Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Computerized Hi-Fi - Choices Dwindling

Although the number of devices for streaming music over a network seem to be growing, those available for the control of physical devices for play back are getting scarce.

It is all very well to rip and store music as MP3's, but you are paying a price in quality and fidelity. If you want to listen to music with all of the dynamic range and content it was meant to have, you are pretty much limited to source material (which is already a compromise over live performance).

For that reason, I have resisted the urge to abandon my LP's and CD's, and have tried to make using them as convenient and simple as playing digital music files. My current setup uses the Nirvis Slink-e controller, Sony CDP-CX455 400 CD mega-changers, and sofware from Nirvis called CDJ running on an IBM X21 Thinkpad.

This rig works well, giving me song by song access to my entire collection of 700 CD's along with cover art. The problem of course is that Nirvis has gone out of business, and Sony has stopped selling the CDP-CX455 in Singapore.

In the goodbye message from Nirvis, they recommended a company called Streetfire Sound Labs, who were making a Linux based controller that replicated the functions of the Slink-e, but then added a whole lot more. I say "were", because an announcement on their home page indicates that they have gone out of business.

So it appears that we are in a race to the lowest common denominator. Companies making kit for the control of original source players are going out of business, while those providing kit for ripping, storing, and streaming compressed copies are doing well.

What still baffles me is why the hi-fi component makers never got their act together and added the control functionality directly to their equipment. Instead, they have been marginalized by the computer industry.

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