Written by 5:00 am Audiophile

Is Technology Making Your Audio Life More Difficult?

Paul Wilson encounters trouble on the road to streaming hi-fi heaven

I started in business just slightly before computers revolutionized commerce. When I needed to talk with a customer I simply called them on the phone, and wonder of wonders, they usually answered. If not, they would typically return the call in short order.

Slow - Internet.jpgIt is not quite so simple in modern times. Computers, those marvelous devices heralded from their inception as a way to make our lives easier, may actually make things more complicated. Point of fact, I find it far more time-consuming to contact the people with whom I do business now than in my business past.

But what of technology in audio? One has to look no further than the rapid changes in how audiophiles obtain music. Streaming is quickly becoming a predominate force in high-end audio. Any company making digital source components without streaming capabilitiy is furiously scrambling to add it.

Most of my close friends love to tease and chide me over my love for what they call “toys.” In all fairness, I must admit, I love a new gadget. It doesn’t have to necessarily be something electronic or expensive. I recently purchased a new $12 manual can opener that I think is the coolest thing ever for opening a can of beans.

In my professional life, however, I need to stay up with technology and that means things like the Internet, e-mail, text messaging, WiFi, cloud storage systems, GPS and all the rest. I even have a growing number of customers who now want an electronic meeting request; just calling on the phone for an appointment is no longer acceptable. So I change with the times.

One of the hesitancies I’ve had with streaming relates to problems I’ve had with my Internet service. Gadgets certainly play a role here. With my current Internet supplier I have the highest download speed they offer in my area for a residence: 45 Mbps. Yet I have been quite frustrated with the performance of my service for some time.

WiFi.jpgI’ve had Apple tech support on the phone because I wanted to be sure my computer was working correctly. Every support person with whom I spoke told me the same thing — my computer functions as it should.

I’ve had the cable company to my home on several occasions because I was absolutely convinced the service itself was not right. They have replaced cable boxes and modems, rewired things and replaced connectors, all in an attempt to solve what was such an obvious problem: slow Internet. When you click on a website and the screen freezes, I’d say that it is not only an obvious problem, but also one that is profoundly frustrating. This is the service I’m supposed to use to stream CD-quality or better music?

So it was one day, in the early dawn of a new morning, that I had sudden inspiration. Is it possible I don’t have enough bandwidth in my home? Could that be the problem? Of course not, I have the max speed I can get, right? Seems like the real answer is no, not so much.

When I started reviewing the components I have that use WiFi and the Internet, I came up with the main ones rather easily. The iMac in my office was first on the list. Then there are the two iPads — one for business, one for the audio system. And of course the iPhone. That was about all I came up with at the time.

Soon enough, I started to realize that I had, all totaled, 10 items using WiFi, and my service only effectively supported eight. I’m beginning to believe there are just too many Internet-capable devices in the world. Some of mine are highly questionable.

I can see the wisdom in being able to operate an alarm system remotely. If someone needed to enter the house I can turn off the alarm should I be away. I suppose I can also accept, although it seems mostly useless, that there is some merit in the ability to change the HVAC thermostat when I’m gone.

Deadbolt.jpgOn the very real cusp of foolishness is the new touchpad deadbolt I recently installed on the front door. No key needed. Why yes, of course you can unlock it from your phone. If I’m in Poughkeepsie and need to unlock the door, I most certainly am able to do so. Honestly, I seriously doubt that if I’m ever in Poughkeepsie I’ll need to unlock the door at home. That didn’t stop me from setting up the WiFi, however.

But the one that transcends all measure of absurdity is the WiFi-accessible touchpad thermostat on the new water heater I had to install. The old one kindly stopped working and left me taking a very quick, very cold shower. I actually saw the Internet-capable touchpad as a worthy selling point.

Before setting up that high-bitrate streaming service, it might be wise to take stock of your bandwidth, how many WiFi devices you have and how many your service will support. Because the last thing you want is having your music stop because the download is refreshing while you are trying to turn up the temperature on the water heater.

Let’s face it, listening to music and taking a cold shower at the same time just “ain’t no fun.”

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