The iPod®: It’s Not For Me

NOTE: Today’s iPod bash-a-thon is a cross post with the great Ron Kane at RonKaneFiles.

I remember when the iPod was released. I was a lifelong Macintosh user who loved music even more than computers. I was presumably the ultimate target audience for this device. A friend received one as a gift and deemed it “the best consumer product ever made.” I reviewed the press event that unveiled it, and then went on with my life.

Apple continued to release iPods every so often with updates to the iTunes software that made it all work. When I bought a new Macintosh operating system upgrade at one point, it came with iTunes, but I had no real use for it. I didn’t listen to music in computer file format. I didn’t download anything. I bought records and CDs. Lots of records and CDs.

That was part of the problem right there. I have between 2500 and 4500 CDs. I really don’t know how many, exactly. I have more CDs than rack space to store them, so a lot of my collection is “off rack.” I really don’t think they make an iPod with sufficient storage space to hold my entire collection. And I think that’s the appeal of the iPod to many; that it can contain one’s entire music collection in the palm of a hand.

Another problem is that I didn’t like MP3s or lossy file formats. I’ve heard the distortion that happens to certain frequencies after compression is applied to a music file. The pleasure of CDs [in theory] was that the result was as near as the master tape as it was possible for the consumer to get. Of course, the loudness wars of the last 10-15 years have resulted in CDs that can sound horrible and harsh because this lack of dynamic range is seen by enough people as a plus that it’s quite common to hear CDs now that you wouldn’t want to listen to.

The main elephant in the room that blocks my path to the iPod is the significant amount of time it would take to import my CD collection into an iTunes library! I have so little free time that I really can’t accept the countless hours it will take to repurpose my CD collection in order to listen to music on an iPod. When I want to listen to music right now I pull it off of the rack and play it in a CD player of some sort. And if the spirit moves me, as it often does, I can examine the liner notes in the booklet at the same time.

Then there’s the vinyl. I have 1000-1500 records. There’s only one easy way to get them into the iPod; digitizing each one as a file, then converting them to whatever format I’d want on my iPod. That’s a boundless amount of work right there, and I’m so fussy, that when I digitize my vinyl right now [for burning to CD], I spend an average of 10:1 for the length of the track carefully de-noising the clicks and pops manually.

The cost of the iPod is also prohibitive. $250 could buy me a lot of music on my want list. I’ve always been a “software guy” as opposed to a “hardware guy.” I’m more interested in having lots of music to listen to on a merely good sound system rather than spending a lot for an audiophile system. If I was given $5000 and told to spend it on sound equipment and music, I’d get a lot more enjoyment out of a $1000 system and $4000 worth of music to play on it rather than the obverse. I used to spend big money on video equipment back in the 80s. I got over that! I’ve not watched television in 17 years and wonder what took me so long to arrive at this epiphany. I should have spent those thousands of dollars on music instead!

Another strike against the iPod is that it is a portable music environment. I hate wearing headphones! I don’t like to be isolated from my surroundings. And I can’t imagine listening to music wherever I went in any case. It would seem to engender enforced solitude and I have enough solitude in my life to begin erecting more walls to keep people out! Yes, I know you can buy stereo docks; more money spent for the function of the CD boombox I already have!

Finally, there’s the whole “playlist” phenomenon. Making playlists is just more work! This iPod, on paper, represents enormous costs in time and money as I review the possibilities, and frankly, I can’t imagine any upsides yet to this lifestyle. I would be spending huge amounts of time to get my collection configured for the device, be spending extra time organizing and composing playlists, synching these playlists with my iPod. Constant maintenance. I might as well get another dog if I have that much free time!

So the way I see it, the perfect person for the iPod is someone who:

  1. Has a modest amount of music [hundreds of CDs] so that they can take their entire collection with them on a palm-sized device. Cool!
  2. Someone who doesn’t mind spending 10-20 minutes a day building playlists, and synching their iPod to their iTunes library.
  3. Enjoys being in their own little world of music in their headphones, cut off from their surroundings.
  4. Someone who has more disposable income than me.
  5. Thinks that the tradeoff in sound quality represented by the iPod is worth it for the benefits of portability. Yes, I know about lossless formats on the iPod. Then you have 1/10th the music available on the thing.

That person isn’t me. Can you make a case for me otherwise? If so, discuss.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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7 Responses to The iPod®: It’s Not For Me

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    I am not the intended market for an iPod; I have nearly 9,000 CD’s and almost 16,000 pieces of vinyl. I have a working CD player, SA-CD player, cassette deck, Sony MiniDisc and a phonograph. They are all connected by an amplifier. It’s called a “stereo system”. This is how I listen to music. My computer is uninvolved, irrespective of whether I am a Mac guy or ‘other’ (I am ‘other’). If I want to listen to music on headphones in a public place, I have a Sony cassette walkman, a Sony portable CD player and a Sony MiniDisc MDLP player. Since my hear went south, I try to stay away from enforced headphone situations…

    Nice to see a mac user being indifferent to the iPod, Jim-san. For me, it’s a worthless piece of post-audio equipment – and expensive!

    RK

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      I wouldn’t say I’m indifferent. I don’t like them at all. They represent a huge drain to me. If I were given one as a gift, I’d sell it on e-bay. I would enjoy the money from that, though. I’d buy records and CDs with it, of course.

      I do use my computer to remaster vinyl audio into CD format for enhanced portability and convenience. It’s great for that!

      I have a working cassette deck too. Why? I don’t know. I have about 20-30 cassettes of live material I need to digitize. After that, I can lose the cassette deck.

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  2. Brian Ware says:

    Why I love my iPod –
    Ron and Jim, first off I totally concur with all the points you’ve made, but I still find great pleasure in my iPod. When we bought Kellan’s laptop, it came free with the deal. The kids already had their own, so Dad got lucky. It is NOT a substitute for my music collection. It’s only 8 GB, so I’ve simply put some of my favorite music on it. 1,464 songs as of today, I could probably add a couple of hundred more. Yes, it’s taken some time, but I’ve done it in little bits and pieces over many months. I still listen to CDs daily in my truck. My iPod is enjoyed when I’m doing some kind of relatively clean work (not landscaping) and I just want to enjoy some music. The audio loss isn’t an issue when it’s just casual listening! I almost always use the random shuffle function, so I don’t bother with playlists. And the earbuds sit comfortably on the edge of my ear and don’t tune out the rest of the world. I can still hear the phone and otherwise engage with the world.

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  3. BertFW says:

    And I think that’s the appeal of the iPod to many; that it can contain one’s entire music collection in the palm of a hand.

    This thought is probably the first many have when approaching the iPod, and I think it was a common mindset back in the early 00’s. As it turns out though, carrying your entire music collection around is pointless. I bet if you chart your listening habits you’ll discover that there are some tracks in your collection you never listen to – and taking it a step further, there are many you will never listen to.

    Once you realize this, the iPod becomes more about convenience than archival. When you go driving in your car you don’t bring your entire CD collection – why would you? I can understand about the need to hear that one song you haven’t heard in forever at any given moment, but over time you’ll put those songs on your iPod, excluding the ones you won’t ever listen to. This is why the iPod is so successful in solid-state format even though it offers lower capacity.

    Also the iPod isn’t just about storing your music collection anymore. A good amount of my storage is dedicated to podcasts, and sometimes video if I’m traveling. Podcasts don’t stay, they get shuffled out as I listen.

    I agree about the playlists. Building one and maintaining it is just tedium. Even in the situation where you would be hosting a party and need some background music, iTunes can do a good enough job of dynamically creating a playlist that you wouldn’t need to think about it. Just pick a genre and let it go if you absolutely must have a playlist.

    However, when it gets to your media collection, conversion is indeed a daunting task! I remember when I converted my CD collection, luckily I had most of the discs in a jukebox and just had to hit eject, flip the CD into the computer, hit Import – I just watched some movies while I processed everything so it was relatively painless. When you add vinyl to the equation though, well, you’ll simply never finish. Realizing that your entire collection simply doesn’t have to go on the iPod (and iTunes) helps in this case, though that may be a bitter pill to swallow.

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  4. Tim says:

    I passed on the iPod for two reasons –

    1) it strikes me as the Saturn of MP3 players, for the price it doesn’t really offer that much difference than lower priced MP3 players by other companies. I don’t need to own an iPod to listen to my MP3’s, just an MP3 player thank you very much.

    2) (the main reason) The way the music was initially distributed via iTunes was pernicious to the consumer. There was no reason to make it difficult for someone to find on their computer what they had paid for. The DRM didn’t help matters, I know the music publishers don’t think you own what you buy but this whole dragging the music industry into the 20th/21st Century thing has been really old. Someone offers you a great new model to distribute your product and do you embrace it? No, you dig your heels in like some luddite and sue your former customers. Great business plan.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      What helped the iPod get such a foothold was its formerly innovative Firewire interface. The cable also charged the unit [clean!] and FW was hundreds of times faster than the standard of USB, which was in its first iteration and used on all other MP3 players. Archos had portable hard drive/MP3 players but they were full sized hard drives with a USB interface that took forever to load the @#$%! thing! Apple was the first to exploit the new tiny hard drives. Also, the iTunes store didn’t happen until a year or two after the thing debuted, so I consider it an afterthought.

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