Libraries – not just where you'll find books
With thanks to Andrew Everard – Editor, Hi-Fi Critic and contributor to Gramophone, Hi-Fi News and more.
Once, in my dim and distant past, I worked in public libraries: small local branch libraries, where the staff were on hand to answer enquiries, and freezing mobile libraries, where one was dumped for an afternoon in a windswept outpost of the borough, with not even a phone to summon help when required.
Many of those places where I served time have now gone, and when I asked why, the answer was simple: ‘It’s the Internet.’ As an example of how things of changed, I know of teenagers who don’t even own a book – in fact, when I presented one with a carefully selected volume as a birthday present, I was asked ‘What do I want that for? I can just Google it.
To listen to some commentators on matters audio, you’d think music is going the same way: forget ‘physical media’, even music downloaded or ripped, and stored on a home computer or server, is now considered in some quarters as old hat. Why bother with all that, the argument goes, when a world of music is available instantaneously from a streaming service? I even know of those who have junked their entire music collection, usually sold off for a pittance, and now depend solely on streaming.
Well, there are plenty of reasons to bother, not least of which is that, for a truly comprehensive online music selection, you’d need to subscribe to several services, and juggle between them to find what you want, especially if your tastes stray beyond the mainstream. Then there’s the ease with which you can search, given the variability of metadata tagging of files on online services – not to mention the uncertainty about what exactly you’re getting in terms of file quality and history.
All of which overlooks the service dangers of committing all your listening to an intangible source. Not all of us are lucky enough to have an Internet service fast or reliable enough to deliver the music we want when we want it, not to mention the problems when a houseful of connected devices are fighting for the available bandwidth. And what happens if the service to which you subscribe changes its file formats, falls out with the label for which your favourite artists record, or just decides to shut up shop?
After all, most online services are mainly aimed at the common denominator, meaning the mass-market user probably listening on a phone or tablet, not the audio enthusiast.
For all of the above reasons, I’ll be sticking to storing my music at my fingertips, along with a sensible back-up routine in case of disaster. My music collection is where I know I can find it, with the help of carefully curated tagging and search technology such as Melco’s Intelligent Music Library. Now pre-loaded with the new EX Series and offered as a firmware upgrade for existing Melco users, it has already showed its potential, and opened up some intriguing connections between the music in my library. Not to mention making music easier to find.
In fact, a bit like having a knowledgeable librarian to hand to answer your questions and point you in the right direction – which, I think, is where we came in…