Not So Silent Running: Making Peace With Streaming

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I have made peace with my inner music geek.

I accept that I am what I am. I accept that I like what I like and I accept that my preferences may not be the same as everyone else's.

APR-MarkWithRecords225.jpgThe 45 RPM single B-side by the British rock band The Kinks was for many years my early mantra: "I'm Not Like Everybody Else."

In some ways, it still is... and I'm ok with that...

(And, you there in the back row, please hold off on the "Stewart Smalley" jokes just for a moment...)

For years I waged a sort of musical war with myself, trying to keep pace -- or at least be aware of -- the latest music movements. Eventually, thankfully fairly early on in my life, I realized this was an impossible task, even now when I'm doing lots of reviews 'n such.

What was that song by The Cure? Jumping Someone Else's Train....

Recognizing long ago that my tastes weren't necessarily mainstream, I felt pretty cool getting into Frank Zappa in 7th grade (or Tiny Tim in 1st grade, for that matter).

Even with technology, I found myself bucking the trend most times...

In the 80s and 90s, even though like many of you, I embraced CDs. But I never ever abandoned my vinyl collection! I'd put to much effort into collecting them and -- bottom line -- I LIKED them! While many friends ditched their collections, mine grew.

I bought The Cure's Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me on vinyl when it came out in 1987 because it had a track not on the CD (and I later learned it sounded better than the CD!).

In the new millennium, just as the CD was starting to sound a bit better and there were cool new higher fidelity formats emerging (SACD, DVD Audio), the phenomenon of downloadable digital music took off. Once again I was an outsider as I wasn't embracing the ultra-compressed world of MP3s.

More friends offloaded the remnants of their vinyl collections AND their CDs. An audiophile-savvy friend moving out of the country gave me 500 LPs!

APR-VictrolaSoundbox225.jpgLooking on with sadness, I watched all these lovely artifacts of a hobby I loved so much -- record collecting -- implode before my very eyes. As cool as the promise of digital music appeared, in my gut I knew these people were making a grave mistake, losing something special for the sake of convenience...

I continued collecting... snapping up many more cool albums I'd always wanted for relative pennies... Suddenly I had something like 10,000 LPs alongside my 5,000-plus CDs and eventually hundreds of surround sound audio discs on DVDA, SACD and now even Blu-ray Disc.

But who is counting?

Actually, back then people were starting to talk a lot about numbers .... size suddenly mattered.... hard drive size, that is... and the number of songs they had on their iPods..... The discussions moved away from sound quality in lieu of machismo... I heard people boasting about having 100,000 songs in their pocket...

Friends would ask me: "why don't you digitize your LP collection?"  

My answer was a lifestyle choice... a choice that fell outside the current trend. Simply put: I didn't (and still don't, for that matter!) want to spend my whole musical life managing computer files... It's much easier and quicker for me to keep the LPs and CDs arranged alphabetically by category which I can choose very quickly when I need and want. Friends would shrug, shaking their heads not fully understanding why I wouldn't want to have all my albums on my iPod in my pocket.

They also didn't understand something about digital audio that I did: I knew I didn't really want to compromise the fidelity of my music, taking already-compressed CDs down into the depths of MP3s. (note: I acknowledge that newer high resolution digital downloads sound much much better, some rivaling or exceeding LPs for fidelity... I have many of those which I have reviewed here on Audiophilereview.com).

A producer friend said to me once: 'What's the point of digitizing your vinyl? The whole thing is to put on the record player and enjoy it that way, in the moment...'

I agreed!

Now, this is not to say that I have not digitized certain rare albums so that I can enjoy that music in the car or have a copy in my pocket on my phone for those moments when I want to listen to them walking around town....

I get the whole mobile convenience thing... For the most part I put at least CD-quality 44.1 kHz / 16-bit AIFF files on my iPhone (I'd put higher res files there if I could).

For me, mobility is a value-added feature, not a replacement. I always still have my originals to fall back on for the full listening experience. I still have the physical discs with the photos and the label and that sense of being that only comes from a physical product.

Which leads us to my reason for writing this soul-bearing thought piece....

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