Portable Music: Quality vs Convenience

Its interesting how the trends in music mediums go back and forth between quality and convenience. Vinyl, for instance, was (is) a great format – especially if you have the right equipment (12+ band equalizers, decent speakers, et al). Pretty nice quality, but totally inconvenient, especially if you wanted to take your music with you. After vinyl’s hay day, we had 8 tracks, and then cassette tapes. Both formats were convenience, but left much to be desired when it came to sound quality. Then came CDs. CDs were / are wonderful quality, and even a bit convenient, though they do tend to skip and they like to develop nasty scratches.
So now we have audio files (mp3, mp4 / AAC, WMP, OGG, et al). So far these are the most convenient format. They don’t skip, the players are a lot more durable, one can bring a lot more music with them (in many cases one can carry their entire music collection in one little box). So have we reached the apex of the format wars? No! At this point in time the files are compressed still. While some formats are better than others, none of the file formats can really match the sound quality of a CD or Vinyl. And while the average consumer (pity that most people are consumers of music, and not actual listeners btw!!!) don’t really care, audiophiles and serious music fans still crave better quality coupled with the convenience of a portable media file player.
So, what is next? My prediction is in the next ten years, a file will be introduced that will have superior quality to anything we’ve seen (or rather heard) thus far. This format will be coupled with a media player that will probably have around 1 terrabyte of storage (at the very least!), so one can carry as much music as they so desire, especially since the hypothetical file type will be a pretty large. It would be nice if this player played any format by the way, so one with several protected mp3s or mp4s would not have to rip the inferior quality files, but rather leave the be.
But the real question, will corporate America allow this? Apple has a pretty big holding in the portable music world, and they don’t like to share. They have, at this time, showed no interest in migrating to a better file type. Still, they do keep pushing for bigger and bigger Ipods, and while I would much rather have a flash memory media player than a hard drive memory media player, one can defiantly say that Ipods might be a step in the right direction at least. There’s also one other thing to consider: hard drives on computers must be bigger, and faster. Most laptops come standard with a very slow 5400 RPM hard drive. Try to access a folder with hundreds of files on one of those; Its terribly slow! There’s also the fact that hard drives are still not that big. How many people have a free terrabyte on their hard drive to dedicate to music? Heck, how many people have a terrabyte on their hard drive to begin with?
Well, like I said, it will take ten years, maybe five if we’re lucky, but history says we’ll get there. And then that format will give way to another format that will most likely be lower quality, but more convenience. And those of us who are audiophiles will write a string of articles like this one once more.

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One Response to Portable Music: Quality vs Convenience

  1. Sweet Irony. I wrote this before I bought an Ipod.