This poll was inspired by David Carnoy's recent blog asking, "How long should your iPhone last?" Seventy percent of the respondents polled said phones should last two to three years, but 45 percent said two years, so nearly half of all buyers are happy with two-year lifespans. Most folks buy new phones because they break them, lose them, or they want a new one with features the old one didn't have.
Hi-fi systems--or at least the speakers, turntable, and amplifier parts of those systems--should last a good deal longer, figure 10 to 20 years. CD players aren't as long-lived, though they can deliver 5 to 10 years of service. Computer audio? I have no experience on that score, but I'd guess 3 to 5 years is a probable lifespan. That's progress!
So it makes sense to put the bulk of your hi-fi dollars into speakers, amps, and turntables. There's almost no chance a technological innovation will come along to render obsolete any of those three items. And if you really love music, consider upping your investment, because you will after all, amortize your investment over a long period. That's one of the reasons I emphasize high-end audio gear in this blog.
Granted, the cost of entry may be high, but when you factor in long working lifespans it's a lot easier to justify spending significant funds on hi-fi. Spend $1,000 on a pair of speakers, and if you get 10 years of use out of them they'll cost 27 cents a day, or 14 cents a day if they make it to the 20-year mark.
Speakers and amps tend to be extremely reliable; unless they're abused, repairs don't need to be factored in. My pal Jack is still using his Marantz stereo receiver he bought in 1970. I have another friend who still plays records on his Linn LP-12 turntable he bought in 1978! That's value!
My projections apply to high-end gear; I doubt plastic computer speakers or home theater receivers will be around for the long haul.
Blu-ray players, iPods, cell phones, digital cameras, etc. are regularly purchased with the knowledge they may be replaced in a few years. My last Samsung Blu-ray player quit in just under two years.
Tell us how long you've owned your hi-fi gear in the comments section.