I had the acute realization this week that the conventional two speaker component stereo system has gone the way of Lindsey Lohan, last season’s Project Runway winner, and the Beta tape. Faded. Forgotten. And not quite steeped in nostalgia either.

Today, your playback choices are skewed between lavish Surround Sound systems, designed to bathe your HDTV room in three-dimensional sound effects, or dinky iPod players, the kind you stick on the patio while your friends slurp Chardonnay. Oh, and earbuds — a.k.a., “deafness comes early to the next generation.”

I realized this while searching for a simple stereo receiver to use in an office. The hunt was a bust. It’s true: my music collection is largely digital and I also own a sophisticated studio (digital) monitoring system which blissfully blasts these mp3s ever so fully. So WHY, then, would I need an 70’s era fossil like a stereo system? Because I, too, am a fossil. I like it the way it was thirty years ago, a time when people were concerned with things like audio fidelity and brandished terms like audiophile. Back when these strange audiophiles would drop $100 on a speaker cable and $1000 on a pre-amp (*). I never could afford such things, but I certainly appreciated the sonic bling when I heard it.

That leaves us in this icky world where rich, 24-bit recordings are first compressed within an inch of their dB life to maximum output levels and minimize dynamic range, then compressed again (in a different way) to minimize file size. These tracks, these poor, squished encoded membranes, are then piped through the backside of a cell phone.

And we wonder why the music industry is dying. Could it be, music just sounds bad now?

Digressions notwithstanding, I do miss the availability of stereo components and the appeal owning them carried. I finally settled on a used surround system for my two lonely Bose speakers. Sounds OK, not great. It’s definitely not receiving the full signal, what with it being split five ways instead of two.

It was a show… called ‘Fox Force Five.’ Fox, as in we’re a bunch of foxy chicks. Force, as in we’re a force to be reckoned with. Five, as in there’s one..two …three..four..five of us