Hi-fi it ain’t

Sharp Radio Cassette
1980s – Sharp QT50 radio/cassette player

My lovely daughter cleverly reminded me recently that I had one of these Sharp radio cassette players back in the ’80s (I had the off-white model) and that has got me thinking about music quality.

Warning – good old days alert!

When I had my little Sharp, I listened to a lot of music. It was back at the time when you could belong to a book club and get books sent to you through the post which you selected from a monthly catalogue. There was a similar thing going for music and I used to buy a couple of cassettes each month which was, to me, a really good way both of buying favourites and of trying out things I wouldn’t have thought of. There were some misses, but more hits. If you didn’t select something yourself prior to a certain date, they would send you their selection for the month. I thoroughly enjoyed that way of buying music and I still think there is a lot to be said for having a curated selection of items to choose from rather than simply being presented with everything in an enormous cavern of choice.

The Sharp radio-cassette player was very portable and it could sit by my bed where I would often listen to music through headphones in the mornings and evenings. The audio quality wasn’t high, but deep within the core of me I think that is how the music is meant to sound.

At the end of the Sharp portable era, I hit a phase of buying better quality audio equipment, or acquiring it second-hand free to a good home, and tried to embrace the idea that I would enjoy music more if the playback quality was higher. I had various elements of hi-fi kit and speakers, finally settling on a Ruark R4 all-in-one CD/DAB radio/speaker which suits my flat just perfectly. However, through all this period I actually listened to music less and less; over the past seven years I have hardly played music at all.

This summer has, therefore, been an extremely interesting one for me because my enthusiasm for music, mainly my old favourites, has suddenly reignited. This has been partly due to wanting to lose weight – if I’m going to spend half an hour doing exercise then I want to be entertained by something I enjoy whilst I’m doing it. I have also enjoyed revisiting some favourites whilst doing the less complicated bits of knitting, not to mention washing up and ironing. However, I think there is one big thing that has encouraged me to listen more and that is the way I am playing the music.

iPad Pro
2018 – Apple iPad Pro

Yes, the Apple iPad Pro has become my favourite music player. This is not because I stream music; I will be the last person to join a music streaming service. No, I import my CDs into iTunes and thence to the iPad Pro. Like the old Sharp player, the iPad is emminently portable and I can have it lying beside me and my headphones plugged in and be in my own little musical universe. Or it can be sitting nearby whilst I exercise, or do the ironing. Is it just a coincidence that it is white, like the Sharp player was? Perhaps not.

I would also say that there is something in the quality of the playback which subtly reminds me of the old cassette days. It seems to be more fun to listen to my music on this than it is to put it onto my much better quality CD player, which is decidedly odd. I am not even mentioning that I have had a series of iPhones which could serve exactly the same purpose, but on which I have felt no inclination at all to play music. Before the iPhones, when everyone had iPods I had no desire to follow the trend, which is telling in itself because now that the iPod is defunct and everyone has moved on to streaming services, I am ready to embrace the iPod way – perverse, I tell you.

Furthermore, the iPad Pro is not an inexpensive item to be using as a music player. More expensive than the Ruark, certainly. Lower quality playback? I think so. Yet in some strange way it is just right.

So, there you have it – the iPad Pro is the new Sharp QT50. Who would have thought?


One comment

  1. I think you know what I think of your thoughts here as I listen to Klaus Schulze streamed via Tidal to my hi-fi. Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal all do curated stream songs but AM and T are monthly payment and Spotify is that or adverts. I recommend Radio Paradise Internet radio. Listener supported and a free app for the iPad allows listening in glorious lo-fi. I saw an iPod for sale in John Lewis a few weeks ago even though I thought Apple had discontinued them.

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