The Last Concert Hall

Picture your dream living room. We close our eyes and listen to the subtle nuances of our favorite recording. Luxurious speakers line the walls, a subwoofer discretely positioned in the sonically perfect corner. There’s nothing better than leaning back in a comfortable chair, spending hours listening to music. But the sad reality is that we don’t.

The living room used to be the entertainment center of the home, complete with a turntable, receiver and large, high-fidelity speakers. Then we evolved into home theaters, with massive TVs and a speakers all over the room. It got to be too much for the living room, so dedicated home theaters became the norm. And just as quickly as home theater evolved, it’s now devolved into mobility and portability. Cellphones, Bluetooth speakers, and headphones seem to be all the that matters; if you can’t take it with you, it has no value.

Before we give up on music entirely, there might be a glimmer of hope on the not-so-distant horizon. As we segue into autonomous cars, sound quality is becoming relevant again. As car connectivity increases, the disappearance of physical media in a non-issue. Cars are connected online to an infinite supply of music, so there’s no need for a CD player anymore.

Car audio systems these days are quite impressive. The high-end systems that are available are tuned so the driver has the best seat in the house, and they can sound incredible. Seventeen, nineteen or more speakers, large subwoofers, powerful amps, advanced DSP, and more. Where else is the sweet spot fixed as permanently as inside a car? Most living rooms never come close to the level of audio excellence achieved by a quality sound system in the automotive realm.

And… the beauty of this in-car sound system is that you don’t even have to “pay” for it. This fidelity is simply rolled into your car payment. In many cars, the audio upgrade is bundled with other tech features, so you might not have even wanted the upgrade, it just came along with ventilated seats and an illuminated cup holder. Long gone are the days when you would immediately upgrade your car with aftermarket stereo components. When was the last time you saw a car stereo store? Can you imagine pulling out the fancy touch-screen head unit in your brand new car and installing a double-DIN CD player? The new cars coming out don’t even bother putting in a CD player. When did CD players become retro?

It makes sense that car audio systems are going to get better and better. Connectivity becomes better, and the bitstream of our music sources gets better too. As the road ahead leads to electric cars, the interior space gets extremely quiet. As more and more cars become electric, we also lose the noise of other engines outside of our electric cars. The road is suddenly a peaceful, quiet space.

The autonomous self-driving car will be the best place to listen to music. You’ll be free of driving chores and distractions, free of engine noise, and free to spend hours listening to music again. Close your eyes. The future is near.

Old Ben's picture

It appears that HVAC systems have taken a step backwards in the car of the future. I would hope they could get the climate controls a little better than "must wear a turtleneck that cuts off circulation to the head to stay warm" in the car! :o)

drny's picture

Leslie, what do you drive?
Unless you opt for a Luxury car or entry Luxury with a premium stereo system as an option you are only getting over amplified music over cheap car speakers.
You do get plenty of amplification on almost any late model car/suv, but for the most part you are listening to speakers that cost for $15 to $30 the car manufacturer
Yes, there are some premium car audio systems (Cadillac, Lexus), but they usually comes as an option in Luxury cars.
I know, I'm a business traveler, and through Enterprise I rent Fords, Chryslers, Nissans, Cadillac, Buicks. About the only decent Audio system are in the Cadillac line.
Yes all late model car/suv have Bluetooth, Carplay, some have Spotify or Pandora included. The problem is almost always these same cars have cheap pre-amp (sound processing) in the head unit and/ or cheap speakers.
Often on a long drive (or just the drive back to the airport) I opt to connect my Iphone to my Black Dragon fly and listen through my travel headphones of choice (ATH M50X)

Tommy Lee's picture

"There’s nothing better than leaning back in a comfortable chair, spending hours listening to music. But the sad reality is that we don’t."

Many of us still do exactly this...and we are the people who subscribe to S & V. Know your audience!

Leslie Shapiro's picture
First, Tommy, thank you. I know there are many people who do take the time to listen, and I hope you'll never stop. I just know so many people who used to be true lovers of music who don't seem to take the time anymore, and it makes me sad. drny - I have to admit that I have the privilege of driving a car with a very good car system. I also spend quite a bit of time analyzing car audio systems of a few manufacturers - Mercedes, BMW, Genesis and Audi. It's really not a bad way to spend a day at work.