Regular readers will be aware of my thoughts on using computers in home hifi installations and that my experiences have been less than satisfying for me. To be fair the problems have centred on interface issues and me simply not “gelling” with listening to music using computers.
Never let it be said that I’m not willing to revisit things though – I like to think I have an open mind and, as with most things in life, I like to run with the “If you didn’t like it then try it again…you might like it” philosophy. It’s a philosophy that has served me well in life so far…in most things.
So it was with a great deal of reticence that this time last week I took delivery of a Squeezebox Touch. For those of you who have been living in a cave for the last few years, the Squeezebox is a nifty little device made by Logitech that connects to your home network and allows you to stream music stored on your hard drive to your hifi. The last one I had really infuriated me and didn’t last very long at all before it was sold on to a chap in Poland.
First of all I’m no whiz when I comes to computers or home networks, or anything to do with modern technology come to think of it, but the little Touch affair was a breeze to set up following the really simple two page set up guide – following the guide and troubleshooting why the unit wouldn’t connect to the infernal Orange Livebox, also cured an issue we have with connecting some of our wireless computers to the network…result! Fifteen minutes and the unit was pumping music into the main system.
Now the process has not been all positive I must confess, though my long suffering wife was pleasantly surprised by the distinct lack of shouting throughout the whole course of installation: The remote control on the Squeezebox also controls various functions on my Unison Research Unico CD Primo! When I turn the volume up on the Squeezebox the CD Drawer opens on the Primo…plus a host of other annoyances. To be fair this isn’t a problem of the Squeezbox or the Primo and is just “one of those things” that are becoming more prevalent as progress marches on.
I only have a handful of tunes on the hard-drive now, though I did spend hours, if not days, transferring all my CDs to FLAC stored on an external hard drive that gave up the ghost after about a week, some time ago when I last tried the Squeezebox experience. This time I wasn’t going to fall into that trap. This time I was going to add a couple of apps and use the unit primarily to play internet radio whilst I’m working in the office. I flicked around the many hundreds of stations available, after turning of the CD at the mains and finally settled on good old Aunty Beeb. BBC Radio 6 Music to be exact and what a brilliant station this is!
I live in rural France, in a Valley which seems to be impenetrable to radio waves – we don’t even get TV if it rains…you can understand why most days I can be found on my knees, praying to the various weather Gods to send a downpour. Even if I could get local radio they seem to be firmly stuck in an eighties rut with no foreseeable desire to drag themselves out. Anyway, the new fangled little box on the hifi rack now allows me to listen to BBC 6 pretty much all through the day. I can honestly say that in the last week I have heard more new music than I have in the last three years, perhaps longer. This is a good thing! The quality of the reproduction isn’t on a par with my CD player or my vinyl from end, but then I’m supposed to be working, not listening critically to every nuance of the system.
As audiophiles we can often fall into the trap of listening to one genre of music and being blissfully unaware of the myriad new music that is out there. There’s a certain joy to be had listening to a good radio station – you don’t know what’s coming up next and you are at the mercy of the disc-jockey and his or her taste. Sometimes they’ll play a selection that you can’t abide and another time they will play something that just strikes a chord with you. I’ve now taken to scribbling down the names of bands I like the sound of on a little pad I keep beside me, with a view to buying their albums at a later date.
Isn’t this what we as music lovers should be doing? Experiencing new music and then supporting the artists by going out and buying their records. I’ve been no angel and freely admit that I’ve downloaded music illegally in the past, but it’s counterproductive in my opinion; the quality is usually poor and the artist sees zero benefit financially, so is les likely to be in a position to make new music in the future.
I thought about subscribing to Spotify so I could have a whole load of music available at the push of a remote control button (not mentioning the CD player also springing to action) but I don’t think I will bother. Yes it’s only a tenner a month and it would undoubtedly gives me access to untold volumes of music that I could never even dream of owning outright, but I really don’t think I’d get on with it. I’m sure I’d be flicking this way and that and not really listening to new music at all.
So my recommendation is to go out and buy yourself a radio, a squeezebox or whatever else allows you to listen to radio stations with real, live DJs and open your hearts and minds to the wonderful world that is new music.