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January 07, 2012


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Doug Zielke

As you say, Marc, I don't see the digital download trend ending anytime soon. I only buy a download if I can't find the music (new or used) in a format I prefer. Personally, I have more quality music on vinyl and CD than I have the hours to play it. Also, I can't worry about turning ituners into audiophiles. The ones that have heard my system usually walk away slack-jawed! If they like it enough, they will find a way to ditch their ear-buds.

Larry Kart

"The passion for sound quality seems to have gone the way of the yellow thing that used to fit inside a 45-rpm. Today, we rip CDs or download music and care a lot less about how the stored music sounds."

As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, "What do you mean 'we,' white man?" Yes, the trend is to downloading in terms of numbers, but once you hear a well-reproduced recording, it's hard not to be able to tell and to care about the difference. The thing is that by now a lot of downloaders have never had much if any chance to make the comparison. OTOH, among my son's 30-something-and-up hip and would-be hip friends, vinyl seems to be making a notable comeback, and that's in large part an audiophile phenomenon.


There is a certain rumor that musicians "usually" don't care much for audio quality ... I can only confirm that ;)

If I would care too much about how they sound, I could give away most of my Charlie Parker's, many swing era live LP's, or supposed to be "lost" sessions like the 'live-at-Minton's' LP's, or Frank Sinatra with Red Norvo in Australia, and similar collector's joys.

I love LP's; I dig the big covers, and the readable liners, and the beautiful pictures, especially on some of the soundtracks I have in my collection.

I hate the layout of most CD's, and the word "album" doesn't sound right when talking about this medium.

Alas, we can't turn back the wheel of time; but as music teachers, we have the chance to show our students how unbeatable some great Blue Notes can sound; I only say: "A Night At Birdland, Vol. 1 & 2" with Art Blakey's initial Messengers Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Horace Silver & Curly Russell (1954). Although it's mono, you really get the impression the band would play in your living room.

Or the wonderful Eric Dolphy/ Booker Little LP's, be it the live sounds from "Five Spot" (on three LP's, the very first two tracks can be found on an Eric Dolphy compilation), or the great studio dates "Out Front" & "Far Cry": Man, that's timeless music, presented in highest fidelity.

Further on: Have you ever heard "Harry James in Hi-Fi" & "More Harry James in Hi-Fi"? -- Many of today's big band recordings, though technically superior, sound flat and lifeless, compared to those two mono albums, coming from the Capitol studios.

The list is endless, and please don't get me into the classics!

(Feel free to click on my name, and you will learn what material I had at hand when I began playing & collecting jazz.)

Rab Hines

Where to start? As usual, you have enough interesting material in your Sunday column to fill a lesser blogger's entire week.

Digital downloads are undoubtedly the direction the industry is moving in - recent industry releases of Beatles material has been in flac format, and that will, I believe, be the format of choice for music fans who want superior sound (whether they can tell the difference or not!) These have the virtue of being identical to the wav files of a CD or LP, but take up less space than said wav file on a hard drive, and that (size) has been the main reason for the popularity of mp3's.

Unfortunately, the dominance of iPods and such has led to remastering of Blue Note and other classic releases as dreadful "improvements". iPod listeners hear greater amplification as "improved" sound, but at the cost of the higher and lower ranges. This is a state of affairs that even a non-audiophile like myself finds to be a manipulation of the market. A noted LP dealer that you and your readers would undoubtedly know was shaking his head as we discussed this state of affairs recently.

I could go on - but I won't, other than to thank you for another incredible column.

Lorenzo Tedesco

I think the previous posters and I belong to the same church. Another interesting article from Marc touching on and/or making me think about the following:

Music today is more of a personal experience than a shared one.

The explosion of handheld mobile devices for listening to music parallels a degredation in the sound quality which we've come to accept.

I think I was a better music listener when I was a young man than I am today at 60.

I love album covers. Cd jackets pale in comparison and downloaded music is icky at best.

I recently read an interesting take on music in general that argued the notion that we are in an age that has no musical voice or definition unlike most of the previous century. I find this idea thought provoking. Hmmm was this from another of Marc's blogs?

When was the last time a movie you watched at the local cinema included a piece of music introduced from the film that you either had to have or found yourself hearing everywhere? It doesn't happen any more.

As disconneced listeners we are not exposed to the variety of music we once were. If you are old enought to remember say the Ed Sullivan show then you heard several genres at any time whether it was to your taste or not.

And the beat goes on .......

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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