Electronic House

Everything associated with high-end home audio and video kicks more than a thimbleful of tush. Our wall-sized televisions, for instance, grandly affirm the righteous indignation of a fat-suited Tyra Banks, while our supersonic stereos deliver the mellifluous trills of Coldplay in all their girly glory. So why don't most home-theater magazines occasionally acknowledge that this stuff is, you know, fun?

Electronic House may be the worst offender that I've encountered. Never mind the March/April issue's typos (a story on page 15 is listed on the contents page as running on page 115; the seller of a featured item is billed as "Staple's") or the press releases masquerading as stories (from a piece on Windows Vista: "[It] includes a special HotStart mode that instantly starts movie, TV or music playback without requiring the full operating system to boot up. This allows you to enjoy the feature-rich benefits of a computer in the entertainment room without paying the penalty of waiting for the computer to fire up"). No, the real issue here is that the magazine fails to convey a modicum of excitement about the subject at hand. It's the Bataan Death March of enthusiast publications.

The piece on a pimped-up Lexus sound system joylessly notes its features, while the six featured home-theater spreads do little beyond provide laundry lists of components. The mag, in fact, accomplishes the near-impossible by somehow draining all vitality and cool factor from a piece on an indoor pool converted into a home theater (some big ol' pix next time around, maybe?). Even the editor's note, that reliable bastion of we-are-fabulous boosterism, doesn't get any more involved or engaged than "I can't wait to receive much more HD content." Separately, rumor has it that the editor of Astronomy Today can't wait to buy more telescopes.

I also don't have the slightest idea who Electronic House is written for. Anybody with more than a cursory interest in home theater will dismiss the mag's shallow, detail-light content without a second look, and anybody who doesn't care about home theater won't pick up a title like this in the first place. Who's left? "Home theater for retards" isn't an especially compelling editorial hook.

That's neither politically correct nor particularly articulate, I realize, but I don't know how better to characterize the March/April issue's hodgepodge of dim and dimmer items. The cover feature on "The New HD" rehashes information long ago covered in Home Theater and Sound & Vision, supplementing it with a next-generation-audio sidebar so in-depth that it only fills 65% of a page (the rest is left blank). The how-to on selecting a home-theater designer stresses that readers should "expect top-notch professionalism from each and every one" -- like Home Smart Home's marketing director Chris Stanfa, who inexplicably finds his way into a photo accompanying the story.

Not that anybody expects eloquence from an electronics mag, but the stories are alternately filled with big-picture pronouncements that have been beaten to death elsewhere ("like it or not, TVs are becoming PCs, and PCs are becoming TVs") and ones that practically beg to be taken out of context ("racks come in all shapes, sizes and prices"). Don't look for help from the mag's two columnists; one wastes his 500-word allotment on a dry discussion of "Batman Begins," "The Constant Gardener" and other mega-timely content he enjoyed during the past year.

I think I've made my point, if a bit more humorlessly than usual. Do not read, peruse, advertise in, make eye contact with, or otherwise engage Electronic House. OK?


Published by: EH Publishing

Frequency: 10 issues per year
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