The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, November 06, 2008

"Why I'll never own an MP3 player"

11-6-08 "Why I'll never own an MP3 player"

From reader Jim D.

My computer is my computer. It is not my stereo or my TV. My computer interacts with music when I ask it to (mostly transferring vinyl to CD’s, sometimes ‘burning’ CD’s). In 2008, there is not an element of my music fandom that requires me to stick earbuds into my head, fortunately.

And if I did wear headphones, or insert earbuds – I would certainly not listen to ‘lossy’ sounding MP3’s! I mean, who wants to pay for official ones? And if you get ‘free’ ones – you’re at the mercy of whoever created that MP3.

I grew up in the age of the LP. In the 70’s, there was a big drive to get you to listen to your LP’s on stereo headphones. Well, it does sound different. You can listen more closely, at times. Things become revealed, stereo guitar, little hidden things only unearthed by close listening etc. I donned my heavyweight Sansui headphones, cranked the dials to “10” and played King Crimson dutifully, as the ‘phones pressed my ears to my skull, forever flattening them.

I Walkman’d with the best – making cassettes from LP’s. Nice, high-bias (Type II) tapes, from often superior imported pressings of Frank Zappa LP’s – to savor for the first time as I sat on a train going from Amsterdam to Koln (“You Are What You Is”, is the one that made the lasting impressing in this manner). Or alone in a hotel room in London, starting at the shadows on the ceiling as my Walkman provided KDIL information (thank you, Don Bolles!). Walkman, Walkman. In my car, I first had an 8-track, then a cassette – so I didn’t Walkman in my car.

When I moved to England in 1990, I got an AM/FM radio that played cassettes and CD’s; boombox time, no headphones. Truncated collection to appease me, C-110 Metal (Type IV) cassettes. Damn, I can’t record over these?! My return to the US meant – no more boombox, no more headphones. Oh, and I got a home computer.

My CD burner arrived in 1996. Play the LP’s onto a MiniDisc, stereo pinplug it into the computer, burn a CD, if desired. No big ‘loss’ – there are those who would argue that the MD is a ‘lossy’ format, but my ears are not sold gold. I downloaded a Thunderclap Newman demo from – my first and last download. It was an MP3, with my CD burner handily converting it from an MP3 to a “.wav” file. I buy LP’s for $1, I can find CD’s for $3 – why do I want to pay $1 per song for a format that I don’t care about? And I collect. I want the artifact from my favorite artists – give me that ACR 12”, CD Single – whatever. My phonograph works well, sounds good. My CD player is not yet illegal, and it works mightily.

And now I can play MD’s in my car – they sound great. Where’s my need to handle a ‘lossy’ computer file?



Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Jim Donato - Satan's Advocate!

Not forgetting, Ron, That you pay $1 for an LP or $3 for a CD because you live in an environment where promo copies flow like water, and even normal citizens have a need to liquidate their physical collections and there is a HUGE listener base to contribute to the sale stock.

In the sticks, where I live, the records and CDs I want badly are not for sale at pretty much ANY price, much less the chump change you pay! Things I need I have to pay market value and shipping for. As a collector, I often need an LP or CD for 1 track. I am in debt to my eyeballs and now have a much lower income than what I grew up used to. Under those conditions, a $1 download is more than acceptable to me. I've done it.

Not forgetting either unique download-only material by groups I collect. It's that or nothing. Within 10 years, CDs will be a niche market like LPs are today - meaning a fraction of music released will get to "hard copy" formats.

But I'll STILL never have an MP3 player!

Though I will buy an iPod Touch just to have hand-held internet once either wi-fi becomes truly omnipresent where I live, or (more likely) the FCC's go-ahead for white space broadband using the unused analog television spectrum, creates an even better wireless web transmission standard!

7:34 AM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

Time to confess my sins as well - I'm a downloader. I'm looking for a local 12 step group to help me with my guilt as a collector who has strayed from the straight and narrow path. It's totally an economic decision for me. Raising a family in these economic conditions does not allow me the disposable income to pay full price for what I want. I burn CD-Rs for everything!! I rarely listen on my computer, and while I do have an iPod, 98 % of my listening is from discs I burn played in my truck's CD player. I crank it up and it sounds GREAT. I guess I'm losing something, but it's a difference that makes no difference to me.

When you factor in bonus material available through iTunes, it's even more of a bargain. The new Keane disc had 2 great bonus tracks. I'm also occasionally finding expensive imports. Ron, that recent Jack Bruce live disc I sent you is a $30 import everywhere I've looked, but there it was for $9.99. Have you guys checked the Stephen Duffy offerings? "The Ups and Downs" and "Because We Love You" with all the remixes and b-sides. Dr. Calculus "Designer Beatnik"? It's there too. All for $9.99 each...

5:20 PM  

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