Friday, December 28, 2007

Musical Musings

Last week, I wrote about my experiments with my new iPod and old sound systems. Since then I've re-recorded all my CD's at the higher quality setting. And I got a new cartridge for my turntable, replacing the 20-something year old one. Even though I'm not a big audiophile and have an annoying case of tinnitis (a constant, high-pitched tone in my left ear), I can still tell the difference that these changes made. And that's a good thing.

Another Good Thing is the iPod. It still amazes me: here's this hunka metal that's smaller than my billfold, yet it holds and plays my entire CD collection more than three times over. It's easy to use, puts out good sound, and has a nice legible screen to boot. Class act, Apple.

I junked the Apple ear buds, though. They didn't even begin to fit in my ears. I got a set of Koss earbuds and they sound okay. But then I discovered that I just don't care for ear buds or headphones. When I'm using them, the sound seems to be coming from right in the middle of my head. That's fine when all I'm doing is concentrating on the music, but that's rare. Usually, I've got the music running as background while I'm doing other stuff, like driving or painting, and I need to have most of my limited mental abilities focused on my primary task. It's hard to think about driving, for instance, when T-Bone Walker is wailing in the center of my skull. It's not the volume that's distracting, it's the fact that it's in my head, and by definition, whatever's going on inside your head takes precedence over anything going on outside. So I got one of those FM transmitter thingermajigs and now can play my iPod through my iFord door speakers. Much less distracting, much more enjoyable. Sound quality isn't top notch, but ya know, ya can't have everything. Around the house or the studio, it's plugged into my regular stereo system. My earbuds are gathering dust.

I made another discovery this week. I've downloaded two albums, one from iTunes and one from Amazon. It appears that both of them were highly-compressed, low quality versions. The reason, probably, is that the high-quality recordings are about 2.5 times as big, meaning a lotta time spent waiting for the download. But why pay $10 per album when all you get is lower quality and no cover art, lyrics, or anything else? It's the Wal-Mart approach: it's cheap and it's crap. I'm going to stick with CD's. And I discovered something else: you can buy almost any CD you want off Amazon, used, and probably pay less than the download would cost, anyway. (Okay, I can buy almost any CD that I want, simply because I'm an old fart and most of my music was recorded years ago and I'm probably the only guy in the universe still looking for it. "Oh, look, a new Mantovani CD!" My parents liked Mantovani, if that's any indication of how current he is.) Anyway, bottom line is that I'm probably not going to download any more music if it's at all available in CD.

No comments: