You spin me ’round. Not like a record, baby, but a hard drive platter. My music library currently resides on a 3TB Lacie Rugged. Its orange bumpers protect against short drops. A second full-size desktop Lacie drive handles back-ups.
The FLAC files that make up this local library didn’t come from the ether. Two per cent came from Bandcamp; half as much again from Tidal’s own download store. The rest – a whopping 97% – were sourced from CD rips. Why?
Reason #1: I prefer to own music. Actually, let me rephrase that: I prefer a music collection that no-one can take away from me. Streaming means renting. I don’t own the music I play. If my chosen streaming service folds, ‘my’ library goes up in smoke. CDs provide a sense of permanence.
Reason #2: CDs contain lossless audio but Spotify streams do not — they’re lossy encoded. So too are Apple Music streams. Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon and Deezer each offer a lossless streaming tier but none can match Spotify on sheer breadth of contemporary music coverage.
Reason #3: A substantial chunk of the music I want to listen to isn’t available on streaming services. Not just new releases or deep catalogue titles but albums getting the deluxe/anniversary edition treatment where the original release’s (almost always) more dynamic sounding master gets replaced by the newer, hotter version.
Reason #4: Step into my lounge room and you know something is up — not just with hi-fi gear but with music. A vinyl collection lines the front wall, CDs tower on the rear (and double as an acoustic diffuser). Question: with what do we fill our homes when a digital life puts our music, videos and photos on computers (or in the cloud) and pushes our reading onto a Kindle (or tablet)? Many of us like to surround ourselves with stuff: vinyl, CDs, DVDs, Blurays, books and wall-mounted photos. Some see the vinyl revival as a vindication of the format’s sound quality. I’m not so sure. I think it’s about people wanting to own and show off stuff. Our vinyl and CD collections shape our identity. They tell others something about who we are without us having to utter a word. CDs sales are in decline but, if the last 20 years of vinyl sales figures are anything to go by, their revival will kick into gear once they’ve vanished from high street stores and public consciousness. We’re not there yet. CDs still outsell vinyl records 5 to 1.
Reason #5: Portability. Vinyl lovers know what a pain in the derriere it can be to move house with a decently sized vinyl collection in tow. I still have 600 records and as many CDs sitting in storage in Melbourne; I would have shipped them to Europe by now were they only CDs. It’s in the name, isn’t it? The silver disc’s more compact nature and more robust information surface make CD collections less problematic to store and move.
Reason #6: CDs are easier to rip than a vinyl record. We don’t need an A/D converter or to spend time with specialist software to give each song its own file. And once a CD is ripped, the original disc serves as a (second) backup.
Reason #7: Money. For many catalogue titles, it is cheaper to buy the CD and have it delivered to your door than it is to buy the lossless digital download.
Back to my orange Lacie Rugged. Bus power means it can be moved between file servers with ease. Power down the Roon Nucleus, unplug the Lacie’s USB leash and connect it to something else. Last month, that something else was a Raspberry Pi-based Squeezebox server/streamer. This month, the Lacie has been hooked up to an AURALiC’s Altair G1 streaming DAC / headphone amplifier (€2399), which now has an SSD fitted to its undercarriage.
A recent firmware update (v7.x) from AURALIC brought forth some fresh functionality: a standard optical disc drive connected to the Altair G1’s ‘HDD’ USB input allows us to rip CDs: to a network share, to the SSD inside or to an external hard-drive hooked into the same powered USB hub. The Lightning DS software handles library indexing and playback and allows us to toggle on/off not only ripping but CD playback. This turns the Altair G1 into a CD ripping and playback station:
AURALiC products that support CD ripping/playback:
- ARIES G1 and G2
- ARIES Femto & LE
- ALTAIR G1