Music, Audio, and Other Illnesses

The Qobuz Diaries

I spent a week, since the last issue, in the hospital. (Don’t ask! I’ll tell soon enough.)

This is the second week in just over a month that I’ve had to while away the time in lockup. Just before the first “visit”, I received a 12.9-inch iPad Pro as a gift. Oh my god — it’s exactly what I thought it was when first released. It’s a TV, among many other things.

That first week, I caught up on all kinds of movies and shows, including the ever-wordy The Newsroom. (I tried to make it through the latest Avengers movie — twice!) Of course, I rarely, if ever, used the iPad’s internal speakers. I had also just bought, via MassDrop, a pair of HIFIMAN HE4XX (400) headphones. I hadn’t heard them before, but I figured they were cheep enough ($170) that if I hated them I could get rid of them.

I love them.

Open-sounding; just snug enough on my numbskull, not too heavy — kind of perfect. They provide a different presentation than any of my other ‘phones — and maybe it’s the “shock” of the new, but they’re currently my “top of the list”.

So I got a bit better, came out of the hospital — and a month later was right back in.

Oy.

But this time was different — I went in armed with Qobuz. And let me tell you, it WAS different! This time I had much of the music of the world with me.

Yeah, you could get a lot of it some other way, but not sounding like this. I have a Studio subscription, to go along with Roon and a PS DirectStream. But that’s at home.

What struck me as worth commenting on, was that hooked up to the hospital Wi-Fi, with the iPad’s internal DAC and audio, and my HIFIMAN headphones, I found myself very much enjoying music familiar and strange to me. I mean, I know this is not a strange scenario, but think about it — there I am in a hospital bed (in the ICU, even!), anchored by an IV drip, but in my grubby mitts is a device apparently connected to nothing, and in comes all kinds of music — not just of YouTube-video quality, but for real decent 16-bit 44.1k audio, playing into planar magnetic ‘phones. Maybe I’m a cheap date, but I was impressed!

I listened to a lot of ’70s Joni Mitchell, beginning with The Hissing of Summer Lawns. I listened to a lot of Glenn Gould and recent solo disks by my other favorite pianist, Keith Jarrett. I heard Qobuz’s playlist “Traditional Eastern Music”. I heard some Grateful Dead. I spent a lot of time listening to English folk: Martin Carthy, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, etc. Nick Drake, too.

By now, many of you know whether it would be worth it for you, but as I anticipate some future hospitalizations to come, I can’t imagine doing without it — at home, I suppose I’d live, though the very idea of real music with real audio-quality coming into my living room on a whim is it’s own kind of kick — but the idea that I can go into a hospital armed with these two seemingly simple devices, an iPad and headphones, and have access to SO MUCH MUSIC makes it all so much more palatable.

To quote one of the Four Yorkshiremen: “Luxury.”

And it really was.