Readers constantly ask what kind of system I use to listen to music. Some emailers grouse about the coldness of CDs, others about the dimness of downloads while still others insist that LPs still rule. All may be true, but I'm quite content with my iTunes library. That's probably because my system is pretty tricked out to expose nearly all the information in each music file. Here's the current setup in my office:
iTunes library. I currently have 30,000 tracks in my iTunes library. But this total grows daily since I add CDs and downloads constantly. A good percentage of the recordings in my library are out of print or they are rare—meaning they were never released digitally or at all. So my iTunes library is rather valuable, meaning I'd hate to lose it due to a computer crash. As a result, I store my iTunes library on an external hard drive—not on my computer's hard drive where it would be trapped if anything happened to my laptop.
My rips are imported in the Apple Lossless Encoder format to maximize sonic duplication. When downloading, I take what I can get, which often is mp3.
My gear: I have a LaCie d2 Quadra Hard Disk 2TB (two terabytes, meaning 2,000 GB) [pictured above]. I bought this one because it runs silently all day long and remains cool to the touch. It's hooked up to my computer through an 800 firewire cable. I back up weekly to a black LaCie Hard Disk Quadra 2 TB [pictured right], which costs less but it is just for backup.
CD/DVD burner. I wore out the CD player in my laptop about two years ago. Rather than have it fixed, I simply bought an external burner. This provides two fabulous benefits. For one, my computer isn't overheated whenever I play a CD or DVD. For another, the unit rips (meaning to import a CD) and burns to my iTunes library twice as fast as my laptop did. This workhorse is hooked up to my laptop through a USB port.
My gear: An Iomega Super DVD Writer 24x Dual-Format Drive. It will play and burn CDs.
Stereo system. My office stereo system (a term that probably betrays my age) packs punch and displays lots of sonic detail. Hooked up to my integrated receiver is a digital-to-analog audio converter as well as a pair of monitor speakers. I connect my Mac to my system via a digital optical cable that slips into my headphone jack and connects to the back of the converter. The headphone jack on my Mac doubles as an optical digital out.
So, my iTunes music files fly out through the cable and into the converter, which unbundles the digital information and pumps it into my receiver, which pushes the information through the speakers. Much of the information coming out of my speakers would not be heard if not for the converter.
My gear: I have a white Pro-Ject Debut III, but I swapped out the existing black platter for a clear Acryl-it platter the color of a Cryst-o-Mint Lifesaver. There's no fidelity issue with the platter swap. It was just a matter of style.
The point of all of this is that digital files can sound better than anything you own when the right gear is hooked up to fully unpackage the digital data and display it properly. Next additions: A McIntosh MA6300 and a B&W subwoofer.
I just wish I could play it for you.
JazzWax clip: I don't think I have to set up this one...