Many of us remember a time when the centers of home entertainment were the radio and the television. In the days before the transistor and microelectronics, vacuum tubes ruled the world of communications. The results were televisions and radios that were large, bulky and often took on the look of furniture. A large, ornate cabinet housed the hifi stereo my parents kept in the living room. The television was equally large, housed in a solid maple wood cabinet. The ability to integrate the two systems had not yet been considered.
When my folks took the plunge and bought a portable television, they did what many folks did and bought a TV stand to put it on. No thought was given to cable boxes, surround sound systems or media recorders. Television was simply television.
As the size of video and audio components got smaller, the number of components grew. Going were the days when a turntable, radio and perhaps the now obsolete eight track tape player were housed in a single cabinet. Once the purview of audiophiles, home audio began to morph into a series of separate components. Separate tuners, amplifiers, turntables, and tape players were soon the standard in many American homes.
The video cassette recorder ushered in a new era in television viewing. Not only could we watch broadcast and cable television, we could watch movies and other recorded material at our leisure. As feature films became available on tape, consumers began to clamor for more. There is a big difference between the audio and video experience we have in a modern movie theater and what was available at home. The home entertainment industry responded by producing components that would greatly improve the quality of video and audio.
All of these new components needed a home, a place where they could be stored and conveniently connected. As the use of separate components grew, a new segment of the furniture industry started to grew as well. The introduction of entertainment centers gave consumers the chance to centrally locate all of their video and audio components. Whether a small component rack or a wall sized shelving system, home entertainment center came to typify sea change in the way we watched television and listened to music.
As the screen size of conventional cathode ray tube televisions got bigger, their cabinet size also grew. The size and depth of large entertainment centers grew to accommodate larger televisions. Larger entertainment centers have become multipurpose items of furniture. In addition to providing space for video and audio components, entertainments are also used as a place to display knick knacks and other accent pieces. The television and stereo were married to a single location, complete with remote controls for every component.
Another fundamental shift occurred in the integration of television and audio with the introduction of flat screen, high definition television monitors. Unlike CRT televisions, flat screens, in spite having large viewing areas, feature cabinets that are quite thin relative to their soon to be obsolete cousins. Flat screen televisions can be hung on the wall not unlike a framed painting. Multi channel audio speakers have gotten smaller and can be placed around the viewing space in unobtrusive areas. Suddenly, the need for a large, wall sized entertainment fell back a bit.
Since the introduction and wide spread acceptance of high definition, flat screen televisions, the entertainment center has taken on a new look. In what I think is an ironic twist of furniture design fate, some new generation of entertainment centers resemble an old standby. Remembering back to the old hifi stereo cabinet my parents owned, the two furniture styles are eerily similar.
Wide screen televisions often find a home on new design entertainment centers that present a low profile. The new low profile entertainment centers are deep enough to accommodate all of the components necessary for todays high end viewing and large enough for the biggest of big screen televisions.
As with any piece of functional furniture, designers continue to use a wide variety of materials and features. Whether your decorating theme revolves around a modern theme, contemporary look, and even traditional colonial, there is an entertainment center that is right for your home.