As someone interest in sound quality, how do you wrestle with what you have to do to get songs on your iPod? Do you go lossless?
Well, I'm usually like everyone else - I'm in a hurry. Over here [in England] we pay 79 pence for a track, which is probably about $1.20, a little more than you pay in the USA. But it seems to me to be a reasonable deal. Some tracks are 5, 6, 7 minutes long, which doesn't seem bad to pay for something you'll listen to many times, usually while you're doing other stuff, or you're in your car with road noise, engine noise, wind rumble - arguably, it really doesn't matter whether you're listening to 24-bit/96k or higher model of audio quality as opposed to some highly compressed MP3. That doesn't make much of a difference to most people most of the time. I could sit and listen to music on high-performance headphones in a room with great speakers and a great sound system, and there is a world of difference. I sometimes feel sad that, for many an audiophile, there aren't that many easy options. I don't think that, given the file sizes that I've had to move around for professional purposes, I wouldn't want to be doing that to listen to things recreationally. I'm in too much of a hurry. I don't want to spend that kind of time downloading really, really big files. But most people don't have to worry about that. They just take whatever bit rate iTunes gives them.
I'm also torn as an audiophile pressed for time but wanting a lot of songs with me on my primary iPod, which is at about 13,800 at the moment. I like having that as an option. If it's at 128, so be it.
One way or another, whether you've downloaded from iTunes or burned from CDs that you've bought or been given, that constitutes a considerable financial investment on your part. If you think of somebody having 20,000 tracks on their iPod, that's a lot of money, isn't it? It's a couple thousand dollars worth of records, essentially.
How many songs do you have on yours?
I don't use my iPod for listening to music recreationally. I use it as a storage tool for my own records, stuff I have to learn from other artists, and live recordings for future reference. I use it more as a professional notebook rather than a means to listen recreationally. Usually when I'm doing that, I'm listening to classical music streaming down from my computer or my digital radio sitting at the side of my office desk. I'm not very fond of listening to music when I'm on an airplane because the amount of noise going on is horrendous. And the regulation headphones are rarely satisfying because they make your ears sore and they're artificial-sounding. I don't listen to music a great deal when I'm traveling because I don't like noise in the background interfering with what I'm listening to. I'm probably not a typical listener from any standpoint. The kind of music I listen to is not pop and rock. It's usually classical or world music. And I like to listen to it with a clean ambient environment, in a room where people are not making noises, no contradiction in musical terms with what I'm listening to.
One of the obvious reasons that radio stations compress their signals is if you're listening to quiet passages in your car, there are bits that you just don't hear above all the noise. [chuckles] I'm just amazed people turn their radio on instinctively when they get into their cars. There are these tinny little things happening in the background, like a hint of some programmed drum machine or something. It's just a habitual comfort thing to hear some little rippling kind of noise that breaks up the tedium of wind, engine, and road noise. It's very weird. I think those people, when they sit down in a quiet room to listen to music, would find it a very difficult experience. They need to have records that have wind, engine, and car noise on them for them to be able to enjoy the music. [laughs]
I like to do appointment listening where I sit down at home and not do anything else for an hour or so.
From a technical point of view, those of us who make the music have to make sure it sounds okay across a variety of listening experiences on a variety of equipment, so the compromises we make to make things as compatible as possible perhaps render the music something less than what we'd hoped it to be. That's just one of the things you have to do. And you'd do things differently if you were mastering for a vinyl record as opposed to a CD.
It's surprising how long the MP3 has been around. There are many other compressed digital-delivery formats, but the MP3 is kind of universal, regardless of where you send it to and what people have on the other end to play that. In some ways, it's the devil you know, and it's not a bad one. It's kind of okay. It's definitely preferable to cassettes and vinyl.
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