REDUX: The iPod®: It’s Not For Me

blast-from-the-past-headerSeptember 28, 2010

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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9 Responses to REDUX: The iPod®: It’s Not For Me

  1. Tim says:

    I have to go make some popcorn. I remember your last iPod post and the comments were fun.
    To me this is the Saturn of mp3 players.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Well, I have to admit that I am using the iPod as a catch- all for any conceivable brand of music player! Even as I type this response on my iPod Touch! Which I use for everything but entertainment purposes!!


  2. Tim says:

    I have a mp3 player but I hardly use it. My disposable time for music is a silhouette of what it once was. I record a lot of albums over to mp3, make a lot of mixes of my own (individual songs or soundscapes as I call them (long mixes generally with a theme) and for me the biggest irritation is that you have to label every thing. I had an old mp3 player, the first one that I bought and it cost very little money and I could throw anything on there and it would recognize and display even the most rudimentary of tags. Two mp3 players later and this is not at all the case. My social media footprint is smaller than a lot of other people’s, I don’t tell them what I am listening to on Soundcloud, I don’t use any streaming services. I just listen to things and if I really like something I will say so on Facebook.

    Some of the changes these days remind me of one of Ellen Barkin’s scenes in “Diner” where her fiance is prepping her for his matrimonial music exam. “I just want to listen to the music” she says meekly to him.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Your experience is similar to mine. With how I listen to music [and enjoy listening to music] I have to keep it simple. I have too much music to repurpose into a different format, so it’s CDs to the bitter end for me. I don’t need to carry thousands of songs with me.


  3. Tim says:

    I go in streaks with what I listen to, some of it is even seasonal (yeah, I know, real Rob Gordon territory there). I don’t mean Christmas per se but I do find that some things are played more in autumn than in spring. Eurythmics are a real autumn/winter band for me for example.


  4. postpunkmonk says:

    Tim – Hmm. Seasonal listening? I’m not sure about that. I’ve never noticed any trends in that regard.


  5. jsd says:

    I never saw iPod (or iPhone or whatever) as a replacement for my music collection, but rather a convenient accessory that works in conjunction with it. I too have the giant rack of CDs. My main music workstation computer at home has 6TB of storage so I have all my music ripped in lossless form. I take a small slice of it in mp3 format on the iPod. As for playlists, I love the “Smart Playlist” feature – give me all the 4-5 star songs from 1979-1983. Give me all the stuff I haven’t listened to yet but was added in the last six months. And so on.


  6. Tim says:

    @jsd….you do back that all up, don’t you? I work with too many people who didn’t back files up and…you may not be the person who loses items to a drive crash but it really stinks to be that person when it happens. My advice to anyone is drives are cheap, back your stuff up.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Drives are cheap, but not as cheap as I am! I had planned on getting a 2TB FW drive in 2008, but the Thailand floods hit and hard drive prices skyrocketed. So I’ve backed up to DVD-ROM instead. Cloud backups are painful on my third tier ADSL. 6MB down is not the issue. 0.4 MB up is the problem! I was fine with 1st tier [2 MB down/0.15 MB up] DSL before I had to start uploading videos for clients. Ouch, that hurt. At that point taking DSL as far as my vendor could became mandatory. I’d pay dearly for symmetric DSL and enjoy cloud backups, but even at my job, the bandwidth isn’t there and I build a server image every day and take it off site with me.


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