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Three Different Ways To Manage Your Digital Music

by Jerry Del Colliano September 28, 2021
Managing Digital Music

Managing Digital Music

In the world of specialty audio-video publishing, there is likely no more vocal critic of the so-called resurgence of vinyl than me. By no means do I deny anybody any joy that they get from listening to music in an analog format, enjoying the liner notes, buying records on spec because they are cheap, or listening to a record in the order that the artist, producer and engineer intended. My only nit to pick is that too many older audiophiles reject exciting new technologies every time they are presented with them just to point at the past. The result of this anti-technology, anti-science (anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-immigrant … wait, I am off on a tangent here) is a hobby in serious trouble that could very well end up in the grave when the Baby Boomers someday don’t roam the planet anymore. What is the solution? That’s easy … The solution to fueling increasingly powerful, high-performance and even higher-value music playback systems is to embrace digital audio. And embrace it hard. How should one go about this endeavor? That’s what we are about to delve into.

Option One: Physical Media

2-Oppo-BDP205

The sick feeling in my stomach when I got the email from my beloved contact at Oppo Digital letting me know that they would pay out the rest of their contract, but that they were ceasing production of silver disc players (CD, SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray etc.) made me ill. They were a great client of my former publication and simply fantastic to work with. Even more than online AV darling, Emotiva, they had their finger on the pulse of what audio and videophiles wanted from a component. Unlike out of tune behemoths, like many players from the likes say Sony or early compact disc player pioneer Meridian -  they didn’t ignore a disc format like DVD-Audio because of industry politics. They delivered both audio and video performance with all of the latest features, and at a price that nearly every AV enthusiast could afford. Some earlier Oppo players had streaming AV built in, but the smart folks in China saw that they weren’t going to be able to compete with the $100 to $200 4K streaming “dongles” from any number of companies. When they saw the writing on the wall, they moved to making the best silver disc player that they could. Sadly, it wasn’t long before th1.5-IKEA-Billybookcaseey saw more writing on the wall, which was that silver discs were audio and video dinosaurs, something that many AV enthusiasts will still fight with you about today.

While compact discs, DVD-Audio and SACD discs can be ripped with varying levels of effort (and sometimes cost), thus ending up on a relatively affordable, multi-terabyte, multi-drive (meaning, well-backed up) external hard network drive, which can be easily accessed on a modern audiophile or home theater system, many still can’t give up the silver disc. Gen Z kids (think: in high school or college today) don’t have any clue the joy that old farts like us got from spending every extra penny that we had building a compact disc collection. I can’t tell you how many times that I pulled into the parking lot of Tower Records on The Sunset Strip to buy some new music on the way back to my bachelor pad condo directly above Tower and Spago in the West Hollywood Hills. We would go on Monday nights at midnight and stand in line with the likes of Rick Rubin and buy the new Rush or Peter Gabriel record the minute that it came out. This wasn’t online. This wasn’t streaming. It was a simpler time and, for many, those discs are still at the heart of their collection.

I couldn’t encourage an audiophile or AV enthusiast to back up their compact discs on a hard drive, as well as to the Cloud, as I have done, but if playing a silver disc is still a thrill, then spin away. When people heard that Oppo wasn’t going to make more silver disc players, there was a true run on them for months. To this day, an Oppo UDP-205 sells for thousands of dollars used, even in “OK condition.” Finding a solution more elegant that a few IKEA Billy bookcases is a challenge for many in the modern era, but there are solutions, as selling CDs, DVDs or even HD audio discs isn’t a way to make anything more than pennies. If you are bailing on your ripped collection of silver discs, a donation to a school or library is likely a better bet than trying to sell them, as the silver disc market is a ship that has sailed, even if many home theater and audio enthusiasts are still hanging onto their collections.

Option Two: The Network Drive

2.5-K-scape-StatoThe concept of ripping your compact discs is about as relevant as scanning in your vintage, analog photos and keeping them both locally on a hard drive and up in the Cloud. It is just a safer, more diversified way to protect your media – including your music files. Ripping DVDs are possible on an older version of a Kaleidescape (they can be had on eBay, but aren’t supported for repair very well at this point) and were the cause of many a lawsuit between Hollywood studios and the Silicon Valley movie server company. Ironically today, Kaleidescape has strong relationships with the major Hollywood studios, as they sell full-priced 4K movies to most of their clients. The size of a DVD-Video disc on even today’s massive, external NAS drives is tough to manage. 3-NASDriveThere are also issues of legality of ripping DVDs and Blu-rays. Again, with Kaleidescape, you have to have the physical Blu-ray disc in the 320 disc “vault,” even though when you hit “play,” it comes from one of your many internal K-scape hard drives. This way, Hollywood knows you actually own the disc.

Ripping SACDs and DVD-Audio discs is possible. There is a company in Denver named after Sandy Gross’ last speaker company that can rip your SACDs on to your media drive. DVD-Audio discs can be ripped with a little help from a Google search, or you can outsource that work, which is often the smartest way to deal with it.

Accessing media generally requires software like JRiver, Roon or something like Audio Nirvana. There are many other ways to do this, but these are some of the best, especially considering cover flow artwork and metadata on, say, a controller such as an iPad.

Connectivity for many audiophiles who are without video is pretty easy via any number of digital audio pipelines. Most of today’s DACs accept an input right from your drive, and you are in the game. The software above will help you get your collection fully organized and ready to go. Then you are set to enjoy all of your discs without having to touch them.

2.7-CaseLogic-Book

One thing I did to save room from system configurations of years ago, when CD, DVD, and other HD disc storage was a big part of my system design costs, was to actually trash my CD and other jewel cases. Yes, this makes your sometimes rare, legacy SACDs and DVD-Audio discs worth less, but the space that is saved by putting your silver discs in a 400-disc Case Logic folder is really smooth. I can’t remember when I last touched a legacy disc, as they live stashed high in my master closet. I may never touch them again, and I have easily 2,000 CDs.

Another advantage to ripping your physical media is that you can easily upload the music that you like into iTunes and have it play on your laptop, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, or what have you. I listen to most of my music this way, as I periodically delete each and every one of the thousands of songs that I stash in my iTunes. The way I look at it is: my iTunes folder is like a seasonal wardrobe. I might want to listen to certain things at specific times of the year. I might also get tired of an artist, or some of their catalogue, and I give that music a rest when I reload my iTunes from the NAS drive. Successful management of your music collection on your hard drive can breathe new life into a well-played and well-loved legacy music collection.

Option Three: Streaming (including in HD)

5Qobuzz-logo  6-Tidal-logo   7-Amazon-Music-HD  Apple Music
 

For the price of one good import compact disc, you can have access to CD and much higher-quality songs from pretty much any and every recording ever made. Qobuz, Tidal (just sold by JayZ to eCommerce company Square), Apple Music and my personal favorite, Amazon Music HD are all services that have their advantages, but for price, volume of HD, and ease of use, I really have become fond of Amazon Music, both via my whole-home Sonos system, and through their app on my desktop or on my phone. Services from Tidal and Apple Music and Amazon even support native Atmos immersive audio with an ever growing library.

There are also other good streaming options that aren’t HD. I have always been a fan of Pandora because of their relational database’s ability to take one, two, or three songs that you like and to build an AI-fueled playlist that is very good. Spotify (lossless is coming) is the market leader in audio steaming with non-HD music, but also has lots of unique programming, tons of podcasts, and more. Even some of the very low-resolution channels on the higher channels of DirecTV (or your cable provider) can be useful. I’ve spent quite some time listening to the reggae channel on DirectTV’s Music Choice section, which has expanded my outlook on the genre far beyond Bob Marley and The Wailers. Boasty.

Streaming Audio Is the Audiophile Supercar to Fuel Your System

McLarenStreaming video is accepted by audiophiles, often in other rooms and with other systems, but streaming audio is somehow considered to be inferior. The reality is that, with a reasonable Internet connection, streaming music at CD or HD quality is about as good as any format that you can buy, and it is dirt cheap when you consider what you get for $240 per year. Access to every record, basically ever, HD files in many cases, killer metadata, great cover flow access to music, liner notes, and more. But for some reason (likely because the aging audiophile establishment prides itself on fighting new technology, science, and progress) today’s audio streaming isn’t viewed at the ultimate source component. That is a mistake. Today’s streaming gives you an unlimited volume of fuel to power your audiophile supercar, with more files in HD coming every day.

How you embrace digital music is up to you, as there are many ways to look at your digital media future. No matter what your motivation, make sure that you protect your legacy media collection by ripping your CDs onto a hard drive and seriously consider stashing it in the Cloud for geographic diversity of your backup. There’s nothing wrong with physical media, if you like the actual discs, but a day is coming soon when you might not have an audiophile player like an Oppo (think: when yours breaks for good), and you will have to get with the digital program. Then again, you might just take the leap to HD streaming at that point. I recommend that, even if you love your turntable and your LPs, you make sure you have your digital music house in alignment with the best practices of 2021, as you will reap more and more modern-day enjoyment from your audio investment.

Tell us about how you use digital media, HD streaming and physical media in your AV life. Comment below about your rig, your use and more. We can’t wait to hear from you.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

Trebdp83 posts on October 04, 2021 16:37
We was po’ and didn’t have cinder block and wood money.
Trebdp83 posts on October 04, 2021 16:33
We used them as shelves when I was a kid. My parents kept all of their albums in them.
Mikado463 posts on October 04, 2021 16:30
Trebdp83, post: 1507099, member: 43634
In milk crates?

yep, it took me 10 of them !
3db posts on October 04, 2021 12:30
Trebdp83, post: 1508208, member: 43634
So, good with hard copies of audio, but not video? Ok with compressed picture and sound from movies and TV but not from your favorite band? Hey, everybody has their preference. Of all the subscriptions for various things out there, this is the one some guys just won’t touch. Hey, I like my physical media, but I’m not planning on dying in this house and the last move almost killed me. All of this crap has to go at some point. It’s a fun hobby. It’s also a f#%kin’ albatross. The guy with empty shelves using an OTA antenna for TV and radio is laughing all the way to the bank. But, first he stops by the library.

I can't think of a nicer coffin liner than big hair bands on vinyl . :P
Trebdp83 posts on October 04, 2021 11:32
So, good with hard copies of audio, but not video? Ok with compressed picture and sound from movies and TV but not from your favorite band? Hey, everybody has their preference. Of all the subscriptions for various things out there, this is the one some guys just won’t touch. Hey, I like my physical media, but I’m not planning on dying in this house and the last move almost killed me. All of this crap has to go at some point. It’s a fun hobby. It’s also a f#%kin’ albatross. The guy with empty shelves using an OTA antenna for TV and radio is laughing all the way to the bank. But, first he stops by the library.
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