The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Apple is king of casual listening. In recent times it has taken better care in the encoding process of iTunes files. The fidelity is adequate for casual or on-the-go listening. This type of listening often involves headphones. It is quite foolish to spend a lot of money on headphones that are used mostly for casual listening. The fidelity of the headphones can be no better than the source material. In fact, if their fidelity is too great it may actually degrade the listening experience. In other words, what good is unmasking poorly recorded music? 

When I am setting at home listening to music, however, I want to hear it through my excellent AudioEngine A2+ speakers. Headphones will not do, no matter how good they are. I have owned Stax earspeakers and realize how wonderfully transparent they are and how they are able to resolve great detail form a recording. That might be good for monitoring purposes, but headphones do not offer the best stereo image and the simulation of a live performance. Unless the music is recorded monaurally, headphones are just not capable of offering natural stereo imaging. Accordingly, I would not spend a lot of money on headphones. The Koss PortaPro are more than sufficient. They are light weight, comfortable, portable, and have very good resolution and bass. I realize that there are better cans for more money. But again, I prefer to listen to loudspeakers for the reasons mentioned.)

Now let us look at the new Apple Music – first, the Good. What is does it does quite well. It helps you discover new music by allowing you to hear recommended music based on your current library and stated musical tastes. You choose exactly what type of music or genre that your are interested in and Apple takes it from there. It makes up excellent recommended playlists for you that no algorithm could possibly duplicate. Clearly those who are compiling theses playlists really know their music, and they seem to know hour musical tastes as well. Spotify and Pandora are in great trouble!

What  is amazing is that you can compile your own playlists, using music that you do not even own. You can search the iTunes cloud of music and specify what music you want to hear without having to download any music or pay for any song. In fact, there is less need to purchase iTunes matching, because most of the songs in your current library can be found in the cloud. (To be sure, you will lose these songs if you do not have iTunes matching, should you discontinue Apple Music.)

The Beats 1 is a very good radio station for popular music. To be honest, I am really not into discovering the newest popular music. What I like will eventually find its way to me. In the meantime, I am listening to what some will call the “goldie oldies” along with Classical Music and Jazz. Apple Music playlists really do the job for me.

The interface of Apple Music is a little confusing at first because it offers an embarrassment of riches. Nevertheless, with a little practice one should quickly discover how to navigate around and dial up almost exactly what they want to hear in the moment. Apple Music does an excellent job of selecting the right “next song” in their generated playlists. This is where Apple really beats the competition, pun intended!

Unfortunately, Eddie did not read my open letter to him.  No attempt has been made to offer high resolution audio. Apple is making good money on music and probably felt that the time and expense of high resolution reproduction was not worth it to them. In other words, it would not add much to their bottom line. They have left the door open to Sony.

The Bad is that older models of iPads, iPhones, etc. do not perform very well with increased load on their processors. I realize that many Apple users upgrade frequently. Nevertheless, the upgrade is often very expensive. I am using an iPad mini because my iPod touch has died. It is struggling. I constantly have to clean its memory cash. (Recommend such a program for all Apple devices.)

Now the Ugly. Apple removed Home Sharing support for music in iOS 8.4. This means that all my music files I have stored on my Mac Mini is no longer available to be steamed to my listening room where I have my primary home audio system. I can stream the music to my Apple TV, but the speakers I use for my TV cannot compare to my AudioEngiines. This is almost disaster for a music lover. While it is true that I play mostly vinyl, I do like to dial certain music recorded digitally that Apple has taken care to make a quality transfer. (Believe it or not, some digital music has been recorded well and Apple has mastered it for iTunes pretty well.)

What is missed is the convenience of selecting iTunes playlists from my easy chair with minimum fuss and reasonable fidelity. However, I must confess that Apple has offered many features that I like with Apple Music. One of them is to stream all my playlists from the cloud without having to have any music files on my iPad or Mac Mini, This is a new convenience. However, these playlists do not included any music that I purchased and load from a CD as it did with with home sharing. Yes, I could purchase iTunes Matching but that is one more expense. The Apple habit is getting very expensive.