When I worked for Mark Levinson in the mid-1990's at the lofty Cello Music and Film showroom, Mark was selling the biggest, most high end music and home theater systems in the world at his New York showroom. While Joe Cali and I were catering some of Hollywood's elite for their audiophile and AV feats, Mark was selling systems on Park Avenue back then for north of $1,000,000 per installation. These installations included all of the $20,000 per component Cello equipment you could dream of, amazing room acoustics from RPG, sets of sound-proof studio doors, window sound isolation to prevent the deafening sounds of Manhattan life from leaking into your audio room - all culminating into one hell of an AV system.
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What was missing? Surround sound. Mark could have given a crap. And so could his clients. They loved music. And they love movies too. Yes, they had 9-inch CRT video projectors, Faroudja line "quadrurplers" and top of the line roll-down Stewart screens - and they didn't have the mess of trying to make a system work via 5.1 surround sound. These nine and ten figure clients loved the results. They recorded prodigal talent from Julliard playing Stradivari violins that they owned via systems Mark set up. They burned the performances on $15 per disc CD-Rs at a time when a Marantz CD-R cost $15,000 per component.
Roll the tape forward to today and many of the apex-predator audiophiles are pissed at the world. They love vinyl. They love tubes. They love music and they even love movies - but they do NOT love the equipment used to play back movie soundtracks. And who can blame them? An audiophile who bought an Audio Research REF3 preamp 10 years ago has owned a top-of-the-line audiophile preamp for maybe $250 per year at most. That is the definition of "affordable luxury." Conversely, the guy who bought a top-of-the-line AV preamp from that era would have needed to spend $10,000 plus to upgrade a Meridian 861 or Theta Casablanca to current standards and those are the two BEST examples in their class who deserve HUGE kudos for being upgradable. The rest of the class are useless. $10,000 investments from 1999 are worth $250 today. If your stockbroker bought you a stock like this - you'd fire him. Most audiophiles feel the same way about the people who sell them ultra-high-end home theater.
Who's to blame? I'd start with Silicon Image - the people behind HDMI. From HDMI 1.0 to HDMI 1.4a today - they have left a pile of spent, high end AV components rotting in a dump site that is purely shameful. They ask the most loyal and wealthy audio and video enthusiasts to keep spending and spending with little to no reward. Audiophiles have become tired of the financial insult and have rebelled, which has begun the 2.1 home theater movement.
The 2.1 Home Theater Movement
Today's HDTVs inspire audiophile and mainstream consumers alike to spend. They come packed with waif-like thin form factors, uber-bright LED or plasma screens while performing tricks like Netflix, Amazon VOD, CinemaNow, Pandora, YouTube and beyond. People know why to buy a new HDTV and how much to spend on it. It's not an investment. It's a consumable product just like the Cheerios that it's sold next to at Costco.
Continue reading about the 2.1 Home Theater Movement on Page 2 . . .