There was a time when evening entertainment for American families meant gathering in the living room around the radio. Whether it was dishing out an episode of Amos ’N Andy, some Benny Goodman swing, or an Edward R. Murrow update from the battlegrounds, the radio played a central role in the home. Though they weren’t as sexy as today’s home entertainment focal points with their sleek flat-panel TVs and monolithic loudspeakers, radios had their own charm and stylish aesthetics—and entertainment value, of course.
That sentiment hasn’t been lost on some of today’s A/V manufacturers. Two decades after brutish boom boxes revitalized compact entertainment systems and incorporated newer technologies such as cassette tapes and CDs, another resurgence in that category has brought new performance, design and features to products that have old-time radio at their hearts.
Today’s all-encompassing compact or tabletop systems can range in price from a few hundred dollars to around $3,000—for Meridian Audio’s top-line F80, created in tandem with Ferrari. You can blast much more than traditional radio and CDs, too, as many systems handle everything from traditional FM/AM to higher-quality and more versatile HD Radio, satellite XM and Sirius channels, MP3 files and iPod connections, CDs (traditional, recordable and rewritable) and even DVDs.
“It really is all about the ‘total product’—the right blend of features, performance, design, ease of use and value that will engender real pride of ownership and result in customer loyalty,” says Stuart Russell, marketing manager at Meridian. “Simplicity and practicality are highly attractive qualities.”
Companies such as Bose spawned the renewed popularity in compact systems that can serve a variety of areas and room sizes in the home and office. You can still have your boom box performance, but today you can choose designs that blend in better with many decors, from simple elegance to traditional A/V component box to industrial modernity to old-fashioned class.
“We’re all so much more focused on design than we were 20 years ago,” Russell says.
Check out several different models in our slideshow.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.