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Volume 8 No. 2

My Personal Collection Goes Back Over Fifty Years
Editorial By Paul Messenger


HIFICRITIC Volume 8 Number 2 April / May / June 2014  I make no apology for expanding a topic that occupied part of last issue's Editorial, but experiencing the latest turntables from Linn, Rega and Vertere has only reinforced my enthusiasm for the vinyl medium, causing me pose the question: how long do you want your music to last?

Some favourites in my personal collection go back more than fifty years, and today they sound better than ever, thanks to many years of hi-fi system improvements. Admittedly my personal memories don't stretch back to the original Buddy Holly LP that I found in a Brighton secondhand market some thirty years ago, but much of the vinyl I bought new during the 1960s and '70s remains treasured and regularly played today. That's not intended primarily as a criticism of current music and recording practices (though that may well be deserved), but it does affirm my delight in the vinyl disc, as a music storage format that continues to give lasting pleasure across a lifetime.

Languishing in the box room, the Compact Cassettes that I accumulated during the '70s and '80s haven't received much attention in the last thirty years. Most of the CDs went into the shed after I'd ripped them to a server a couple of years ago. However, I'll keep them accessible for the nonce, as my faith in computer-based things is all too often threatened by events well beyond my control. (Over the past forty years, a number of other putative formats have flickered briefly into life before quickly fading into obscurity.)

It seems that anything connected to the outside world via the internet is vulnerable to cyber attack. I was recently advised to change all my critical passwords (they've got to be kidding!). Possibly just as serious for music lovers might be Microsoft's announcement that it will shortly stop supporting its Windows XP operating system, which was first introduced just 13 years ago. I daresay that a new PC and operating system will continue to support existing music files transferred from an older computer, but I for one would resent being forced into it.

I reckon the Compact Cassette format lasted about thirty years. CD has now been around for about the same length of time, though it now seems to be in decline as downloading and streamed services grow. It's far too early to try and predict what the future holds for either CD or computer-based audio, but the rapid obsolescence and regular updating of computers and their operating systems has got to be a worry – or at any rate a confounded nuisance – for anybody building a music collection into a library.

Furthermore, the sheer complexity of computer audio playback, with numerous different software players and formats, can be quite intimidating (especially for those who find computers boring). Compare the plethora of features on Naim's least ambitious DAC-V1 D-to-A converter, with the straightforward simplicity of its analogue-stereo-out-only CD players and it's clear that computer audio is very different from all previous hi-fi formats.

Vinyl will never have the modern convenience of spitting the music out of a smartphone or operating a server. But it does combine simplicity, fine quality and hitherto unmatched longevity, all of which would seem to make good sense in my opinion, if music is to last a lifetime.

Paul Messenger



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