When should I upgrade


how many years upgrading


This question was answered on June 1, 2005. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

When some new technology is put on the market there are usually improvements in the first few years, and they can be worth waiting for After that, people "upgrade" if they find they have more to spend, want more power, want a new "feature" etc Some people just enjoy spending money, and can afford to Where, really, is the "new technology"?

Speakers have been much the same since around 1960-1970, though the comparative price of a medium-to-high quality speaker had come down a lot in real terms by about 1990

CD players have been fairly stable since the late 1980s and have also come down in relative price The first ones (1982-3) were absurdly expensive and sounded awful

Amplifiers and audio receivers (amp plus radio tuner) See speakers

DVD-players are only a few years old, having displaced laserdisc and other, earlier digital formats DVD-Video looks stable enough Direct digital connection to the TV has advantages

Audio-Visual receivers (multichannel amp plus radio tuner plus digital audio inputs and surround sound processing) see DVD-players Most DVDiscs are now in 5.1 format which is not going to go away in the foreseeable future DTS is better than Dolby Digital and would justify an upgrade if you don't have it 6.1, 7.1 etc may eventually be a marginal improvement over 5.1, but nothing to lose sleep over, there are few discs, and it will probably stay that way

Video tape players/recorders came in the late 70s and will not continue to evolve, having been displaced by DVD Their price has recently dropped a lot in consequence Audio tape cassette players are older and also on their way out, eventually displaced by CD Dolby Prologic and other devices for extracting surround sound from stereo sources have nowhere to go because genuine multichannel is better

Turntables have reached serene old age, like speakers There are almost no bad ones on sale today, but there were, once

DVD-Audio is coming, but your DVD-Video player may be all you need to get it "Real" DVD-Audio reverts to analogue connection to the receiver for the time being, but there is no real technical reason for that

SACD is a confidence trick by companies worried about declining CD sales

TVs are evolving rapidly with new technologies such as LCD, plasma, and, recently, DLP adding alternatives to the old Cathode Ray Tube But CRTs are still alive and fighting

Of the above, only tape players and TVs actually need ever wear out Even then, replacement of worn parts should an option, but obsolescence is usually part of the design, especially at the lower end of the market

There is nothing in the pipeline comparable with the introduction of CD and DVD Digital recording with MP3 players, iPod, and video equivalents has a lot of interest but companies strive to stop people making their own digital copies of recordings through encryption and copy protection Digital broadcasting is another story, again

Whatever the source of the signal, good amplifiers/receivers and loudspeakers are essential, and are going to last If you want real value, get the best you can afford, and look after it.

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Posted by Kumar of Katharine Gibbs School - New York on June 1, 2005