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Can we save music's quality in the age of streaming? (CNET's Open_Tab)Many people are streaming songs from subscription services instead of buying albums, but with that convenience are we losing out the magic of music? Steve "The Audiophiliac Man" Guttenberg and Ty Pendlebury discuss with Jeff Bakalar how we can keep music...
[MUSIC] You guys are experts in the field of audio, and fidelity. I want to ask you guys some questions about the way we listen to music these days, and you guys will hopefully be able to help out some of our viewing audience. How do you guys, people who. Take audio to such a level that most people don't, who care about that, that phonic sort of feel. The phonic feel. The phonic feel, I just named your podcast for you. I like that. So simply put, how do you guys listen to music. What is your sort of ritual with that? I think we both differ. On most things. I'm almost completely digital, right. With a bit of vinyl going in there. So you consider him like a savage. Yeah. He's a savage person. A diamond in the rough. A colonial country, a little bit backwards. A little bit. So when you say digital only, explain that. Most of this stuff, I will probably buy a couple of second-hand cds, but most of the stuff I buy is FLAC files straight from the net. Right, and FLAC files, for people that don't know, that's F-L-A-C. That is the best encoding. It's raw. It's the raw sort of spit out. Right, so it's compressed like a zip file so everything that goes in there comes out again. Whereas something like an MP3, you pull bits out willy nilly almost, just to get the size down. Right, people don't realise how much audio information is being deleted when you listen to an MP3, Steve's [CROSSTALK] Most streaming is MP3. Right, most streaming is MP3 as well, so OK, so we have, so you're the digital guy for this conversation And Steve, I bet we can guess which side of the fence you fall on. Yeah. I'm in the pure and perfect side. But no, seriously. When you ask that question, for me it's like where do I listen. Listening at home is very different, and better, in almost every way than listening Somewhere else. Someplace that's quieter. You're saying that people don't take the time to just sit down in front of the whatever it is? People don't take time to sit in front of the iPhone. Their [INAUDIBLE]. Their new stereo. Their gramophone. Whatever you want to call it, they're not at one with their music. The music is there. People doing other things. Yeah, they're multitasking or whatever. So you don't think there's enough of just like Sitting down, and appreciating what you're listening to. I'm not saying that's the only way. Right. I'm just saying if you love a band, sometimes just listen to a tune, close your eyes and don't do anything else. Closing of the eyes. I've actually- Cuz that stops you from multitasking. Yeah, I've done that. I've closed my eyes, and I fell asleep. [LAUGH] What band was it? It was more like a jazzy Was it Aerosmith? No it wasn't Aerosmith [LAUGH]. They would put me to bed maybe when I was like a child when I listened to that. I'm talking about recently. Okay I can't speak to their current stuff. So anyway some people it doesn't make any difference to some people They'll hear things, they'll feel differently about the song. Sure. How you feel about music is really the whole ball of wax. And you just want people to get something from it. So how- Yeah, to be more connected to the music. The artists, they have worked weeks, months, or possibly years to craft an album. Right. And if you just have it on as you are doing other stuff, you are missing a lot of what went into it. It's disrespectful, say it. Yes, it sucks. These kids. These kids. What do they know. Well, they know a lot about streaming music because that is basically the way the planet consumes music these days. And it makes me sad. So, what can people do? Yeah, I know. You are in a bit of the minority there. [LAUGH] What can people do to get the best sound quality out of streaming services? A lot of people use Spotify as far as the best, you can click the extreme quality button. Right that is a good thing. Which is a higher bitrate than what you get. From the free version, but is there anything people can do to actually improve the quality? Get a good pair of headphones. Yes, so, I was gonna let everybody in on a secret. So whether it's lossy .mp3s or .FLAC files, the way to make things sound better Is to have better headphones or speakers. Okay. That's way more important. So whatever the file format- So you think that's the number one tool. Absolutely. Better speakers, better headphones, that makes a big difference. And something like the latest generation of phones, your Samsungs or your iPhones, actually have a pretty good headphone amp in them. They're not Really audio file quality, but they'll drive a good set of headphones. Sure. You can spend 600 bucks on a pair of headphones and they'll [INAUDIBLE] Right. Because I have a decent set of earbuds that I use on my Nexus 6P listening to flak files and I've I'm super happy with how that sound. Yeah, very soon if you listen to an MP3 file it's not gonna burn holes in your ears. Yeah, you're not gonna die because you do that. No, you won't die, you might die a little inside. [LAUGH] Well- But you're not gonna actually drop dead. Each little hair, in ear, the follicles, the nerve endings. They'll die. They'll die. They'll just go. They'll be like ugh, I'm unimpressed. What about where you listened? We talked about this briefly with you a minute ago. But where you listen to music has a great deal of an impact of like the actual content that you're consuming, right? For me, I know if I wanna check out the newest album for one of my favorite bands, I'm probably not gonna listen to it while walking through the street just because, like you said, I do wanna have a little bit of a quieter thing, I'm not gonna sit in the corner of the room and close my eyes and do it. Like in a lotus position. Exactly. Just meditate. I'm not gonna do that necessarily but I'm gonna find the time to do it where I'm not multi-tasking. I think better of you now. My stock has risen a little bit? All right, fair enough. I think for me, on the subway is basically the only time I can, funnily enough, get some alone time. So Having a good set of headphones and a decent music player even, even if you trade up from a mobile phone. I've had some pretty fun experiences on a train listening to music. Right. If you get some decent sort of noise blocking ones. Then you'll be okay. Yeah. Well, yeah. [LAUGH] Aside from your freaky-deaky listening rituals, where else can people listen and get like An okay experience. You mean other than home? Other than home. In the closet like you do [LAUGH]. Well, you know on the beach or on a park bench. You close your eyes, you got birds tweeting around you. That kind of thing. Life is just a big fantasy for you. Big fantasy? What are you implying? I'm just saying. You're closing your eyes in public places, you're- Are you dumb? Not always. I've grown up in New York City. I close my eyes all the time. Fair enough. And it doesn't make a big difference, eyes open, closed. [LAUGH] That's true. That's a whole other story that we'll get to the next time on the show. Don't forget. We're taking your questions and comments. Anything audio-related, you've got two of the most prolific Audio reviewers in the biz, right here. Knowledgeable, too. Knowledgeable, too. I think that was implied with what I just said. Prolific meant a lot. It did. That quality. Nobody here stuffed the way these guys stuffed. So, make sure you get those in. Right now, guys, what would you say are your favorite speakers and or headphones. I'll go speakers, if you want to go headphones. Yeah, you do headphones Steve. You're the headphone guy. What's a good headphone for someone with $100 budget. I'm glad you're sitting down, because I'm gonna say something. Something that your not gonna expect. You might think there's a safe word first or something. My God. Your gonna throw, this is like curveball Gutenberg right here. Let me make sure. Hold on. [INAUDIBLE] Look at your chicken scratch real quick. It's not a name that just falls off the tongue. So, it's the Bose SoundTrue Ultra In your headphones. They're not sound buds that rest on your outer ears, they actually get jammed into your ears. Right. But they're 129 bucks, they're super, super comfortable. And it's the first Bose in-ear headphone, or in-ear bud that I like. Now, I don't like it, I love that Wow! Cuz you. I think for that kind of money, it's hard to beat. Traditionally you despise everything [INAUDIBLE]. You know, I'm an impartial journalist, Of course, right. I don't despise, I treat everybody fairly. But I used to despise them. They just haven't had a great track record with you. Yeah, everything sucks. Everything sucks. Until now. We found it. All right, this is. But you know what they say Clark was right twice. Every now and then they can squeeze out something good and then they go back making the crappy ones. Alright, so tell us how you really feel. This coming in from YouTube comments as well. What about speakers? What is a favorite speaker of yours? Well, speakers is a weird one because you can get passage speakers or About $130 a pair [CROSSTALK] Hook them up to an amplifier receiver. What is it, BS 22? Yes. SPBS 22 LR. Right. So [CROSSTALK] A feature of those speakers that's kind of weird because Pioneer sold most of its Musical assets to Onkyo who now continuing the brand and I guess America's the only market that carries Andrew Jones or a lot of Andrew Jones products. So, some of these speakers go on sale all the time. Some of the speakers have disappeared. They had a sound base which is completely gone now. If you want to get Andrew Jones speaking, now that he's moved on as well to [INAUDIBLE], and producing some really great stuff. Absolutely. If you want to get Andrew Jones Pioneer stuff, don't hesitate. Get it right now. Grab it, I mean seriously it There's nothing compramobile for $129. I love seeing [UNKNOWN] dudes getting excited about radio stuff. No, I'm excited to get excited about something that real people can buy. Yeah, that's practical. And their thinking that I like to get it but I can't afford it. Right. Yeah. I mean there are other cheaper speakers say from Dayton audio. Yeah. But I don't think they have the Same quality- Not even close. That the Andrew Jones belongs to. What do you think about Onkyo? Onkyo, I remember back in the day I used to check out some Onkyo systems and what not. They make the whole all-in-one [UNKNOWN]. Audio companies like Onkyo It's like vintages of wine. There are good years and there are not so good years. Okay. So 2012 was a nice year? There was too much rain in 2013. Yeah. You could hear it. The ground was wetter. All I can say on [UNKNOWN] is, one of my favorite experiences and one of the things that Clued me into the HiFi hobby was listening to Dark Side of the Moon on an Onkyo turntable. Now you're talking. Seventies Onkyo turntable, electronics. It's beautiful. It's great. Analog. Analog. Yeah, I feel it. But, that didn't happen on a FLAC file. No, it didn't. He didn't get tuned in. You can still experience that. Absolutely. You can still good stuff out of FLAC. You can. Like whenever- I don't deny it. When I listen to FLAC I feel like something that I'm getting something that most people aren't. You are. You are but the thing is you literally do not know what your missing. With MP3's. Right. Yeah. It's like if you only had. You would know. Frozen orange juice and never actually had an actual fresh Squeezed oranges? Your tongue doesn't know. Hey, frozen orange juice is fine. It tastes great. Yeah. Yeah, cuz you don't know what an actual orange tastes like. Okay, how about this? What is the- Sorry. What is the lowest- Is that unfair? No. It's not. It's a little unfair. All right, sure. Exaggerate for a- Not the Evan Collins. I never called you a snob. Steve, but you're a bit of a snob. No, it's because I care. Because you care and you listen. See look. I'm covered. I could just sit at my house and say I don't care about you guys. I've got all I need. I do this because I'm trying to help People. You're spreading the love. I am, certainly. Through sound. I'm spreading everything, as wide as possible. Okay, fair enough. How do I pivot out of that, I'm not sure. [LAUGH] What about sound bars? [UNKNOWN] go back to the start. Sound bars See, umpires, they catch a lot of heat because some people say they're crap, some people swear by them. What's a quick take on them? I used to swear at them and now I think there's a number, every now and then, that I admire. They've come a really Long way. So you are happy? I am especially for movies, I'm generally less happy with their sound for music but for movies? Is there one you recommend for under $100? No. No, ok that is good to know. Ok you want a sound bar you got to spend a little more money. You got to spend at least $200. Ok name a brand real quick. LG has got some really good stuff at the moment, Pioneer if you can still get Pioneer stuff. That is good. Yamaha stuff is good. That's pretty much it- I'm learning a lot. Yeah. I actually had to take some note because people are asking me about that one. Of course. I believe we have questions from the live audience. Let's check in with Mike. Hi guys. So we have a few comments about sound from people. Melissa says, I do think a bit it must be a phone for sure, mostly on her hearing. And [INAUDIBLE] said, he just wishes Apple music and the music app were separated. Pete says that he misses the attention given to album packaging, some people are still trying, he used Tool, Beyonce, etc. as examples, and Paul has a question. He says that he has [INAUDIBLE] speakers, he's a [INAUDIBLE] high end servant He was wondering if you guys thinks more music services are coming on the horizon. Probably not. The big one, or the big rumor this week, was that Apple is supposedly in talks to buy Tidal. So I think that what's gonna happen is you're gonna see consolidation of music services. Yeah. Because there's a lot. Particularly in Europe there's people like Deezer and Wimp became. Title. And it was its own brand for a while. So it's going to get smaller rather than bigger. I can see people being really boutiquey and collating and And being like that but they're not gonna make much money. You missed your big opportunity. You just went right past it. The whole rune thing. Rune. I love Rune. Rune is a very tweaky hi-fi system which integrates Media on your hard drive with title, makes them in to one library. Wow. Great service, amazing interface, costs $500. Well that's for a lifetime. [CROSSTALK] That could be a hundred years. Well I love the service, I'm still trying to convince I like Bo's influence. [LAUGH] Right? Anything's possible. Do you guys ever think a Spotify would turn the flag switch on? Sure. Yeah? I feel like I would pay more money per month. You would pay for it. How much? I pay $5. Seriously double. Right now, what's Spotify? $10? What'd you pay, 20? I paid 15, I don't think I paid 20. I paid 20 for Tidal and I love it. I got rid of Spotify just because I don't use it. The stigma associated with Tidal is understandable, for sure. Unhealthy stench. What's that? The stench. Yeah, the stench emanating, right? But at the same time the service is great. The service is really good, it's just because of all the- The politics around it. Yeah. Yeah, I feel like I would definitely pay 15 a month for Spotify. Tidal is 20? Yeah. Yeah, see, that's kind of the threshold for me. Right. I just think streaming flat is such a rad idea. Right. I was super psyched when Tidal came along and said they were doing that. But then all that other stuff happened and kind of left a bad taste. Right. But on your Spotify, do you put stuff on your phone? Do you download to your phone much? I don't. Why not? Should I? I do, yeah. I've never really found myself in a situation where, I mean I also do have the FLAC stuff that I've bought loaded onto my phone. Okay. So that's kind of where I balance everything. So you still buy and download? I do. Not often, but I do. Yeah, out of guilt. Out of guilt and yeah. Good. Pity that kind of thing. I prefer the guilt, anything that gets you to support living bands. Make them say hey guys, it's ok make more records because somebody will, Jeff. Will actually buy. It's true and to that point someone in the chat room brough up the lost art packaging and that kind of experience of opening the record, opening the cd. Yeah. You know I struggle with that because I used to love that. Growing up buy the new No Effect Cd, flipping through the thing, find whatever. Yeah. Saying what are they saying in that song, what is this. What are these awful photos they decided to include in the booklet, that is interesting. That is a weird stamp they have on the CD, that is weird. Yeah I miss that, but just like a book cover I just kinda learned to let it go. Let it go. If you love it set it free. So not to say But something is lost It's lost, I think a band or a group of whoever artist have a tougher time communicating there personality, I think like that kinda lost in the whole thing, music video I guess are still the thing on You Tube. They're nowhere near as prevalent as they were in the 80s and 90s. I feel like, that communication is kind of lost. So. Right. Well. Thank you so much for being here. Steve, we have to say goodbye to you. And take a break. When we come back, someone different is going to be sitting where you are at. All right. Can they fill my shoes? Definitely not because you have such huge feet. Right. 13 y. Where can people follow you on Twitter? [COUGH] AudiophiliacMan. @AudiophiliacMan. Reach out to Steve on Twitter if you want any more audio questions. [MUSIC]