How I Listen To Music

I listen to music for two reasons.

1) First and most importantly, I listen FOR FUN.

2) Secondly, I listen to help learn pieces I’m playing on the piano.

Like you, I’m very busy. With a family and several hobbies, when I get a chance to listen to music I want to get right to it.

Streaming

Bluesound NODE-2

Bluesound’s Node 2 $500, is a life changing product. You can stream great music services like Tidal ($20 per month) in CD or MQA form. The sound is GREAT. The musical selection is phenomenal. The combination of sound and musical choice is like nothing we’ve had in the history of our hobby! To sit this dance out is to have your head in the audio sand.

As a bad classical piano player, I wanted to hear a few interpretations of Robert Schumann’s Abegg Variations as I tackled the piece. The Abeggs are Schumann’s Op 1. It’s great music, played in different tempos and dynamics. I own about three versions on CD. When I went to Tidal there were over TWO DOZEN!

Even before I wax on about ease of play and incredible fidelity of Tidal through the Node 2, to have so many versions of this work to consider as I approach the piece- is to be inarguably spoiled.

Horowitz, Rubinstein, Kempff… none of these great pianists had more than a few versions of this great work to glean ideas from. It’s practically SACRILEGE that I, as a rank amateur can have over two dozen.

When we DO consider the fidelity, MQA is as good as it gets. It’s a true 24 bit signal with significantly less distortion than playing hi-res files WHICH COST $20-25 PER POP BY THE WAY. Even with music at CD quality, the fidelity is very good, with no muss, no fuss.

When you stream, you’re not buying and saving files to recall from a computer later. There’s no DRM (Digital Rights Management) copy guard to bugger up the sound. You simply select the music from your tablet or phone and it’ll stream to you in a few seconds.

CDs & SACDs

Emotiva ERC-3
I still play CDs and SACDs. Not every record label has a contract with Tidal or the other subscription services. In due time, I hope they all will. More are signing on every day. For the music and performers we want from labels that don’t have contracts in place, we need CDs and/or SACDs and vinyl.

Before the Node 2, Tidal and MQA were available, I had a collection of about 4000 CDs & SACDs. Of that music, about 90% is available on Tidal. Gulpppp!

But that does leave a fair amount of music that I want- that’s only available via a physical format. Most of that is on the label Hyperion. Hyperion has my favorite array of pianists and the best sound out there today. I wouldn’t be without these CDs. If Marc Andre Hamelin plays it, I probably need to hear it. His Chopin, Haydn & Schumann alone are worth owning a CD player for.

Vinyl


For me the effort is only worthwhile when the music I want isn’t available in one of the above formats. There is some music that was issued on vinyl that we can’t get any other way. Then I play vinyl. My beloved Arrau/Schumann box is not yet available via streaming and wasn’t issued on CD. I’ll happily play the Arrau on vinyl.