Now don’t get me wrong I do like computers. I use a computer daily. I’m even using one now to write this article. Computers have enabled me to work from home, do that away from the UK and even allows me communicate in real time with folks all over the world at the push of a mouse button. I get computers and I use one daily despite my sausage fingers and one fingered typing style!
Computers allow me to take photographs, edit them and see them almost immediately – no more trudging down the chemists with my roll of film and waiting a week before it comes back from the processing laboratory to view my snaps – No siree. I can catch up on the day’s news, share a joke with friends and even read the latest audiophile news and reviews on Hifi Pig (shameless plug). I can stream videos to my desktop and watch the latest antics of LOL Cats should the drudgery of work become all too much for me to take.I’ve used computers to make music in the past, I tweet and I even Facebook, but do I think I could take to using computers in my hifi system? The answer is an emphatic NO! I tried I really did. I went out and bought myself a Squeezebox and a huge hardrive to store all my ripped files on. I learned how to use Exact Audio Copy and researched, at some length I may add, all about FLAC and WAV. I painstakingly ripped my entire CD collection to my shiny new hardrive and then meticulously labelled all the files so I knew just where to find them. I even managed to set up the Squeezebox without too much shouting; though there was a little bit I must confess. It lived! I had streaming, CD quality music and I thought it was marvellous.
For a short while!
I had, at the flick of a remote button, my entire CD collection at my beckon call… and untold number of internet radio stations. The sound quality was great and I certainly couldn’t tell the difference between streamed music and CDs when played through the same DAC. Audio nirvana was mine. I had joined the twenty-first century and I didn’t have to get of my porky backside to do it.
Thing is I wasn’t really enjoying the experience. I was flicking from one tune to another and rarely listened to an album all the way through. I would skip through albums to find my favourite tracks. The ritual had gone and I missed standing up looking through my CD or Vinyl collection to pick an album. I missed the tactile experience of sitting down, holding the cover in my hands and reading the sleeve-notes.
I don’t mind the odd pop and crackle when I’m listening to vinyl, but the drop outs I was getting from wireless network eventually made me seethe. The experience was becoming something far removed from relaxing and becoming a chore! And you see I think this is the crux of the situation. Computers are primarily tools for work and communication in my view. I didn’t grow up with computers in the house –my friends had an Atari games console on which we played Space Invaders for hours upon hours, but the nearest I got to computers in my formative years was a BBC Acorn that I could program to flash my name on and off – thrilling! As a student I bought an Amstrad word processor and typed up my dissertation on that – it was useful. Later I sold my recording studio and found I could have the same kind of kit on my laptop and carry it around with me and I now work from my computer every day of the week. I take the laptop away with me and use it to watch videos or listen to tunes as it’s portable and massively convenient.
The final straw came when the hard drive died after a couple of weeks use and, being the idiot I am, I hadn’t backed it up 14 times and hidden one drive in a nuclear blast proof bunker for just such an occasion. When the drive died so did my brief dalliance with using the computer as a source in the main hifi.
I know computer hifi and streaming devices have their fans and I can understand their appeal, but for me? No thank you!