Hi-Fi Gear in the Movies

Art is supposed to imitate life, right?  And movies are an art, so why don’t they feature high-end audio?  Even if you don’t believe in that theory, wouldn’t it make sense that the audio industry would try to get in on all of the product placement deals in movies these days?

User, Mitch4, was wondering the same thing when he posted in the Audiogon Forum, “A thought just came to me that a lot of movies show us the lives of fictional people doing the everyday things that real people do. However, we never see anyone sitting down and listening to a high end system. The only thing that I can remember is when the billionaire played by Robert Redford put on an LP on what appeared to be a high-end turntable in the movie Indecent Proposal.

I have never seen exposed tubes on-screen, or an amp of any type for that matter. It seems hi-fi does not fit the decor scheme of movie sets, or more realistically, audiophiles are rarer on earth than Klingons and Romulans, and Hollywood does not know of their existence.  It would seem that some of the well heeled actors, directors and producers would own a killer 2 channel system and periodically include one in a scene when the character has discretionary income.

We’ve all seen scenes with the wife complaining about the husband always watching sports, but never complaining about him pampering his hi-fi rig.  We’ve all seen characters with automobiles and other toys that we’ve envied, but never a stereo system to make you salivate. Anyone ever see a hi-fi system onscreen worth mentioning?”

 

It’s been a long-running thread, and our users have come up with a long list of movies they’ve seen that have included high-end gear.

What Women Want, The Sum of All Fears, American Psycho, The Italian Job, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, As Good As It Gets, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, High Fidelity, Risky Business, Pulp Fiction, Clockwork Orange, The Rock, Indecent Proposal, The Conversation, The Bourne Supremacy, Garden State, 13 Going on 30, The Limey, Traffic, Sixteen Candles, The Punisher, Infernal Affairs, Ghost World, American Splendor, Constantine, Stealth, Love Potion No. 9, Stepford Wives, The Departed, Infernal II, Infernal III, Hot to Trot, Philadelphia, Jumper, Basic Instinct 2, Righteous Kill, Nights in Rodanthe, The Bone Collector, Kill Bill, Shutter, The Dark Knight, The Reader, Dinner for Schmucks, Get Him to the Greek, See Venice & Die, The Mechanic, Vanilla Sky, Limitless, and Looper

The list of TV shows where our users spotted gear was not quite as long.

Friends, The Sopranos, Mad About You, Entourage, The Bernie Mac Show, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, House, Seinfeld, The Dean Martin Show, Californication, Alphas, Suits, and Saxondale

 

Another thing to think about – when hi-fi gear has been shown, is it always in a good light? Here’s a couple examples of ways it’s been included that could cause some controversy.

Agisthos: The movie Limitless has a scene where Brad Cooper goes to a classy apartment to score some of those designer smart drugs. The drug dealer has a full Meridian system. Meridian electronics and the Meridian active speakers, which then are strewn all over the place after the apartment is smashed up.

Loomisjohnson: In Traffic, the psychopathic killer, after being kidnapped and tortured by the general’s men tells the general that he has B&W speakers and makes his own CDs. He says most people don’t care but that it’s very important to him – a moving tribute to audiophilia.

Mitch4t: In the movie Righteous Kill, the accused rapist has a MacIntosh amp and preamp in his apartment…didn’t see any speakers or source in the scene. The MacIntosh stack with its blue lights was very prominent in the scene.

Nutella: I think it was The Italian Job, where the guy played by Seth Green wanted to get a high-end system with his money from the heist. At the end of the movie, I believe it showed him in his home with a pair of Martin Logans.

 

But it’s not all drug dealers, killer, accused rapists, and thieves.  Here are some examples more realistic to the everyday audiophile.

Robr45: There was a Sex in the City episode where one of the chick’s boyfriends was an audiophile and was playing jazz through a tube system. He was really into it, and it was the focus of a 2-3 minute long scene from what I remember. The best part is that the guy turned out to be a dud and only made an appearance for that episode. On point! lol…

Davespectral: At this point [in The Mechanic], Statham was really tolerant of the immaturity of his understudy. The kid walks up to the turntable and starts to play with the tonearm. Statham grabs him and snaps, “Don’t EVER touch that!” Priceless.

Hotmailjbc: In Get Him To the Greek, there is a scene in Sean’s record producer’s office that has an incredible array of products. 100’s of thousands of dollars worth. So much it is a parody of excess I thought when I saw it.

Gunbei: One of my favorites is in Risky Business when Joel’s (Tom Cruise) dad tells him not to touch his equalizer while he and his mom are away on their trip and how his dad has to re-adjust all the sliders, because Joel pushed them all out of wack.

 

Are there any important movie or TV shows featuring audio that didn’t make our users’ lists?  Would you like to see more audio equipment onscreen?  Leave a comment below to add!

48 thoughts on “Hi-Fi Gear in the Movies

  1. Kane26510 says:

    The movie DIVA (1981 or 1982) has some KILLER stereo system shots featuring Revox and Nakamichi.  The protagonist also has a Nagra portable tape recorder.  It’s a great film in its own right, and the high-end gear adds sparkle to the movie. 

  2. Stanathomesell says:

    You missed the 1969 classic “John and Mary” with Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow. Dustin plays a record on what looks like an AR turntable and it plays through a Marantz 18 or 19 receiver.

  3. Shermgps says:

    The most common thing I see —-many times over—- is a given source item being turned on—- and just about never a speaker to go with/….

  4. Kodak805 says:

    Sandra Bullock’s first feature film was titled Love Potion No.9 (1992).  Her partner was a biochemist played by Tate Donovan.  He had an all Krell system featured very prominently in the movie.

  5. Guyw says:

    In The Italian Job, however, the Martin Logans are supposed to be capable of blowing off women’s clothes.  Martin Logans won’t cut it with their efficiency, better a pair of AvanteGards

  6. Datatask Nz says:

    Most impressed to see an episode of CSI , and CSI LA, too, where more than a nod is given to vinyl, an early matrix pressing of Sinatra Live At The Sands , and the method by which it was cleaned ( wood glue) being pivotal. CSI LA, one of the crew has a copy of Hot Buttered Soul as a focal point in the back story.

    I will emcee a vinyl collectors fair in Auckland on March 23. All welcome.

  7. Edmcnenney says:

    Glimpses of high end are available on “House” the television show.  As a matter of fact a turntable manufacturer always shows up in the credits as a sponsor (can’t remember which one unfortunately).  Does anyone remember what kind of gear is featured in “American Psycho”? 

  8. No Fuss Gus says:

    No better scene than in Philadelphia: the Tom Hanks charachter is coming to terms with his illness and, quite movingly, listens to his Sonic Frontiers driven system.

    Let’s not forget the TV show “Chuck” which showed lots of gear in the store he works. My favorite was a shoot-up scene where the bad guys are crushed by a falling shelf of Bowers & Wilkins PV-1 subwoofers. Low resistance laughter.

    • Jagtek4u says:

      A couple I can think of.
      The Swiffer wet jet commercial has a rotel integrated and c/d player.
      One of Jay-z`s music videos (cant remember witch) has him walking
      Past a pair of JM labs grande utopias.

  9. John says:

    Sometime during the first episode or two of Caprica
    we see an Oracle Delphi TT in Daniel Greystone’s ultra modern office in his
    ultra modern house.  An analogue guy
    after all.

  10. Perrypecker says:

    Hi It is too bad I dont remember the movie but what struck me as so odd was that the speakers in this 80’s era film was such an obscure audio product. Of all the speakers one could choose this film cameo was a pair of Geostatic speakers by Bertagni?? 
    Now if someone could help me figure out what movie is what, I will be able to sleep tonight.

  11. Kentj1948 says:

    Elementary with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu has a McIntosh system in the background.  There looks to be the turntable, an FM tuner, and a C-2300 preamp.  The C-2300 got some air time.  No amp has been shown and I can’t tell what the speakers are.  Anyone know?

  12. Dirtyths says:

    Not real gear, but I’ve always loved this part in Ruthless People when Judge Reinhold shows the Dominator MX10. “And when you die, they can bury you in it!” and then shows the kid the more decent Century EV1 when pregnant girlfriend gets in the room.

  13. Mkimsey says:

    House has a killer system in his home as well as a prominent Sota turntable in his office. They even get a credit at the end of each show.

  14. Mietech says:

    Mietech55, Recently I was watching the tv show of Elementary and I viewed a McIntosh amp/processor during the program.I own a McIntosh MA6200 integrated amp and I have to say it is definitely high end.

  15. Igor says:

    I can’t believe no one mentioned Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He has a stack of Carver gear in his bedroom. Sure Carver isn’t that high end but in the 80’s it was pretty cool.

  16. @Gunbei:disqus – The equalizer in Risky Business was actually a Realistic from Radio Shack.  They just wiped off the name decal on the faceplate.  I should know.  I owned one of them in high school.

  17. Rx4hifi says:

    Somebody from work noticed a Tube Amp on “The Mechanic” and said “Hey ! That looks like your Gear!” because, I have a setup of an 2 Channel Audio Room with Jolida 502 and Magnepans !

  18. Poopiepants says:

    I just watched Looper last night and was reminded of the quick scene showing what appeared to be a maglev (magnetic levitation) supported turntable. Cool idea, but I don’t know how vibration-resistant it would be.

  19. Dhuvers says:

    16 candles Denon table with the pizza on it. Stylus protector in place. Nakamichi dragon cassette with a Dual cassette deck below spitting out the tape. Love looking for gear in films, tv.

  20. Tim says:

    I can’t believe that noone has mentioned the Bang & Olufsen system in the 1989 holiday classic, “Christmas Vacation.”  It belonged to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character who, unfortunately, lived next door to Clark Griswold(Chevy Chase).  The beautiful B&O system was destroyed by a giant icycle flying out of the Griswold’s gutter, through a window, and into the amplifier.  I can understand if it was omitted based on B&O not being considered high end.  The visual effect and pricing of their components qualify as high end but, aside from a couple of very elegant sounding turntables, I’ve never heard anything from B&O that sounded like it was worth even half of the asking price. 

    “Christmas Vacation” is still the best Christmas movie ever made with “Bad Santa” being a close runner-up.  However, it’s a good idea to wait until the kids have gone to bed to enjoy the latter.

  21. T-Biskit says:

    I can’t believe that noone has mentioned the Bang & Olufsen system in the 1989 holiday classic, “Christmas Vacation.” It belonged to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character who, unfortunately, lived next door to Clark Griswold(Chevy Chase). The beautiful B&O system was destroyed by a giant icycle flying out of the Griswold’s gutter, through a window, and into the amplifier. I can understand if it was omitted based on B&O not being considered high end. The visual effect and pricing of their components qualify as high end but, aside from a couple of very elegant sounding turntables, I’ve never heard anything from B&O that sounded like it was worth even half of the asking price.
    “Christmas Vacation” is still the best Christmas movie ever made with “Bad Santa” being a close runner-up. However, it’s a good idea to wait until the kids have gone to bed to enjoy the latter.

    Read more at http://hub.audiogon.com/2013/03/hi-fi-gear-in-the-movies/#oAEbWzflT87MBYVF.99

  22. Antonio Magaia says:

    TV show “Monarch of the Glen” set in Scotland shows in one episode a high-end system with B&W 802 Diamond series.
    In Transporter II, Jason Stratham actually plays a record on a high end turntable.

  23. burlingtonbill says:

    1992’s Love Potion # 9 stereo equipment lineup: Krell KSA-250 (or 150), MD-1 CD transport, SBP-32X DAC, KBL line preamp, KPA phono stage (stacked), Oracle Delphi 2 turntable, speakers unidentified.

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