2019-07-17

Rocky Mountain High Colorado

Katie had a conference at Copper Mountain in Colorado so our toddler and I tagged along. Copper Mountain is where I learned to ski when I was four years old so it was a fun "homecoming" of sorts for me.


We arrived in Denver Friday morning and spent the day in Boulder, where I had meetings with some startups that I advise - it was great to see them in person rather than over Skype for once!

Friday evening we drove up to Copper Mountain, where we had a spacious condo all to ourselves. I didn't sleep well Friday night due to the sudden change in altitude (~3,000 m / ~10,000 ft) but I was greeted the next day by gorgeous views regardless.

While Katie participated in her conference Saturday, our toddler and I explored the village and hiked around a bit. Copper Mountain is clearly primarily a Winter ski destination - many shops and restaurants were closed for the offseason - but I thought it was just wonderful during the Summer. The cool temperatures were a refreshing change from the heat and humidity of North Carolina and they did a great job of creating activities more appropriate for the season. Saturday all day was a three-peak cycling race called the Triple Bypass and Saturday evening there was live music in the village center.

Sunday, after an early morning hike, we made our way back to Denver, stopping at Red Rocks for lunch with the same family that taught me to ski 36 years ago. It was lovely to see them again and fun to introduce them to the next generation! The stunning red rocks reminded me that Colorado isn't just alpine but actually features a great deal of landscape and architecture more reminiscent of the American Southwest.

Monday morning we hopped on our flight back to North Carolina. This was a very quick trip but it reminded me how much I enjoy Colorado. It seems to be about the closest thing I can find to Switzerland here in the US - but with more direct flights. We may try to visit more often - and especially during the Summer, when we are seeking refuge from the heat and humidity!

2019-07-03

Is Vinyl Better Than Modern Media?

A friend recently asked what was going on with the recent popularity of vinyl records. Is vinyl "better" than more modern music media? Or is it just a hipster fad with no base? I am far from an expert but, as I have a fair bit of experience with vinyl (~100 LPs and a jukebox full of 45 singles), I weighed in with the following take.



Vinyl can be "better" (a very loaded - and subjective - term!) than newer formats for older music:


  1. When a song was originally recorded, mastered, and stamped out to vinyl, that was how it was "supposed" to sound (barring disagreements between the artists and the production/engineering staff, disagreements within the band, limitations of production technology of the time, etc.).
  2. When the music is transferred to digital formats, some sound quality loss necessarily occurs. Digitization samples the original audio many times per second to create the new, digital signal. If it samples more frequently, the audio is higher quality; if it samples less frequently, the audio is lower quality. Practically speaking, the human ear probably can't tell the difference but hardcore audiophiles care about it.
  3. During early digitization, ie to CDs, many filters were used during the digital transfer process to remove pops and other imperfections that are often found on vinyl (and that vinylheads find endearing - a feature, not a bug!). Those filters, though, often filter out more than the imperfections and the music loses some of its top end and/or bottom end sound.
  4. During digitization, "remastering" sometimes happens as well; someone remixes the tracks, plays with the volumes, applies filters, etc. to make the the music sound "better" in the new, digital medium. Occasionally this works out well, like the 50th anniversary re-release Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (performed painstakingly by the original engineer and his son!), occasionally it is disastrous, and usually it is a mixed result. Regardless, it changes the music from the original standard.
  5. For most digital file formats, e.g. mp3, after digitization of the original analog music, there is also compression to save space; the compression further distorts the music. This is probably imperceptible to those who aren't looking for it but, again, hardcore audiophiles care about it.
  6. For streaming media, digital files are further compressed and altered, especially when bandwidth is low, further reducing the quality of the audio.

So what does this all mean? Firstly, vinyl pressings of modern music that has been digitally recorded offer no real benefit other than a cool physical medium. For older music, recorded on analog tape, there are indeed differences between its vinyl format and its conversion to more modern media.

Whether the vinyl is "better" depends on a number of factors and is highly individualistic. Not all digitization efforts are equal and neither are the preferences of the listener. Whether vinyl is right for you really comes down to personal taste.