I hate every audio format

I hate every audio format. Allow me to explain why. Then allow me to tell you what I really want and what the future holds.

I hate CDs

Monkey see, monkey do. When I was out in New York City in February and later in September, I saw how my buddy Tom had pitched his “jewel cases” and put all his CDs in a big book that holds them in a neat and unitary manner. Of course, people have been doing this for years, but I guess I can be a bit slow to catch on. Pitching all those cases reminded me of how much I really don’t like CDs and inspired me to write this post.

I grew up on vinyl, whose sound quality is not perfect but in many ways better than that of a CD. You’ve read the arguments pro and con elsewhere. It really doesn’t matter because in our hearts we all know that neither vinyl records nor CDs are ideal as far as sound quality goes. If CDs were ideal, no one would ever have come up with audio DVDs, etc. More on vinyl’s sound quality in a moment. A lot of the time, however, CD sound quality is okay. I really only notice a lack, an inadequacy, when I’m listening to classical music. Which I listen to a lot. So CD sound quality does bother me a lot!

Moreover, going through my CDs, I realized how much I hate them as physical objects. I hate the packaging, the wretchedly fragile cases with their too-small art. I hate fooling around with them, organizing them, managing them. Too many of them have only a few songs I need. So I have a huge pile of CDs I’m going to sell after ripping the tunes I want to a hard drive or iTunes or whatever. But wait–that’s illegal! Oh no, may lightning strike me dead!

I hate vinyl records–sort of

Vinyl is both great and a huge pain. If a classical music record is in perfect condition, the sound quality pretty much blows that of a CD out of the water. The trouble is that most of the time the condition is not perfect, and you hear all the pops and clicks that made classical music fans aching for CDs in the early 1980s.

Like my best friend Tom, I have a semi-huge vinyl collection, several thousand records, and I do like the physical objects, the covers, the liner notes, the crazy fact that sound can come from a spinning plastic disc. I like the fact that I can play 1940s and 2000s albums on the same machine, the continuity of it.

I have a soft spot in my soul for records, but I can only romanticize them so much. The pops and clicks really are atrocious, and records are a huge pain to transport and organize (I have mine in alphabetical order, but Heaven forbid you put one back in the wrong place! Those thin little sides make searching a chore, people!).

I hate MP3s

MP3 is crapola audio format that is a severe, inarguable devolution from the CD format. It’s just totally unacceptable. Plus, the iTunes store is going to “lock” songs so that I can only play them here–or there? Step off!

I hate everything else–and so does everyone else

The aforementioned audio DVDs–a total flop! And–what are they called?–super ultra-value high-quality CDs? Not beloved by the masses, people!

What I want, and what the future holds

I want a super-realistic format whose flaws are imperceptible to the human ear. I know that some people claim this for CDs (or say that CDs are close enough to be good enough), but don’t believe it, and I don’t think most genuine audiophiles do either (I’m a semi-genuine audiophile). This format may already exist–perhaps just digital audio with a high enough sampling rate is fine. Heck if I know. But I don’t want to compromise.

Then, I want a no-bother delivery system. I don’t want to own anything. I want to go to my computer, stick “Haydn string quartets” in the search and have a list pop up of every recording ever made. I want to be able to pull up the album covers and liner notes for the albums (presumably under such a system album covers would not be made for new recordings, but I would like to access those of the past). I would be willing to pay a substantial amount for such a system–a subscription fee or whatever.

I fully recognize that systems like this already exist: my mom and stepdad have whatever-it’s-called in their condo, and it’s pretty amazing. Clearly, things are only going to keep moving in this direction. We’ll have to keep fighting the record companies and the RIAA and all the other “stakeholders” delaying progress; we’ll have to choose the audio format and iron out the tech; but within no great span of time we’ll have perfect audio on demand without the limitations of physical media, iTunes, and all that claptrap!

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