Defining The A/V Enthusiast
I find the letters expressing skepticism and disinterest in 3D and streaming fair and reasonable. But some of the mail from the complainers has smacked of a surprising Luddite fear or distaste of new technology. We even received a letter recently from one reader who's still watching standard-def on a CRT display and suggested he'd not only like to see us dispense with reviews of 3D products, but wouldn't mind seeing more reviews of "non-Blu-ray" disc players, which I took to mean that, in an ideal world, he'd have us using our limited editorial space to review $39 commodity DVD players.
All of this got me wondering about the range and passions of the hobbyists who read our magazine. Home Theater is an enthusiast publication, but how, exactly, do you define an A/V enthusiast? Is it about how much you spend on your gear? I don't really think so. Is it about always having the latest, cutting-edge technology in your system and being a so-called "early adopter?" For some people, their old gear is enough, and I don't begrudge them that if they watch it and enjoy it. But I would have supposed that you wouldn't be reading HT if you didn't have a fascination and interest in home theater technology and enjoy at least reading about the latest developments. Frankly, I was a little stunned to find we have readers who can be openly scornful of our coverage of new technical advancements, even those that hold no interest for them personally.
For the sake of what I admit is a purely semantic discussion, let's take the example of three hypothetical guys. The first has a theater system that gives him many hours of pleasure but is terribly outdated by today's standards: maybe a straight-up DVD player, an old standard-definition CRT set like the reader I mentioned above, perhaps a receiver that tops out with Dolby Pro Logic surround decoding (pre-Dolby Digital), and a compact sub/satellite speaker system that won't rattle the house but sounds just fine. Guy 1 enjoys reading about all the new gear and pines for a better system with the latest advancements for the enhanced experience he knows it'll bring, but for whatever reason—financial resources, limited space, a cranky spouse—he just can't have it right now.
Guy 2 has exactly the same system. He also enjoys reading about the new gear and all the new advancements, and understands completely that people more passionate about home theater may want the newer/better stuff. But his system is honestly enough for him because he has other interests and his passion in this area simply has a limit.
Now, let's take Guy 3 with the very same system. Like Guys 1 and 2, he spends many hours enjoying movies and music on his home theater and he's perfectly satisified with what he's got. But when he reads the A/V magazines, he doesn't really get why anyone needs to upgrade to a high-definition display, or a Blu-ray player, or a receiver that decodes DTS-HD Master Audio, much less gear that has streaming or 3D capabilities. Maybe it even upsets him a little bit that Home Theater keeps reviewing all this new stuff — more of it every issue, in fact, and fewer and fewer components like the ones he still owns. Until, finally, he feels the need to write in and complain about it. And yet, he keeps reading the magazine. Why? It's a magazine whose stated mission is to report on the latest gear and technology. I mean, that's what we do.
So I ask now, are all these guys A/V or home theater enthusiasts? Same aging, budget system, same amount of play time and pleasure from their gear. They all read Home Theater regularly. But they have very different attitudes. The first two guys feel a geninue passion for the gear, even if only one of them has a real desire to pursue the ultimate home theater for himself.
But what about Guy 3? Can you define yourself as an enthusiast if you're not just merely skeptical or uninterested, but genuinely unenthusiastic or even downright hostile to the march of technology that is so much a part of this hobby?
Just a thought...