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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Why on Earth Are Old People So Afraid of iPods

Seriously. If you haven't read this Anthony Tommasini piece on the subject, I'll give you the gist: he's convinced that the audiophile is a dying breed, basically for no reason other than that this meme is frickin' unkillable. He speaks to a number of people who actually work in home audio equipment and therefore might know better, and indeed they assure him that this is not the case, but he decides they're wrong because he likes his scratchy Schnabel records and because the Gramophone doesn't dedicate as many pages to vacuum-tube receivers as it used to. Okay. First of all, I question how many iPod naysayers could really tell the difference between a variable-bitrate mp3 and a CD of the same music. A high-quality mp3, in fact, sounds really, really good. A clean, flawless record sounds better, yes, but doesn't a Super-Audio CD sound better still? Every high-profile classical release comes out on SACD nowadays, and more and more homes are equipped with SACD-compatible 5.1-surround setups that take a big ol' crap on the quadrophonic sound spectaculars of the audiophile heyday. Know somebody with one of those new PlayStations? Guess what: according to a report in a recent (yup) Gramophone, the PS3 happens to include an extremely competitive SACD player. So that means, the turntable your creepy rich uncle wouldn't let you touch? Probably doesn't sound as good as your friend's new toy. Maybe the reason advertising for the audiophile market has gone down is simply because not many people can shell out for truly state-of-the-art audio. Have you ever talked to one of these people? Ask how much they spend on speaker wire alone. Mp3 players, on the other hand, are not only convenient, but affordable--the market is much larger. And, look, iPods and audiophilia are not mutually exclusive. Nobody puts a gun to your head and says, "Compress." The newest iPod holds 160 GB, which is enough to contain the complete works of Bach and the complete works of Beethoven, without compression, in CD-quality sound, for under $400, and it's the size of a pack of cards. Still not fancy enough? Here! Accessorize with vacuum tubes.

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