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How I listen to Music January 1, 2007

Posted by mark in : Music, Personal , trackback

My server is working again (after 12 months) and I’ve started to use Last.fm, so here are a few notes on how I listen to music at the moment, in case anyone has interesting comments.

My CD’s [...most of them! : **] are ripped and compressed (to FLAC files) with EAC, and the freeDB tagging manually corrected with Mp3tag. Music is streamed between my server and hifi (using SlimServer and a wireless Squeezebox v1), and a SlimScrobbler plugin sends the track data to Last.fm. Playlists tend to be albums, random, or with MusicIP (previously Predixis) …but that’s not integrated with SlimServer yet.

I buy new music I hear on the radio (or Pandora/ PandoraFM), or recommended by Amazon and blog articles. I hear unsigned bands on podcasts (Odeo : an aggregator) and may visit their MySpace pages, but rarely go to concerts. I ’subscribe’ to some podcasts with Songbird (as I said), so that the files are saved to my server (and played with SlimServer), but don’t keep them. I don’t buy downloaded music, because at that price I don’t want lossy codecs at low data rates (vs. CD’s) …and DRM [**]! AllOfMP3.com is an exception, but I haven’t used it.

Songbird has a lot of potential as a player, but it won’t read tags from FLAC files yet. So, no point using it to rate FLAC tracks in my library, and I use MediaMonkey for that. And any FLAC tracks I play with it won’t get recognised by Last.fm (even though it has its own audioscrobbler …which works for MP3), so I don’t play any!

I don’t think that SlimServer or Songbird record the number of times I play a track, nor handle smart playlists (but I may be wrong), and it’s the main reason why I began using Last.fm. When I get an iPod (or other portable device), I’d like to be able to combine the metadata it records with my other sources.

Plenty of software (eg. Songbird) seems able to handle file transfer and syncing between a library and a device, so I don’t intend to use iTunes. If the iPod firmware remains unable to play FLAC, I’d consider loading Rockbox onto it.

I’d like to set up SSH tunnelling (with Softsqueeze as the client), to stream music from my home server to workplace, and that track data would also go to Last.fm. (FLAC files are typically 1000kbit/s, but upstream ADSL is only 250kbit/s; so I’d transcode on the fly to a format with a lower data rate – MP3 or Ogg. My ISP provides static IP addresses, but others could use a dynamic DNS service – eg. dynDNS). If I got a flat rate mobile data plan, I may try streaming to my phone, but doubt it’d normally be an enjoyable listening experience.

** : “Defective By Design” sounds a good description of DRM-enabled music, not just because DRM tries to prevent playback of ‘your’ music on devices that are technically capable, but because distortion is deliberately added to the music, so that good CD rippers ‘think’ that there is a fault (…and there is : by design).

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