As audio gets into the 1980s, the trend to watch is the computerization of hi-fi systems. Performance specifications of stereo components are becoming less significant, since technology has reached such a high state of development that all good components sound pretty much alike to the average ear.
What customers are demanding now is convenience and simplicity -- good without a lot of fussing around. And that's where computerization comes in.
Many audio components on the market today have built-in microcomputers that perform certain functions automatically, Sharp, Optonica and Marantz manufacture tape decks with microprocessors that can automatically search out and play pre-selected parts of a cassette tape. Many cassette decks have timers that can be set to record a certain radio program at a certain time and then shut off. A number of companies, including Dual Fisher and Hitachi, offer decks equipped with wireless remote control units that can be used to control all of their functions with infrared rays from across the room.
A new BSR turntable, the Accuglide XR50, has a built-in microcomputer and infrared remote control. The XR50 a multi-play unit, will accept up to 27 commands in specified order. Its remote unit can command all tone arm functions plus volume.
Another BSR product, the X10 Space Control system, can turn components in a hi-fi sytem on and off by remote control. The X10, about the size of a cigarette box, simply plugs into a wall. It has a bank of push-buttons on top that can be used to control lights, appliances and hi-fi components throughout a home from one central location.
The device can also dim and brighten lights, even those in another room. It sends its commands through house wiring, so it's not necessary to rewire to use the unit. With this, you can control a stereo system, TV set, room lights and coffee maker in the kitchen, all from your favorite chair.
If you're really into computers, you may be ready to argue at this point that none of the products mentioned so far is truly computer-controlled. And that's true. A collection of miscellaneous components that are individually microprocessor-controlled cannot really be called a fully automated sytem.
A truly computerized audio system would have to include some kind of central console -- a real computer, with a memory, from which each piece of equipment could be centrally commanded.
Well, the fully computerized hi-fi system is not yet a commercial reality, but there has been some progress the past year. A new preamp, the Crown DL2, is truly computer-connectible. It can be interfaced with any eight-bit home computer and control up to nine hi-fi components, turning them on and off and adjusting volume automatically.
A computer-connectible cassette tape deck, the Eumig FL1000, was demonstrated at the Audio Engineering Society convention in New York and probably will be on the market soon. Up to 16 FL1000s can be connected -- playing, recording or moving to specific sections of tapes so that any kind of predetermined program can be played or recorded.
What will come next to computerized components is anybody's guess. Someone will come up with a computer-connectible tuner that will be programmed to turn on and find stations at certain times so preselected programs can be recorded on a tape deck with as the Eumig FL1000. A computer-connectable television set and videocassette recorded could be designed so TV programs on different stations could be automatically selected and recorded.