Music Matters

The most significant memories of my childhood was when my dad bought a Philips turntable system. It was intriguing how the device could produce music out of round black discs called records. Of course we had a radio, but that was different. His record collection grew gradually and I began to appreciate listening to them more.

My first music player was a portable Panasonic radio cassette combo gifted by a friend back in 1976. It lasted for quite a while until I upgraded to an Aiwa (AF5050) music center three in one system which consists of a record, cassette player and tuner. Most of my disposable income was spent on records and cassettes. As my record collection grew larger and the turntable on the Aiwa needed servicing such as changing the belt and stylus it became difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to maintain. Subsequently circa 1983, I replaced my music center with a Sony FH7 MkII compact high-density component system comprising of a digital tuner, cassette player, and an integrated amplifier.

Image Credit: hifiengine.com

Finally, in August 2000 I purchased a tube amplifier with other components. The “hi-fi separates” which they are called refer to the various components which together make up a hi-fi setup. They are known for their superior sound performance and are preferred by audiophiles. Since then, there has been an extreme change in the music industry in general.

My Hifi system

FORMATS

Records or vinyl were the dominant audio recording format throughout most of the 20th century. In the early 60s, cassette and 8-track tapes became popular because they offered music in a smaller and more portable format. In August 1982, the first compact disc was manufactured. The compact disc (CD) is a digital optical disc data storage format that was co-developed by Philips and Sony to store and play digital audio recordings. MP3 is a coding format for digital audio developed largely by the Fraunhofer Society in Germany. The first MP3 player was released in 1988 (Wikipedia). The introduction of MP3 coupled with the emergence of cellphones had a substantial effect on other formats. Sales and consumer demand began to shift towards this intangible music format. As of 2020, recorded music sales by format share are as follows: Streaming 82.9%, Digital downloads 5.5%, Vinyl 5.5%, and CD 4% (Recording Industry of Association of America). Other formats are almost extinct.

My CD collection

It affected many corporations and independent outlets in the music industry. All Tower Records stores in the US were closed in 2006 (The Guardian). Mr. Ivan Gooi, an independent record store owner in Penang had to shut down Disc & Dat in 2008. It was one of the stores where record and CD collectors could find rarities. I’m grateful to Ivan for being insightful and introducing me to jazz and got me hooked on it.

For carrying my purchases.

SOUND QUALITY

Like most topics, quality is very subjective. What we think is good isn’t necessarily agreeable to everyone. The adage “don’t force your beliefs on others” applies. However, I’m sure everyone knows the difference between a single speaker sound (mono) and a dual speaker sound (stereo), a 4-inch speaker and a 6-inch speaker, etc. This debate is still going on among people who love listening to music. For me, it’s just listen and be your own judge. In an interview, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan derides 20 years of ′atrocious′ recordings – including his own (The Guardian August 24th 2006.). He tells Rolling Stone magazine “You do the best you can, you fight technology in all kinds of ways, but I don’t know anybody who’s made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years really”.

Personally, I believe that vinyl is the best format and most audiophiles would agree. Unfortunately, I don’t listen to them anymore due to unexpected circumstances. My turntable was disposed long ago but I sold my last batch of vinyl in 2013. Nevertheless, I’m glad it’s still around albeit at a diminishing rate. It has a warm and natural sound that words can’t describe. Needless to say, problems such as skipping caused by scratches or mold occur frequently. Sometimes they warp and develop mold due to excessive heat and humidity. After each side is played we need to physically flip the record the other side, which is a nuisance. There is also an unwritten rule to handle the 12-inch vinyl. It’s all cumbersome and imperfect. I have many audiophile friends, mostly baby boomers who still collect vinyl today.

I asked my audiophile friend, Mr. Vadim Pikus his thoughts on his immense and impressive vinyl collection.

1) How do you maintain your huge collection of vinyl?

I made a special music room in my apartment for storing vinyl and listening to music. For vinyl storage, I ordered special shelves from a furniture company. Vinyl is stored alphabetically by artist or band name. When I receive the printed vinyl, I wash it. For this, I bought a vacuum washer. All vinyl is stored in new plastic bags (inner sleeves – vinyl and outer sleeve – cover). I don’t think my 4,000-album vinyl collection is big. This collection is below average.

2) Have you listened to all of them?

I haven’t listened to all the albums from my collection. And I do not set myself the task of quickly listening to everything. This is not the question here. The main thing is the opportunity and richness of choice when you want to listen to something to suit your current mood. You reach out and pick up the vinyl from the shelf. A large collection of vinyl is a nice opportunity to have a choice, listen to a new one every time if that’s what you want. I like almost all styles of music, it depends on my mood.

Image Credit: Vadim Pikus
Image Credit: Vadim Pikus

I suppose the bottom line depends on how much we value and prioritize the pleasure of listening to music. “Without music life would be a mistake”- Friedrich Nietzsche.  


Chuck is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Chuck
Author: Chuck

Just a guy who enjoys reading and a dose of jazz everyday.