Monday, July 16, 2007

In Defense of The iPod

This will probably be one of the last times anyone will defend the iPod in a blog ever; especially since iPhone-bashing will become the new craze.

But, defend the bloody thing I will, because people I otherwise respect, musically speaking, keep taking it upon themselves to trash what has become one of the most indispensable toys I've ever bought.

People like palDeni, who, while posting about the joys and virtues of buying albums on vynil, still takes time out to trash-talk iPod owners.

Normally, I wouldn't care, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that there's been a dearth of personal rants on this blog lately, and this seems to've given me a head of steam, so here goes:

1) "I don't want to spend all that money when I already have a turntable/boombox/home stereo system/walkman."

Fair enough, but then, for those who do not have a turntable, buying one can be as prohibitive as buying an iPod...and considering that most of the population essentially liquidated their album collections in the switch to the CD format...

So really, the only comparison here is to the CD Walkman, which were equally pricey when they first showed up on the market...Now, the antiPods would have you believe that the sound quality's better (I'll get to that shortly), and the obvious retort is simply "I don't have to carry 3 - 15 CDs for a full day's listening anymore."

2) "Sound quality on the ipod is for shit." Or as Deni states, "[listening to music on your]iPod makes it sound like you are listening to it on an AM radio."

Uhm, yeah...considering the antiPods claim to've never used one of these things, one wonders how they tried it out...In a store display where others have been screwing with the dials? A friend blasts a song selection for them? How?

That tangent aside, I think these critics assume that iTunes (not to be confused with the iPod itself, even if they're essentially married to each other, another point for later) only transfer songs in the inferior MP3 format. Again, wrong.

The iPod owner has a choice when first using it, transfer using MP3, or using Apple's AAC(m4a) format. This format takes up more space than the MP3 format does, and the reason is quality. Most people are concerned with making the most of what space they have, so they switch to the nearly universal MP3. Real music aficionados stick with the m4a, which is akin to CD quality recordings. Especially with the more advanced headphones out there. (Earbuds rule.)

Even so, the MP3 format isn't as horrendous as statements like Deni's make it out to be.

(While I'm here: Sound quality on cassette tapes isn't the best, but it brought us the Mixed Tape, didn't it? iTunes has made the entire mixing phenomenon soooo much easier to do, and that can't be wrong.)

3) Earlier in the same paragraph, Deni states: "Not having anything to open or the lack of having a cover to look at the first time you sit and listen to an album just doesn't appeal to me."

It doesn't appeal to me either, and probably not most audiofiles.

Here, Deni makes the fetishists' argument about ownership of music. Which excludes people who are tired of dedicating so much storage space to either vynil or CDs.

And again, this is personal preference, not the object's fault.

Me, I'm a confessed fetishist. I too love the process of opening up the CD/Album and looking at the artwork, and the excitement of placing it is onto/into the stereo is palpable. Equally important is protection against the digital revolution's tendency to either break down or get completely erased. Should either of these things happen, I wanna know that I can get the majority of it back in there at the same level of quality as before.

But I'm not about to start yelling at people to keep on buying the damn things. It's like convincing Deni to abandon his Braves, or getting JJ to stop liking football, Lyam from talking about SGM, or Stine from enjoying sex. Just not gonna happen.

3a) The thing about buying it online, beyond mere convenience, is that, as is becoming increasingly true, you get to cull the wheat from the chaff. I mean, seriously, we've all bought albums that had one great song while the rest sucked ass. Even from artists you know and love.

At $20 a pop, that's too much of a gamble to spend on either CDs or vynil. Buck a song starts looking pretty good for the general populace.

But all of that has more to do with the music industry than with the iPod, or iTunes, the real target of this critique...iTunes is serving as an accelerant, sure, but we'd still be talking about this had Napster remained a force to be reckoned with.

4) The iPod breaks down frequently.

Can you name any piece of technology that doesn't? I've had to reboot this bloody computer twice today, and yet I'm not griping about's part of the price tag.

Besides, I've only experienced one instance of a "typical" breakdown: The frozen iPod. I was doing something non-music related and it froze. Couldn't turn it off, and the fact that there isn't a physical reset option is kinda frustrating. I had to wait for the batteries to die down in order to recharge it.

However, when I did, it ran beautifully again.

And what if that hadn't worked? I could mail it back to Apple, and they'll charge me $50 for my trouble (as long as it is fixable).

Compare that price to doing the same with a DVD player, home stereo system, or laptop...

5) Not a rebuttal, but stressing the value of not carrying music around with me...

Do you have any idea how many CDs I've lost or damaged because I had to bring it with me? Can you imagine the cost the iPod has saved me even in less than a year of usage?

"Well, maybe you shouldn't bring so much music with you."

You're missing the point. The point is accessibility. But if you want to limit your choices to 3 cds a day, that's your prerogative.

I'll stop here, even though I could start going off about video capabilities, the value of podcasts, and iPod's new downloadable dishwashing feature...

Anyway, antiPods, just drop it. Your vehemence is about as tin-eared as blog entries extolling the virtues of the things. You don't like it, fine.

Your arguments, however, are baseless, so, really, just drop it, okay?


At 5:20 PM, Blogger ~A~ said...

I don't have an iPod but I do have a Sony Ericsson w180i phone that I use as my digital music player and I use the crap out of it. A lot of my tunes are not kid friendly so it's the only way I can listen to my music and protect their ears as long as I can.

Digital music is heaven sent for today's mothers.

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Stine said...

Poo poo on the anti-pods. I almost typed anti-pads, but that would have been a different coversation.

I just got done this very day organizing new songs Ly put on the pod, into Stine's little musical extravaganza. It was very cathartic.

And I could give up sex if I really had to. It could happen.

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Joe said...

You know that Deni is one of my best friends in the world, but his status as the most vehement of anti-pods just pisses me off for some reason.

I'm not asking him to get one for himself--'cause I don't ever actually see that happening--I just want him to stop telling me that mine is crap.

Podcasts rock, by the way. Fucking love them, even when I'm having trouble hearing them on a noisy subway train.

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Kate said...

You didn't really address, however (maybe in point "4", but not directly) Apple's stance as a proponent of built in obsolescence. That stance really pisses me off in a time where we should be beginning to know better than to be tossing our resources into a landfill as quickly as we can.

At 11:43 PM, Blogger Deni said...

Well, let me just say a few things.....

My rants against iPods have been spurred on by being told at a minimum of once a week to get an iPod. I never said a word until people started bothering me about it all the fucking time. And despite his claims to the contrary, one Mr. Joe Wack is one of those people. He even wrote it in the comments to one of my blog posts ( Joe tries to make it sound like I start screaming at him to stop listening to his iPod when I see him using it and that's just not true. I am never the one who brings up the topic in any conversation. But then someone will say, "Why don't you have..."

The first time Joe ever heard me say anything adverse about an iPod was in direct response to him making a statement along those lines. Or maybe one that accuses me of being "afraid" of technology, which is laughable.

And most people always lead off with, "You love music so much, you should really get one of these," which is just a ridiculous statement. My love of music is exactly why I don't get one.

I really don't give a shit if people want to listen to their music on those shitty sounding things, but for fucks sake stop telling me to get one.

I don't know who the fuck you have that imaginary conversation with in point number 5. I for one would never tell someone not to have a lot of music with them and I commonly have anywhere from 30-50 hours worth of music on me a good chunk of the time. I also can't say I understand why you are incapable of keeping track of your CDs away from home. I don't have that problem.

And I'm sorry you can't hear the difference in the music, but it is there and it is real. Even the iPod's better format doesn't sound as good as a CD, though the difference isn't nearly as noticeable. And even if it was, in that format you can't fit very much music on the thing that way and that takes away the point of getting one to begin with. Right?

Your flimsy suggeston that antiPod people haven't really heard one before is pretty silly, at least in my case. Do the comparison sometime (as I have done before) and listen to the same album on a CD walkman and then on an iPoop, using the same headphones for a fair comparison.

There is absolutely no argument, unless you are as deaf as Marlee Matlin, that they sound the same or even fucking close. Because they just don't.

And some of us just don't think that trading in the quality for the convenience is worth it.

And you Pod People are way too defensive about it.

My post had really nothing to do with bashing the iPod or its users, but just as a device of why I like the other ways so much better. Using the example of it being like AM radio when compared to the sound of a CD or vinyl was both fair and pretty darn accurate.

At 2:26 AM, Blogger the beige one said...

how's been a while.

~A~, I always wondered who the market was for the mp3-phones...good to know they're serving someone.

Xtine, I still find it hard to believe that you could give up sex...I'll believe it when I see it.

Joe, as someone else who considers palDeni a very good friend, I hear ya...

Kate...Apple a proponent of built in absolescence...You do have a point, but, you know what? Their products last longer than the competition's, so that, yes, it is wasteful, you at least get your money's worth out of the machine you bought...A philosophy I find more palatable than reinvesting the same amount of money every other year...

Deni - First of all, when I said that #5 wasn't a rebuttal, that kinda meant that I wasn't aiming at you with that. Secondly, that "bring it with you" argument is one I hear often from the antiPods (if no one has used that tag before, I hereby lay claim, thank you). I kinda wanna know how you bring 30 - 50 hrs. worth of music with you...One of those multi-sleeved notebooks? How much does that weigh, and how much space does that take up.

I mean, kudos for your dedication to CDs, but I ain't going there anymore when I don't need to, and especially if I have the quality in a handy little box.

Now, defensiveness, I dunno, buddy. I'm not the one saying that you have to be as deaf as Marlee Matlin as a proof that music loving iPod owners are somehow deficient.

That said, this argument of yours was the same one used against CDs when those first came out, and now they are the very ones using it against iPods. I don't think that's a coincidence.

(By the by, I think the "technophobe" charge is being made for a single reason: How long were you ranting against cell phones? How do you like your present one?)

Please note that I never once encouraged you or any other antiPod to buy one of the things on this blog.

That said, my love of music is the very reason I bought one. You say that even in using Apple's format, the iPod wouldn't be able to hold that much material in that space. I gotta ask: What iPods are you talking about? One of those Shuffles? A nano?

Because I'm currently six hours away from having 11 days worth of music on mine, and I've barely used 1/6 of its capacity. At full potential, that'd be 66 days worth of music. Not the Library of Congress, granted, but two months and a week's worth of music in my palm? I don't care who you are, that's impressive.

You've never accidentally left a CD behind at a party? You've never had someone pilfer a portion of your collection? You've never lost a CD? You've never accidentally dropped a CD? You've never had a roommate mistreat your CDs? I sincerely doubt this.

Lastly, I wonder what headphones you're using...The Sony Earbuds with Bass Booster work wonders, and are head and shoulders above the standard issue pair that come with the iPod. As a music lover, I find it is worth the expense.

As a music lover, I'm grateful to be able to carry my entire library with me.

As a music lover, I can't recommend the iPod highly enough.

Thank you, good night.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Deni said...

Now there you go again. I didn't say anything about iPod music lovers being deficient with my Marlee Matlin comment. I's saying you have to have her hearing capabilities to not hear the difference between music played on a CD vs. an iPod.

And the point about AAC format is that it won't hold as much that way, and you still don't get good quality, or lossless quality as is the term in audiophile land. I misspoke when downplaying how much capacity it has in that format. The real problem is that, despite claims by Apple, the sound quality is still not at CD level.

If you want your iPod to actually have CD quality sound you have to import the files in .wav format. And the biggest iPod they make will hold less than 20 CDs in that format. They got to do better than that to win me over.

Headphone comparisons have nothing to so with this, as I said when making the challenge of listening to the same album in the two formats, you should use the same headphones for the test. (And yes, of course I own quality 'phones for my portable CD player, I never use the ones that come with it)

By the way, cell phones are still generally one of the most annoying things in the world and I wish my hand hadn't been forced into getting one. Yes, I love the convenience, that was never the issue. But the annoyance of people who have absolutely no manners when it comes to using the phone in public is just as aggravating as it ever was in my pre-cell ownership days. And that isn't even limited to talking anymore. I'm so sick of being at a concert and 100 people are holding their cell phones up in the air to take blurry photos that will be useless anyway. And they all make that horrible photo clicking sound, which is really annoying when it's, say, the guy next to me at the Jill Sobule show and she's singing a really soft song.

That being said, my professional career would not be where it is right now (in a really good place)if I didn't have it. So it has become a necessity.

But again, the luddite charge against me has always been stupid. I am a guy with a cell phone, an internet phone (which we are getting rid of 'cause it sucks), digital cable with a DVR, and I obsessively download live bootlegs as bitTorrent files, the best and most advanced music file sharing system there is (dl-ing an Uncle Tupelo show from 1992 as we speak).

By the way, what the hell do you mean how much does 30-50 hours of music on CD weigh? Dude, it's like less than five pounds. How the hell is that some sort of hardship?

I've never said that I would never, ever get an iPod either. When the technology advances enough to make it so they can hold my entire CD collection without sacrificing sound quality, I'm all for that. I love the idea of being able to throw my CD collection on a little box to take with me (though I still wouldn't buy my albums in digital form, at least until they stop making CDs). I do hope that the people who figure out how to do that come from someplace besides Apple, because I hate that fucking company and their facsist monpolistic ways.

(And yes, my goal is to write comments on your blog that are actually longer than the post itself.)

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Deni, I think the problem is just that fucking everything irritates you. Or maybe not getting high anymore has left you crankier.

And I stand by my comment, even if I'm being a flip-flopping hypocrite. This is George Bush's America, after all.

Beigey, how the hell can you be so damn meticilous in your rebuttals? I personally don't have the energy.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

Joe, it helps to have a screen and a keyboard to collect my thoughts...And Deni quit smoking pot? Egads...He was irascible before he quit...Good lord. No wonder he ends up quoting Reagan right at the top of this thing.

Deni, times like these I'm pretty glad that you're not the subject of most demographic studies...I think it'd be fair to say that you're not a Luddite, but in many ways you're anti-progress, and that becomes pretty tiring after a while. That is, of course, unless it suits you.

Funny that it's only now that you admit to the convenience of the cell-phone, and that really it was the behaviors of most who use it that bothers you the most. Sure wasn't what you were saying when you essentially called it the tool of the devil, and that you'd never succumb to using such a piece of shit bit of technology. Didn't you want someone to shoot you dead if you were ever caught with one? And that phone click noise is an alternative, so again, you're blaming the device when it's the person you're talking about.

I'll leave cell-phone etiquette for a later discussion, though there is much we'll probably agree on there.

And we're just going to have to disagree over the sound quality. I feel it more than passes muster, and I'm not about to go proving it to you otherwise over the net, though maybe a blindfold test next time I'm in NYC (you'd be wearing the blindfold) might serve.

And I don't know about you, but my backpack is filled to the brim with notebooks, scripts, books, whatever else it is that I need while away from home and tending to all the crap I'm doing...It's already heavy enough as it is, and five pounds makes a big difference, both in terms of space and weight.

I hate that fucking company and their facsist monpolistic ways.

Oh, dear god, please. Worse than Microsoft? Worse than Walmart? Worse than FOX? Again, please.

Apple/Mac products perform, they sure as hell don't have the market cornered, and who the fuck can blame them for being sexy?


At 3:43 PM, Blogger Deni said...

Beigey, your claims of th ethings I said about cell hones in the past is just not true at all. You and Joe have done a lot of putting words in my mouth oet the years. My problems with cell phone culture is the same as it has always been, except now it is worse than ever with texting and phone cameras.

How my bashing of Apple's business practices somehow became my defense of those other cmpanies I don't know. I don't shop at Wal-Mart you dope, and I try to keep my only involvement with FOX to watching the Simpsons. Microsoft? Well what can you do? You have to use somebody's system. But with th eiPod I'm directly refering to their attempt to keep users from converting to other platforms, even though you've spent good money to own that music. Yes, I know it is pretty easy to get around (though it usually involves wasting a CDR), but still.

And my stance on the quality of sound of an iPod not being as good as a CD is not an opinion, it is a provable fact. A simple computer equalizer program can show you the difference right before your very eyes.

If it is good enough for you, fine. I'm not arguing that point, I can't tell you what is acceptable to you. All I've ever said is that it's not good enough for me. But like I said, listen for yourself the way that I said and it is obvious. The claim that the quality is the same is just plain wrong.

And why this makes me cranky I'm not really sure. But Joe, you've been making that claim against me for so long it has just lost all meaning. Why don't you think of something else for a change.

I wrote a nice little homage to the joy of vinyl, which can not be done without refering to the newest technology, and I get snipey little insults thrown at me by a couple of whiners. But I'm the one being cranky?

All I'm saying, and all I've ever said, is that the quality of sound in an iPod is an inferior one. It might be good enough for you, and a zillion other people, but not for me.

So stop telling me that I should get one. And then claim that I'm the one that starts these arguments.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Deni said...

Oh, and next argument at my place, so I get the hit count on my site.

At 5:32 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

I was asking if Apple's practices were worse than any of those, and I put forth that it isn't.

Certainly not as bad as Microsoft, the king of selling shitty proprietary product at top dollar. iTunes current stubborn inability to convert to other platforms is a much more forgivable sin than losing all of your old excel documents because the new version doesn't support the old. And Apple's more likely to change than MS ever will.

Again, I haven't told you to get an iPod, and I wonder who had in order to prompt comments like "[the iPod] is the worst thing to happen to music since the cassette player." Your opinion, yes, but you can't say it isn't incendiary, especially when you know you have two friends who're willing to defend them fiercely.

Every time you discuss the iPod, the derogatory comment is usually followed by a slam on those who choose to own one. "iPods are for novice, uninformed, casual music listeners," for example. (From a previous blog entry.)

Maybe you don't remember the rants you'd give when you saw a friend with a new cell phone, but I'm really not that far off the mark. Vehement, man, totally vehement.

Now, it could be that we're reacting to the old Deni, except that last quote was from April of this year, and the iPod slamming stuff was from this last weekend.

And really, it's a natural reaction to the language you use. Could you have compared vinyl favorably against the iPod without any of the slams mentioned already? I think you could, "but what's the fun in that?" right?

Well, have your fun, just don't expect us to not try to take the piss in retaliation.

Lastly, as I mentioned on your post: "iPod stuff aside, I'm so with you on the thrill of buying vynil, and any new music in tactile form."

Oh, and next argument at my place, so I get the hit count on my site.

You're on.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Deni said...

"Maybe you don't remember the rants you'd give when you saw a friend with a new cell phone, but I'm really not that far off the mark. Vehement, man, totally vehement."

That is just a flat out lie or a really pot-influenced memory. I know exactly how I spoke of cell phones before and even now. Did (do) I rant about cell phones effect on society and culture? Sure, but not in the way you portrayed me.

"'iPods are for novice, uninformed, casual music listeners,' for example. (From a previous blog entry.)"

One of my better lines, really.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger thelyamhound said...

I haven't talked about Sleepytime Gorilla Museum for at least 8 hours. So there. :^)

"'iPods are for novice, uninformed, casual music listeners,' for example. (From a previous blog entry.)"

One of my better lines, really.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone other than you, Deni, who'd suggest that I'm novice, uninformed, or casual. It's not that I don't buy your assertions on sound; it's possible that you're quite correct. I simply have faith that the artist's intent and the listener's ear can make up the difference; if it can't, then the former has no business making music and the latter no business listening to it.

I find my IPod indepensible, for many of the reasons Jose mentioned: As a writer, actor, and music journalist, my bag is perpetually full (and financial necessity dictates that I pack my lunch, which means a second bag each day), so the inconvenience of carrying more CDs around would be a pain in the ass. I've actually never had a disman, because I used to break cassette walkmen within hours of buying. I guess I'm just too physically rambunctious. For some reason, the size, shape, and hard plastic casing (thanks for that accessory, 'Stine!) have made the IPod a less precarious possession. And my having it at a rehearsal for Titus this last winter meant that when someone who was a fan of both Tom Waits and Mr. Bungle inquired about Sleepytime Gorilla Museum upon my mention (anyone who likes both Tom Waits and Mr. Bungle should immediately proceed to purchase the entire SGM discography), having immediate access to my music on the IPod was as handy to me as a Bible to a Christian evangelist.

But mostly, I love my IPod because my selections, on shuffle, make for the weirdest radio station in the world. If there's anywhere else on earth that you can chase Bartok with Young Marble Giants, follow that with the aforementioned SGM, slip on a little Thelonious Monk and knock it all back with the Casio-grindcore of Trencher, well, take me there now, 'cause I was pretty sure I and my IPod's built the one and only such place together.

I also like that I might be able to access singles without committing to an album. I LOVE albums, don't get me wrong. Some songs are best heard in sequence (King Crimson's Red doesn't really contain a song that stands solidly without the others--though each is enjoyable in its own way--but is a gale force in sequence), but something like Brooklyn trio Child Abuse should really be taken in small doses, and I'd love to have Neil Diamond's I Am . . . I Said without having to commit to the rest of his discography.

Mind you, I'm an artwork/liner notes junkie, and nothing pleases me more than lying on the floor, toking, liner notes in hand, letting the music from the CD wash over me (vinyl, for all its touted attributes--which I don't doubt--is simply too cumbersome for my endlessly fragmented lifestyle). I like having the object, the vessel that brings me music. It's not an either/or thing for me. The IPod just allows me to do with my music what I really can't do with my books, my movies, or any of the other things that deeply influence how I understand and communicate with the world: carry it around with me for perpetual access and, on rare and precious occasions, the opportunity to share it with others.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Megan said...

From what I understand, and if I remember correctly, the reason users cannot convert what they've purchased from iTunes to other platforms is due to an agreement between Apple and the record companies--in direct response to the Napster lawsuit. The record companies who agreed to work with Apple were adamant that they wanted to restrict access as much as possible.

I don't only use the iPod for music--I listen to a hell of a lot of podcasts (for free), books on tape, watch TV shows, video podcasts, music videos, etc. And when bored, I might play a little solitaire. Oh, and I downloaded one of Joe's screenplays so that I could read it on the train. I've also used that little gizmo as a much needed portable drive, for example, I've downloaded 100s of photographs. But I can't deny that the sound quality is different - but it's not so incredibly awful that I can't stand to listen to it.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

In the course of this entry, which had started out as a defense of a consumer object and then turned into an internecine little bitchfest (certainly not an alien concept for this blog) between Deni and myself.

If, in the course of events, I portrayed Deni as anything short of a saint in interpersonal relationships, my apologies.

Truth be told, I've always considered Deni to be a friend of mine (some of my best friends are instigators), even when he was going over the top, because I knew, at heart, he was basically a sweetheart.

I still stand by the instigator label, as well as my recollections of the past. But anything beyond that is not for me to say, and I do not want to taint anybody's opinion of the dude.

Next: new blog entry. Maybe I can get Les Moonves worked up.

At 9:32 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...

Every elitist diatribe sounds the same to me, even when it comes out of my own mouth: Blah blah blah I'm better than you in this respect because blah blah blah.

I feel no more enlightened when my sincere recommendation of a tech product I like is shot apart than I do when the pimply kid at the record shop rolls his eyes when I ask where the CD i'm looking for is.

How about this? Be fucking gracious. Nod and mutter a vague affirmative instead of telling me why my suggestion tags me as fucking retarded.

Christ, do people like me and Deni really have nothing better to do than piss in everyone else's corn flakes? No? Oh, well, ok then.


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