I’m a big fan of simplification wherever at all possible. Over the years I’ve written numerous posts on here about cutting back on media, whether it be videogames, movies or CDs. Physical media was once something that was almost placed on a shelf with pride, in a sort of “Look at my collection of stuff!” type way.
That’s not to say I’m not a fan of stuff, but as Ben Elton noted several years ago with a routine about extra lanes on motorways, crap always expands to fill space. I have recently moved house, and shifting large chunks of my gear has reminded me that despite my best efforts I still have way too much stuff that I don’t need. Most of this clutter needs to go before I have to move again in three months time, and it seems that I may have found the answer to my music, TV and movie needs. Or at least some of them.
I recently purchased the Onkyo TXNR609 home cinema amp as part of my new A/V set up (more on that in the near future) which includes Spotify streaming built as, as well as other internet services.
I’ve used Spotify briefly in the past purely with a freebie account and got bored with it after being forced to listen to adverts.
My previous music listening set up involved having iTunes or Zune software running on a number of different machines, and then streaming the music via AirPlay to an Apple TV. Which is fine, but constantly ripping CDs or downloading music and ensuring that it is in the library on the various computers is a bit of a pain. Yes I know iTunes Match would get around this problem but sometimes you just want a quick and easy solution that just works.
So I decided to throw caution to the wind and upgrade to a Spotify Premium account. All you can consume music for £10 a month, streaming with unlimited devices and the ability to make tracks available offline. This was the big draw for me, not that I am ever that far away from a decent internet connection that would make streaming difficult. But the ability to set up a playlist for a weekend away and make it available offline was definitely the final bullet point that made me pull the trigger. 3,333 tracks can be synchronised on three devices concurrently (yes, that number is very specific) so you won’t run out of music any time soon.
What I love about Spotify is that any playlists or changes that are made automatically update on each device. If I create a new playlist on my iPhone it’s there the next time I login to my iPod, the Spotify PC client or wherever. The big “wherever” for me here is the aforementioned Onkyo amp. Fire up the NET mode, login to Spotify and there are all my playlists ready to stream. And importantly, the sound quality is superb. With purely streamed music through the Onkyo I haven’t particularly noticed a difference in quality between streaming music and CDs that have been ripped to MP3 format.
I have an iPod Touch connected to a Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini in my bedroom, and music streamed from Spotify sounds fantastic. Only tracks that have been ripped in Apple Lossless format sound better to me, and that’s with the volume cranked pretty high. Anyone who has heard the Mini or its larger brother will know it can kick out some serious bass.
I’m currently running Spotify on the Onkyo, my iPhone when I’m out and about, an iPod Touch in the bedroom and on my home laptop. Never a complaint about how many devices I’m using, it just works, which is the hallmark of a truly great service. Plus if I can’t be bothered to fire up the Onkyo, or the internet goes down, I can still use AirPlay to stream from the Spotify Mobile client directly to the Apple TV. So it’s fair to say, I’m liking the service so far, and the catalogue is pretty exhaustive as well. Far better than Microsoft’s Zune Pass service that I also subscribe to.
On the video side of things, like many folks here in the UK I have been extremely envious of my friends across the pond having access to Netflix, but the service has now finally launched here in the UK. Some have complained about the amount of content on offer, but I’m sure that it will improve over time, and given how I’ve looked through the catalogue and found probably a good two hundred hours that I would like to watch I don’t think I’ll be twiddling my thumbs any time soon.
I’m actually using Netflix right now primarily for streaming TV series. I will usually watch the latest movies at the cinema, or if it’s that good actually buy the Blu-ray disc. So the movies on offer don’t grab me at all, but being able to stream some of the greatest comedies of all time such as the still utterly sublime Arrested Development justifies the £7 a months subscription for me. Having Netflix integrated into pretty much every device I own also helps, especially directly into the Samsung Smart Hub. But again, that is for another post.
So is physical media dead? Or have the rumours of its death been greatly exaggerated? Well for me there will always be certain bands who I will purchase the actual CD of, but those are very few and far between. I will never buy another DVD box set that’s for sure, I have enough of my treasured TV shows already in my posession. The only other disc based media I will still purchase will be Blu-ray discs. If I want reference quality video and audio I will always go for some DTS HD Master Audio goodness combined with the best quality visuals currently on the market.
So the physical disc may not be dead, but it is certainly on life support.