May 28, 2011

Jack of All Trades (Master of None)


Thanks to @BevanWhitfield for convincing me to blog more frequently. While I may not be entirely coherent at this hour of the morning (8:00 AM is half past the crack of WTF for me) I’ll make my best attempt to ramble on in some semi-intelligent banter while I drink my coffee. I’m not exactly a morning person, per-se, but I figured what better time to write a post than over a fresh cup of mocha java while some random idea is still battling the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man from the prior night’s dreams?


Anyways, it’ll be informal and less on the “intellectual” side with these sorts of posts, or maybe unintentionally intellectual. Probably a little rambling as well, but that’s what mornings are for.


This morning I’ll be writing about the penchant for technology to be heading toward this Jack of All Trades scenario where they offer a plethora of applications but don’t really do any one thing very well. In my mind, I’m essentially thinking about Portable Music Devices where there really isn’t a device that caters to an audiophile.


I’m sure there are suggestions to purchase an iPod Classic at 160GB and call it a day, but to be honest I’m not happy with the stranglehold that Apple seems to have on that end of the industry. I was checking out the website recently and they have the audacity to have a category for MP3 Players and iPods.




There’s a word for that, right there, but I’m not entirely awake enough to think of it. I will, however, convey that the feeling I got when seeing that before my eyes was roughly translated into a deep need to buy a plane ticket to Cupertino and punt Steve Jobs square in his pretentious crotch.


Wait.. that’s the word!


Ok, moving on.


The point is, I’m an audiophile. Many years of listening to audio (music, binaural, holophonic, digital and analog) has pretty much set my discerning ears into the high end experience. This also means that I have an extensive collection of audio at my disposal (and a 1TB external HD). I’d like to make that 5TB if I could, but there seems to be a bottleneck in the process, which is that there really exists no Portable Audio Player that will cater to Audiophiles.


I’d say MP3 player, but to be honest I’d rather listen in uncompressed WAV or FLAC for higher quality, and as we know that requires more storage for the higher file sizes. I currently have an antique MP3 player (Creative Zen Touch) that contains a 20GB internal HD for storage. I suppose compared to the latest iPod touch and its measly 8GB storage (64GB if you are willing to mortgage the house) it’s a blessing. If I look at the iPod Classic it’s 160GB which is definitely larger than my current Creative Zen Touch (20GB), but I’m a tech guy…


So what is that supposed to mean?


Well… look… We’re in an age when you can buy a portable 1TB HD with a USB connection for $99.00 at a local Staples, and the best Apple can offer is 160GB for an iPod Classic for $249? Better yet, a 64GB iPod Touch for $399 is highway robbery… I don’t give a rats ass what it can do because I only want my portable music player to be able to do one thing exceedingly well.


Play music.

iPod Touch

Only Apple would downplay the ability to play music on their own MP3 players…



I’m confused. Clearly a 160GB HD doesn’t cost much, and nowhere near enough to qualify $249 on an iPod (let alone $399 for less than half the storage). But then, this is why I dislike Apple. The whole hermetically sealed shut bullshit with their products, and charging more for their products than they are remotely worth, simply because people will pay it. Not to mention offering the product in a different color (white) and acting like it’s an entirely new launch product.


To each their own, really. I can’t drink that particular batch of Kool-Aide.


But back to this whole Portable Music Player thing…


As an Audiophile I actually demand more from the products I buy. But there is a certain set of guidelines I’d like to lay out to any company that would like to topple the iPod as the reigning master of music, and immediately garner respect from true audio lovers (not to mention their money)


1. 500GB HD as the entry model. 1TB for the Pro version.


This is a no brainer. People who love music and audio have a lot of it. As in, more than probably the entire neighborhood combined. We love audio. That much. We want to essentially drag a large chunk of our collection over to the device and not have to do this again for at least a month or three. 500GB hard drives are cheap, and for a professional audio player, tacking on an additional $99 for a 1TB model wouldn’t phase them. Offer both the ability to install software onto the user’s computer (with their consent) that will allow them to stream their local music collection to the device over the internet as well as a subscription cloud storage option for those who don’t want to use the local streaming option from their computer.


2. Discerning ears require a real audio output. Take your 4 band equalizer and shove it. Give us something like Izotope Ozone 4 built into the device and really let us experience audio. This is also the same mastering system I have installed and use through Winamp when listening to audio on my laptop and I settle for nothing less. Make sure the hardware aspect of the device can handle full High Definition Digital Audio output as well.




This is the type of Graphic EQ I want to see on my Portable Audio Player



3. Full color capacitive touch screen. Responsive and elegant. Intuitive GUI.


4. No, we don’t want your software suite installed on our computers to manage our collection.


We’re anal retentive about our music collection. We’ve sorted it just the way we want it. I ran iTunes once, and only once, on my computer only to have it immediately decide to retag, re-sort and otherwise bastardize my music collection the first time it ran.


Never again.


If you see Steve Jobs, kick him in his pretentious balls for me. That man cost me a month of time undoing the damage to my collection.


Unless you employ actual audiophiles who are fanatical about their audio collection, pay your employees to work out how to build the actual audio player instead.


5. Take your apps store and fsk off. I want a portable audio player that plays audio immaculately well, not a device that does countless things piss poorly. If I wanted to play Angry Birds on my MP3 Player I’d have … wait, strike that. I don’t give a damn about Angry Birds. I listen audiobooks, Old Time Radio Dramas, and high end music audio. If I wanted to plays games, surf the Internet, write emails, and video chat I’d be using my laptop.


I always laugh when I hear the argument about why Tablet computing is the future because PCs apparently don’t do anything well. Tablets have a future, mind you, but they are a technology that does everything mediocre at best. It’s not a laptop replacement by any stretch of the imagination. If anything they are a quick fix for Internet or whatever app you want to download, but when you want to get anything serious accomplished it’ll sit in the corner and collect dust.


I like to call it “Disposable Computing Experience”.


Which brings me to the next point.


I want a portable music player built for audiophiles, not a tablet computer that does a million things half assed. I don’t care if it plays videos, or my photo album. I sure as hell am not interested in a 2 year service contract with a mobile phone company just to use it either. Have enough common sense to build speedy WiFi into it, but never forget that this device is meant to focus on playing music amazingly well as its first goal.


If you want to throw in bluetooth access, I’m cool with that, but only if it can sync to my computer to wirelessly transfer my audio collection as well as double that bluetooth capability for wireless headphone usage. You may as well build a receiver for that which I can connect to my home audio system to stream my music from the device wirelessly. You also include a bluetooth remote as well, for when I have my device synced to the home audio system, or maybe have it sitting on a table while I wander around with my wireless headphones.


So here’s the plan:


Capacitive touch screen, and intuitive interface. Honeycomb 3 Android OS, and at least a dual core processor with plenty of RAM. While we’re at it, toss in an nVidia Tegra processor for GPU.


I understand that solid state memory is still in a high-priced sucky stage in technology, so if you can only manage 64GB onboard that’s just fine. I still want to see 500GB and 1TB availability for my entire music collection, or at least a large chunk of it. Give me the option to set up software from you (one of the few softwares you should offer with this unit) to run in the background and stream my local music collection to my device through the Internet. This way, with a wireless Internet connection, my portable music device is as large as my home computer storage is. If I happen to have 5 TB of storage for my music collection, then my Portable Music Device Table has that much as well.


The unit should be no larger than an iPod Touch, but you are free to make it thicker to accommodate the features.


Built-in rechargeable battery with at least 20 hours of listening time. The battery must also be replaceable, even if we have to order a replacement from your company.


Izotope Ozone 4 level of graphic equalizer and pre-processing ability for the audio.


Bluetooth ability, obviously.


Price the unit sanely. 64GB of storage is not your cue to charge $400 for an audio player. Much the same way that $899 is not an appropriate price for a tablet computer (I’m looking at you Apple, Verizon and Motorola). Try an entry price of about $250 for the 64GB unit but only if it has the WiFi Sync ability (to stream music from my home computer over the net).


In short, build a portable music player that actually kicks ass for once.

1 comment:

  1. When you design one... I will buy it. Agree!