Somewhere inside me… an audiophile just died.

I am a closet audiophile, with all the usual history…. did the ‘music man’ thing for plays, moved up to music guy for bar bands, blah, blah, blah… spent way too much time worried about the alignment of my high-end tape deck, etc… but at some point my obsession with all things audio related slipped down in my priority list. I’m not sure exactly when, but at that point I stopped being willing to spend money on improving the quality of sound in my house, car or work. I still care about sound quality, and I think I’m still a pretty good judge of sonic fidelity, but I stopped being willing to pay money to achieve the best results.

Never has this been clearer to me than this weekend. I have hit the bottom in an ever decreasing level of concern about music quality; I bought a FM transmitter to hook into my WMA portable so that I can listen to it in the car. In case this doesn’t make you cringe, let me walk you through the various crimes I have committed, one step at a time.

First, I’ve completely switched to digital audio over the past few years, which in itself is nothing to be ashamed of, but my encoding rate is a bit embarrassing. Like many music lovers, I embraced the lossless and variable bit rate options that WMA9 offered, encoding my music at rates floating around 300kbps (it is variable, that is the whole point of VBR, but it seems to range from around 160kbps for something like Rolling Stones to 415kbps for Diana Krall…), and my audio equipment (including my ears) is nowhere good enough to detect any flaws in music encoding at rates like that. But… I decided to build my music system using a relatively slow processor, which I then severely under-cooled (to remove the need for any fans in my system; can’t have noise while music is playing), making me very aware of CPU usage rates… and suddenly VBR seemed overkill for the majority of my music collection. So, as the first real crime in my story, I’m down to 192Kbps, regular WMA 9 codec (not VBR or lossless), which still sounds great but it is a step down from what it could be.

Next, I started using a portable Rio device quite a bit, and the range of my light-weight headphones is not so great… so to make the most of my 128mb of space on the device I decided to transcode my music down to 64Kbps when I’m copying it for use on the portable device. That would be my second crime… but it was just for working-out right? I still have the higher-bitrate content on my computers for my regular listening…. ah, denial…

It is worth noting that even at 64Kbps (with WMA) the music still sounds pretty good… but we are certainly at the point now where you can tell this music has been through some processing.

Finally, I decided that buying a new car stereo head unit that has aux-input was outside the range of money I’m willing to spend, so to hook my portable up to my existing car stereo, I’ve bought a FM transmitter. I’m taking low-bitrate compressed music, broadcasting it over FM frequencies from a little $29 dollar device and into my car stereo. I’ve completely given up on top-end audio for the extra convenience of bringing my WMA files out to the car… and I’m enjoying it…

I think I need to join some sort of 12-step program for former audio lovers… slowly working my way back to a point where I could be entrusted with a real mixer, or even just the monitor board…

Somewhere inside me… an audiophile just died.

2 Responses

  1. I, too have/do experience(d) this problem. I weep for our fatigued ears…

    Chris June 16, 2005 at 9:11 pm #
  2. I seriously hope i dont end up like you. NO OFFENSE….I JUST LOVE SOUND TOOOOOOOOOO MUCH….I cringe at the ethought of an fm transmitter AND 64 kbps audio…..as ron white would say “things that make you go uhh huh huh” Why even now I am considering upgrading my DEH-P6800MP to the DEH-P980BT JUST BECAUSE I WANT IT BETTER. Ok so the 980 doesnt really improve sound too much because it has basically the same mainboard….but its so much cooler….CUZ ITS COLOR….and audio isnt JUST about the sound….if it sounds good but looks like crap….its still not the best….but if it sounds goood AND looks GREAT….u rank High Class with me.

    Newton July 14, 2006 at 8:41 pm #

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