What? Who does this idiot think he is? Does he know what year this is? Reviewing iPod?! Sheesh!
Bear with me.
OK, here’s the deal. Last year, I bought the 120gb classic. It is the 3rdmodel I have owned, and probably the 8th actual iPod. The second one I got was a total lemon model and I had to keep returning them. But I bought the next one…hm.
I am an old man. My first portable music player was a transistor radio which was dropped into my crib when I was a baby. A few years later, I had a portable Mickey Mouse cassette deck (with Mickey Microphone) on which I would conduct neightborhood interviews and make very exciting stories.
When I was in middle school (Pomolita, of course) Sony released the Walkman. This was an amazing time. Portable 8-track players, while admittedly awesome, where too bulky to be considered personally portable. You could take them to the park and crank them up, but you wouldn’t really plug in headphones and bop around…which is kind of the point.The Walkman seemed perfect. Cassette tapes were small enough that you could keep a few around and the headphones and walking thing had previously only been an am/fm option. This system worked for several years. And sounded progressively worse each day thanks to too many points of physical contact and the vagaries of ferrous oxide.
With the compact disc de-evolution, the discman was inevitable. The sound was better than cassette tape, the skipping problem was ‘corrected’ via non-skip memory fixes and you could even port them into your car’s tape deck via a hard-wired adapter. Life was sounding better than ever outside of the house.
Somewhere in there, I had a DAT walkman even. It was cool for recording things in the field but the tapes were cost-prohibitive and the display was never sufficient for the ToC and other digital data. I lent it out to a few Ukiah musicians and cannot seem to recall who had it last. It was pretty cool though, tricked out to NPR specifications.
I won’t dwell on the progression of iPod models as we are all familiar with the button-face to click-wheel shift, etc..
What I really want to write about is the reality of the mp3/aac. For years, it was all about quantity for me. I ratcheted down the quality on the recodings to fit more and more onto the player, also using less storage memory on my computer. I guess I got so used to these lame sounding mp3s that I forgot how good my music actually sounded. For the past several years, I have been walking, bicycling and bussing around and found myself tending toward spoken podcasts more often than not. I stopped buying music, pretty much completely. I thought it was just me..or maybe it was music even, which was the problem.
Then I bought a house and set up my turntable. The first record I put on was my ‘All in the Family‘ soundtrack album. It sounded great. I had an ‘aha moment’. ‘Those WERE the days!’ I realized that I hated music because music sounded awful. It was a result of technology AND laziness on my part. It was a very modern predicament.
So, I bought a 1.5 TB hard drive and started ripping my cd collection (over 2,000 strong, thank you very much) at 320kbps. I reinstalled iTunes, set the import settings way up high, wiped my iPod clean and started over.
Now I am once again possessed by the Master Musicians of Jajouka, titillated by Mr. Bungle, stimulated by the Masada Orchestra in all of it’s glorious permutations, and in love once more with Diamanda Galas and the Joni Mitchell remasters.
So, laziness and absent-mindedness are lame. Stock Apple earbuds are a cruel joke. Vinyl records are God. Ripping your music at a high bitrate is very necessary and iPods are simply a new Walkman. Oh…and the super-high guy on the bus listening to a discman looks funny but is enjoying higher fidelity than most iPod joes.