published Friday, February 10th, 2012

Courter: Degree required for stereo hookup

Way back in the day, I fancied myself an amateur audiophile. I read the magazines and loved getting a new piece of stereo equipment and tinkering with it to get better sound.

I always operated on the low end of the high-end spectrum, buying stuff that was better than you could find at the chain stores but was entry-level for the serious guys with more money than sense.

Then the children came. At that point, I hit the pause button on buying electronics, so for 20 years or so, the industry has moved forward while I haven't. I didn't think it had moved quite as far as it has, however.

A few weeks ago, a friend started shopping for stereo equipment. Among his criteria was that he wanted something that would be functional for years to come and that sounded good. He also wanted something that wasn't too complicated, he said several times. I figured he meant he didn't want anything with too many buttons. I kind of felt sorry for his naiveté, actually. You buy the thing, take it home and plug everything in and go, right?

Heading to the store, we looked over an assortment of receivers and compared things like output power, the number and types of inputs and home-theater settings like 5:1 vs. 7:1. You now have to consider things such as how it will plug into your flat-screen TV, how many video games you will want to run through it and whether you want to plug them into the front of the unit, which is easier if you move the consoles around a lot, or the back.

Will you be plugging an mp3 player or smartphone into it on occasion? Some have dedicated inputs for that, and some don't.

Still, those were easy issues. Once home, we unpacked the unit, and my friend said, "Uh-oh. Why would you need a CD for this?" It was our first clue that setup would not be simple plug-and-play. The CD contained further instructions on how to pull up a menu on your TV for helping you set such things as speaker calibration.

It also came with a microphone that you plug in and that calibrates itself based on where you will be sitting most of the time.

It made my head hurt so much I spent the next day listening to vinyl records on my 30-year-old turntable. It was state-of-the-art when I bought it.

Don't tell my friend, but it sounds better than his fancy digital setup.

* * * * *

Colleagues and friends of Kofi Mawuko are staging a benefit concert Feb. 18 at Barking Legs Theater.

Lumbar Five and Ogya, which both include Mawuko as a member, will perform during the event.

Proceeds will help Mawuko return home to Ghana, West Africa, to attend to family business after the passing of his father there.

It was in Ghana that Mawuko began playing drums, singing, dancing and performing professionally as a young boy. For the past 13 years, he has been teaching and performing in Chattanooga.

He and his wife, Rebekah, have introduced African drumming and dance to a large number of children in local schools.

Tickets are $10 and are available at www.barking or at the door. Those wishing to make a donation can do so by ordering tickets online.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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