Back in 2009 I migrated my digital music off CDs. The music lives on a Mac Pro and I play it through iTunes, digital out via USB to a high-end audio system. I’ve become unhappy with the setup. The biggest problem is iTunes, which I’ve come to loathe; but that’s not all.
[Update: If you’re interested in this stuff, do not fail to read the comments. Tons of ideas there.]
Requirements · Mine are a little unusual because I insist on storing the music losslessly; also because I don’t want to send it all over the house a la Sonos. But they’re also simple; I just want to point at a recording or playlist or something streaming off the Net and say “play that right now” and have it play, right then.
iTunes · It’s always been kinda klunky and awkward: too many clicks to anywhere, opaque button labels, unsettlingly like Windows. We all used it anyhow because that’s where the music was. But recently it’s reached the point where I sigh every time I fire iTunes up and prepare to wait.
My #1 complaint is that when I just want to listen to some music, iTunes gets in my way. If it isn’t actually running it takes forever to start. Then, unreasonably often, it wants to update itself. Then maybe it decides it needs to reindex, or tell me about Ping, or do some genius-bar stuff, all of which get between me and my music.
Let me put it this way: Playing a song on iTunes often takes longer than it did to get the CD off the shelf, slide the player’s drawer out and in, and wait for the music to start.
I think I’ve been influenced by the music apps on my Android devices. The iOSians tell me theirs is better, but I can tell you that I have two or three different programs on my Galaxy Tab which get me to the music immensely faster than iTunes running on a large dual-quad-core “personal computer”.
Now, consider all the things iTunes is: a music and video player, a podcatcher, an online music-and-apps-and-books store, a social network, an AI, a mobile-device manager, and probably more. Maybe lightweightness along with all that is too much to ask. It’s just unfortunate for me that the tool I’d like to spin tunes with lives in the sprawling mansion at the center of Apple’s mobile/media plantation.
What I Want · There are already tons of cloud-based music services and doubtless more coming; I personally spend most time with thesixtyone. But surely the days of “having a music collection” are not over, and there will remain a market (as in, yes, I’d pay for it) for something that will just get out of the damn way and play the damn music.
The Hardware · I’m becoming irritated by the big living-room Mac Pro in its capacity as music box. Earlier in the process, I noted that it was pretty quiet. I don’t think so any more; we’ve done some work and taken the ambient noise in the room down, and it’s become obvious that the Pro does not do audiophile-level silent running; I have to close the cabinet door and turn its screen off to get the hum down to a tolerable level, which means that if I want to glance at the album art or whatever, I can’t.
So, I dunno; maybe a Mac Mini, or something that’s not a computer? A smart media-savvy Google colleague suggested a Sonos even if I don’t care about multi-room. And there’s audiophile gear, for example Olive.
More investigation is required. I haven’t figured out what the right next step is, but I’m sure that I can do better than I am right now, hardware and software both.