like a real veneer or piano finish. Perhaps you don't want your audio pride and joy to be housed in a slightly glorified cake tin. One of the great joys of listening to good audio in the 2020s is that this is no longer an either/or choice; you can get products that look good that also sound good too.
A part of the reason why we are able to extract so much more out of our audio systems today is down to modern design and engineering standards. While there's always room for the visionary designer, the tools at the disposal of today's manufacturers to both develop and produce new products help raise our collective game.
So, yes. Despite soaring fuel costs and falling disposable income, despite supply chain issues turning 'you can have it today' into 'hopefully within a few months', despite the 'bulldog chewing a wasp' white-noise from the trolls... we are living in a Golden Age. Enjoy it!