I listen to a fair amount of music on a daily basis — being a geek, I’m stuck at the keyboard most of every workday, and I learned way back in high school that I work best with some music on, one way or another. So I joined the digital music revolution a few recent years back (other than starting to use CDs rather than vinyl LPs back in 1986) when I was having trouble getting streaming FM-stations to consistently work properly at the various odd locations I was finding myself working from at the time. I began ripping my CDs to .mp3 files and storing them on my lapstation’s hard disk, and playing them through my noise-cancelling headphones while working, whereever I was (as long as I wasn’t in a face-to-face meeting). Soon, I’d filled up my lapstation’s disk and was buying a second hard disk drive (modular bays are wonderful).
So, over time, I’ve evolved this approach to digital music:
- I’ve ripped my entire CD collection onto my lapstation’s “music-only” (secondary) hard disk (~10,000 tunes presently). This consumed about 60GB of disk (I’ve recently upgraded my “music-only” disk to a 120GB one, so I have room to grow).
- I don’t “buy” individual tracks or collections of tracks online. Rather, I buy secondhand/used CDs almost exclusively and rip them to .mp3 files. I do this because..
- I want the entire package of artwork, liner notes, credits, etc.
- The CDs themselves serve as my ultimate backup media.
- My ripped .mp3 tracks are unencumbered with DRM nonsense.
- I can easily burn .mp3 CDs for my in-dash auto CD player which can play them. I can get 100+ tracks (of “fat” high-quality .mp3 files) on average onto a 700mb CD. That’s 8..10 albums per disk, roughly. Way better than dealing with a CD changer and those huge cartridges IMHO. Plus my source CDs are safe at home.
- I conveniently obtain used CDs at half.ebay.com and have been very satisfied doing so. When I have the time (it’s all too seldom, sigh), I make a physical pilgrimage to San Fransco’s Amoeba Music. Overall, I try to pay less than $8 per CD, and often pay much less using either source (tax, license, delivery and dealer prep included; YMMV, however 😉 ).
- The souce files on the CDs are in an uncompressed, lossless format (.wav). When hard disk prices come down far enough (and capacity goes up far enough, or a cheaper & better alternative emerges), I expect to someday rip them all once again in native .wav format. This isn’t in the distant future, but about five..seven years I figure offhand.
- Rather than an iPod, I have a Treo 650 running PocketTunes and a 2GB SD card, onto which I can fit 300+ “fat” .mp3s (ripped at at least 192kbps), or probably ~500 .ogg files (“resampled” from .mp3s, still with quite good sound quality). The T650’s sound quality is perfectly fine, and having my phone converged with my PDA and my pocket .mp3 player means I need to carry around only one device for those three functions. And I’m not too worried by the relatively low capacity of the T650’s 2GB limit because I find I use it almost exclusively on airplanes, and luckily I’m not “living” on planes, although I do travel a fair bit, and I typically have my lapstation with me anyway.
- Also, I’m expecting that solid-state memory capacities are going to rise significantly, and more devices are going to support them. Thus I don’t want to go unnecessarily introducing more hard disks with moving parts into my life. Note that one can now get in-dash auto receivers that support SD Cards. This is a way-cool development, IMHO.
In terms of overall benefits, I have nearly my entire music collection with me whenever I have my lapstation along, I can deploy my tracks to all my environments (home, car, office, mobile) simultaneously with no DRM interference, most everything is ultimately backed up on non-volatile, long-lasting media, my costs per track are relatively low, and I have the artist’s complete overall packages (artwork, notes, etc).