Friday, 19 August 2005

To iPod or not to iPod: that is the question

There's a lot of things that are stopping me getting an iPod.
But I'm always hearing of new things that shout out to me "Get an iPod already! You'll love it! Think of the possibilities!".

This is one of them:

You Ain't No Picasso: iPod War!

Sure, it's only a little game, but it's the kind of thing that just isn't possible with old-skool CDs.

Another thing that I think would be pretty cool (along the same lines as the iPod war) would be to put the iPod on random and get a series of random tracks from my 10000+ track collection (all legitimately purchased mind you) and then write a blog posting on the random selection of tracks. I think it would be a cool idea, but whether it would be something that remained exciting or something that I quickly outgrow I don't know.

So to summarise, here are some of my issues with iPods:
  1. I don't like the fact that tracks that have a segue between them don't blend into each other on an iPod. That is especially notable with "concept" style albums. For example, Polyphonic Spree's latest album Together We're Heavy would be pretty unlistenable on an iPod, because the tracks are designed to blend in with each other into a seamless whole. On the CD, the band actually recommend that if you are going to copy the album to a digital music device, you should do do as one track to preserve the listening experience. Here's my problem: I don't want to rip the CD as one track. They are individual tracks and I would like to listen to them that way. But I still want it to behave like a seamless whole if I choose to listen to it that way. Imagine playing the music quiz game on the iPod and getting the 58 minute "track" Together we're heavy as an option. It just ain't cricket.

  2. I've heard mixed comments about the battery life on these devices. I know the batteries can't easily be replaced by the consumer, so it could be a costly exercise to replace them. But I've heard they are getting better.

  3. At the moment the biggest iPod you can get is 60GB. From memory this would hold about 15,000 tracks on average. That's all good and well, but I currently have almost 11,000 tracks in my CD collection. And this is quickly growing. I don't want to outgrow the iPod and then have to buy another one. The whole joy of having an iPod would be to have the whole CD collection in my pocket. I don't want half a CD collection in my pocket.

  4. The amount of time it would take to rip my entire CD collection to an iPod would be ridiculous. Seriously, ridiculous. And at the rate at which I'm buying CDs, I'd never catch up. By the time it's ripped, a new iPod model with double the capacity and much more bells and whistles will be released.

  5. Album art. Yeah, I'm sure a lot of people don't give a shit about this. But I love holding a CD booklet in my hand, looking through the artwork, enjoying the design. When music goes into a purely digital format you lose all of this. Sure, you can still go to your shelf and actually look at the booklets, but it's not the same.
Anyway, I promised a posting on my reasons for not yet buying an iPod, and here it is. I'm sure I've given Matt some much needed ammunition to finally respond to one of my blog postings :-)

But seriously, the segue issue is my biggest issue with iPods. Dark side of the moon would simply not be the same on an iPod. It just doesn't sound right if Time doesn't merge into The great gig in the sky. And CDs are the most convenient technology which allows me to listen to albums this way.


  1. Ah Jiggy, will you ever win?

    Seriously, I gotta say, if that is your case not purchasing an I-Pod, then it is a very weak one.

    First of all, your comment about cover art - without knowing the intimacies of your life, I think I would be correct in assuming that you listen to most of your music on your car stereo, when you are DRIVING, and hence not looking at cover art. I also know that you carry CD's around in a CD wallet, MINUS THE COVER ART.

    So don't waste my time with that argument.

    Secondly, your most compelling reason for not getting an I pod is that one second of your listening pleasure will be spoilt. You constantly refer to one album as the prime evidence. Well in a music CD collection as large as yours, I am sure that you could find other things to listen to on the I Pod, and reserve this one second of disaster from being listened on on the i pod.

    But seriously Jiggy, that does sound quite petty.

    As for the comment about it taking a long time to actually get your cd collection onto an I Pod, well thats a valid point. But then again, how much time do you spend compiling blog postings and databasing your music collection? Surely you could find the time to load the collection onto your i pod.

    The argument about the technology upgrading is a nonsense. If you truly lived by that philosophy, you wouldn't own a car or a pc, as both will quite quickly head towards becoming obsolete.

    The battery issue I am not in a position to comment about, although I am yet to hear anyone complain about that issue.

    Its really a matter of personal choice and opinion at the end of the day, but your justification for your stance, well I just think it doesn't hold up!!!

  2. Firstly, let me declare my bias or lack of: I do not have an iPod, but my mobile is a 256mb MP3 player that I use when walking and on the train.

    Now. Your problem, in my mind, comes from within. It is how you see an iPod. I use my phone to listen to music when i'm on the go, to occupy my mind/time/attention when it would otherwise be doing nothing. Sometimes i'll listen to a whole album in order, but most of the time its all songs in random, as background filler. Sometimes, i'll even downsample my mp3s to fit more on, despite the drop in quality (though this would be less of an issue with an iPod). In that way, the phone is a perfect solution.

    It sounds like, as you say, you want your CD collection (and all of the related things that go with that) in your pocket. I think you'll find that doesnt exist. If you do find a nice portable device that lets me sit in a chair, have a relaxing cup of coffee, whilst my favourite music is playing on a lazy sunday afternoon with sun streaming in the windows, let me know.

    I'll be the one listening to music on the train, while you stare blankly out the window, thinking about how you're not missing out on CD covers :)

  3. Thanks for posting guys - it's good to see the responses coming in!

    Now a few responses to you Wally Raffles (if that is your real name)...

    Your point about cover art is a valid one. I do spend most of my time listening to my CDs without having my cover art in front of me, and while I do like owning the CD and having the booklet/packaging/etc. this is not really a valid reason not to get an iPod. After all, I can still buy CDs after getting an iPod, and I would hope that I would do so if I was to acquire such a device.

    Now, regarding your reply to my comment about lack of segues on iPods spoiling my listening pleasure. Firstly, I mentioned 2 albums as evidence (not 1 as you mentioned in your comment). But these were just examples, there are hundreds of other cases.

    Now yes, you could argue that it is only 1 second of the listening experience, but the point is that the listening experience is not the same on the iPod as it would be on the CD. And I can see how from your point of view this could be considered petty. But it does make a big difference to how an album sounds as a whole. A live album would sound completely disjointed on an iPod.

    My point about technology upgrading was not that I want to have the cutting edge iPod all the time. You only need to look at my mobile phone or car to know that I don't really care about this. My point was that I want the iPod I get to have enough space on it that would allow my CD collection to grow without exceeding its capacity. As I stated, if I was to get a 60GB iPod (the biggest there is at the moment), it wouldn't be long before my CD collection outgrew it. And a lot of the appeal would be gone for me.

    Regarding the battery issues, there's a pretty good chance that if you don't read a lot of technical news you wouldn't hear about them. But I know that Apple were recently involved in a legal issue about the battery life, and the result of that legal issue was that they now have to replace the battery (albeit at a cost to the consumer). And from what I have heard, the battery life on the newer iPods is much better. Regardless of current state of the battery issue, it's something that should be considered when investing in any expensive electronic device.

    Now, in response to your comments Dave...

    I think if I worked in the city I would be more inclined to buy an iPod. Since I have a CD player in my car and I can listen to CDs at work, there's not many times where I feel I would actually need an iPod. That's not to say that the thought of one isn't kinda cool. Many times I get the hankering to listen to a song that I don't have on a CD in my CD wallet. In which case an iPod would act as a device in which I have "my CD collection in my pocket".

  4. OK, it's my turn. As covered by some other kindred souls, about the album art, well - pfft. You cannot be serious. You'll still have your beloved album art sitting on your shelf at home. And honestly how often do you revisit the cover of MWNG?

    The issue with 'concept albums' and the segue issue is a real problem. But to describe it as unlistenable is, at best, wildly exaggerating. We're talking about _two_seconds_ of dead space here. I thought it would bother me having those couple of second gaps but the reality is simply that it doesn't. Your brain (well mine anyway) just merges the tracks together.

    Now, if you're a stickler, and Jiggy, I know you are, then there _should_ be another option. You ought to be able to rip any album with no gaps so the tracks play as intended. I haven't tried this myself because you'd have to be more anal than the folks at the Blue Oyster Bar but I can't see why it wouldn't work and I'd be surprised if tools weren't out there to help with said addiction. But try listening to such an album ripped - it really ain't that bad.

    The battery life with the 1st and 2nd generation models sucked - and as Jiggy mentioned Apple have copped bad PR and some lawsuits because of it. The 3rd gen was marginally better (still only around six hours at best but the batteries 'fade' much less than their younger brethen) but the situation is much better with the 4th gen and the Photos. No longer a serious issue.

    60 Gig won't be enough for you, at least it won't in a few years time. Just resign yourself to buying another (perhaps 200 Gig?) iPod in, say, five years and deal with having 'just' 60 Gigs for now. It'll do you for some time yet and remember that you don't have to put all of your music on the device at once - there's certainly a fair chunk of Oasis you won't miss from your collection for example... ;)

    Ripping CD's does take time - but not as much as you might think. And you've got to do it anyway - surely your original CD isn't your only copy of your music? Take my advice; buy a huge hard drive, rip everything to FLAC, cross-rip it to mp3/mp4 with a script, buy another big hard drive and back-up both copies. The longer you put it off the harder it'll be. Do it while you're at work - it'll cost you at most 10 mins a day in overhead to be ripping continuously. Just 'pause' your work, slip in a CD, press a button, get back to work, rinse, repeat. In just a couple of weeks your collection will be done. Quit snivelling. ;)

    CD's are, in no way "convenient technology"! In the 90's maybe. Now it'd really shit me if I felt like listening to, say Augie March, and I was only carrying The Avalanches, David Bowie, Franz Ferdinand and Zero7. This advantage alone is worth buying an iPod IMHO.

    Anyway, your arguments are pretty lame my friend, pretty lame indeed. I suspect someone just doesn't want to part with hard earned cash (and fair enough too!) and place a large tough-to-justify entry in the spreadsheet of death. ;D

    But you'll love it when you finally do. :)

  5. Well I never thought it would come to this, but Jiggy, I'll meet you at the Blue Oyster Bar :-)

    Jigs has hit the nail on the head - if you work in the city and catch PT to work, a Discman and wallet/satchel/garbage bag (in Jiggy's case) full of CDs just doesn't cut it. And I'm not talking about the all-important "cred" factor of posing with those little white earphones :-)
    But in Jiggy's situation, aside from the 30-second walk from house->car and car->office, he is effectively constantly accompanied by a CD player. It works for him, it ain't broke, so he's not attempting to fix it ;-)

    Having said that, Jiggy, if you worked in the city, I would say that by the Friday of Week One, you would have dropped the moolah on a 'Pod down at JB...

    As for the rip effort involved, get distributed! Each day just before you guys head off for lunch, give each person a CD which their PC will rip and place the data onto a network share somewhere. Take the data home each night on a USB key. You'll be done in no time!

    BTW I'm not an iPod owner, but I do have a lovely Nokia 6230 with the PC Link kit, recently maximally expanded to 1GB of Flash, which has made my train ride to work 100% better, while keeping the amount of crud I have to carry to a minimum. And if I was über-anal I could scan the album art, copy it to the Flash and look at it on the colour screen. Yes it would be like inspecting a house by looking through the keyhole, but I would have that (apparently) warm cosy feeling of having the cover art with me... ;-)


  6. Jiggy, as an update that might be of interest, I was reading the other day that Toshiba (I think it was) have just released their equivalent of the I-Pod. But it has one addition which you might be interested in - it allows you to store the CD cover art, which will then display on the screen as the song is playing...hehehe, couldn't help but think of you when I read it. I was meaning to keep the article for you, but I think I might have thrown it out.

  7. Wow, okay this is the kind of response I like to see to blog postings. Had I know that a post even slightly dissing iPods would have provoked such a passionate response, I would have written it much earlier ;-)

    I'm through with discussing the anal segue and artwork issues as I believe they've been done to death. And the battery issues seem to be getting better.

    The capacity thing is still an issue for me, and for that reason, I think I'd hang out for an 80GB iPod before I considered getting one. At the moment my CD collection would fill up about 75% of a 60GB iPod, which is way too close to full for my comfort. I'd want quite a bit of slack space on there to take into account music collection growth and the ability to use the 'pod as a portable data storage device as well.

    I'll admit that I've been doing some reading recently and there's a few killer features which are making the prospect of an iPod very tempting to me. Smart playlists are one of the killer apps. I know I'm begging for a smartass reply to this comment when I say that the prospect of iTunes generating a playlist for me which includes songs that refers to days of the week or months in the year and then listening to a virtual mixtape really excites me. Form an orderly queue!

    And just another comment about album art, apparently the iPod photo allows you to view album art while listening to an album. So no need to go the Toshiba model to get this feature. I wonder if they'll release an iPod which emulates the texture of the booklet? And what about the spine? There's some killer spines out there, but that can be the subject of another blog posting.

    Keep the comments coming people!

  8. If you want a CD collection in your bag, so that when at work, or in the car, or even at home, you can easily play ANY piece of music you own, then here is my suggestion:

    Buy a new car CD player. Some models these days act as USB hosts, and can play MP3 files from a USB keyring or such. Then, buy an external USB hard drive case, and then, buy whatever size hard drive takes your fancy. If size is an issue, you can limit yourself to notebook size disks (2.5") or you could go full size. You would not have to worry about space (how long will a 300gb disk last you?), and you have so much space you could even rip every album you have twice (once as individual tracks, once as a contiguous track) and still have half of the disk free.

    So thats my answer. Its a little less portable (not too heavy, but not pocket sized), but thats for you to deal with. You could probably even get some kind of USB host mp3 player for portable listening, or even a USB module for your palm/PDA.

  9. Actually, just had a thought... I'm not sure if external hard disks need external power, or use the USB power. That could be an issue.

    also, blogger doesnt let me edit comments, which is an issue :)

  10. My Dad has an external USB casing for his laptop, in which he has inserted a full-size DVD burner.

    Unfortunately it requires a dedicated power supply, so there goes that idea :-(

  11. OK while we're going with industrial-strength solutions to this problem...

    Get yourself an Apple XServe (so you can use iTMS) with 1.2TB of disk, and an Apple XServe RAID enclosure for another 5.6 Tera. It all rackmounts nicely into 4U, would go like bejeezus and would have capacity for... wait for it...

    60 minutes/CD @ Approximate rip size of 1Mb/min
    => 60 meg/CD ripped

    6.8 Tb = 7,130,316.8 Mb

    => 118,838 Albums

    Should be sufficient for Jiggy's collection for a couple of years at least.

    Whaddaya mean your car doesn't have a 19" rack in the boot? :-)

  12. Sounds fully shick mate.

    But I think I've been convinced, and if an 80GB iPod comes out, I'll probably order one. Probably the most elegant solution of all :-)

    Considering I can get one through salary sacrifice at work (classifying it as a "PDA"), it's a pretty sweet deal.


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