January 27: Audacity

2021 was apparently the first year that LP sales eclipsed CD sales in decades. It was a small surprise to me and more of a comment on the fact that CD sales are so minimal rather than LP sales being so strong. I am not especially enamored with the LP. It’s just that it’s the best playback method I know of, though it is badly flawed, and that’s before we start talking about the inevitable issue of LP wear. Ugh.

Still, today was an important day. I uploaded my first LP to my Mac. Audacity is both relatively good and totally free. That’s impressive in a day that finds every software company looking to maximize profits. I was stunned that on my very first effort I ended up having a playable side of a decently clean demo pressing of Dylan’s Street Legal. I chose that LP because it was in fair shape (I didn’t know how many times I would have to play it) and because I happen to have a CD of the same record right in front of me.

The initial results were hideous. The RIAA equalization on the front end of the A/D I used was (and I shall not slander the company who made it here), how shall I say this, marginal or worse. So, I climbed around behind my vintage Salamander Designs rack and took the analog feed from the record-out of my preamp just to see if my suspicions were correct.

They were.

Once I was taking the data from this line-level source, one side of the LP came in at a shade over 62MB. Not bad, certainly much better than a FLAC file will alter. I judged the resulting AAC file to sound pretty Ok, in fact significantly better than I had hoped. I’ll do some more careful listening tomorrow before considering uploading the LP side using FLAC. If I use AAC all of my LPs would occupy only about 55GB, which would leave me plenty of room for extra storage mischief (read, the acquisition of more music in digital, CD and LP formats).

The Audacity UI looks like it’s from twenty years ago but it is relatively simple in operation and very well executed. The folks who developed it knew (and know) exactly what they’re doing and exactly what they’re up against. I have to remind myself that none of what I’m doing was anticipated by the originators of any of the technology employed during the creation of the source material. This ability to move analog to digital in this way is all a manifestation of software developers adapting to what came long before in an effort to preserve music that was acquired many years before the technology was anticipated to be able to move it around.

How often does that work out in favor if the music lover / consumer?

In other words, the future of music, at least insofar as how we can store it, would seem to be in good programming hands, as of this writing.

More, as ever, later. Thanks for reading.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Richard Thompson’s (Guitar, Vocal) 1967-1976. Yup, even the CD is costly today ($25 at Amazon) but you should have it anyway.

Any lover of guitar must…

January 27: Audacity

January 25: The pCloud plan, etc.

The other day I mentioned that I had dropped $50 on a year’s worth of pCloud’s 500GB storage plan.

At the time I was waiting.

Right now, I’m still waiting.

Files are being uploaded at what can charitably be called a leisurely pace. There are 80GB still to go and the estimate for completion is 5 days and change. All of that is Ok if far slower than I would have expected. But, if pCloud is choking on the compressed digital stuff I’m a little concerned that uploading the FLAC files of hundreds of LPs could necessitate a digital Heimlich Maneuver.

I’m going to start slow, however, when it comes to the LPs. In fact, I’m going to upload just one LP. The first upload will be of an AAC file and the second will be FLAC of the same LP. Then, I’m going to listen to both, and I’m going to be cruel. If I don’t find a significant difference I’m going to do the rest of my LP collection via AAC and I won’t look back. You see, I’ve decided if this all works I will probably end up keeping all of my LPs.

That’s not a difficult decision. I love my old Per Madsen rack. It just stands there, not bothering anyone holding hundreds of LPs and CDs (sans jewel cases, of course). Even if were to start buying LPs again regularly, and I find that doubtful, I would be unlikely to buy all that many. Who knows, maybe a handful a year? I may even institute a One In, One Out policy as I do with new shirts. That would work for a while since I have a good number of duplicate LPs and some I will never play. I can pretty much promise the second (and maybe the first) copy I own of Pat Metheny’s Chautauqua is on its way out, one way or the other.

The music management process feels good, if a little tedious like the upload speed of pCloud. I’m actually looking forward to playing every one of the LPs. Some of those guys haven’t been spun in a good long while. They’re all fairly clean but should a dirty one find its way onto the REGA’s glass platter my trusty Nitty Gritty record cleaner is right where I left it on the top shelf of my closet. I’ve got a nice collection of good quality poly sleeves for both LP and CD, too. My guess is I’ve got enough LP sleeves for all of the possible acquisitions I might make from now until the end of my LP spinning days. CD sleeves are another matter. I have less than one pack of 100 left, and I’m using them for my jewel case elimination project. And, the company that sells them keeps pushing their availability date back month by month, with the last being November of last year. My optimism is waning and I’m not aware of a suitable substitute.

Who knows? The ones I have may be the last of their kind, as everything is eventually.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Giant of Illinois from Andrew Bird’s 2014 record, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… It’s an odd, personal and evocative song I find myself listening to again and again.

January 25: The pCloud plan, etc.

January 2: Quality, music & nostalgia

2020 was a year that I started to try to get a handle on my music collection. Years ago I lost over 2,000 treasured LPs in a flood. The insurance company first offered me $1 per record and ended up paying me $3 each. Still, that pretty much took out my collection save for the few hundred that escaped the hot, ravaging waters of the broken pipe.

A few of the survivors and my beloved Per Madsen Rack.

I would include a photo of my CDs, but they’re just so boring looking. Yesterday I wrote about Paul Simon’s disdain for contemporary music and I alluded to my music collection. I find that the more I write the more music I listen to. The listening is different, for the most part, than when I worked in and wrote about the high end audio industry. It is more of an accompaniment or a soundtrack. I no longer have a system, though I can still play LPs and CDs and hear them in free space. When the music or my brain demands it I listen on headphones, either wired or bluetooth. This is all heading toward how I intend to manage and grow my collection without as much physical mass to manage. The idea of using FLAC and dumping what’s left of my LPs onto a bunch of really big (an well backed up) hard drive is appealing. So is buying most (but not all of my music digitally through either iTunes or Bandcamp. I can’t quite wrest myself from the appeal of the physical so when I bought Deep Sea Diver’s new record I bought the LP from Bandcamp and it arrived signed by Jessica Dobson herself. Plus, Bandcamp tends to pay musicians a high percentage than iTunes.

C’mon, Jessica sent me Xs and Os…How do you pass that up?

It’s cool, but it’s also pretty damn physical. There may come a day where my enjoyment of buying and listening to records goes away altogether but I am not quite there yet. Digital and digital storage is just so convenient and it usually sounds fairly good. There’s a good chance one of the few benefits of aging will be the fact that my ability to discern good sound from bad sound will continue to decline. If I end up being happy to listen to a portable radio that’ll be just fine. My hearing already rolls off above 14kHz so I’m on my way!

Enough preamble. The word of the day is nostalgia. And my question is this: If you like something that happens to be old is your appreciation inherently possessed with nostalgia? What do we say when what’s old is really good let alone possible better than what’s new? Say we’re talking about Van Halen’s 1978 eponymously titled record or Steely Dan’s Katy Lied from 1975. Yup, I grew up with both. Still, each record is still fantastic by any measure. Do I have to admit that some of my appreciation for either work is dripping in nostalgia? Think about it and let me know. More tomorrow. I’m trying to keep the daily posts between 300-400 words. Wish me luck…

January 2: Quality, music & nostalgia