iPod! Convenience! Mobility! Who needs Quality?

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Life with music on an iPod would be a mistake.  — Friedrich Nietzsche
The New York Times is finally addressing a subject of concern for some time.

Music sounds lousy on an iPod.

I have largely avoided the iPod revolution because listening to a Mahler mp3, particularly on decent equipment, is more depressing even than his songs about dead children. It is hospital food for the ears.

Now I am at last converting some 1,800 CDs because a 2T drive can be purchased at the dollar store and stuffed with tracks using lossless transfers. Finally, a reason to rip the “Ode to Joy” and the Hallelujah Chorus.

Broach this subject with the citizens of iPod nation and you’ll be called a music snob, or worse, old.  But you’re really a preservationist, insisting on a quality of life as one would by not eating at Buffet Barf or by drinking something better than Chateau Sous-La-Table.

The iPod, in moderation, is a wonderful invention.  It’s good to have less stuff around the house.  Cheers to the departure of those skinny six-foot high CD towers – especially the ones with the sinuous curves that make you think the earthquake is happening now, and that remind us of a future of interior design discarded sometime around Kubrick’s 2001, or the TWA terminal at Kennedy.

It’s even better to be able to have music with you wherever you go.  (Supposedly Apple is working on an embedded player. The iBod will be placed in the torso – there’s an Appendix for that – via a proprietary surgical procedure, with wireless file transfers.  A blogger I know seduced a prototype host from a pub in Sunnyvale, so stay tuned and please, V______, bar your doors.)

Recordplayer “So, old snob, go ahead and listen to Stokowski on your tube system and crank up the Edsel, just don’t preach to me.” But when fewer people buy decent playback equipment then it stops being made or costs 10x.

And when the most important feature of a digital recording is that it be LOUDER than the last one so you’ll pay more attention to it – as when commercials are louder than program content – well, it’s no wonder Nietzsche went mad.


It ruins music, just like crap food ruins eating.  Our expectations are gradually lowered so that we care less about quality, because we’re not exposed to it and we’re less able to discern its presence.

Stage_720821_kbhallen1 So play your iPod.  Play it on the subway, play it in the shower.  But go out and buy some decent speakers, man, and an amp or music system worthy of them.  You don’t have to make your house look like an old Who concert  Good sound can come in small packages.

Even when it’s only background music if it sounds better you’ll feel happier, be more productive, get along famously with others, put this country back on the rails.

Don’t pretend that you can’t hear the difference, either, just so that you won’t feel bad for choosing mediocrity.  And if you really can’t hear the difference…….listen.

Music is maybe the best thing we’ve been given in this life and it deserves our undivided attention.

And if you keep ripping at 128 may “Afternoon Delight” be your iPod’s eternal recurrence.


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