Modern electronics can be frustrating for anyone who has attempted to stay up on the latest and greatest technologies over the last 25 years. It seems that, just when you finally buy a new piece of equipment, it’s already obsolete! But if you wait too long, your equipment will be so out of date that you won’t be able to upgrade without starting completely over. So then, how do you know when to upgrade?
Since the 1950’s when “stereophonic sound” first became available, modern electronic systems have continued to quickly evolve – sometimes too quickly! It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement – owning the coolest new device before anyone else on the block does. But often new technology simply doesn’t make it permanently into our lifestyle (e.g the Betamax recorder or the Laserdisc video player). And that expensive box you purchased is now an overpriced paperweight. This phenomenon has become what some call the “early adopters syndrome”. In other words, those who simply must have the latest and greatest equipment are often left behind if the particular technology they purchased didn’t make it, or was quickly surpassed by another
So, the safest bet is to just sit back and wait, right? Buy only the technologies that have been around for several years. Although that’s not a terrible approach, even that logic can cause problems. Sometimes if you skip too many generations, your equipment can become completely obsolete. And then the only hope is a brand-new system, from top to bottom. That can be both very expensive and embarrassing – when your friends make fun of you! Plus, you miss out on the fun of new technology for many years!
Today there are a few things that are a very safe bet. High Definition (HD) began in the late 90’s and is here to stay. Along with it came the new, digital HDMI connector. That connector is also being used for the latest “4K” resolution systems and is planned to remain the connector of choice for the foreseeable future. So, if your system is still using analog connectors (e.g. RCA connectors or “Component Video” connectors), it’s definitely safe – and time – to upgrade to digital/HDMI!
Along these lines, 4K in general is catching on quickly. I can safely say that, although I’m sure 8K or 10K or whatever they come up with next will replace it in the future, 4K is the way to go. And the importance of that statement, if you’ve read my previous articles, is that it’s also safe to upgrade the rest of your audio/video chain to go along with it. (receiver, media streamer, Blu-ray player)
Also along these lines, surround sound and audio formats have stabilized. For a while there, it seemed, every few months a new type of surround sound or a new audio format came out. Now all of that seems to be pretty stable and, along with your 4K receiver upgrade, you should be safe for many years.
“But what about automation systems?” you may be asking. Should I go
with voice control, and, if so, should I choose Google or Amazon or Apple or what? For these types of systems, the future is not as clear. Voice control – once thought to be a novelty – seems to be catching on. Will it be the future? Hard to say – for some things it works fantastic. For others (e.g. turning down the volume while watching a movie) it doesn’t work well at all. So, I would recommend going with a more future-proof solution of a proven integrated system that can support voice control, but doesn’t rely on it. That way you can have an excellent solution now, but won’t be stuck with more paperweights if voice control turns out to just be a fad…
Whatever you get today, chances are that it will be obsolete in the future. Whether that future is 2 years or 20 years away remains to be seen. But, with a bit of research and some careful timing, you can maximize your enjoyment – staying almost state-of-the-art, but with as few electronic bricks in your closet as possible!