Worst-title 2: Doing my worst-best to discover the convenience of music streaming
As you’all may or mayn’t know, dear worst-readers, as an Apple fanboy, if I’m gonna finally break down (give-in) and try music streaming, it’s gotta be with Apple’s music service. Or?
After a six month trial (on account I bought HomePod Mini’s last fall to provide stereo to the AppleTV I bought last year), it took me till the end of that trial to buckle down and finally figure out what this streaming krapp is all about. Yeah. Six months for free is one thing. Having to start paying for it is another. No. Seriously. I really didn’t think I was ready for music streaming. But here we are, eh.
As you certainly missed elsewhere in this worst-blog, here and here, I’ve been maintaining an SBC media server for audio and video for going on a decade now. That server has a quarter century of purchased CD music and DVD movies/tv and it’s done its job. But. As much as I’d like to keep on keeping-on with physical media, I have to worst-admit, even worst-writer has to go with the punches every once-a-once. Times not only be a’changing but maybe it’s not so bad to change a bit along with it. And so.
The question is: Which streaming service should I NOT use? That question, by-the-buy, is easy to answer. Since Spotify can’t register on my radar (on account it supports with around $100m the lie of the mind that is my beloved & missed #Americant via Joe new-born Limbaugh Rogan), the only other services to choose from that I know anything about is Amazon Music, Tidal or SoundCloud. Amazon music left a bad smell in my nose as I used what it included with Prime for a while. Both the streaming and the sound quality were awful. SoundCloud was much better at streaming, even though I only used its free-tier service. The other problem I had with SoundCloud was the music offering. Although it has lots of new artists doing lots of great music, that’s just not how my music taste rolls. That worst-said, I consider SoundCloud to be the most original music streamer out there. It’s definitely staying on my radar for the future. As far as Tidal is concerned, even though I never tested it, I knew it could be an option because it streamed lossless audio. Again. Amazon’s Music service didn’t do music justice. Higher quality bitrates or better bandwidth cannot and should not be compromised here. But then… uh oh. Apple bumped up its service to lossless and I have to admit–I’m impressed.
The thing is dear worst-reader, it took me years to get used to iTunes. Remember iTunes? Once I got used to ripping and encoding my CDs to FLAC, I then had to re-encode them to the highest bitrate MP3 so my music would work with iTunes. For years I maintained two music libraries. My better-half could then use the simplicity of iTunes for her music needs and when I needed CD quality, I used other players that supported FLAC. As frustrating as all that was, I got used to it. The banality, btw, of having to do that was because Apple is either greedy, stupid or just outright spiteful towards open-source (FLAC) or it had made too many promises to the music industry–which doesn’t make sense to me because I always bought my CDs. But on that worst-note, I should die-gress.
Now that I’m a paying, streaming customer, the question lingers whether or not I’m gonna stick with it. It’s been about two months since taking Apple Music seriously. In that time I can’t say that streaming has knocked my socks off. Then again, the convenience when out-and-about and calling up a song is kinda cool–especially when the streaming quality is better than anything I experienced previously (Amazon). When at home and streaming to my stereo system from iPhone, iPad or Mac, Apple’s lossless rivals any quality I achieved using FLAC. Then there’s the interface…
The Apple Music (app) interface sucks. And get this. It sucks more than iTunes ever did. As a top category for picking/choosing music it has what it weirdly calls Apple Music. This category designates Apple’s streaming service. Oh really. The streaming service has three sub-categories namely Listen Now, Browse and Radio. Whaaaaa? WTF do I need Radio for? Go into one of the other categories and you’re overwhelmed with choices galore that somehow are deemed worthy by those who set up this $hit. The only way I’ve been able to find music is by using search, the results of which are as confusing as anything else. Wait. Am I too old for this krapp? #Nomatter
Another category in the Music app is Library. This is something like what iTunes used to be–I’m guessing. It has sub-categories that makes sense that the streaming service (above) doesn’t have. This is the users library which stems out of all your owned music that is converted into this service when you activate it. That conversion, btw, is another reason I postponed or was skeptical to sign up in the first place. Now that I know how NOT to loose my music data to Apple (by maintaining my media library on a separate server), I’ve simply added some of my music here and now it’s part of my library. Which is cool on account I had lost a few songs from Aerosmith and Bad Company and now I have them back–until I cancel. Whoopi! Which begs another worst-question: If I’m streaming music why do I need a library? Ok. At least Library has subcategories that I can relate to like Album and Artist. But. Again. I’m now using a streaming service and…? Ok. I don’t get it and I probably have to spend some more time to figure it out. Then again, who are the people (automatons) that come up with this $hit in Cupertino? Die-gress.
Audio tech confusion
There’s another little issue that’s bugging me, dear worst-reader. Now that I may or mayn’t become a music streamer, I’m also an avid non-audiophile. After years of fiddling with the idear of being an audiophile, I gave up on that krapp toot-sweet. The only thing the audiophile world taught me was that audio equipment sucks–and the industry is filled with grifters–like the bicycle industry, btw. Does that mean there’s no quality differences in audio reproduction? Heck not. There are huge differences. But audio reproduction can be scary–above and beyond being a money pit. Hence I couldn’t wait to get rid of all that dead-weight that was/is the BS of surround-sound, hi-res, fifty pound amps, DVD vs Bluray and, the worst of the worst, subwoofers. It took me the better part of twenty years to figure out that all I need is STEREO. Since then, after the discovery of Raspberry Pi and managing a home media server, all my audio equipment is the cheapest best sounding music reproduction I’ve ever heard.
And one more thing
What I dislike about audiophile BS is the krapp between amp, pre-amp, volume control, input-output, cinch, DAC, subwoofer, etc., etc. Obviously this technical krapp has to be dealt with if one is not gonna listen to music through laptop speakers or wants to enjoy music as one sees fit thereby getting on with the digital age–and not breaking the bank. When I can, I prefer streaming music from my Mac to one of three Airplay speakers in my little townhouse. Reason? The Mac (to worst-moi) sounds best–and I can’t figure out why–compared to streaming from my iPhone. A second set of stereo speakers are in our bookshelf and are driven by a RaspberryPi and a Hifiberry Amp2 (60w class D amp). A third set of stereo speakers are upstairs in my workroom and are connected to a second RaspberryPi using a Hifiberry DacPlus that is connected to a Teac mini integrated amp. Considering that two of these players use an open-source version of Airplay (shairport), it all works like a charm–with only a few hiccups here or there.
The hiccups are mostly about volume control–or is it pre-amping? Here’s an example. There is a significant difference in audio quality when streaming Apple Music using the Mac system volume or using the volume control in the app. WTF! Should I have paid more attention during my frivolous audiophile days concerning what the fcuk a pre-amp is? I’m guessing this has something to do with how these devices differentiate sources. To try and figure this out, dear worst-reader, I even rode my e-bike to a local Apple Store and asked one of the blue-shirts what this is all about. The answer was the same as most answers I get from blue-shirts: Wow. That’s above my pay-grade. You buying a new Apple Watch or not? They had no idear what I was talking about. But at least they did suggest I get in contact with Apple support online. Who could have known, eh. (Sarcasm off.)
I’ve never been into modern pop-music. It’s one of the reasons I’ve avoided music streaming services. Is that a generational thing? Maybe. That brings me to a few worst-questions: What am I paying for? What if I don’t like the music being pushed? Why is there so much disparity between music source and music player? Is this all about convenience? I mean. Yeah. It is convenient. WTF! Seriously. After fiddling with this for the past six months, I still don’t care about whatever Apple is pushing. That’s what streaming services do first, right? That worst-said, the other day, on a whim, I asked Siri to play me some Budgie. And she did. Now that takes me back to a time (70s) where three Englander-dudes played music as though they never had fun doing anything else. Seriously. They make music as though it’s better than making…
But I die-gress.
Thanking you for all the good-luck wishes in exploring music streaming services (at my age) and dealing with the Godzilla of monopolies that is in my worst-face every fcuking day: Apple.