Those who know me understand my passion for audio recordings of any type, particularly my favorite music. I won’t go into that now, but I will say that it is more than a hobby or a pastime: it is serious. But oddly enough, there are times when silence is my favorite sound. I have to quality this statement, so let me explain. I almost resorted to wax ear plugs to still the constant dripping from my old kitchen faucet. Listening to this constant irritation, I now understand the nature of water torture first hand. I am adamantly opposed to it. In fact, I was experiencing it right in my own home. Even if I turned on the TV or blasted some music, the insanely maddening sound drove me crazy. Perhaps through all the sound camouflage, I was imaging it going “drip, drip, drip.” Nonetheless, I soon realized that “silence is golden.” This is not my usual approach to life.
Nevertheless, upon closer scrutiny of the faucet, I saw that it needed repair. I doubted if it was just a matter of a new washer. I had tried that before. It is a simple fix that even I can do. No, it had to be something really wrong this time, so I called the plumber. It would be $100 for a basic visit during regular hours. Parts would be extra. Times have changed, and prices have gone up, just like everything else. This is exorbitant; would I cave in? No. I decided a more prudent and cost-effective course of action would be to install a brand-new device. Anyone who goes online will see dozens of ads for every kind of faucet from touchless to instant hot and filtered cold water. They are state of the art and impeccable.The designs are amazing—snaking goose necks that move this way and that. Different nozzles that regulate the kind of flow you desire. If you opt for handles, you can get one or two. It is absolutely impossible to decide.
I narrowed it down to a few top brands in the same price range for a basic model that looked sleek and shiny. I ended up with a Danze from this web site. For just under $300, I got top of the line, anteing up a bit more for the best design I have ever seen for a residential kitchen like mine. It is a pull-out model with one handle. I don’t trust the hands-free style. I think they will not go on. I am probably wrong, but I still like the appearance of the lever at the top. It has a bit of an old-world look due to various decorative touches. Some of the modern ones are so ultra-tech that they don’t even resemble a faucet at all. My kitchen hasn’t been remodeled so it is still traditional. This Danze faucet screams new and also classic. It is just perfect and will never drip, now or ever. The consultant on the website assured me of this fact.
There is nothing like amassing your favorite objects so that you can enjoy them at any time. When you collect something, you need to take care of it. Temperature control, for example, can be important. You might have noticed the special machines in some museums that regulate the interior climate so that paintings and drawings don’t deteriorate. Sometimes they are a combination dehumidifier and air purifier. There are many ways that special items can be damaged by the environment. In my case, I have dozens of audio recordings that are precious to me. I could never reconstruct even one if it became inaudible for some reason. It is a tragedy that serious collectors don’t know how to preserve their items. Audio tapes, for example, need more attention than CDs and DVDs. I do have some old-style recordings as I haven’t yet transferred them to the new technology. Once you find damage, you become alert to the potential for real devastation of your collection.
I have found a simple solution for my collection and it is a basic inexpensive ceiling fan. I have designated a spare room in my house for the overflow of my recordings. It is a bit musty in there which bothers me, but won’t likely harm anything. The fan makes it more pleasant for me to spend time documenting what I own. Better air circulation makes a huge difference. As my inventory grows, I have to find better ways to store it. I need a wat to retrieve what I need quickly. I could use an alphabetical or number system. In any case, it is going to take time. I used to open the window for fresh air but for months out of the year, it is either too hot or too cold. In addition to the fan, I have a floor heater. I can spend ours sorting through my holdings as the room can be set to the perfect temperature all year round. I believe in practical solutions to problems as I have demonstrated.
Collecting is my passion and there is no end to what you can record and save for posterity. It could be lectures, TV programs or your favorite rare music. It could be a speech at a family event. I have it all. I believe that someday I will want to access something I heard in the past. Music never grows old so an array of selections from different eras is my idea of organization. I am known in my circle for this vast accumulation and I have become a sort of audio lending library for friends and family. I am so happy that my pastime appeals to others. It has taken a long time to build this collection and I want to make sure it gets used. I know what most of my friends like and I take the time to find it to add to my “shared” list.
It’s summer as I write and the time to be outdoors. You can choose a walk in the park, a hike on a mountain trail, a game of basketball on a school playground court, or simply sitting by yourself in the shade listening to your favorite audio recordings. The latter is the easy way out and it appeals to me. I like to catch up once in a while after a busy winter and spring. With mini portable Bluetooth speakers, I can enjoy my music wherever I want. It is a genius invention—a wireless device that goes anywhere. We all know about putting them in cars to amplify voices on our cell phones. They are better than annoying ill-fitting ear buds that always fall out.
I selected the best model I could find from Outdoor Light and Sound. It is important to have quality of sound with music. Not so vital with the mobile phone. Whether I am biking, involved in water recreation, or floating in a pool on a raft, my speakers will not be harmed by any of the elements of nature whether rain or pool water. The speakers can get wet with no repercussions. These small gadgets are powerful and practical not to mention compact. I love that they come in colors. Life is all about fun in the summer. Everyone needs these speakers. I sound like an ad. But I am impressed. I can even take a shower while listening to the latest songs. A receiver and microphone are built in so you can answer your phone while getting sprayed. I can put it on the shower tile or my car’s passenger window with the suction cup that comes with it. For charging, you get a power cord. Meanwhile you have a long-lasting battery.
I am going to make a list of all the places I have taken them to use in a future blog as an addendum. If that isn’t promotion, I don’t know what is! I can tell you right now that they will be seen at a ball game, a picnic, , the gym, a swim meet, a boring seminar, in a restaurant, and probably when I am standing in line at the supermarket or anywhere else. Music can be the constant background to your life. I remember an old TV show where each character had his or her “song.” Whenever he entered a room, it would play. I thought it was very funny and imaginative at the time. Now I live this fantasy as a reality.
My playlist is honed perpetually so I never tire of my selections. I take great care when making updates and deletions. It takes a long time to get bored when something is new. I can listen dozens of times over and over so it will take hold in my head and I can hear it later in a kind of melodic recall. Kids and teens are really good at this!
I keep dozens, if not hundreds, of audio recordings archived in my laptop. You may be surprised to hear that I also have tangible recordings in the form of CDs in my personal collection. I like to arrange them by topic and the person speaking. If it pertains to music, I cross sort by artist, title, and genre. I have a system that is recorded in a log so I can find something fast when I need it. Everything is numbered to make this work. I love the way computers can do this in seconds. That’s why we have them. They organize our lives when your tasks and responsibilities get onerous.
Meanwhile, I have to attend to my vast collection sitting on wooden shelves. Everything gets dusty and no matter how often I get out my top rated canister vacuum and attach the right brush nozzle, it all comes back again. Plus, it is madness to see dirty fingerprints on the CDs, especially the jewel cases. So while my vacuum is my partner in cleanliness, I also use cotton archival gloves and at least handle them with clean-washed hands. By the way, I use the vacuum to dust off the laptop when I run out of that cold aerosol spray that works so well.
No one likes to clean on a regular basis, not their home, the bathrooms, the kitchen, or the garage. But when you have a collection and you use it frequently or show it to others, it pays to keep everything neat and tidy. Your precious stuff can deteriorate if you don’t show it some love and affection.
Any collection will benefit from attention, not just CDs, although most people have lots of movies at home. I have been given tips such as using a hand vac with attachments (not just an ordinary dustbuster) for quick jobs. The canister has more power as a rule, so I am going to stick to my practice. Wiping each CD or DVD after use with a soft anti-static cloth is important before putting it into its protective case. Remember everyone: dust and dirt are the enemy.
When you want to start amassing many examples of some particular item, you first have to find the space, whether in your home or office. It can be simple wood shelves, storage boxes (thorough clean), baskets, or plastic containers with lids. You can use a Brother P-touch machine to generate peel-off labels to mark your selected storage method. Now you are a bona fide collector. I suggest keeping your collection in one place and not dispersing it here and there which impairs fast access. Keep the gloves and cleaning cloth close by as mentioned above. The vacuum will no doubt be elsewhere. Pick the same day of the week to do the chore so you can follow a schedule. This way you won’t forget the last time you attended to your items. God forbid you should do it too often.
I was with friends for our weekly Saturday afternoon gathering and the topic shifted to acoustics. My friends and I have a bet about what part of the house has the best. I am not including someone who has installed special sound paneling for their home entertainment system. That will surely give you an edge. Where, on the other hand, does the average person go to listen to music? Is it the living room, the rec or family room, the basement, or the kitchen? Everyone has a different story to tell. Mine was the most unique and is the topic of today’s blog for your amusement and pleasure. Thanks for joining me in spreading my love of “talking machines.” Audio equipment is the best in my abode. More about that later.
When I revealed the place with the best acoustics, everyone laughed. I was actually being serious. I sing in the shower regularly, to the accompaniment of music thanks to my waterproof speakers, because it has such good acoustics. It is the best in my house for sure. It makes me sound rather professional, which I am not. Far from it. One friend asked, “how do you do it for so long. Don’t you run out of hot water?” “Not at all,” I said smugly. “I have a new tankless water heater that never fails me.” I explained that you don’t need a giant tank of water sitting there costing you money when you can go with a state-of-the-art unit. You get endless showers if that is what you like. It doesn’t show up on your electricity bills.
So, I indulge myself in my morning singing session and get up extra early to do it for as long as I like. It is not a waste of time, my friend, since it puts me in a great mood to start the new day. Consider it a kind of hot water therapy. I recommend it highly if you are tense and anxious when facing what is to come. Give yourself a rainy treat and you will find out why I like it so much.
I am grateful, however, that no one hears me as good as I seem to sound. I know that it is an illusion. My friends wanted a sample and I politely declined. I will keep this experience private and to myself. I will never record it. I was willing to reveal my favorite songs. It is not hip hop, opera, heavy rock, or country. I stick to plain ol’ pop: the Billboard’s top list. Sometimes I wander into the past and croon an oldie but goodie. “I bet you are great at karaoke,” one friend challenged. “Of course, I am,” I teased back. “Let’s go and find out,” said everyone in unison. We made a date for the following Friday night at a favorite local bar. This was something new and we were excited. At least they were. They expected me to be revealed. But the rest is for another time…
Many countries have committed a part of their national budget to the preservation of historical artifacts. This has expanded to include audio recordings. This effort generally includes all genres of music and speech, including all formats, and all periods of history. They promote local, national, and international conferences to discuss the problems and solutions they face, many times having to deal with laws and regulations that interfere with the efforts. They also provide education in the form of literature and periodicals, as well as providing grant funding to pursue further methods of preserving audio recordings.
The British Museum has a section devoted to sound collections that features more than 1 million discs and 185,000 tapes. The importance of such collections is illustrated by noticing that there is a section for oral history and another for dialects of the English language. While written and printed records can be valuable, the variances in dialects and spoken language, even within a single culture, often tell us more about the history than the writings of the time.
Australia has had an organized government effort for the preservation of sound recordings going back to 1935 as part of the Commonwealth National Library. The division of the library known as the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library became an independent organization in 1984. It contains the National Registry of Recorded Sound. This division is a part of the Sounds of Australia program intended to promote and get the public involved with the country’s sound heritage. To make sound recordings an important part of the culture, each year new sounds are publicly nominated for addition to the collection, and the nominated finalists are decided upon by industry experts for inclusion into the collection.
The United States has its collection of sound recordings stored in its aptly named Thomas Edison National Historic Park in honor of his many inventive achievements. The collection contains an estimated 28,000 disc phonograph records, 11,000 cylinder phonograph records, and 9800 disc metal molds. The disc and cylinder collections, totaling 39,000 recordings in all, are stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.
Yet these efforts illustrate the problems facing those who want to retain the original recordings, both in space and in technology. The Thomas Edison collection is currently undergoing the transfer of the 9800 metal discs to more modern technology (a conversion to storage on a hard disk). This means the original data will be digitized, and the historical authenticity will be subject to alteration without having the original source available. No chain of custody will be available, as it will end with the digitized copy of the archive, likely to be destroyed after the digitization.
These historical and cultural sound recording libraries play a large part in the education, restoration, and preservation of sound records. Organizations continue to make the recordings available online in a digitized format, giving the public direct access to the history and people of the world. Digitization may be the cheapest way both to store sound recordings and make them available to the public at large, but finding ways to preserve the original media needs to be undertaken in order to ensure the history contained in those recordings remains the same as the author intended.
I heard an audio recording recently of a Thailand National League championship basketball game. I understood it, of course, since I am Thai as witnessed by my name – Pluethipol. I stored it in my computer for posterity. Once in a while I listen again and all of a sudden, I am a fan of this country’s American-borrowed sport.
If you came to my house you would see an in-ground basketball hoop in the driveway attached to the house. I selected a Spalding model after reading this web page: https://www.ballersguide.net/best-in-ground-basketball-hoop-reviews/. Every kid in the neighborhood has one, although some go unattended for various periods of time. It is part of growing up a boy whether you live in the city or the suburbs. If the playground isn’t close, dad installed it no doubt when you were six. I do play it believe it or not at my age. I call friends, email, or text “fancy a game?” They laugh and come over. Before starting, I often give a lecture on the joys of Thailand basketball. I can spout off the names of most players. I talk about the rules and variations in technique and plays although they try to keep the basic game intact. It wouldn’t be basketball. It would be another sport the way rugby relates to football or softball relates to baseball.
My hoop gets lots of use as done my rec room, also known in some circles as a man cave. After a rousing game, to calm our overzealous competitive spirit, we have drinks and snacks and talk about the next date. I am always the host although I know many of my friends have hoops.
To keep you up to date, the Thailand National League is a men’s basketball league that consists of eleven teams. Not to be sexist, I want to mention that there is a women’s league of six teams. We must be fair to the opposite (not weaker) sex. The organization goes back to only 2012 created by the Basketball Sport Association of Thailand. The fact that the country has such a group attests to the games popularity and importance in the sports lineup. Interestingly enough, foreigners are absolutely allowed to play. It is not that we have enough local people but that there are so many ex pats around, many of whom play great ball. I just found out that only one foreigner can now play; the rules have changed. I wonder if it will affect the results.
Just like any team in the world there are specific basketball seasons and playoffs (consisting of the top four teams). Competition can get heated whenever you get committed players in the mix. Eventually there is an All-Star team and an All-Star game. If you think Brazilians, Italians, and Argentinians go nuts about soccer, they haven’t seen this game in Thailand. So, you can follow the sport and get scores and stats on line. You can get all the info on the top players. You could become a fanatic like me.
Oops! I accidentally broke part of some old audio equipment that is still viable for today’s use. People recycle them all the time to save money, so why not repair it myself. Why spend a ton on a professional with knowledge of outdated gear. I could borrow a welder to do the necessary work. The problem is: I don’t know how to weld. Small detail.
An unfortunate accident turned into a big ordeal. I need to find someone to demonstrate the basics for me. At least the welder is designed for beginners so I won’t be too intimidated. I could look up instructions online, but I would prefer to watch the process in person. If I am stupid enough to manhandle the speaker on a metal stand, I will have to be smart enough to fix it. Metal is the fodder of welding, so I am thinking along the right lines.
If I prevail, I can use the speakers as backup, start a new system, give it away to a good cause, or sell it for a bit of profit. I don’t want to ship it, so eBay is out of the question. I would have to find a suitable box of just the perfect proportions, seal it, and then take it to the post office. The shipping will cut into the sales price. I don’t have “people” to do things for me; I have to fend for myself.
So I am off to a welding demonstration given by the local high school shop teacher. He has the requisite type of machine. Most professionals who work in the construction industry have a top grade tool. I arrive just after the last student has gone home. He puts on his welding helmet with face shield and takes the beginner’s welder off the shelf. “What would you like to see?” he asks. “Welding.” Duh! Of course. He smiles. He then takes a metal rod and a piece that looks like some kind of bracket and puts them on the work table. “Stand back,” he warns. “This is arc welding, my friend.” It is a process of and joining metal parts by means of electrically generated heat. “Got it,” I piped in. “You are going to see SMAW or stick welding, great for beginners as it is fairly easy to learn. I nodded.
After the demonstration, I felt more confident about my ability to do a simple no-brainer job. “Do it in the garage and wear a helmet and gloves. “Hey, I will give you a student set if you return it.” “Absolute, by tomorrow.” I left with gear in hand. I went right home to the garage and set everything up, just like he had demonstrated. I inhaled a deep breath and turned the welder on. I made sure there were no flammable materials nearby. I set the welder to match the metal thickness and electrode diameter. The shop teacher had selected the right one.
I set the joint for a firm connection and proceeded to weld the pieces together. I tapped the metal and pulled it away. It is like striking a match. I immediately saw a small pool of molten metal. Maintaining a constant arc length, I moved it toward the end of the metal. Now it was time to stop. I pulled the electrode back, waited a few seconds for the metal to cool, and inspected my work. Wow! It was perfect.
The Talking Machine was first patented in 1901 and is more commonly known as a record player. Before the digitization of music to CD and other digital formats, playback of recorded music on disks was done using a talking machine. Early disks were made of wax and electroplated so the audio could be repeatedly played back without any loss of sound or quality. Later, vinyl disks were created to replace the wax disks which quickly wore out.
The actual inventor of the Talking Machine was Thomas Edison, the man most people think about when talking about early inventions. His Talking Machine, created in 1877, consisted of three major parts: the horn shaped “speaker,” the medium it was to be recorded on (paper was amazingly used in Edison’s early experiments), and the needle used to transfer the vibrations made by the source sound to the recording medium. After several experiments and some modifications to the original equipment, a successful recording was made. However, Edison did not see the promise of his invention beyond limited business office use, so no attempts were made to pursue the invention as a commercial idea.
Once the Talking Machine became commercialized by the Victrola Talking Machine Company 25 years later, improvements were made both in the recording and playback technologies. The idea of a microphone was yet to come in 1901, but it is important to note that radio did not exist at this point in time either. Audio recordings played back on a Victrola Talking Machine was the only means of listening to music other than by attending a music concert. Its popularity soared, and Edison would not live to see the tremendous impact his invention played in the history of audio recording and playback.
The original Talking Machines can be found at auction houses or museums, but are primarily collector’s items. The machine itself is not the main issue but the disks that can be played on the machine are largely extinct. As with later versions of the phonograph, the needles used for playback wore out and wore out the medium that the sound was recorded on.
What can be missed in this history is that the very idea of recorded sound was intended as a storage medium, not primarily as a means to play back the recordings. This is what Edison seemed to miss in his thinking, but one we have been accustomed to for the majority of our lives.
One of the most overlooked issues in using digital technology for audio recordings is retaining the original recording’s authenticity. This has been a problem for printed media, such as books and historical documents, but audio recordings have become increasingly popular as a way to casually read a book or get news and information from the world around us. How do we keep and know that the audio recording we are listening to is actually what the speaker said and has not been altered in any way?
Like video recordings, it is often difficult to tell whether the original audio file has not been changed. There are free audio editors that allow someone with very little knowledge of audio technology to change the pitch, tone, and even the speed at which someone is talking. Unless you are an expert in the field, you are not likely to be able to determine whether the audio recording you are listening to is original or has been changed for nefarious purposes.
There is some good news on this front, provided by audio experts specializing in audio forensics. I should point out that this is not a solution to creating a means of audio recording authenticity, but ways we can immediately deal with the problem of audio authenticity in a digital world.
The first approach is to establish what is called a “chain of custody.” As criminally oriented as this term may sound, it is quite simple but does require a good amount of effort on your part. The question to ask is, Who was the last person to handle the recording? If it was the original author, you can stop your search. Otherwise it may take some serious investigative work to determine the probability of whether or not the content has been tampered with in any way.
Even if you fail to trace the recording back to the original creator, you can use a simple piece of technology to listen to the recording and find hints that the recording may not be authentic. A free program such as Audacity will allow you to visually see the voice patterns of the speaker. Now you don’t have to be a forensics expert to do this. In fact, all it requires is some of your time and patience. Play the audio file back using the audio software and listen for places where the audio does not seem to sound consistent. Only use your ears to do this. The audio software will help you mark the places where you believe there are irregularities.
You may have to listen to the audio several times to get a more precise sense of how the speaker speaks, his tone, and his style. Do not place too much emphasis on pauses or breaks in the audio, as the author may have paused the recording while they were speaking and did not edit the pauses to ensure a smooth transition during playback. One area you can pay close attention to, though it is not possible on every audio recording, is to listen to the background noises. If there is an abrupt change in the background, you have good reason to believe it is not a copy of the original recording.
These basic tips will not make you an audio forensics expert, and they can require a good bit of your time. But if knowing that the recording you are listening to is 100 percent authentic, the time spent will go a long way to assure you that you are listening to an unedited, untampered with version.
Unless you are a technical person, it is easy to believe that all audio formats are created equally. But if you are a serious music listener, you know that some audio formats are better than others. Some lose the middle range notes and so while you know something it not quite right with the music, you cannot put your finger on it. Knowing about the different audio formats and their specific characteristics will help you understand the best audio format to store your favorite music in.
The good news is we will not be getting so technical you will run screaming into the night, giving up all hope of ever understanding audio quality. There are two basic audio qualities that almost every type of audio format will fit under. Those two are lossless and lossy. You know this is true because you can’t make up some of these technical terms.
Lossless audio formats are created without any loss of data between formats. For example, if you take a CD and copy the files to a lossless format, the data on the copy will be exactly the same as on the CD original. That is why it is called lossless. The types of files that are lossless are likely to be very familiar to you: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, and APE.
Lossy audio types compress the original data in order to save space and reduce file size. There are a number of reasons to prefer lossy formats. If you are a website owner and need to get your content loaded onto a mobile device, the slight loss of quality is offset by the much faster download speed for the user. People who are running low on disk space may choose a lossy format, especially if they do not hear a noticeable difference in audio quality. Most people are familiar with mp3, Apple’s AAC, Microsoft’s WMA, and OGG file formats.
One important note is that while the compression is much greater in lossy formats, as much as 67 percent smaller, there are lossless formats that also compress the original data. However, during the compression no data is sacrificed and therefore no quality is lost.
Before leaving the subject, one bit of technical information will help you understand the difference. Bitrate, a term that you likely have seen but not paid much attention to, is a critical part of audio quality. It is basically the amount of data (bits) that is packed into one second of audio playback. An audio file that has a bit rate of 192k means that 192,000 bits of data is contained in every second of the audio file.
All that is required for you to think about is the math. An audio file that is 300 megabytes in size will contain much more data, and therefore have a higher quality, than the same audio file that is 100 megabytes in size. For this example, you can presume that 200 megabytes of data were lost in the conversion to a lossy format.
Like most products and services, some people will swear by lossless formats, while others will swear at them. Audio is clearly a personal experience, so you need to choose which format meets most of your needs.
Before CDs there were the default mainstream medium for listening to high quality music and sound – the vinyl disk also known as the record album. While still in demand by audiophiles who are not digital natives, they are slowly being replaced by digital recordings and are likely to soon follow the Talking Machine into museums. Yet there are those who maintain that vinyl recordings will remain relevant for at least another 20 years. So if you are someone who has vinyl recordings or are thinking of discovering the difference for yourself, take heart that manufacturers are still making phonographs, the needles, and speakers to listen to your vinyl recordings on.
Taking care of vinyl albums requires a good deal of attention. While audio recordings have largely gone digital and cannot be damaged, any damage to your vinyl recordings can make them difficult to listen to or virtually unplayable. So here are some basic tips on how to take care of your investment in memory or in time.
Never store your albums flat down, especially not on top of one another. This often results in the albums warping, so while it is possible to play a vinyl album that is slightly warped, it practically can be seen as the beginning of the end for that recording. Stacking them is likely to warp multiple recordings simultaneously. Instead, store them in their original album cover, on their edge.
If stacking vinyl will warp them, it is a certainty leaving them in a warm room or in the sun will permanently damage them. If you have vinyl seats in your car and sit on them when the sun has been shining on them for a while, you will understand the problem immediately. Though the vinyl in albums has a somewhat different quality, the result will be the same. But vinyl is resistant to moisture and humidity, so a cool, humid area should not cause much problem.
By the way, vinyl was not used in album recordings until the 1920’s. If you have an album around that time or before, the material is likely not vinyl but a combination of shellac and perhaps finely ground up rock. That is why they are so much heavier than vinyl.
Finally, dust and dirt will erode the surface of the vinyl and significantly reduce audio quality. The album covers and inner sleeve are there to keep your vinyl safe from dust and dirt. Dusty rooms or generally dusty environments will play havoc with your vinyl collection. If you see someone in a movie blow the dust off a vinyl album, it is only for dramatic effect.