It’s the time of year for saving money!
I sometimes find it difficult to make myself aware of all that technology can do. Never one for the use of social media, or to mostly a large degree text messaging, I do use email quite frequently. And while I do, begrudgingly so, send the occasional text message, I am absolutely certain I am possessed of only the basic skills. My next door neighbor’s fifteen year old son could run circles, make that concentric circles around me in terms of his level of knowledge about text messaging compared to mine.
Each year, when released in September (or whatever the actual release date) I get the newest iPhone. Generally, I get the “something XS model,” or the one with the largest screen and all the bells and whistles. I watch the Apple presentation where all the people explain what this new marvelous device can do and think, “wow! that’s cool!” I buy the thing and basically use it as a phone. I could accomplish the same thing with a $49.00 flip phone. It is likely fair to say I want the technology available despite the fact I may never use it.
When they first came out, music servers presented a challenge of sorts to me. Not the storage of music on a hard drive that is arguably little more than a computer, but mainly the app to make it all work. Some of the earliest apps were expansive in what they could do so long as you had more than a rudimentary knowledge of how software works. My current server uses JRiver as the mechanism to control music. On the iPad in my audio room, yes, I have a dedicated iPad just for my system, I also have JRemote which is especially nice since it removes the requirement of having a monitor and keyboard on my audio rack. Both of these programs are mostly simple to use, unless you want to do something beyond pressing play or worse yet, something goes wrong.
There is little in the way of an instruction manual for JRiver which I find insulting. Perhaps one of the easier apps to use in the music server world is the Conductor app used by Aurender. Not surprisingly, it is one of the better rated apps for servers and is quite possibly one reason why Aurender is so popular – and of course sonics.
We, as audiophiles, are being subjected to an ever-increasing use of technology, particularly on the software side. Naim recently announced their Uniti Series now has AirPlay2 support and can be controlled by Siri. My reaction? “Wow! That’s cool!” I see myself telling Siri to play my favorite music. Of course, in my case, I suspect I would have more than a fair share of instances where Siri would tell me something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you.” JRiver has the ability to do far more than my requirements. In fact, I suppose I would need to be a computer programmer to do everything it can accomplish. What ever happened to just playing a song?
Those old enough to remember the advent of CD’s may remember the euphoria the new medium caused. Open tray, load CD, push play. That was about it. I remember the fascination I felt at the ease of switching tracks – this compared to the laborious chore of doing so on a turntable. I was smitten from the start. Today, a simple CD player seems almost archaic and something better relegated for a museum. Yet how many people still have and use a CD player? I do.
Perhaps no segment of music delivery has changed more than streaming. We now have so many choices of which service to use, what format of song to which we should listen, the apps used to control everything and all the options of playlists and other choices that a pretty skilled knowledge of computers is required. Long gone is the simplicity of open drawer, load CD, push play. Sometimes I think we have gone too far in our quest for musical excellence and how it may be best delivered. Of course, other times I don’t think we have gone far enough.
Naim’s use of Siri is certain to attract attention. Depending on how well it works it could usher in a new level of simplicity, and maybe even laziness, in how we decide what song we want to play. I somehow believe we all can visualize the day when like the original Star Trek, we just say, “computer do this” and it is magically done. Naim has possibly taken one step closer towards that goal by having a system that can recognize user commands regarding the selection of a song to play on a stereo system.
When you look at the other available voice controlled devices on the market I cannot help but wonder why some of these type devices have not been incorporated into our audio systems before now. If I so desire, I can tell my Alexa to play music and so long as it is set up to begin with, music will play. I have an Alexa and thus far, I have only used it to tell me the time or finding out about the weather. This seems to be a familiar theme with me, I have the technology but don’t really use it.
Of course, I am also concerned if the companies making all these devices are prying into my personal life. Is my Alexa listening to everything I say and making a record of it? Will similar services used to control my music server and streaming device do the same? If I start using voice commands to choose my music will I suddenly receive advertisements for music on the genres I most often play? Will some computer network track the songs I play, and how often, and use that information in some sort of marketing analysis?
Technology is going to change, that is for sure. I’ll probably be the one who adapts the use of the newest systems, those things on the cutting edge. Only question remaining is will I ever use any of it.
While I use my connected devices quite a bit, especially to control lighting and to set timers, I never use them to select or play music. I found that in working with an Alexa at a company retreat, most of my colleagues could only remember a few obvious artist / title choices to ask Alexa to play, which is amusing but hardly satisfactory.
The vast body of recorded music available through streaming services is essentially unavailable if you must rely on your memory to choose songs to play, and to select titles that were just released or of which you may never have heard.
I use my tablets to control Roon, which helps very much in improving my browsing experience for both Tidal and Qobuz and I wind up playing a much wider range of musical choices than I would through any current voice-based technology.