Sunday, January 29, 2012

Metadata For Miles and I Still Can't Sort My Music Autobiographically

Metadata indexes and catalogs your music library.
The care and attention required to prepare and "plate" an LP digitally forges an intimate bond with the material that is hard to duplicate with titles acquired on CD or by download. That bond should be reflected in the completeness of your metadata.

These are hard-won bits. After you've carefully repaired old wear-and-tear, meticulously isolated and labeled all the tracks, and studiously supplied metadata, it's hard to dismiss your newly-ephemeralized title as just another entry in the library.

In contrast, ripping a CD is a mindless task. There are now robots available to do it for you, stacks of discs at a time. Downloading titles has become so easy their arrival has little impact. After purchasing Kate Bush's 50 Words For Snow on high-resolution download, I had to remind myself a week later that the bits had yet to be played. I can't imagine that kind of detachment after finishing an LP transfer, just as I feel more invested in a meal prepared from scratch than I do ordering takeout.

Metadata are the fields —  Artist, Title, Genre, Release Year, etc. — that enable media players to  index and catalog a music library automatically, providing constant-time access to all songs, no matter how large the collection. Virtually all CD ripping software has access to an online metadata source to supply the basics. In ephemeralizing LPs, the job of completing metadata falls to you, and the necessary time investment pays off.

In addition to the basic fields, jazz aficianados routinely complete the Contributing Artist field for a song (not universally available in online metadata sources) to track the dynamics of musicians moving from combo to combo. Enhanced metadata libraries with many extra fields for classical music are becoming available. Using metadata, collections can be sorted along any of the fields.

Yet, armed with all this information, I still can't sort my collection autobiographically — chronological by acquisition date. That information is deeply personal and uniquely revealing.

Imagine being able to go back and revisit your purchases, deduce what prior purchases or other factors influenced each decision. Did you buy artist B because s/he previously played with artist A on a title you liked? You could see exactly when particular artists came into your consciousness, or left it. An animated graph of the top 5 genres in your collection over time could show how your tastes evolved. The autobiographical sort would reveal more than any other slice through a person's library.

I'm sure there is someone reading this who has kept that information. In what personal ways do you catalog your music collection?

              Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #13              

Title: Elaborations
Artist: Arthur Blythe
Genre: Jazz
Year: 1982
How did this album find it's way into my library? It would be a complete mystery unless you study the metadata. Most likely I sampled Arthur Blythe as a bandleader because he recorded as a sideman with Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition. Mr. DeJohnette, a 2012 NEA Jazz Master, is for me a trusted source due to his long association with Keith Jarrett and Gary Peacock in the so-called Standards Trio. But Mr. Blythe's presence in the library was "one and done," so Elaborations clearly didn't suit my taste at the time of acquisition. It may be a better fit now.

             Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #14            

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: It's Only Rock 'n' Roll
Genre: Rock
Year: 1974
It wasn't until I ephemeralized this title, a birthday gift long ago in high school and long out of heavy rotation, that I realized that it contained the song, "Time Waits For No One." As an amateur creator of WDET-FM Music Head playlists, — which connect the metadata dots among songs — and restricting said lists only to content in my own library, I long sought to make the leap from artist Tom Waits to title, "Time Waits ..." And now I can.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

All Bits are Significant; Some are More Significant Than Others

Neil Young told MTV News that listeners of MP3 audio hear only "5 percent" of the data in an original recording. He continued: "We're in the 21st century and we have the worst sound that we've ever had. It's worse than a 78 [rpm record]."

The math is solid. Looking at raw numbers, 24-bit/96KHz LPCM sound has 18x the bit rate of a 256K MP3. Invert that, and you get an MP3 worth roughly 5% of the original.

[Image credit: ~4ntigravity.]

But is bit rate alone a good relative measure? I'd like to convince you that it is not. Sample size is key.

In any discussion of bit rates, a chart like this is employed at some point. I'm guilty of using it myself. The trouble is, if you're trying to be more specific in making format comparisons than simply 'more is better,' reducing the argument to numeric multipliers is simplistic. All bits are significant; some are more significant than others.

Information increases exponentially with bit width.
Information is a measure of decrease in uncertainty. Saying that a sound sample can be encoded in N bits implies that N yes/no questions must be answered to resolve the uncertainty of its actual value. The maximal uncertainty to resolve (and hence potential information content) grows exponentially as sample size N increases.

As Carl Sagan said, not all bits have equal value. The greatest uncertainty is  removed by question 1, or the most significant bit (MSB), so this bit has the highest information value. The smallest uncertainty is removed by question N, or the least significant bit (LSB), so this bit has the lowest information value. Paradoxically, answering the questions becomes increasingly harder as you progress from MSB to LSB due to greater detail being supplied, i.e. the more sample bits you want, the more difficult they become to obtain.

In contrast, information content grows linearly with sampling rate. Doubling your rate produces twice as much information. Tripling the rate triples information, and so on.

Thus information contributed by sample size and sampling rate increase on different scales. While 24 16-bit samples and 16 24-bit samples have the same bit total, the larger samples took more effort to obtain and are more valuable bit-for-bit. I previously said you should seek and preserve maximum bits in the vinyl-to-digital transfer process. What I really meant was, seek and preserve information value.

Choose bigger samples over higher sampling rate if you can't maximize both.

              Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #12              

Title: Live Rust
Artist: Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Genre: Rock
Year: 1979

Music buyers who only know an industry dominated by iTunes can't imagine a time when you needed to buy an entire double LP set just to get the one or two tracks you really wanted. The most significant bits for me on this title are from "Powderfinger" and "Like a Hurricane." Well worth the effort to obtain.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We'll Always Have Paris. Or a 24-bit Approximation of Paris.

Quantization maps infinite sets of real values to single values.
When it comes to digitally recording music from analog source material (LP, tape) the best approach is, "Sample often, sample well."

In a previous post we introduced non-subjective numerical methods to establish 96 KHz (ninety-six thousand samples per second) as an information-rich practical sampling rate. That takes care of "sampling often."

But what about "sampling well?" Can near 100% accuracy be achieved for the samples being collected? 24-bit word size is the closest practical approximation. Why? Read on.

Digital sound samples are real numbers in the closed interval [-1, +1] and can take on any of an uncountably infinite number of values within that interval. The sound capture process therefore must quantize the infinite set of real sample values into a set of approximating values that has a finite size yet is still information-rich. How big should that set be and how many bits are needed to represent its members?

With b bits available, a value set of size 2^b (2 raised to the power of b) can be encoded. At one bit, the sign bit, there are two values available (2^1 = 2) and we can only express whether a sample is greater than 0 or less than 0. Arbitrarily assign the value +0.5 to any positive sample (bit value 0) and -0.5 to any negative sample (bit value 1). The maximum quantization error ε with one bit is 50% (± 0.5). Clearly we need more bits.

Each bit added to the sample word doubles the size of the quantized value set it can represent and cuts quantization error by half. There is a well-known term for thisexponential growth. Not only does the sample set expand as you add bits, the rate of that expansion accelerates.

At 8 bits, 256 values can be represented and ε is just under 0.5%. Not good. At 16 bits, the set has more than 65,000 values and ε around 0.002%. Better, but still room for improvement. At 24 bits, the set has more than 16 million values and ε around 0.000006%. Every added bit is more significant than all the bits that came before it, up to a point. When does adding bits stop adding information?

A copy can't contain more information than the original. Most digital studio recording is done at 24-bit, so adding bits beyond that in the home audio capture process adds no new information on digital-to-analog source material (e.g. new releases on vinyl). Using 24-bit sampling to record analog-to-analog material (old vinyl) mimics current industry best practices. And 24-bit is a sample size supported by more and more computer sound interface devices, so it's likely you can find one at a price you're willing to pay.

Therefore my next recommendation for creating numerically accurate digital copies of your LPs is to set the sample size to 24-bit when recording. What do you think? Leave a comment.

              Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #11              

Title: Waiting For Columbus
Artist: Little Feat
Genre: Rock
Year: 1978
Double albums present special challenges in the digital transfer process. Live albums present still other challenges. Double live albums are a double whammy. If a multi-disc set comprises a single work, you must normalize the output sound level across the entire set (not disc by disc) to prevent odd changes in volume if you shuffle the tracks. Deciding exactly where to split between tracks on a live album (during applause) is an art, not a science. You'll be happy to have a 24-bit/96KHz recording on which you can zoom way in to make a precise cut.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

100% Fidelity is Possible as We Approach Infinity. Are We There Yet?

A back-of-a-napkin capture of the Riemann Integral. 
The first step in ephemeralizing your LPs is to record them digitally, creating permanent archival copies. This is a step you only have to take once for each of your titles, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Recall that an information-rich map is always better than a back-of-a-napkin drawing. Create rich 24-bit/96KHz copies of your source material for archiving. Why? Read on.

Because we know we can't capture infinity digitally, the recording process is to sample the original; that is, to take a reading of the original sound wave at regular intervals Δi. The question is, how do we design a sampling process that will produce an optimal copy? Many people will tell you that "optimal" is a completely subjective characterization—not so (not "completely").

While virtually any scientific debate can turn subjective when opinion and evidence clash, math is uniquely impervious to opinion. "a(b + c) = ab + ac. Politicize that, bi***es." (Randall Munroe)

Without a priori knowledge about the sound being recorded, it is impossible to know if it is being captured accurately. But there is a proxy calculation that we can examine objectively.

A sound wave is a function F(t) of pressure v. time. Once a sample F(ti) is taken at time ti, the recorded sound value remains constant for Δi seconds until the next sample can be taken. Any Calculus Hero will recognize that, as we are sampling a sound wave, we are simulatneously calculating the Riemann Integral (approximate area below the curve) for it. Dude.

The width Δi and height F(ti) of a rectangle in the Riemann Integral determine the accuracy of the approximation. Both dimensions are under your control. Let's concentrate here on getting the proper width via high frequency sampling. Next time we'll look at getting the proper height by taking the best possible samples.

The Riemann Integral aproaches 100% accuracy as Δi 0. Thus you get progressively better approximations the more samples you can take in a closed interval. That's not my opinion, that's not even consensus opinion. That's math.

Because sound sampling is a real-time process, the total number of samples is less important than the number of samples you can take per second. This is your sampling rate, expressed in samples/sec or Hertz (Hz). Riemann says, the higher your sampling rate, the more accurate your source recording.

So what is a good practical sampling rate? Common sampling rates are:
  • 44.1 KHz CD Audio (CDDA)
  • 48 KHz DVD Audio (DVD-A)
  • 88.2 KHz 2x CDDA Rate
  • 96 KHz 2x DVD-A Rate
96KHz make sense for several reasons. First and foremost, it's higher that the other candidate rates (more is better). Second, 96 KHz is a common sampling rate supported by a wide variety of computer sound interface devices, so it's likely you can find one at a price you're willing to pay. Finally, because sampling theory says you can capture any frequency by sampling at twice that frequency 2f, 96KHz sampling captures frequencies up to 48KHz, well into the range inaudible to humans and above the upper range limit of even audiophile-class speakers.

Therefore my first recommendation for creating numerically accurate digital copies of your LPs is to set the sampling rate to 96 KHz. What do you think? Leave a comment.

              Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #10              

Title: Gallery
Artist: Gallery
Contributing Artists: David Samuels; Michael DiPasqua; Paul McCandless; David Darling; Ratzo Harris
Genre: Jazz
Year: 1982
Despite the personnel involved having a pretty damn good pedigree, this album is lost to history. ECM Records never released it on CD, and even today has no entry for it on the ECM discography. Long ago I bought Gallery on vinyl for its link between the Paul Winter Consort and Orgeon. One of the best reasons for shepherding your analog past into the digital future is that your memory can be jogged. The record labels' memory can't.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Xerox of a Poloroid of a Photo of a Painting

What format and bit rate should you choose for ephemeralizing your LPs?

While it may be popular, lossy compressed audio has its detractors. In an interview, Grammy-winning producer T. Bone Burnett likened its fidelity to the sonic equivalent of "a xerox of a poloroid of a photo of a painting."

[Image: low-res Beatles Sgt. Pepper album cover.]

Nonetheless, the 256 KBit/sec MP3 has become the de facto standard for purchasing and streaming music in the cloud.

Like WMA and AAC, MP3 is a lossy compressed format. (The three formats are interchangeable for the purpose of this discussion.) You can't uncompress an MP3 and get back the original audio. Some information is thrown away in the compression process to gain additional compaction over lossless compressed formats.

Lossless uncompressed formats incorporating linear pulse-code modulation (LPCM) capture a direct digital representation of an analog wave. "CD-quality" uses 16-bit samples taken at 44.1 KHz. The equivalent bit rate of 1411.2 KBit/sec transmits more than 5x the information in MP3 audio, with no loss due to compression. (See figure at right.)

Even a CD-quality copy introduces downsampling from the original. Most digital studio recordings are made with 24-bit samples taken at 96 KHz. The equivalent bit rate of 4608 KBit/sec transmits 18x the information in MP3 audio and more than 3x the information in CD audio.

It is possible to make 24-bit/96KHz recordings at home, 18x richer than a "good" MP3. Gigahertz computer clocks facilitate high sampling rates. Near-zero cost of storage makes compression unnecessary.  But is it worth generating and storing all those bits? Can anyone really hear the difference?

My Harman colleague Dr. Sean Olive, Director of Acoustic Research, is actively seeking a scientific answer to that latter question. My answer is simple: I don't care.

When it comes to information, more is always better. The digital transfer pipeline is software-driven. You may or may not be able to "hear" the difference, but your software tools can "see" the difference and work better when they have more to chew on. I'll use use the next couple posts to try to convince you to seek and preserve as many bits as possible when recording and processing, even if you ultimately choose a compressed format in which to store and enjoy your end products.

              Analog-to-Digital Restoration #8             

Title: Diamonds and Pearls
Artist: Prince & the New Power Generation
Genre: Soul and R&B
Year: 1991

Everything we've said regarding digital transfer of LPs applies identically to other analog source material. If you still have the equipment to play something, you can usher it into the digital future. I recently bought a like-new Denon DRS-810 at an estate sale for $25—a real find—to add to my recording station. My wife's equally like-new cassette copy of this Prince title is now dematerialized.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Altering Physical Boundaries to Expose the True Structure of a Piece

Boundaries help define art.
In our last installment, we discussed how buying pre-packaged music means accepting someone else's decision-making when the physical boundaries on an audio delivery medium (LP or CD) do not align with the intended artistic boundaries of the music recorded.

When you ephemeralize your own LPs, you are the master of your own destiny, introducing or removing boundaries to personalize the digital result for the most important listener: you.

Two relatively simple examples were presented last time; here we discuss two more interesting examples.

            Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #6           

Title: Bach The Goldberg Variations
Artist: Glenn Gould (1932-1982)
Genre: Classical
Year: 1982

The Goldberg Variations, originally written for harpsichord but often performed on piano, consist of an aria and 30 "diverse variations" on it. There is a definite order and structure. The variations all use the base line and chord progression of the aria. Every third variation, starting with variation #3 is a canon following an ascending pattern. The two variations following each canon also follow a distinct pattern, forming groups of 3. The 30th variation is a unique piece called the quodlibet; the aria is repeated to close the piece.

The CBS Masterworks edition of Glenn Gould playing The GV ignores the structure completely. Side 1 is the aria and variations 1-15; Side 2 presents variations 16-30 plus the aria reprise. It's an efficient use of vinyl (50% of the total piece on each side) recognizing the listener's need to flip sides to hear the entire piece. The CD re-issue went to the opposite extreme, organized as a flat list of 32 tracks.

I took a hybrid approach. Using the CD track times as a guide (accurate because the CD and LP contain the same performance) I exported the arias, variations 1&2, and the quodlibet independently, then exported the remaining nine groups of 3 as combined tracks identified by their canon. This offers playback flexibility while accurately reflecting the structure of the piece. One may not want to shuffle The GV, but a good index is always appreciated. The track list looks like this:

01 Aria
02 Variation 1
03 Variation 2
04 Variations 3-5: Canone all'Unisono
05 Variations 6-8: Canone alla Seconda
06 Variations 9-11: Canone alla Terza
07 Variations 12-14: Canone alla Quarta
08 Variations 15-17: Canone alla Quinta. Andante
09 Variations 18-20: Canone alla Sesta
10 Variations 21-23: Canone alla Settima
11 Variations 24-26: Canone all'Ottava
12 Variations 27-29: Canone alla Nona
13 Variation 30: Quodlibet
14 Aria da capo

            Digital Transfer #7           

Title: Music for 18 Musicians
Artist: Steve Reich and Musicians
Genre: Classical
Year: 1978

Music for 18 Musicians is a so-called minimalist composition for voices, strings, reeds, piano  and mallet instruments. Like The GV, Mf18M is structured as a series of variations (11 in this case) which composer Reich calls Sections, framed by the equivalent of an aria, a section entitled Pulse to open and close the piece. Unlike The GV, played as 32 self-contained pieces, Mf18M is a single continuous composition; transitions between sections are identified only by a shift in the pulse patterns and repeated phrases being played.

There are no tracks on the ECM vinyl recording, nor any time information published for the sections. Ask yourself: how does a continuous piece of music get put on LP, a medium with a distinct side A and B?

Producer Rudolph Werner solved that problem by engineering a long fade-out at the end of Section 4, which closes side A, and enginering a long fade-in at the start of Section 5, which opens side B. He effectively cut Mf18M in two to put it on disc.

As with The GV, I went to the CD re-issue to look for a strucural approach for my digital transfer for the LP. In this case, ECM chose to structure the CD as a single track containing the entire performance. I could do the same, fusing sides A and B, but that still would leave the fade-out/fade-in between sections 4 & 5.

So in the end, I chose to remain as true as I could to the composer's intent for the piece and the producer's intent for the LP, and transferred the side A and side B tracks as is.

Sometimes you slay the dragon. Sometimes the dragon wins.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 6, 2012

One Does Not Shuffle a Beethoven Symphony

Boundaries help define art.
This week the Wall Street Journal ran a feature relating that some people believe iTunes is user-surly toward classical music. The two major complaints are:
  • The Composer meta-data tag—of equal or greater importance to a classical music listener than the Artist tag—is often blank in downloaded music, hampering search.
  • Chopping a classical piece into separate tracks for each of its movements invites crimes of playback. "One does not shuffle a Beethoven symphony."
The former is an issue with music labels, not iTunes, and hardly seems grounds to ascribe evil intent to inanimate software. The latter reminds me of the Henny Youngman joke that begins, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." But the issues give us an opportunity to talk about personalization.

There are two kinds of boundaries on an LP: there is the intended silence between tracks, and there is the break between sides A/B. The boundary on an audio CD is the hard limit of 74:44 as the maximum possible duration.

The innate boundaries in a creative work and the physical boundaries of audio delivery media do not always align. Buying pre-packaged music means accepting someone else's decision-making when there is a conflict.

The last step in the digital transfer pipeline is packaging material for export to audio files. Here you are the master of your own destiny, introducing or removing boundaries to personalize the result for the most important listener—you.

Two simple examples today. Come back for two more complex examples tomorrow.

          Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #4         

Title: Sweeney Todd [1976 Original Broadway Cast]
Artist: Soundtrack
Genre: Musicals
Year: 1979

Musicals are seldom perfectly symmetric. Sweeney Todd was released on vinyl as a 2-LP set. Act I is longer than Act II, covering sides 1-2 and part of side 3. Restoring the work to its innate Act I & II grouping on transfer was a no-brainer.

         Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #5        
Title: Piano Music of the 20th Century
Artist: Maurizio Pollini

Genre: Classical
Year: 1979

20 Jahrhundert is a mammoth 5 LP box set. Ignoring the 5 or 10 part grouping inferred from the physical packaging, a more natural arrangement emerged around the seven composers whose work is performed. In effect, I produced a "title" for each composer. Grouping the movements of some of the finer-grained short pieces into a whole (e.g. Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces, op. 19, whose total running time is just over 5 minutes) also made sense.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Modern Playback: Lossless Digital Audio Streaming through the Fog

I am not so much interested in getting my albums back in the rotation as I am in getting rid of them, just like I got rid of my audio CDs.

OK, I didn't "get rid" of the CDs. I transferred their content to 16/44.1 lossless WAV files, then retired all those jewel boxes and cardboard sleeves to a closet with the rest of my no-longer-needed install discs. That reclaimed much-needed shelf space, simplified the main audio stack by eliminating the need for a CD player, and created a new world of playback options.

Playback from physical media by dedicated players is 20th century. The CD player is obsolete. When music is captured in bits and streamed digitally, virtually any electronic device can be a player to varying degrees. (I'm convinced digital video streaming will eventually obsolete the Blu-Ray player and TV DVR, too.)

Protocols like Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and AirPlay enable computers, network-aware audio components, and hand-held devices to organize dynamically as:
  • Digital Music Servers (DMS)
  • Digital Music Players (DMP)
  • Digital Music Renderers (DMR)
  • Digital Music Controllers (DMC)
A DMR is a limited type of DMP that cannot locate content on its own. It must be set up by a third partythe DMC.

Once devices have connected, digital audio can stream from DMS to DMP/DMR via standard network transportif not through "the cloud," then certainly through "the fog" (the wireless cloud inside your house).

Any computer in my house can send music to any other computer. Computers can send music to the networked audio video receiver (AVR) in the den. My smartphone can play files stored on computer. Computers or the AVR can play files stored on phones.

My preferred playback configuration is a UPnP smartphone app acting as a DMC, directing the AVR as a DMR to play WAV files accessed through the computer in my office as a DMS. All wireless and controlled from wherever in the house my phone and I happen to be, a solution more elegant than any point-to-point wireless audio gizmo. (The AVR controls audio distribution to speaker sets in various locations. I most often listen to music in the kitchen/dining area during meal prep and enjoyment, or outside on the patio when it isn't Michigan winter.)

This is playback at its most flexible, most powerful and most convenient: over 750 GB of indexed uncompressed audio—my entire dematerialized library—literally in the palm of my hand. And there is no reason why music currently confined to LPs can't join the digital party in a way that preserves the unique sonic characteristics of vinyl.

Then the physical LPs can join their CD brethren in retirement.

               Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #3              

Title: Einstein on the Beach
Artist: Phlip Glass Ensemble
Genre: Opera
Year: 1978

A funny thing happens when you ephemeralize an LP from a physical object into streaming bits—the particulars of its pedigree become less important. The Fog doesn't care whether my Philip Glass bits originated with the cool indie Tomato Records box set or the mass market Sony Classics re-issue. (For the record, my bits came from the former but the album art above came from the latter.) So, with your digital transfer safely stored, you are free to find a collector willing to pay a premium for a late 70s cultural artifact.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

LPs and CDs are Just Install Discs for Music

Rather than being crushed as a relic of the past, vinyl can be an active participant in the digital music future. Let me explain.

Before I embraced my inner Detroit-ness and got into the automotive business, I worked for a CAD software company.

When I started, our products were mostly delivered as "shrink-wrapped software"—a sealed box containing a CD and a manual. You used the CD to install the software, then put it in back in the box and stored the package in a closet never to be seen again (barring the need to re-install after disaster).

In later years it became more common for customers to download an installer and purchase an authorization key to enable use. Today many software products have now been replaced with cloud-based software services, requiring no local installation.

The parallel to music is obvious. The industry has evolved from physical media to digital downloads to cloud-based streaming.

Now that dematerialized play is the norm in my house, my preferred delivery mechanism for music is a download in lossless format. If a lossless download is not available, I reluctantly purchase a CD. The CD is used exactly once, to "rip" its content to the Library, then stored away in a cabinet never to be seen again.

Basically, the audio CD has been reduced to an install disc for music.

If you enjoy the sonic characteristics of vinyl but want the cool features of dematerialized play, the LP can just as straightforwardly be a music install disc for a given title, using a high-quality digital transfer process. For me, that covers all music purchased before 1985 or so. But an LP can be used to install new releases from artists like The Black Keys, She & Him, Leonard Cohen, Wilco, and the late Amy Winehouse — all available on vinyl.

While ripping a CD is a mindless install operation — a background task — the LP install process requires your full attention: recording at high resolution, carefully repairing old wear-and-tear, meticulously isolating and labeling tracks for export, and studiously suppying metadata. An LP is "decidedly invonvenient, which is the very reason it appeals." (Eric Felton)

Another example of how CDs and LPs are fraternal, but not identical twins.

               Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #2              

Title: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Artist: Vince Guaraldi Trio
Genre: Jazz/Christmas
Year: 1965

There are two CD copies of A Charlie Brown Christmas somewhere in my house. But when it came time to install this title in my dematerialized Library, I decided to dub the old LP copy rather than ripping a CD. Like the homely Christmas tree selected by Charlie Brown, all the LP needed was a little love to make it shine.

© 2012 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.