Tag Archives: ipod

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

End of an era

Equipment has life cycles not unlike our own. They are dreamed up, assembled, brought to life, nurtured, flourish, fade, get old, and die. And, like us, their progeny carry on with fresh ideas, dreams, and new approaches to our needs.

One technology in the getting-old-phase turns out to be the very instrument I am writing this post on: the personal computer—but perhaps not in the way you might think.

PCs have been the core of music playback for decades. In 1991 Microsoft introduced WMP (Windows Media Player), which was eclipsed a decade later by Apple’s iTunes, suddenly available on both a PC as well as a mobile device known simply as iPod. It wouldn’t be long before digital music control was completely ceded to the PC because all digital music had to somehow come through the PC.

In 2008 things began to change when two engineers, Daniel Ek, and Martin Lorentzon—working out of a shared apartment in Stockholm—began changing the world.  Ek and Lorentzon started a company that would soon become one of the world’s largest musical content providers and challenge the reign of the personal computer for music’s playback. The name they chose for their new company, Spotify, was born from a misunderstanding as Lorentzon yelled his choice across the room and Ek misheard.

With Spotify and all its imitators accessible on mobile platforms (as well as purpose-built systems like Sonos, and a growing number of servers, NAS, and other schemes) the need for PCs to play and control music is diminishing.

But it isn’t just streaming services that are freeing us from the tether of big, high-tech boxes tied to mice, keyboards, and video screens. Even physical media like CDs are being controlled and played back less and less on PCs.

Within the next five years, I believe we’ll see PCs fade into the mists of time as the primary interface for our music.

I for one will be thrilled to never use a mouse, keyboard, or video screen to enjoy or control my tunes.

You? Me too.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Why there is MP3 and where it came from.
Can you hear that?

In the early 1980s, graduate student Karlheinz Brandenburg began working on digital music from an unusual perspective. How much detail could be removed before the average listener noticed what was missing?

His efforts paid off with the creation of MP3, the first popularly accepted lossy music compression scheme.

MP3 changed the world. Where once file storage and bandwidth limitations doomed music lovers to small libraries in limited locations, MP3 launched an entire revolution of big libraries and the beginnings of streaming.

His work built upon research from 1894 when the American physicist Alfred M. Mayer reported that a tone could be rendered inaudible by another tone of lower frequency. This discovery lead to a field of science known as auditory masking, later called psychoacoustic masking.

Brandenburg was fascinated by the idea of pairing down file sizes by eliminating unnecessary musical information, like soft details covered up by louder sounds. You probably wouldn’t miss a lone cough during the crescendo of Hallelujah chorus.

MP3 was a wild success. Without it, and its many variations of lossy compression, Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been able to change the world with the iPod and internet—depriving billions of their music.

But lossy compression’s time has passed. We no longer worry about bandwidth or storage restrictions.

MP3, AAC, and the plethora of lossy formats that trade musical information for smaller files sizes should be relegated to the closet.

Lossy compression succeeded in changing the world.

Let’s allow it to rest in peace.