This corner of the SoundStage! Network is devoted to “convenient, lifestyle-oriented hi-fi,” to quote the blurb on the Network portal. To some diehards, the word lifestyle conveys a kind of superficiality, a lack of seriousness, but not to yours truly. As I wrote in my kick-off feature for SoundStage! Simplifi, there’s a lot to be said for integrating your hi-fi into your everyday life. Having your main music system in a living area, rather than hiding it away in an inner sanctum, means that everyone can enjoy it, not just the household high priest of audio.
Once in a while, I come across a product that has me scratching my head: What’s this thing really for, and who needs it? Then a light goes on, and I get it: Hey, this product is really cool, and really useful. Why did it take so long for someone to come up with this idea?
So much is made these days of powered speakers with Bluetooth connectivity that, presented with one of these wonder puppies, I was prompted to plug it in, invoke Bluetooth, link it to my iPhone, et voilà -- music!
Wireless speakers have become like A/V receivers: it’s almost impossible to build one that’s still up to date a few months after launch. Cambridge Audio’s Yoyo (L) all-in-one home audio system doesn’t have voice command, the latest hot feature boasted by an increasing number of wireless speakers, but it offers almost everything else you might want in a wireless speaker, as well as at least one thing that’s likely to surprise you. It also packs a lot more audio engineering than do most wireless speakers.
Smartphones are the quintessential jacks-of-all-trades. Beyond their basic function (telephony), you can use them to surf the Web, shoot pictures and videos, play games, feed the parking meter, check your bank balance, navigate strange cities, and a million or so other applications.
Does the trades corollary follow? Are they masters of none? You can tap out an e-mail on your phone’s screen, but you wouldn’t want to write a novel on it. Smartphone cameras are fine for snapshots, but if you’re a serious photographer, you’ll want a serious camera.
For serious, sit-down stereo, active loudspeakers have traditionally been a tough sell. I’ve never understood why -- their domestic advantages are obvious. Active speakers can make possible audiophile-quality sound in spaces where traditional components are unwelcome -- as outlined in my recent feature on "How I Simplifi’d My Hi-Fi."
Pro-Ject’s Juke Box E shows how stereo systems ain’t what they used to be. That statement is not a lament for an imagined better past, but an observation of what kinds of systems today’s listeners want and need. The Juke Box E ($499 USD) caters not to the traditional audiophile, but to a new generation with different listening habits. It combines a turntable, phono stage, integrated amplifier, and Bluetooth receiver, all in a package no larger than a typical budget turntable. All you add is speakers.
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