Taking the Time to Re-evaluate Assumptions

Up until today I never really thought about using FLAC for my personal audio files.

Yes, I still own and buy digital music (Andrea is the one with the Rdio account). I like supporting artists I like. Plus I’m one of those people who will create a playlist and loop on it all day, every day, for a week so I don’t need a music subscription to mix things up (plus Andrea lets me know about new stuff). So for me, I listen to music through Google Play Music or my Sonos through local files.

Don’t ask me why, but I realized today that my storage situation for my music files had reached a point to make it feasible to use FLAC/ALAC versions of music. Maybe it was reading an article about NIN’s “audiophile master” version of Hesitation Marks on The Verge and the mention of Neil Young’s forthcoming music service and player which focus on uncompressed music on that made me think about it. But I realized that my old habit of always using high bitrate mp3s wasn’t really necessary and I might as well just use the lossless file formats. It’s not like storage space is an issue anymore (I use a 64 GB USB 3 flash drive to serve my music from my router), so why bother losing any fidelity? Yes, I realize that my Sonos player might not really take advantage, but what’s the point of risking fidelity loss when space is no longer an issue?

While I wait to hear back from http://store.nin.com tech support on my account so I can buy the latest album, I realized that if anyone was going to have given me lossless copies of files it would be Trent Reznor . And lo and behold, I had FLAC copies of Ghosts I-IV sitting amongst my music files. I checked that Sonos and Play Music supported FLAC (they do), and so I went ahead and started using the FLAC versions and tar.xz’ed the mp3s for cold storage.

Obviously switching to FLAC over mps3 isn’t a revelation that is going to take the internet by storm. But it does make a good story that it does pay to stop on occasion and challenge one’s assumptions about what makes sense, especially in technology. I grew up during a time when encoding an mp3 took hours. Now it encodes faster than listening to the music. I remember my second-generation iPod which was 10 GB was considered big (1/6 the size of the little flash drive protruding out of the back of my router with my entire music collection). Over these years my assumptions have just continued such that I never stopped to think that my aversion to using FLAC because of its file size compared to high bitrate mp3s and the lack of high-end music components negated the need to use FLAC. But now, thinking about it, why not use FLAC? Why risk not being able to gain even a sliver of clarity at the cost of some storage space?

So stop and think about what drives a decision on occasion? Especially with technology it quite possibly has been altered or entirely nullified such that you need to re-evaluate your decision.