Periodical — 9
I’ve done something brilliant.
A few years ago, we decided to sell our Sonos system and retreat back to an old-school, wired stereo. I liked the idea of multi-room sound. I even used that feature from time to time. But over the years, I found that the benefit of being able to play the same music in more than one space didn’t outweigh the cost of (1) fussing with phones and streaming interfaces every time we wanted to play something, (2) doing it over wifi and losing connection often enough to be annoying, (3) ignoring our CD collection, and (4) being more intentional about our listening choices and experience.
So, I packaged up all our Sonos speakers, listed them on eBay, and just several hours later sold the last one. With the proceeds, I bought an amplifier (class A/B) and two pairs of speakers. One set I wired in the den where the amp is connected to our CD player and TV. I wired the other pair through the floor and into our living room. Voila: multi-room sound in the rooms we cared most about…
(That’s not the brilliant part — I accept that this is a personal preference and begrudge no one their 21st century home audio choices.)
…Except the kitchen. We spent a lot of time in this room. In hindsight, the Sonos speaker that got the most use back when we had it was the Sonos 1 we set up in the kitchen. Once we made the change to our stereo system, we mostly just kept the volume in the den — which has a door into the kitchen — loud enough to hear in the next room. This wasn’t ideal. Also, if our daughter is watching something on TV in the den, then that means we can’t have different audio in the kitchen.
For a couple of years now, we’ve used our phone speakers (for podcast listening) and even a cheap bluetooth speaker that we bought to bring on vacation for kitchen listening. Neither has been great.
But then, my aha! and duh! moment.
My wife, in her infinite wisdom, never got rid of the compact stereo system she used in college. Like most Sony products made in the late ’90s/early 2000s, it’s really good! It still works! I pulled it out of storage, did a little bit of discrete drilling, and now we have it tucked away in our pantry cabinet with its speakers wired outside and above our fridge. I also picked up a small Bluetooth receiver to connect to its RCA inputs so we can play podcasts from our phones when we please. Now we have the best of both worlds in our kitchen!
I love that this twenty-three-year-old machine can still be useful, and we can once again cook while playing All Songs Considered in full stereo glory.
The times I find myself loving technology the most are when something old feels new again.
By the way, Four Tet’s Pause received the inaugural spin on the new setup. Seemed appropriate given the vintage of the system itself.
Speaking of “old” tech, I still think E Ink is one of the coolest technologies to be created in my adult lifetime.
Here’s the current state of my office display wall. Note the presence of the most recent issue of Slanted, which is always fun. This one (Issue #42) is about books.
OK, now it’s your turn: What’s the oldest tech you have running in your house? Or, what are you still using that someone else might find surprising? I’d love to know — email me at email@example.com.