October 27, 2012

Playlist Week of 10-27-12

Wadia i171
* Corelli: Violin Sonatas, Op.5 (Manze/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Laurie Spiegel: The Expanding Universe (Unseen Worlds MP3)†
* Thelonious Monk: Monk Alone: The Complete Columbia Solo Studio Recordings (Columbia 2CD)
* Sonny Clark Trio: The 45 Sessions (Blue Note CD)
* Tony Williams: Fear Of Flying (Columbia LP)
* Pharoah Sanders: Karma (Impulse! CD)
* Pharoah Sanders: Jewels of Thought (Impulse! CD)
* The Pyramids: Otherworldly (Disko B CD)
* Pat Metheny Group: Bremen, W. Germany 3-13-78 (pre-FM FLAC)
* David S. Ware Quartet: Cryptology (Homestead CD)
* David S. Ware Quartet: Dao (Homestead CD)
* Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans: Mechanical Malfunction (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: Zeitgeist Gallery, Nashville, TN 9-06-12 (master CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, Oakland, CA 10-31-91 (selections) (SBD 3CDR)
* Can: Can (Spoon SACD)
* REM: Life’s Rich Pageant (IRS/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* REM: Document (IRS/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* Mission of Burma: Signals, Calls & Marches (Ace of Hearts/Matador 2EP/DVD)
* Guided By Voices: Class Clown Spots a UFO (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Royal Trux: Twin Infinitives (Drag City 2LP)
* Royal Trux: Hand Of Glory (Drag City LP)
* Neurosis: Honor Found In Decay (Neurot MP3)
* Converge: All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph MP3)†
* Sleep: Dopesmoker (Southern Lord 2LP)
* OM: God Is Good (Drag City LP)†
* Grails: Take Refuge In Clean Living (Important CD)
* Grails: Doomsdayer’s Holiday (Temporary Residence CD)(†)
* Grails: Deep Politics (Temporary Residence CD)(†)
* Opeth: Orchid (Candlelight CD)
* Opeth: Morningrise (Candlelight CD)
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)
* Blut Aus Nord: 777 – Sect(s) (Debemur Morti CD)†
* Blut Aus Nord: 777 – The Desanctification (Debemur Morti CD)†(‡)
* Blut Aus Nord: 777 –Cosmosophy (Debemur Morti CD)†(‡)
* Alcest: Les Voyages de l’Âme (Prophecy CD)†
* Yakuza: Of Seismic Consequence (Profound Lore CD)†
* Yakuza: Beyul (Profound Lore CD)†
* Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop 2LP)
* Metz: Metz (Sub Pop MP4)†



I love my iPod Classic 160G: it’s perfect for the car and through decent in-ear monitors (like my Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10s), it sounds pretty darn good. But I’m a physical media guy – a record collector as they used to call us. I like CDs and vinyl and high-resolution formats like SACD, DVD-Audio and Blu-Ray. I like the way they look on the shelf (or piled on the floor). I like the way they feel in my hand. I like the way they smell. Most importantly, I love the way they sound. I never really thought of an iPod as a particularly high-fidelity audio device; I just loaded it up with 320 kbps MP3 files and utilized it as a handy portable music library. It never occurred to me to want to hook it up to the big stereo in the living room – why would I do that when I have all these great-sounding records so close at hand (or at least buried in a pile somewhere)?

Well, ever since I started writing for Spectrum Culture, most of my access to advance albums has been in the form of digital downloads. Occasionally, I get promo CDs but it makes a lot of sense for labels to just pass out zip-filed MP3s to scribblers like me. And that’s fine – except that it means I am tethered to the iPod in order to hear this stuff. Earbuds are convenient when I’m out of the house but I really don’t like the sensation of the music originating from the middle of my head. I much prefer listening to recordings through loudspeakers in my living room. So, what to do? I could burn CDs, but that seems like a waste – especially for lossy MP3s. Alternatively I could load the files onto a flash drive and play them through the USB input on my Oppo BDP-95. This would work OK, but, unfortunately, gapless playback is not possible—very annoying if tracks are supposed to flow together without pause. Finally, I could plug the iPod directly into an analog input on my pre-amp using some sort of cable adapter. But as anyone who has tried this knows: it is a less-than-ideal solution in terms of sound quality since you have to rely on the either the headphone output (with its attendant gain issues) or the cheap digital-to-analog converter (DAC) contained in the 30-pin connector. None of these options were particularly appealing.

As it turns out, Wadia Digital has pondered this problem and come up with an answer: the 171iTransport. Unlike other iPod docks, the 171i completely bypasses the iPod’s internal DAC to allow direct connection to an external DAC via optical or coaxial outputs. Brilliant! Now I can listen to my iPod in the highest fidelity possible! I’ve had mine for about three months and it sounds fantastic connected to the 24-bit DAC on my McIntosh C50 pre-amplifier—way better than I ever expected! So good, in fact, I’ve started re-converting favorite CDs to Apple Lossless encoding, which sounds noticeably better than 320 kbps MP3 while still compressing the files to save disc space. I’ve even started making “needle drops” of select LPs on my old Harman-Kardon CD recorder and transferring the WAV files losslessly to the iPod; very convenient for casual playback and sounds very good indeed. My only quibble is: I wish the iPod supported the FLAC file format—then I’d really go to town.

A few years ago, I would have never considered purchasing a product like the Wadia 171iTransport. But now that I've had it for a while, I can’t imagine life without it. Even if I wasn't downloading advance copies of new albums in order to write about them, I would still use it—not only for its convenience but for its spectacular sound quality. Who knew an iPod could sound so good?

1 comment:

Sam said...

Well, based on that sample you played for me last month (content notwithstanding, heh heh), you are certainly on to something here...it did sound fantastic.

Here are my lists from last week (I just mistyped "lusts" but it might as well be that too! har har):

Playlist 2012-10-29:

*Beethoven: The “Middle Period” String Quartets (Alban Berg Quartet) disc 2
*Webern/Shostakovitch/Burian (Rosamunde Quartett)
*Xenakis: Architect in Sound 1985 radio disc 1 (CDR)
*Daniel Barbiero: Not One Nor
*Boris Bobby: 2012-09-29 Atlas Performing Arts Center, DC (Sonic Circuits Festival) (wav)
*Anthony Braxton with the Northwest Creative Orchestra: Eugene (1989)
*Anthony Braxton12+1tet: 2012-10-13 Biennale Musica, Venice (CDR)
*Rodger Coleman/Sam Byrd: 2012-09-06 Zeitgeist Gallery, Nashville (mastered)
*Fletcher Henderson: Fletcher Henderson & the Dixie Stompers 1925-1928 (disc 1)
*Ingrid Laubrock Anti-House: 2012-05-26 Moers Festival (CDR)
*Ingrid Laubrock Sleepthief: The Madness of Crowds
*Charles Mingus: Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1956-1961 (discs 1-3)
*Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop: Mingus at the Bohemia [Chazz]
*Charles Mingus: New York Sketchbook [East Coasting]
*Charles Mingus: A Modern Jazz Symposium Of Music And Poetry
*Charles Mingus: Jazz Portraits [Mingus in Wonderland]
*Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop: 1959-07-04 Newport Jazz Festival (CDR)
*Charles Mingus: The Complete Bremen Concert
*New Loft: 2012-10-15 “Unrequited Crush” (wav)
*New Loft: 2012-10-22 “Pinch That Pulse” (wav)
*Sam Rivers: Fuchsia Swing Song
*Sam Rivers: Sizzle
*Cecil Taylor: 3 Phasis
*Animal Collective: Centipede Hz
*James Brown: Hell
*Deerhoof: Breakup Song
*Mike Elder/Greg Jordan/Harry Forrest/Sam Byrd: 2012-10-19 (wav)
*Pineapple Explode: A Bushel & a Barrel
*Pineapple Explode: Pineapple Explode
*Pipes You See, Pipes You Don’t: Lost in the Pancakes
*Supremes: More Hits by the Supremes (Expanded Edition) disc 1

Reading List 2012-10-29:

*Santoro, Gene. Myself When I Am Real: The Life and Music of Charles Mingus (started)
*Shakespeare, William. All’s Well That Ends Well (started/finished)
*Styan, J. L. All’s Well That Ends Well (Shakespeare in Performance) (started/finished)
*Barthelme, Donald. Sixty Stories (in progress)
*Boyd, Brian. Stalking Nabokov (in progress)
*Proust, Marcel. In Search of Lost Time, vol. II: Within a Budding Grove, transl. Scott-Moncrieff/Kilmartin, rev. Enright (reread/in progress)
*Shattuck, Roger. Proust’s Way (in progress)