11.6.16

Hi-Fi


There's been a major sonic upheaval chez Woebot. It reminds me a little of 96 when I went from smoking weed, to cigarettes, to total abstinence in the space of a fortnight. Weed was great but it drove me crazy. Smoking cigarettes was depressing and boring. Abstinence got more and more fun.

First there was April's process of going through my record collection, filling those holes that have always niggled me: a copy of Black Uhuru's "Showcase" with a proper cover (as opposed to a blank one festooned with Keith from Daddy Kool's handwriting), another copy of The Pixies "Doolittle" with the booklet (to replace the copy I sold in the great purge), David Pritchard's "Nocturnal Earthworm Stew" (only had a CD-R from Reynolds), finally a reissue copy of "The Strange Bernard Fevre", and if I'm being frank quite a few other bits and pieces. Then I could stand back, survey the spines and examine my conscience.

Then came a concerted attempt to improve the quality of my digital audio. I'm not an analogue purist. Any knowledge or experience of the modern recording price will blow those cobwebs away; however even a standard £200 record-player will sound better than a £5000 CD player. That's where technology is at remarkably. The drive, needle and tone-arm technology meticulously refined since Edison's phonograph in 1877 has now reached the price-point of the bucket shop. On the other hand a really good CD player can cost a small fortune.

When I listened to my old, extremely respectable, CD player I used to find it was too trebly and my ears would get really tired and sore. My DAC, the Digital to Analogue Convertor that plugged into my Mac and out my Hi-Fi was good but perhaps not great. I sold the CD player and DAC on eBay and, now without a CD player, with the proceeds bought two things a really stellar, beautiful-sounding DAC, and a Sub. Interestingly both from British manufacturers.

I always wanted a Sub - but in (sic) audiophool circles subs are angrily denounced. These people don't live in the modern world. They're all marvelling over their SACDs of Bill Evan's "Waltz for Debby". As it happens I listen to a lot of music in which the frequencies below 60 Hz are integral. Reggae, Dub, Hip Hop, Electro, Techno, Jungle. Anything with an 808 on it. In fact I don't think it's even possible to properly appreciate electronic music (even perhaps any recent studio-recorded music...) without a sub. It has been a revelation. In fact, one of the first things I've been rolling with is yet older music, Strutt's utterly brilliant CD-only "Funky Nassau" Compass Point compilation. CD-only. There's the rub. Getting locked into this mainly vinyl-only universe fucks up the flow of one's musical life.

However, once one is finally in this brave new digital world (sub frequencies are better respected in digital than on vinyl) - buying cheap CDs and ripping them to iTunes as AIFFs (WAVs don't support artwork - retailers like the holy Boomkat should switch to the identically uncompressed AIFFs) - then suddenly other things become more palatable. Free Mixtapes (downloadable Hip Hop mp3s at 320 kpbs), purchasable downloads (I've picked up Folkways' Bela Bartok-supervised recordings of the Folk Music of Hungary  - I always wanted that, and the dumb-ass Discogs dealers who were selling copies in Sweden and the Netherlands spent a week each not getting back to my purchase order) and even nearly, but not quite, high-quality streams off Spotify. Yeah, don't laugh, the instinct to hoard dies hard.