Music

Live music is best. Or failing that, a good quality hi-fi. Quality is the key, and you don’t get that from MP3 or even CD. But CD it is, since neither of the quality formats – DVD-Audio and SACD – were taken up by the majority, who are clearly content with mediocre or very poor sound quality (or are they…?). Of course, there are always LP’s… now we’re talking quality!

There is nothing to beat the sound, look, ambience and feel of a live performance. I don’t get out anything like as much as I would like and, even if I did, the availability of good music where I live is severely limited.

A lot of music is, of course, created in a studio over a period of days, months and even years. If my life had taken a different path I often believe I might have been a producer or sound engineer. I can’t help but hear the detail in the music, so getting as close as possible to the live performance or studio session is very important to me.

A good high fidelity system and a good quality source are essential. I can’t afford the kind of hi-fi system I would really like, but what I have at the moment is very acceptable.

The problem for me, and many others like me, is the poor quality of the sound source. I grew up with vinyl records and know the sound of albums recorded before about 1984 pretty well. Which is why I cringe when I hear songs I know and love in CD quality, which is, of course, inferior to LPs. I was very pleased when the replacement for CD came along, albeit in two warring formats: DVD-A and SACD. I have a number of discs of both flavours and they sound very good indeed.

I have recently come full circle and purchased a vintage 1980s record deck. It sounds great. I can hear every instrument, every hum of a guitar strings; its as if I am hearing old sounds for the first time.

I’m waiting for the day when Apple finally get around to hires music: it seems ludicrous that Apple Music will only deliver at 256 kbps, so I’ve resisted the temptation, mild though it was, to take up my free three month trial. I’m sticking to Tidal for the time being.

I actually listen to most music on the move and usually when I’m on a train. I’d be lost without my B&W P5 headphones and iPhone X; the sound quality is surprisingly good. I’ve noticed since I’ve had my iPad Pro that the sound quality on that is even better – the best I’ve heard on a portable device.

Soul & Blues backbone

Soul (especially Stax/Atlantic) and blues have been in the background throughout my listening years. The great soul and blues acts are many – you know who they are! But just in case… Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett…. need I go on?

Incidentally, my trips to London are not complete without a visit to Soul Jazz Records in Soho – my favourite record shop. Well, I still call it that (and I’m sure a lot of other folks do too!) but actually they changed their name some years ago to Sounds of the Universe – pretty forgettable eh? I just had to run upstairs to find an old bag to remind me of the name. An old plastic bag I hasten to add.