One of the biggest conundrums in the audiophile world is how some change-resistant audiophiles haven’t embraced the amazing power of streaming music. For the cost of one Compact Disc per month, you can have access to nearly every recording made, un CD-quality or better. Some of the hobby’s elders aren’t much for change, but streaming is a musical game changer that every audio enthusiast should be way into. With roughly 200,000,000 people rocking Amazon Prime, you get a killer streaming music platform included as part of Jeff’s package, thus it kinda feels free. I also personally use Qobuz, which has more high-resolution files, but I could live with Amazon alone and be perfectly happy even with over a full terabyte of music ripped from CD, DVD-Audio, and SACD on my trusty solid-state network hard drive.
To be clear, all things aren’t perfect with streaming, but it is still pretty fantastic. In a r/Audiophile post I started recently, one of the members was talking about his desire to physically own and control the music, as he doesn’t trust any company to be there at the end of the day. As an early adopter of Kaleidescape and someone who has over 3,000 movies ripped onto my 56 terabytes of server storage space, I’ve seen the company actually go out of business pretty much overnight. The Reddit member has a solid point about owning music, although I don’t think Amazon is going to be pulling the plug on Amazon Music anytime soon. My concern about streaming audiophile music is a little different. I find that, with access to so much music, I sometimes end up stuck in a bit of a musical rut. At the end of the day, when I sit down to listen to my Classé and Pass Labs electronics and Bowers & Wilkins 802 D4 speakers, I find I’m listening to the same, predictable Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, or Beatles albums. It is as if I am at a musical Golden Corral with dozens of fatty, salty, and fattening options but I only eat pizza, since that’s what I am most familiar with. Recently, I have challenged myself to find new ways to get out of my musical rut, and I’ve come up with some unique options that I will share with you in hopes that you find some great new music too.
Ask Your Friends, Kids, and Stereo Salesperson What They Listen to and Stream It to Your Audiophile Rig
My old content coordinator from HomeTheaterReview.com, who now works for both Google and Apple (at the same time, which seems impossible but it is true), just moved back to Los Angeles. He’s an older Millennial who is very into classic rock. He might be the biggest fan I’ve ever met of The Doors and I think that he’s is a little bit jealous that I sometimes play golf with the band’s guitar player, Robby Krieger. Brandon will faithfully attend each and every show that Robby does when he’s playing shows in Los Angeles, as he is Brandon’s favorite guitarist of all-time. Brandon is very tuned into the classic rock genre but also has his finger on the pulse of newer bands that follow the same musical path. When I shared with him that I was stuck musically and that all of the music in my recent audiophile reviews could have been played in the cassette deck of my mom’s 1984 Honda Accord, he laughed, as well as suggested a few new bands.
The Killers are a band that I knew of but never really listened to outside of their music being featured on television commercials. I bought a few of their records and ripped them to my drive after giving a few spins on Amazon Music as well as YouTube. Knowing that I am very into Led Zeppelin, he suggested that I give My Morning Jacket a try. With heavy input and influence from Jimmy Page, My Morning Jacket’s singer sounds a lot like Robert Plant. I am all in, as I’ve found two new bands that I feel strongly enough about to actually buy the Compact Discs and rip them to my drive.
Create Playlists of Your Favorite Tracks to Harness the Power of Steaming Services’ Relational Databases and AI
This might date me, but I still like Pandora and for one specific reason: their algorithm is so good at figuring out music that I will like that it sets this streaming platform above the others. I once started a playlist with “Super Freak” by Rick James and just let Pandora pick the songs. The playlist was simply fantastic. Not everything was perfect, but it knew to pull classic funk and soul as well as newer stuff that was quite groovy. Like my philosophy on cookbooks, which is if there is one recipe that I like then the book is worth the hardcover price, these playlists offer an even better value in that if I can’t find one new song or one new artist, I barely paid for said privilege.
Don’t Be Afraid to Delve More Deeply into Less-Familiar Musical Genres
Considered anything but high-resolution, I sometimes will dial into DirecTV’s music channels for easily accessible background music. These playlists are almost never updated and many can be pretty lame, but one that I got into was the better-than-you-might-expect reggae channel. The genre of reggae can be stereotypically summed up by one artist, Bob Marley, but what I learned was that there are a lot more subtilties to the genre. There are some exciting new artists like Stefflon Don, Wiley, and Sean Paul via their song “Boasty,” which is a catchy and super fun jam. I listened to some dance house tracks. I listened to all sorts of stuff that, while not as easy to digest as Bob Marley (or even Ziggy Marley for that matter), I felt like I opened up my musical horizons a little bit more thanks to taking the time to explore a genre a bit more in-depth. Again, this was accomplished at little to no cost, especially compared to the old days of buying Compact Discs on spec, which can get expensive.
Threads and Metadata Can Take You to New Audiophile Music Lands
Some vinyl lovers say that they love reading the liner notes, but in comparison to the metadata available on streaming files/services, there is no comparison. You can look into the artists, producers, engineers, and go on all sorts of wonderfully unexpected musical journeys. For example, in jazz if you are listening to the all-time classic Blue Train, perhaps you dig deeper on the drummer, Philly Joe Jones. He’s played on so many of the greatest Blue Note recordings, possibly without your knowing it. Did you know that record producer Hugh Padgham, who is famous for his work on various Genesis, Police, and Human League albums, was the producer on audiophile gems like Sting’s …Nothing Like the Sun? He was behind creating the gated reverb sound on “In The Air Tonight,” which defined that Miami Vice drum sound of the 1980s. …Nothing Like The Sun was Sting’s second album as a solo artist and is loaded with all-star performers who you can chase threads on. Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and Andy Summers played on this second album from Sting’s solo career.
Digging into Peter Gabriel’s iconic So album you will find bassist (Chapman stick expert) Tony Levin featured prominently. Levin also played on (still is with the band decades later, I believe) some of the coolest 1980s and 1990s King Crimson records – all of which are great audiophile grade recordings that will make your system get up and groove. Powered by today’s best streaming services, start chasing musical threads and see where you end up. It is likely going to be new and exciting places.
FM Radio, Satellite Radio, and Even Podcasts Are a Great Source of Leads
I am a fan of Rage Against The Machine as well as the alternative rock, super-group Audioslave. Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell is dead and Rage only recently got back together for a post-COVID tour. Rage’s guitar player, Tom Morello, is a total tour de force on six strings. with a very out-there, musically unique guitar sound. It turns out that he also has excellent taste in music that aligns nicely with what I like. I found this out listening to Ozzy’s Boneyard on SiriusXM as he had a one-hour takeover of the channel (as Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolf, as well as Duff McKagan, the former drummer from Guns N’ Roses do the same albeit on different shows) where he plays a bunch of songs that he’s into and inspired by. I wasn’t aware of Tom Morello’s solo records or his collaborations with Kirk Hammet from Metallica and Alex Lifeson from Rush, but I am sure glad I heard their jam session. What was even better was Morello’s cover (talk about ballsy) of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile,” which is a stone cold, light-up-your-system jam. You need to hear this track on your system at concert-level volumes. If you are on the fence about owning a subwoofer in your audiophile system, you will get off the fence by the end of this track. Not only is the performance virtuosic, but it is a great sounding, modern recording. So there he was, making music that I love and one degree of separation away from me musically. Thank God, I found Tom Morello’s solo work on SiriusXM. Now, I am telling any and every audiophile about it. Podcast, blogs, or even audiophile review publications can help here, too.
Look To Unique and Well-Curated Compilations for New Musical Leads
I don’t wear prescription glasses, thankfully, but I do like hip, luxury sunglasses. The brand that I like is about as LA as you can get: Oliver Peoples. If you want to look Hollywood-happening, perhaps a trip to the Sunset Strip or the uber-trendy shopping center known as The Lumber Yard in Malibu is in order? Beyond sunglasses, Oliver Peoples has a carefully curated but small group of unique products, ranging from headphones to e-bikes to coffee table books. What I often buy there is their compilation CDs. I think they are up to their 10th edition, and all of them are great. I like the band Thievery Corporation, and they follow that loungy, uber-hip genre nicely. I’ve found, easily, a dozen acts, from this often-overplayed genre (at least in my house) that have given new life to loungy playlists that have long-ago run their course. https://youtu.be/v2QRnutVa84
Don’t fear heading to unfamiliar and possibly exotic locales to find yourself some new music. If I can dig out of my musical rut a little bit, so can you. Just get creative and chase some musical threads and see what you come up with. Thanks to any and all of today’s music streaming services, YouTube, and other sources, finding new music mainly takes a little effort and creativity versus blindly spending money on new music as many of us did in the past.
Share with us any cool new finds that you’ve made, what they sound like, and how you found them, in the moderated comments below. We can’t wait to hear what you’ve found.