One reason why audio is suffering: Connectivity

Complaints about the decline of audio enthusiasm as part of the general population are constant on A'gon and other forums. There are many reasons for this decline, but I wanted to pinpoint one big issue:

Connectivity, as in connections between components, is very difficult to navigate, even for a committed stereophile like myself. Here are some sources being used by my family (kids & wife) and myself:

iPhone/iPad: using their DAC, we can now hook them up through RCA connections into my 2-channel rig. But it isn't particularly convenient, so I regularly find my wife listening to mp3 songs on her blasted iPhone while she's literally 5 feet from a $6K system. (Which she knows how to operate, just so you know.) Hooking a component up each time you want to listen to it is a pain.

My daughters mini iPod. No way to hook it up. She listens to it on some $25 speakers -- right next to the $6k family room rig.

More on my daughter: I was very pleased recently to see her sitting on the couch listening to pop songs and not doing anything else. That's how being a music fan starts - you want to listen to some music so much you do it to the exclusion of any other activity. I'm proud of her. But she's listening to the songs on a Wii through our blasted TV set. I don't even know how to plug the Wii into my 2-channel stereo.

Our Apple laptop: USB audio out, although the sound quality probably sucks. (I'm not a fan of PC audio.) No way to connect it to the 2-channel rig. My wife was actually listening to music the other day on the Apple laptop -- a few feet away from the aforementioned stereo rig.

Note that we have a DVD/CD player and TV (through the cable box) flowing through my 2-channel preamp and so we use the 2-channel rig for sound in those cases. But changing to the TV output requires flipping a switch, and is yet one more thing to do. We’re about to start using Roku as part of an effort to decrease our cable bills. We’ll now have a microjack input which can be fed into the 2-channel rig, which I will take care of, but be assured that if I wasn’t around to set up this connectivity, my wife would throw up her hands and listen to music through Roku on the TV set. (Let’s leave aside the fact that the current Roku models don’t support lossless.)

So the big picture here is that I have some family members who’d prefer to listen to music (they can easily tell the sound quality difference) through our fairly pricy family room 2-channel rig but that doing so is so complicated due to connectivity issues that it’s just not worth the bother. Only because there is a dedicated audiophile in the house (me) are some of the sources set up to feed the stereo.

The audio industry desperately needs to initiate a new type of high-quality modified preamp that
1)accepts everything, from RCA jacks to SPDIF (all types) to HDMI to USB to wireless;
2)one that switches between these automatically depending on the feed;
3) that outputs both analog and digital signals through various connections.

Rant off. Thanks for your time.
The Roksan Oxygene line accepts the usual 3 RCA inputs and up to 16 different devices via Bluetooth. They recently bought out the design line from some European design house and they do look nice.
I have no financial interest: I just think they look great.

It appears someone is listening but it will take awhile for others to catch on. I can appreciate the frustration.

All the best,
Jult52, I bought new TV. I wanted Panasonic Plasma but found out that it outputs (TOSLINK) only DOLBY that my 2 channel DAC (Benchmark DAC1) doesn't decode. DAC is expecting standard 2 channel S/Pdif. There is no menu item for the output format selection, while manual says that it outputs 2-channel with NTSC and DOLBY with ATSC signal "automatically". How much does it cost to add menu item? I ended up with Samsung but tried to imagine, while unpacking 55" TV from large carton with all the fillers, Styrofoam, bags etc., frustration of somebody who assumed that it will work because it is TOSLINK so it should be standard.
Nonoise - That Oxygene CD player is a step in the right direction but is still fairly limited.

Kijanki - I see other hardcore audiophiles share my frustration.
iPhone/iPad: using their DAC, we can now hook them up through RCA connections into my 2-channel rig. But it isn't particularly convenient,....
Jult52, it looks like you are connection-challenged! The average user on this forum is far more connection savvy, if I may say so, esp. with modern toys like iXXXXX, Roku, etc.
If you family members are this interested in using your 2-ch main rig with their iPhone, mini iPod then it looks like you need an iphone, ipod dock with an analog output. there are several to be had (& many of them good quality) for as low as $100 & all the way up to many $100s. You would connect this dock once to your 2-ch rig using RCA cables & whoever wanted to play music would simply switch on the dock, dock their iXXXXX unit into it, switch on your main rig & play music. any reason for overlooking an iphone/ipod dock?

Our Apple laptop: USB audio out, although the sound quality probably sucks. (I'm not a fan of PC audio.) No way to connect it to the 2-channel rig.....
speculation on your part re. the sonic quality. I'm sure that it is very good (but perhaps not superlative) to the point that listening to music is enjoyable.
Again, the connection to the main rig is quite easy - you need a USB-to-SPDIF converter. There are several to be had for very reasonable prices such as $150 for the M2Tech unit & I'm sure that there are many others "Made in USA". Once again, connect the USB-to-SPDIF converter to your main 2-ch rig using RCAs. Each time you want to listen thru the Apple laptop just connect the USB output of the laptop to the USB-to-SPDIF converter (which is permanently connected to your 2-ch rig), switch on your main rig & you are off to the races. What's the real problem?

Connectivity, as in connections between components, is very difficult to navigate,.....
this is NOT one of the reasons preventing more people to indulge in hi-end audio.
Practically every interface has multiple solutions in terms of hardware & in terms of price points. It just depends on how much time you have to read & learn about it & how much money you want to spend.

I think that you have plenty of catching up to do.

And, you post would have been in better taste if you had simply asked the question: how do I conveniently connect gadge XYZ to my main 2-ch rig?

End counter-rant. ;-)

Bombaywalla - I am familiar with all of those connections you mention and in fact own two of them (I have a usb-spdif converter and a docking device - which you'll see I mention in my rant). They are too complex, require research to unearth and I am seeing the direct effects with family members who simply don't use them.

Just to step back, this follows the typical exchange between more tech saavy audio enthusiasts and naysayers (like myself). The naysayers make the argument that modern transport devices like the ones I list are not user friendly, which inhibits their acceptance. Tech enthusiasts reply that the naysayers simply need to do more research and buy the right devices and that the naysayers are stupid. My response is that I've done a lot of research (which most people simply won't do), bought some of the devices, and they are unwieldy and discouraging for users.

This is a marketing issue for audio. A cardinal sin in marketing is to see non-acceptance of a product and blame it on the consumer's stupidity and ignorance. My post detailled how non-acceptance is in fact motivated by an overarching defect in the product. Connectivity is most definitely a problem.
I absolutely agree,the geeks and dweebs that are 15-30 have no problem except for the girls that age.But all us cats over that age with 15 different hookups to learn?Im used to RCA'a and speaker wire.2 things thats all we needed.Fuking designers and geek squad type problems are bullshit.Ah well,I do love my mac mini based stereo but I concur my friend,cheers,Jack
if you have a 2 channel stereo system with traditional components, connectivity is no problem. even a surround sound system is easy to set up.

when you add other devices--i phones et al, things get more complex.

i doubt connectivity is a relevant factor.

i think audio is one of many pursuits, and other pursuits compete with audio.

also an audio system is an example of conspicuous consumption. there are other "goods" that compete for one's expenditure as well.
Jult52, are you related to Pettyofficer? :)

Thanks, I needed that lol moment.
The connectivity you want in a single unit would be nice, but at present it would not be cheap to implement. You are starting to see some of this is AV receivers as they implement Airplay, for example. The manufacturers can do it in those devices at a reasonable price because of the volume of sales. Putting all that into a low volume stereo integrated would be costly at present. Have you looked into a AV receiver with Airplay, although it might not satisfy your stereo needs for music.

There are devices like the Classe CP 800 which is a high quality pre-amp with both USB and digital inputs. It is not wireless however, and it is at a different price point.

I am not an expert, but I think the Apple Airport Express would do a lot of what you you are looking for. It is a WiFI device that also can connect to a analog input on your stereo, although the DAC in it is obviously low end. It also has an optical output to go to a DAC. With Airplay you family can use their various Apple devices with Airplay and direct their music to your rig. If they are familiar with their Apples software, like iTunes and understand wireless a little, they should be able to use the big stereo pretty easily.

Maybe someone with more Airport Express experience can provide you more information.

You could also get a universal remote with macros if you want them to just push a button to get the stereo settings right. You do mention a toggle switch. You cannot do that with a universal, but hopefully they would be willing to do 1 switch manually.