In the days before Hi-rez audio…we wanted it and we got it…

How we got to where we are in music culture today with the growing rise of technology, an informed public’s insatiable demand for value for their hard earned 900x900px-LL-1e198959_7208_862f_largemoney in the face of incessant greed, the sad state of audio archive preservation, and the largest black market the world has ever seen. The whole sure is greater than the sum of its parts. This piece walks a fine line.

People have been transferring vinyl and audio in general to different formats for many decades but an interesting thing happened in the late 1990’s and the early part of the new millennium that is the story of an unlikely phenomenon. An odd brotherhood arose in the tech savvy public inadvertently from the idea that artists were hearing Hi-rez on analog tape in the studio but for some reason it was not reaching the fans. Because people were understandably uninformed before the era of the twenty four hour news cycle and the interwebs they were just happy to have the music period.

Through some kind of pretzel logic regular people knew something was not right because at some point moments of audio brilliance and bliss had revealed itself to some curious individuals who had found that they could only in part reproduce this experience at home and they had to know why. Artists on the other hand have always been somewhat disconnected from the world, isolated amongst thousands of screaming fans night after night in different cities and countries every day around the globe. These artists, the greatest in the world, exuded creativity and genius in many ways, having all the latest technology at their disposal and amazing audio engineers, who when working together produced all the classics in every genre that have become the soundtrack to our memories and lives. They literally were in an alternate universe where the outcome of their music in the end was the label’s job. With that said there still was a problem, and as I said a disconnect nonetheless which was even worse in the business of selling music.900x900px-LL-54c3e3af_listening

In the 90’s as technology hardware got smaller and software more complex, with the rapid progression of an interconnected world there was a collision of people in the public domain that knew in theory what Hi-rez analog was but it was not offered to the fans from the record companies again for too many reasons to name here and the people knew that record executives at the same time were printing their own money. Media moguls were living the high life and getting extremely rich off artists and although there were many who cared about the final product of music, their were many more who did not. When you think about it (and this will be covered again in this article), how many times have you bought the same or different format of the same album because it was worn out, lost, or destroyed, but more often because you were often misled to believe the new version was “superior” in  sound quality.

Meanwhile in the world of the recording industry the analog tapes were not being well cared for and many were lost, stolen, destroyed, and so many had just plain disappeared. Tapes were mislabeled and stored in appalling conditions of dark warehouses with volatile climates. Lets just say that there was little quality control of recording archives and further many did not care or have the insight why the original master tapes would even be worth saving. In hindsight the recording industry has been building climate controlled vaults with what masters they can piece together but so much of music history was destroyed and is sadly now gone forever. A disturbing conservative estimate that has been tossed around is that 80% of recorded works have never seen modern technological light beyond the era of vinyl.

One position of thought about all this is concerned with what it would have been like if the record companies at the time had the foresight to install strict quality control and care for the original audio masters to realize that someday when advanced digital audio technology was introduced and mass produced for the public in the early to late 80’s that they could have made a killing and salvaged an important part of our history for future generations. This way of thinking brings us to the next logical thought, what if the music industry released all of their music in hi-rez as a standard early on. Keep in mind that technology did not give rise, economically and technologically to the general public until computers hit the market in the early 90’s, but what if the releases kept up with technology would the recording industry have failed so miserably. I guess we’ll never know.

To put it all in perspective think of the buying behavior of the fans and again I reiterate how many versions of an album you bought on vinyl, tape, large laser discs the size of vinyl, cd, and ultimately digital in all of it’s various formats and then throw into the mix corporate greed, technology, and the collapse of the music industry and the rise of windows / Apple / Android / Streaming services/ piracy and you have a steaming cesspool headed for a whole lot of hurt. It does not take a genius to conclude that there is a massive conflict of interest with the aforementioned postulates and that although they were comfortably numb, they also may have had no idea what they were doing, greed, power, and influence therefore brought on some extremely bad decision making. The logical way of putting this into perspective is that their thinking (The music industry), if they released hi-rez digital early on that would have meant the end of the fat cash cow from an uninformed public. So it would be easy to conclude that the reason the industry is in the predicament it is in is because they had a comfortably convenient reason to misjudge the future terrain in essence solidifying their imminent demise. They fought it all the way never realizing that they had lost the very moment they took VCR producers to court because people were recording tv shows and MTV music videos.

Now it’s thirty years later they’re still reeling, hanging on to the very industry rulebook that got them into this predicament by a thread but although the film industry last year made record profits, the music industry did not fare so well. There was a movement though in the underground that has been percolating since the 60’s and that was bootlegging, audience taping, trading, and ultimately vinyl ripping. A whole society of open source enthusiasts, were introduced around the world to audio trading and bootlegs. Now days it’s called filesharing via peer to peer and file pots and it has pretty much slayed the giant but over the last several years it has become even more sophisticated, let me put it this way the torrent of which only dreams are made. They gave birth to ways you could not be tracked by internet piracy monitors in swarms. I tell you friends it is common knowledge that public tracker torrents are so 2008 to pirates. So out of necessity and with a little bending of the rules a whole underground culture came into prominence to fill a void all the while continually staying three steps ahead of their enemy.

Most of the rips are from needledroppers that remain Anonymous. These “rippers” (Not really “ripping” vinyl but “transfers” is the correct term) make amazing rips with very expensive rigs, custom TT’s, custom tonearms, hi-end carts and interconnects…the whole nine. They seek out and clean minty vinyl like a rug, and in turn transfer the analog signal with little post processing (Some light click repair only…no eq) into digital and they get the finished product dead quiet. Therefore the integrity of the high quality source is not compromised in any way.

So these are the specific rip descriptions posted here and in forums all over the web, many vinyl rips original sources are impossible to acquire from any other means, but in terms of my situation I also have bought and own several different copies of alternate pressings which are all inferior in sound quality to the downloaded material all which I paid for (I did not know any better at the time).

Many Follow their favorite rippers around the web by identifying them in other signature ways. Most of these titles I’m told are found with in depth searching techniques on the net and that it’s possible to tell which needledroppers (Over time through listening tests) put out superior transfers. It’s only logical to have a popup blocker on and good anti-virus/firewall software as there can be malicious 3rd party spyware and even worse viruses. Also make sure to always scan any .rar or .zip file parts that you download with your anti-virus. I’ve never heard of anyone getting a virus by doing this but they always scan.

So as some are asking why post text of specific quality audio files and not links…well that’s easy it’s illegal and copyright infringement. Second it is well known that one does not post a link to rip without asking the ripper…most never ask because most vinyl rippers forbid it. Most are able to be found on the internet in various formats…sure it takes some work but those you find over time will prove fruitful. In time you get to know who produces the best transfers, so you know if you download a vinyl transfer that great care was taken and more importantly that the audio will be the finest quality available. You also get to know which rips are not worth the time, not always because the quality is poor but often times their extraction method, audio sources, or equipment has a sound signature that subjectively does not fit your liking.

Here is where the gray area comes in. Some will say downloading a title is not paying for it and therefore not rational in any way. Many obviously take exception with that because they already own a copy of the album but to bring scientific research into the equation, it has been proven that people that engage in filesharing spend large amounts of their income on entertainment in all forms. Even though there are large numbers of file sharers for a specific album around the world it has also been shown that many of these people would never have bought the media in the first place either because they do not have the access to the necessary disposable income or the media is not available in their respective countries due to copyright restrictions from country to country. Throw in certain countries limitations on freedom of speech, dictators, or restrictive governments with horrible human rights records and the rapid increase in bandwidth and instantaneous connectivity to those across the world, a perfect storm is inadvertently created.

So some will always still say that there is no justification no matter what your reason is because piracy is piracy…remind them that at one point in time they gave their friends a mixtape or made a backup copy of a CD for a family member. Look at youtube and realize that when you watch any type of music or post a photo that you did not take yourself that you were committing piracy…do not take the excuse they have never done it, it happens every day to people that have no idea that they are even engaging in copyright infringement no matter how innocent it may seem. It’s impossible to know all the laws and statutes from state to state or country to country and because there are so many gray areas, it would take a local lawyer to understand the statutes, never mind our fast changing world where there the laws cannot cover the complexities of constantly changing world or if there is even a law that exists. Some will call this rationalization but that’s what makes the world go around, we can all have our own beliefs and opinions.

I get it, if you get all your media via download and never pay for it or compensate the artists it is illegal and there are a large number of people that do this because the media conglomerates make questionable overreaches with a broad brush for the bad apples, it hurts everyone and they are in essence biting the hands that feed. I can understand why they feel desperate because of a dwindling income stream but it’s like jobs…automated machines have taken the places or jobs that would normally be filled by people but people are complex and require benefits and concessions so it is much less cost effective for an industry to hire a human being. So there is a new society where after after outsourcing and cuts, new types of careers are created. Don’t tell me that many of these shifting economy jobs are analogous to those of the past, people are taking work anywhere they can get just so their families can survive and these jobs are insufficient to provide for a family.

The same kind of social commentary can be said for the music industry…for all of us it’s either change or die, there is no choice. It’s not my idea that the music industry should not fight the tide, even they know that they have little control over this other than a silly game of whack-a-mole. So as we people have to change and learn to adapt and navigate today’s world they are finding more and more that they must as well. It’s not our choice any more than it is theirs, the choice has been made for us by a progressive society whether we like it or not.

So now as the recording industry is getting nudged by the new Pono music format to join the enemy as they are finally getting it through their skulls that they can  still make a lot of money if they come along and join the fight against DRM and advocacy for open source. A genie can never be put back in a bottle and the industry is being dragged kicking and screaming with a weird smile on their faces. We can take comfort in the fact that once again a movement once considered to be the blight of society has induced change not out of advocacy but out of necessity.

Thanks for Reading and all the support.



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