The new sound of music

The new sound of music

While cleaning out my storeroom last week, I came across a black box with contents that surprised me.

In it were about 100 old CDs, packed away neatly and placed at the bottom corner of a shelf.

I long believed I had either sold or given them away, but sentiment must have got the better of me.

I remember migrating my music to a digital platform, so my physical CDs are merely backups.

What I failed to remember was that two years ago, my hard drive crashed and I lost all my music files.

That must have been what happened because I can no longer find my music folder in my current computer or storage drives.

This meant that I had not touched that folder for at least two years, and neither missed it nor cared enough to notice its absence.

My copies of Roxette's Joyride, U2's The Joshua Tree and other great releases from the late 1980s and early 1990s must be shrivelling in their jewel cases because the music I once held so dear, I no longer valued.

But there has been a practical reason for that. My music used to accompany me on my MP3 player, but portable video players elevated my commute by bringing moving images to my daily bus ride to work.

And it was the change of my mode of commuting - driving instead of taking the train and bus - which changed my consumption patterns. It was just easier to listen to the radio than to plug in my music player each time I started the car.

Another reason why I did not notice the absence of my music collection was the advent of music-streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Prime Music.

I had grown accustomed to streaming my music directly using these services to any computer I happened to be using, and the convenience of picking a song from the millions available on each service proved to be too seductive.

Such services are also starting to offer audio quality which traditional media are unable to match.

Deezer recently announced Deezer Elite, a high-definition music service streaming lossless FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files at 1,411 kbps, which is up to five times the bitrate of competing music services.

Some question the need for such high-quality formats, as our ears may not be able to discern differences in terms of audio quality, even with high-end audio equipment.

It does not help that instead of focusing on good speakers, Sony launched its NW-ZX2 High-Resolution Walkman for playback of high-resolution audio files.

The truth is that hardware and music companies are telling me that my CDs are no longer good enough for providing high-quality audio.

So I did the unthinkable.

Instead of re-ripping the CDs into my hard drive, creating streaming playlists based on my collection, or downloading them off the Web, I went out and bought a subwoofer to complement my existing five-speaker home theatre system.

I connected an old Blu-ray player to the amplifier and started listening to my CD albums in their entirety.

Despite owning several great pairs of headphones and portable speakers, I wanted to enjoy my music collection the way I remembered, and not through mediocre computer speakers.

This weekend, I intend to take out some of my old DVDs and have a movie night which does not consist of data streams and compressed audio.

Maybe, I will even blow the dust off some old comic books and read them - yes, off paper - instead of on a tablet.

I know I bought those CDs, DVDs and books for a reason and it will be nice to remember why they mattered.

sherwinl@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Apr 1, 2015.
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