Home audio has logged into the interconnected home, where primary music sources have shifted from standalone CD players, SACD players and AM/FM tuners to networked sources such as PCs, Internet radio, Cloud-base music services, and handheld mobile devices such as iPods and smartphones.
This isn’t the first time that home audio has made a new connection. The first was in the early 1980s, when we celebrated the marriage of audio and video and began connecting hi-fi VCRs and CRT TVs to stereo systems. That marriage lasted and would later produce multichannel home-theater surround sound.
Today’s connections are bringing the audio industry back to its roots in two-channel music playback, albeit in a way that gives consumers access to more music more easily than ever before.
Music stored on an iTunes-equipped PC can be streamed via Wi-Fi to audio components and powered tabletop speakers throughout the house. Music stored on a Bluetooth-equipped phone can be streamed to component-audio systems and to tabletop speakers. And component-audio and tabletop music systems reach out to the Cloud to stream Internet radio stations and subscription music services.
Even the outboard DAC, a mainstay in the high end of the audio industry, has evolved to leverage new music sources.
New DACs feature USB ports to improve the sound of high-resolution audio files stored on PCs and USB sticks and improve the sound of music streamed through media streamers. Then there are the wireless DACs that stream uncompressed music wirelessly from a PC to a high-end stereo system in another room.
In another sign of audio’s evolution in the connected home, multiple component-audio companies have built component-size audio streamers with high-quality built-in DACs, Internet radio tuners, and technology to stream music from a networked PC.
No doubt this marriage will last, too.