Tag Archives: Apple

iPod, still – phone storage, streaming

Last week, while I was on holiday in the US, my iPod Classic (about 12 or 13 years old now) finally gave up the ghost on me. It would no longer charge or recognise that it was plugged in. I tried replacement cables and different USB sockets, all to no avail.

It was the end. But the moment had not been prepared for.

I’ve hung on to an iPod this long as it’s invaluable for carrying around 16 bit/44k mixes of recordings I’m working on (at the moment, that’s an album I’m finishing off with James McKean, an EP Mel and I are recording, and a bunch of random stuff of my own). If I’m working on mixes and test driving them, so to speak, as I travel around, I don’t want to hear them as MP3s – if I could store them at 24 bit, I would. But without a working iPod, I thought I’d try bowing to the inevitable: I’d use Spotify for general listening, and took about 20 mixes that I have on the go, reduced them to 256kbps MP3s and put them on the phone itself.

iPhone storage full.

Not a good start.

At the same time, I wanted to listen to some Go-Betweens records, as I’d just read Robert Forster’s Grant & I: Inside & Outside the Go-Betweens and it’s been a few years since I went through all their stuff. Spotify doesn’t have their first two albums, or the records they made after they reformed, or their US- or UK-market best-of compilations.

Sigh.

Off to eBay, then, for a second-hand iPod Classic, hoping I don’t get ripped off.

This is the problem that streaming boosters don’t seem to recognise. I get the convenience of having one device. I get that if you live in a big town or city, your Wi-Fi and/or 4G (or 5G, or even 3G) connection is going to be more or less constant, and I get that if you listen to contemporary music mainly, you’re always going to find what you want on Spotify.

But if your interests lie elsewhere, you’re reliant on deals being struck to get legacy artists’ catalogues up on Spotify (or Apple Music, or Google Play, or wherever) and kept there. And that’s far from a sure thing. The Go-Betweens are not a marginal group — they were well known enough to get national coverage in the UK, and are even better known in their native Australia – yet most of their albums are not streamable on the biggest online music platform.

As I’d long argued, there is still no truly viable alternative for carrying around a capacious hard drive stuffed to the brim with music if you want to listen to whatever you want, whenever you want. Which is why, even if I didn’t also need a device to store work-in-progress mixes at a half-decent audio quality, an iPhone and a Spotify account still doesn’t cut it, and why I’m the satisfied owner of a 12-year-old reconditioned iPod Classic bought off eBay.

On Apple & our wireless future

Never be an early adopter. Let someone else deal with the bugs, the problems with the code, the drivers that aren’t backwardly compatible, the higher prices that come from fewer products being in the marketplace, and the thousand other unforeseen problems. Sit back, observe, take notes and wait till the dust settles.

This kind of thinking was crucial to me back in the days when I had very little money and couldn’t afford to make a mistake with a tech purchase. Hanging back and waiting saved me from buying a laptop with the utterly laughable Windows 8, and before that it saved me from the god-forsaken Vista. This week it’s stopped me being an unofficial and unpaid beta tester for Apple’s iOS 10.

Ah, yes – Apple. The company that doesn’t like headphone jacks. Our subject today.

The iPhone is a digital device, and the music files it plays are digital. Why would you want to use analogue headphones to listen to your digital music files?

Why, indeed? Come to that, why would I want an analogue, valve-driven guitar amplifier? That weighs about 45 kilos and also functions as a space heater? Why are my vintage condensor microphones worth more today than they were when they were made, even though they don’t contain a built-in AD converter and can’t transmit audio data via Bluetooth?

I’ll stop with the sarcasm. I promise.

It’s entirely possible that, as with the demise of floppy disc drives and CD drives, a superior technology will take hold in such quick time that we’ll look back in a year or so and wonder what we ever valued about the 3.5mm headphone jack.

On the other hand, I’ve got several pairs of headphones, earphones and earbuds (none mega expensive, but none super cheap either), all for different purposes, and I take audio quality seriously. I’m not made keen on paying for Apple’s Airpods, or anything by Beats, with their ridiculously hyped low end and utter lack of detail. Frankly, I want to use the headphones I want to use, the way they were designed to be used, not with a Lightning adapter, thanks. From my perspective, Apple’s dropping of the 3.5mm jack feels like the same old game tech companies (hell, all companies – even my bank did this to me, abolishing my current account and forcing me to have their new one, with doubled monthly charges) all play with consumers.

Got a load of perfectly usable gear? Get our new stuff instead! And just in case you don’t want to, we’ll force you to by withdrawing support for your current stuff!

Thanks, Apple. Good to know you care.

And that’s without considering the reduced quality of wireless audio, and the potential for disruption to the signal. There is a reason that no recording studio in the world contains any wireless devices except possibly a wireless mouse. Guaranteed signal flow is kind of the basic, rock-bottom requirement for audio.

I’m not anti-Apple, by the way. I have an iPhone, a Mac and an iPod. But the day they withdrew the iPod Classic – the one that actual music fans love for sheer storage space and who cares about touchscreen – they showed how they view their customers. If we were in any doubt.