What have I been listening to, October 2020 edition

I missed a couple of Fridays—and this one is going out a little late—but here it is, another Friday edition of my media consumption. Though this one is less about what I’m listening to and more about how I’m listening to it. My general music diet continues to consist mostly of soundtracks, “epic music”, and some atmospheric stuff, but I recently had to significantly revamp the delivery mechanism.

I start off with CDs ages back, but for the last five years or so I’d been listening to music via the Amazon Music player. It’s not the best player. No arguments there. But it was easy to buy the music there, and for a while I had been able to integrate all of my ripped CDs into my library there. I had an old Nexus 7-inch Android tablet pumping music out the headphone jack and into my old stereo rack components. I know the little speakers are getting better, but I still prefer the sound of my old big speakers. Later that became a Kindle Fire, which IMO is a terrible tablet but a decent music player.

Somewhere along the way Amazon said they were going to drop the feature that let me upload my own stuff. My ripped music remained in my library, but I noticed that some of them had been replaced with Amazon’s copy of that track. In a few rare cases, that actually meant that it was the wrong version of the piece, but that wasn’t enough to drive me away.

No, what finally did it was when I finally tracked down a few old soundtracks on CD that were not available for digital download. So, I could buy the CDs, but then I had no way to integrate them into my library and play them. I still had a CD player, but then I’d have to switch inputs, etc., and I wouldn’t be able to put them into playlists/etc. Plus there was the constant badgering about upgrading to their “Unlimited” music—which, by the way, would also not let me upload my own music. It was time to move on.

This time I didn’t want to trust my library to someone else again, so I went with a Plex server. I’d already set one up for my DVDs/BluRays, so it wasn’t that much work to get my music files on there. Pulling them from Amazon turned out to be a disaster. All those years of swapping out my copy with their copy meant that the MP3 tags were a mess, so much so that pretty much every album then showed up on the Plex as 2-4 different albums with a random subset of tracks. Fortunately, I found my original ripped files in an old archive directory locally, so I did not have to return to the original CDs and rip again.

That’s a picture of my current setup. It’s a Lenova 8” tablet using the PlexAmp Android app, and while it does have a headphone jack, I was becoming dissatisfied with that solution as it would sometimes get crackly or ground out. So I found a Bluetooth-to-RCA-jack converter to serve as the bridge between my new digital tech and the old analog stuff. That’s the little thing with the glowing blue square on the left. The analog stuff is nothing special. It’s a mix of 90s and 00s gear, but it works. The player as pictured happens to be playing a track from Hans Zimmer soundtrack to Man of Steel. Zimmer is OK. I grew up on John Williams soundtracks, but I have to say that my favorites there are from Ennio Morricone and John Horner.

I’m still restoring some of my Amazon playlists over on the Plex, but all-in-all, I’m pretty happy. What’s more, it’s now the family Plex server, so we can all access the same music library, from Dad’s old jazz music of the 50s to my daughter’s Taylor Swift.