What we lost when sound systems stopped being furniture

Kate Wagner explores How speakers went from statement furniture to unseen tech:

In today’s wireless age, most want their sound system to be out of sight and out of mind. “If interior designers had their way,” says Scott Orth, director of electroacoustics at Sound United, “there would be no speakers at all.” Orth adds that “the trend among average consumers has been to go smaller for the last thirty years.”

But there was a time when speakers were as essential a piece of furniture as the sofa: The peak of home hi-fi offered handcrafted teak consoles and towering pairs of floor speakers. Today, small, easily hidden speaker systems are the mainstays of home listening. But how did we get from full cabinetry to speakers not much bigger than a tin can?

When we moved into our house we made a conscious decision not to make the TV the centerpiece of our living room. Instead, everything is laid out around this (the TV is banished to the basement):

The family sound system

I didn’t think much of it at the time, it was just something we wanted to try out. But the results have been positive: we watch less TV, and listen to (and argue about!) music more. I think when TVs started pushing sound systems out of the way in living rooms, we lost more than just a beautiful piece of design. We also lost an important connection point within families.