Country Blues > Super Electrical Recordings!

HOW Are You Listening?

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I've been meaning to start this thread for a while because it's becoming increasingly important HOW I listen to my 'pre-war' blues. Besides the obvious importance of the mastering of the music, what technology are you using to listen?
I got a computer earlier this year & so it (& my external hardrive) are housing many gigabytes of Blues music, so then my computer has become my stereo & I dare say many of you are listening the same way. But recently I decided that I wanted a richer listening experience . . . computer speakers are perhaps not ideal for acoustic music. So, I contacted some friends & within a week I was given some old speakers & an old tube stereo amp. I bought a connector that I run through the computer's headphone jack straight into the auxillary of the stereo & presto, big warm acoustic sound even from lower bit rate mp3s. I think we can tend to forget that we are often sacrificing quality for convenience nowadays & it's really worth it to step & back & make an effort to make our listening experiences richer.

I still listen to cassettes periodically, LPs, & my ipod is always there (headphones & a good-sounding port) but I really recommend thinking of running your computer through an amp & speakers, there's almost no comparison to the quality of standard computer speakers.

You may be sorry you asked. I have a 5.1 setup in the lounge but most scratchy music gets played in my office aka spare bedroom.

1. Everything is ripped to iTunes at a reasonable compression rate, not the defaults.
2. PC has two soundcards, a pro RayDat 24 channel and a Creative X-Fi consumer card. iTunes plays back through the X-Fi
3. The X-Fi is connected to a stereo channel of an Alesis 8 channel mini mixer (which also has an HD radio connected to another stereo channel)
4. The main outs of the Alesis are connected to the monitor inputs of a Mackie Onyx 24-4 board.
5. The monitor outs of the Mackie are connected to M-Audio BX8a powered monitors.

The reason I set this up was to allow me to have multiple consumer stereo feeds into the single stereo monitor channel on the Mackie (i.e. not consuming any channel strips), I have an Alesis HD-24XR recorder using 8 channels in and 8 out.

Picture attached, I took it while still posting this. I tidied up for you guys (not). Alesis is on the right. Note the Hula gal (my best Christmas present), Dixon & Godrich, Kindle, smokes, Guild F30R, Swiss Army knife, glass of chardonnay, pretty typical Friday night scene. 

Quad ESL 63's, Through Quad electronics, High end SONY CD player, Harmon Kardon Cassette Deck, Kenwood KD500 turntable with SME 309 arm and Grado cartridge. All courtesy of my deceased friend Dr. I. Bernard Weinstein (not the tape deck or turntable set up) somewhat famous for being part of the team that made the link between asbestos & lung cancer. Actually it was his wife Joan who wouldn't let Bernie keep this big stuff when they moved from NJ to NYC. Bless 'em.

There's speakers and then there are the ESL 63's. Really, really, really worth tracking down a used pair.

don o:
I have never been an audiophile type.  I still have several stereos (one with nice Avid speakers from the early 70s) but it is almost always about convenience for me.  The first thing I do on any new purchase is rip it to MP3s.  Those with sensitive ears may cringe, but they sound fine to me.  The instant accessibility is wonderful and I am continually digitizing LPs, cassettes, etc.  Another 30 years and I just may finish digitizing what I already have.  Maybe.  I'm getting pretty good with Audacity. 

I truly love my MP3 player in my truck.  The ability to drag and drop big chunks of music onto a flash drive, plug it in, and listen to it in order or randomly, with no risk of loss or destruction of the original, is simply amazing.  Then when I'm ready for something new, just plug in a new flash drive or wipe and rebuild the old one.  I have a couple of 8 gig and lots of 1 gig drives with thousands of tunes on them, just bouncing around in my glove box and ready when needed.  The ability to hold multiple box sets of music on a little stick that fits in your watch pocket is just way cool, to me.

Don't forget your back-ups!!  The more digital music and photos you have, the more important that is.

My very favorite way to listen to music is still live and in person.  No, I can't do that with Bessie Smith or Blind Willie McTell, but I can with contemporary country blues artists, and I do, whenever I can!

The source for 90 percent of my listening is either my iPod or iTunes on my laptop.  The music comes over all sorts of "speakers":  Standard Apple earbuds, somewhat higher-end Sony earbuds, crappy foam headphones that originally came with a walkman many, many years ago, higher-end headphones, the speakers in my car and my wife's car, the speakers built into my laptop, and from my laptop through my NAD amplifier to either my B&W upstairs speakers or my PSB downstairs speakers.  They're all different and they're all ok.

I have to admit that the first time I put my iPod through both the cars' sound systems and my home stereo, I thought "God, this sounds like crap."  But I got used to it really fast.  I still appreciate the better sound I get from CDs both at home and in the car, but you just can't beat the convenience of an iPod with thousands of songs arranged into hundreds of both smart and defined playlists.     


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