grandfather would often begin his stories with "When I was a kid…" If he would
have been talking about music or high-end audio perhaps I would have been more
interested. His stories usually bored me. Yet I'm going to start this off in the
same way. Except I'm going to talk about music and the high-end audio.
When I was 12 or 13 years old I had about 10 or 20 LPs in my collection. In order to acquire a new record the first thing I'd have to do is save some money. When I finally had enough money for a record, I would then choose a record album either on the advice of someone older than me, from a track I heard on the radio, or from a conversation I've overheard. Sometimes I'd just wait until arriving at the record or department store and then browse through the Rock & Pop section (there were not many sub-genres, if any at all back then) and make my decision based on an album's cover art. Perhaps it would be due to recognizing the band's name. To try and explain how I went about purchasing an LP to a younger listener who has the world's music library on a small glowing rectangular tablet is a waste of time. They might not care. And when it comes down to it, perhaps neither should you.
It's fantastic that we're living through a "vinyl revival". In my listening room there is no "format war". That's because I don't seem to be penalized for choosing one format over another, although it's no secret that my favorite format is vinyl. When I'm listening to music -- and doing else nothing but listening – the majority of the time I'll be spinning a record. The supposed inconvenience of playing records doesn't bother me. In fact I relish my time with my records and often revel in what some call the "ritual" of LP (and 7") playback.
Of course it's the sound quality of analog that is the most important thing to me, so even if I didn't enjoy the typical ritual with vinyl records it would still be my favorite format. But still, taking the record out of its sleeve (and sometimes taking the sleeve out of its protective poly outer-sleeve), finding a safe place for this sleeve, placing the record on the turntable, clamping the record to the platter, turning on the power to the turntable while simultaneously selecting its speed, cleaning the phono cartridge's stylus, lowering the tonearm until the stylus enters the record's lead-in groove, un-muting the preamp, then take a few steps to my Poang chair to listen, hopefully before the music begins. Does this strike you as strange? I practice the above ritual many times a day, as I'm sure do many readers of Enjoy The Music. We certainly don't think it's strange. Although I have read similar posts on social media tagged as "audio porn".
Many assume that one who loves listening to analog as much I do, that one must have an aversion to all that's digital. I certainly do not. There are many Terabytes of music files residing on hard-drives connected to my music server. I can call up any piece of music simply by pressing a few keys on my computer's keyboard. And even though my preference is for playing records when "seriously listening", I often listen to digital audio files the same way as when listening to LPs in a dedicated listening fashion. Although there is hardly any ritual to speak of as there is with vinyl, to me it's all about the music. There is no denying the fact that these days digital is sounding pretty darn good. This is especially true when listening to high-resolution files, that is, better than Red Book plain vanilla "CD-quality" 44.1kKz/16-bit files.
And then there is TIDAL and other of the new breed of streaming services, which is the proverbial open firehose of music. With TIDAL you can listen to your favorites plus discover new music without lifting a finger (well, I usually have to enter a few characters on the computer's keyboard). These new streaming services provide "CD quality" streaming. Even if it's "only" CD quality, it's light years better than the low-bit MP3 services. So not only does it sound half-decent, I can discover new music that often is being purchased on vinyl for my home. If it's available, I may buy the high-resolution file on HDtracks, Super HiRez oat Acoustic Sounds or the like. Naxos does offer Hi-Rez Audio streaming and we can all look forward to MQA finding its way to popular, or newfound, online music streaming sites so 24-bit/96kHz or higher can be enjoyed.
You might have noticed that CD sales have taken quite a hit over the last few years, as streaming services are taking a big bite out of their business. I still purchase CDs, but certainly less than I used to. Those that are purchase tend to be immediately ripped to a hard-drive (and a second for a back-up). I've accumulated thousands of physical CDs over the years, but now they exist only so I may reference their booklets. Since all this information is available on-line that may happen only every once in a while. But the CDs in my collection are decreasing in number as I sell the ones that are worth listing for sale, so I can turn that money back into more music. Usually on good ol' vinyl LPs of course. Occasionally I'll listen to a CD or a copy of that CD to the car to listen to, but with Bluetooth connectivity it makes dragging a CD to the car a seem hardly worth it.
Since you're reading a high-end magazine, you might be living the same digital life as I described above. Perhaps you've also done as I've done, and set up multi-room listening through your home network, all of it controlled by an app on an iPad or other device. There seems to be no end to the choices that are being offered. And I'll happily accept them into my life, at the same time enjoying the formats that were once enjoyed by my grandfather (although my analog playback system would likely be unrecognizable to him), who at one time would have been happy to tell you about them.
Along with my never ending love for vinyl, I've accepted other formats into my listening life. I celebrate their existence because they make my musical life more enjoyable. The fact that others feel the same way is more than evident in Enjoy the Music.com's coverage of the New York Audio Show (NYAS) and especially the larger Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES), where every format that one can image, and then some, are on display. With the other features that appear in Enjoy the Music.com this month, along with the usually equipment and music reviews, there is much to celebrate. As a community of audiophiles there is no use in deriding one format over another. As manufacturers strive in perfecting the formats we already have, including vinyl, at the same time they're introduce more ways to make listening not only easier but with better sound quality, there is much to celebrate. Let's celebrate! As always, in the end what matters most is that you...
Enjoy The Music!