Hi, I'm Alex Pretzlav

I write apps for humans, love to cook, and tinker with electronics. I live in Austin, TX.

The Stereo Is Dead. Long Live The Stereo.

31 August 2013

A week ago I sat down in front of The Wirecutter to try to buy a receiver. Here’s their pick for best of breed receiver:

Sony STR-DN840
The Sony STR-DN840

It’s SIX INCHES TALL. It’s not horifically ugly, but it sure isn’t pretty. It has every feature you can possibly imagine. When I went looking for something smaller, I found one company, Marantz, makes smaller a/v receivers, and they’re not even that small:

Marantz NR1403

Marantz NR1403

I really don’t have that many requirements. I don’t care about surround sound at all. A pair of good stereo loudspeakers will do better than surrounding yourself with cheap ones. Here’s what I want: a bunch of HDMI inputs, some stereo inputs, and an amplifier for two speakers. A remote control. I already have an Apple TV, but I’d love it if it turned on when I tried to play music.

So then I went looking for something simpler. An amplifier with a couple digital and a couple analog inputs. Hey, this looks pretty cool!

NAD D 3020

NAD D 3020

Except it’s $500. It doesn’t have any HDMI inputs (it targets audiophiles), so I’d still have to deal with this crappy switch that needs line of sight to a remote, because my TV doesn’t have enough plugs.

Then I remembered I had heard people talking about this new breed of cheap automotive receivers with surprisingly good sound quality for around $20.

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Lepai LP-2020A+

But there’s no remote control at all. Kind of important for your TV sound. So then I started thinking.

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Except it would suck. Enormously. No remote volume control, three power supplies, a pile of crap on my entertainment console.

But Wait

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What if you threw in a Raspberry Pi and some cheap hardware bits? There’s a whole distro for hi-fi audio through a Raspberry Pi. It supports Airplay out of the box. It plays video too!. There’s an infrared remote kit for it for $7. I could throw together a mobile app in a weekend. I bet you could sell a lot of these for $300. I bet you could even make it modular. Want more analog inputs? Buy some more analog inputs. Plug them in.

Why isn’t anyone making this? c|net is already decrying the current generation of receivers. Sounds like I’ve got a project to start.