By John Seiley
With the increasing popularity of streaming video and music services, CD, DVD and Blu-Ray sales have dropped and cable is an afterthought in some families. It seems this will become more typical as time goes on, with content in the new 4K video standard initially coming in downloadable formats over an internet connection.
But is it possible to completely rely on streaming and get rid of all those boxes, wires and discs that clutter the house? This was the question I asked myself a year ago when beginning the process of remodeling my home.
Space is my most valued asset, and I don’t have much of it. I share a small house with two other people and I spend most of my time in my tiny bedroom. I’ve always been a movie and music lover and have maintained a large collection of discs, but I frequently felt like I was living in a Virgin Megastore. I was always disappointed the successor to the DVD format, Blu-Ray, didn’t involve a better solution to space constraints. In addition, I had a massive audio setup in order to benefit from the lossless sound on Blu-Ray, and I had a cable box that gave me access to a bundle of channels, most of which I never watched.
Two things happened in early 2012 that made me make some radical changes in my content consuming life. The initial head-turner was the release of the 3rd-generation Apple TV capable of streaming 1080p video and 5.1 Surround Sound. The clincher was all iTunes music, TV shows, and movies becoming available to stream or download from iCloud an endless number of times. Previously, content could only be downloaded once in 720p (seems archaic now). I already owned an iPad too, so anything that wasn’t available on Apple TV directly could be AirPlay Streamed from the iPad wirelessly. I decided this was enough to enable me to shed my sprawling audio/video setup for something simpler – the only component that would remain was my satisfactory Toshiba TV. I sold everything else and used the money to pay for the new gear. I felt liberated.
The decision to rely only on streaming inspired the whole concept of my new setup. I no longer needed equipment capable of outputting lossless audio, so I decided to buy a sound bar. I picked the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama because it did not require a separate receiver and had fantastic audio quality as well as the ability to simulate surround sound by bouncing sound off walls. With my components down to 3 – the TV, sound bar, and Apple TV box – I realized I could go without a huge media console. I could mount everything to my wall, saving even more precious space, and run all the wires behind the wall nice and tidy.
That holiday season, most of the titles I had owned on disc were deeply discounted on the iTunes Store and I repurchased most of them with the remaining money from the sale of my old gear.
Also, I because of the space saved, I now had room for a queen bed, bookshelf and comfy armchair.
From my perspective, there have been no minuses to the big switch. What you lose in sheer video/audio quality you gain in space saved and convenience. Never have I regretted my decision.