January 22, 2023
 by Paul McGowan

At the end of the proverbial day, we all have some sort of musical library—something more than just a jumble of discs.

For some, our libraries live in the cloud: millions of titles available through streaming at the touch of a button.

For others, it’s a wall filled with vinyl or a rack full of CDs.

Still others enjoy a combination of both streaming and hard copies.

I find myself in the last camp. I have my favorite Octave releases on SACD (as well as a handful of classic CDs) and for everything else, I am streaming off of Qobuz.

With all we invest in our treasured systems, they would be of little use without a library of music to enjoy.

Hopefully, your library is rich with the best music on the planet.

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35 comments on “Libraries”

  1. Good morning music fans from icy Britain.

    Great post. Libraries change. Just look at book-reading trends (funnily enough, having a toddler in my life again, plus the financial crisis, I have gone back to using a public library again, and it is a joy).

    I have vinyl records at my ex’s house, pretty much left to my grown-up daughter for when she wants them. I had a nice, big room there, for listening and storage, and can’t forsee that again any time soon. And I’m quite cool about that.

    I have a selection of CDs at my cottage. I really should play them more. Ditto all the rips on my JRiver’d laptop.

    Whilst radio remains an important constant in my listening world (albeit scheduled at times and places (the car) to suit, thank you BBC Sounds), like Paul, it’s been Qobuz for me for a few years now. The range, the quality, the convenience – and it is terrific value. How many companies reduce their subscription price, eh?

    A Kindle has increased my reading; when the toddler has grown a little, maybe I’ll get to listen to a bit more music. 😉

  2. In the age of streaming and rips all being in my library, apps to keep track are essential. And my app of choice for combining Tidal, Qobuz and rips of about 9000 CDs is Roon

  3. About 92% of Octave Records productions (vinyl and SACD), 1500 CD’s (Renaissance and early Baroque) and 759 vinyl discs ( Vivaldi till Hindemith) + +/- 250 vinyl discs with modern music and Jazz (mostly audiophile productions)

  4. Unfortunately available media do not always sound as expected. I have a Queen Innuendo vinyl reissue from 2020 that is horribly “remastered”. Compared to the 2011-remastered Qobuz version, that is totally compressed, both are not pleasing at all. A library filled with original vinyl and cd versions would be fine. I’m not always so happy with the “remastered” versions that can be found on streaming services.

  5. In the picture, isn’t that slim volume on the left hand side an early copy of the Hi Fi Year Book?

    Oh those Hi Fi Year Books. I was a teenager when I got my first one and still have my 1971, 72 and 73 copies. They were among my most thumbed books. I used to love scrolling those pages looking longingly at equipment I couldn’t afford.

  6. For musicians their library may include shelves or drawers of sheet music. Electronic sheet music displayed on Ipads has become an economical alternative. Its fun to listen to a recorded piece while following along with the sheet music score. Especially helpful when learning to play a new piece.

  7. Paul,
    What is the set up you use for streaming Qobuz?


    Libraries for music… we each have a preferred filing system and with our own preferences.

    What surprises me a bit is listening to SACD {DSD 64} when the push is for 256 masters (or at the very least downloads). Maybe the sound differences between the two are virtually non existent in the playback world.
    Maybe a spinning transport system is superior to a USB input.

    In the case of Octave Records (for digital music) the only choices are an SACD disc or a download. If the SACD is the better sound or preferred way to listen and only a limited number are available world wide that opens up a conundrum- Worse yet (to some) the limited amount of OR recordings available on vinyl are even less.

    When the person with all the toys chooses SACD over local streaming, and uses internet streaming for all but a few classic cd’s…. That could and does speak volumes. (Need more room on todays book shelf. ✌️ 🙂 )

        1. Same question for the Strata (I’m on my 4th bridge fix).

          Paul, please try streaming Qobuz on your home Strata (and PS Connect, for that matter) for a prolonged test run. You’ll want your AirLens back yesterday!

    1. What’s the “push is for DSD 256 masters”* There are only a few hundred available globally.

      “Worse yet (to some) the limited amount of OR recordings available on vinyl are even less.” There are probably hundreds of thousands of vinyl recordings available.

  8. For me, I’ve gone from 100% cd to 90/10% streaming/cd over the past 4 years. Sound quality isn’t always where I want it to be but mostly it is. And you can’t beat the convenience, nor the music discovery benefits. I think and live in playlists. I gather with friends and we go around the horn in order (connected to a stereo via Bluetooth — ughhh — or tethered via usb cord to dac — much better!) selecting tracks that play off of what preceded our turn. Last night it was actually an all out tribute to David Crosby and CSN(Y) — I enjoyed turning the group onto Crosby solo stuff they hasn’t heard before. Love doing that. “Traction in the Rain” anyone? Recently discovered “Lay Me Down” from his 2004 album with Graham Nash. Simply beautiful. Happy listening all — that’s what it’s all about!

    1. Amen. I also have large libraries of CDs and vinyl. However, like you, I find myself listening 90% to Qobuz. Even when I have the CD, they often have it in higher res. Yeah, sadly, remasters are mixed bag. But often they are better. (Go listen to the recently re-released Joni Mitchell Reprise years albums. You think you’ve heard “Blue” before?) And last night, I too, just listed to Qobuz’s playlist for David Crosby. The recent albums singing with Becca Stevens are wonderful, one recorded just two months ago! Delightful.

    2. Hi with reference to CSN(Y) and David Crosby I hope you have played “Live at the Capitol Theatre”.
      IMHO this is wonderful. Track 14 “Carry Me” is a truly great acoustic epitaph for Croz. Better than any other recorded rendition. Enjoy.

  9. Apple Music classical (ex-Primephonics) is the only service I would consider streaming. I haven’t figured out a way to stream it that would sound as good as spinning discs from my large collection of SACD’s and CD’s. And it still wouldn’t give me DSD. Currently, not an option for me.
    So I continue to grow my SACD collection slowly each month.

    1. I concur on Apple Music. Because they have the longest track record in digital music, they tend to have anything I want to hear – with a few exceptions of course – usually caused by record label lawyers. The only problem I have with Apple is there’s no way to determine how bit-perfect their stuff is as it comes in. So I use it to evaluate and enjoy in higher-res, but if I really want to listen to something with full confidence, I pay for it and download it. I even evaluate a lot of stuff on YouTube, just to get a feel for whether I want to listen more carefully.

      1. Apple doesn’t play nice with other companies so I would have to use their itunes software for streaming. Haven’t heard of any digital transfer problems with itunes. The problem is getting the streaming chain to sound as good as my discs.

        It all boils down to the music you like. Luckily for me, there is absolutely nothing ever recorded on vinyl that I want. I get everything from SACD DSD’s and some new CD’s that keep coming out. Also, SACD sounds better than any vinyl that I’ve heard on some very good systems.

  10. Here’s my scenario: for historical/collection reasons, I have shelves of 78 rpm records and vinyl LPs, CDs, even some reel-to-reel tapes. For higher-quality sound, I’m rediscovering vinyl, but in general I want actual dependable computer FILES to play through a good DAC and system. Whether I ever go SACD, etc. remains to be seen – my ears just top out I think at 96/24. But what I REALLY like about computer files vs. streaming is the ability to use the meta-data. I can find a Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane performance, know what year it was recorded, on what label, who is playing, then do a search for other recordings with similar personnel. Or I can just say “hmmmmm, today I want to listen to some audiophile-quality alternative rock with a good female vocalist that I haven’t heard in a while”, and I can find it in a few clicks. Streaming it would require some additional research, but I want to listen NOW before I die. Of course some of this meta-data I have to insert manually, but it’s worth it to me.

  11. Records played today: 5
    CDs played in the last 12 years: 0
    SACDs played ever: 0
    DSD albums purchased ever: 5
    Qobuz membership: 8 years

  12. Please come to Canada for the springtime
    I’m stayin’ here with some friends
    And they’ve got lots of Roon
    You can sell your tunes on the streamer
    In a room where I hope to be listnin’ soon
    Please come to Canada
    They said, “No”
    How did this come to be?

    And I said, “Hey, Qobuz boy
    Why won’t you come around?
    Canada ain’t your kind of town?
    There ain’t no hold up and
    There’s lots more like me
    I’d be the number one subscriber from Courtenay.

    Please come to Van Isle with the snowfall
    We’ll turn up the volume so far
    That we can’t be heard
    And throw “I hear you” echoes down the canyon
    And then lie awake at night until they come back around
    Please come to Canuckville
    They said, “No!”
    Fine then, Tidal it’ll have to be…

  13. 2k vinyl LPs mostly originals and premium reissues. Another 1k or so CDs, SACDs, and DVD audio discs. I have about 100 hires down loads. No streaming, I like physical media. The vinyl side and the download sides are both growing.

  14. I take great comfort in my physical media collection. I think I have a good 1,200 CD’s and I’m extremely grateful for that.
    Sifting through a physical library has so many psychological benefits and it brings you more attached to your sonics. Scrolling up and down on a tablet or phone? Not the same thing.

    The other benefits of having a physical library is you know the source content exactly. Most online streaming services don’t tell you weather your getting a remaster or original recording.

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