Just another toy

I just got on eMusic and started buying a bunch of stuff. You can get whole albums for six bucks. Right now, I’m buying stuff that I listened to so much 20 years ago on vinyl or at a friend’s place that I figured I never needed to listen to it again, e.g. White Light/White Heat. So what’s the deal with Lady Godiva’s Operation? Is there an agreed-upon interpretation of what it’s about?

Or talk about whatever.

134 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    eMusic seems like a very 1990s type name.

  2. 2
    Keith G says:

    Ya know, everyone’s afraid to say it, but that Lady Godiva is ….oh…wait…nevermind

  3. 3
    BGinCHI says:

    Lady Godiva?

    Great, now I have the theme from “Maude” stuck in my head.

    Thanks Doug.

  4. 4
    The Other Chuck says:

    @Baud: Right, a proper 2010’s name would be some random conjunction of phonemes and a two-letter TLD like “vaplu.rg” or “tunk.ly”

    Hell, I came up with those at random but I’d bet money that tunk.ly exists

  5. 5
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    I see it as a prequel to Hedwig.

  6. 6
    Comrade Mary says:

    Huh? I’ve been on eMusic for years, but didn’t know that they had anything by VU. My searches aren’t turning up anything now, either.

    Is it because I’m a Canadian?

  7. 7
  8. 8
    BGinCHI says:

    @The Other Chuck: Question:

    Where does Ken Cuccinelli store his “vaplug”?

  9. 9
    PsiFighter37 says:

    I just got Shake Shack for dinner. They screwed up my order and gave me free fries on top. Beat that!

    Long day at work, glad it’s over. Fiancee is out of town, so I need to figure out what to do with my time the next couple evenings. Anyone have suggestions aside from a) working out, b) cleaning the apartment, or c) becoming vociferously drunk?

  10. 10
    the Conster says:

    After 40 years of listening to music, most recently through iTunes, Mr. Conster has decided that the best quality listening is to return to vinyl and is bringing records home. WTF.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    Poopyman says:

    What have you guys done to fill up my frames with ads for hockey sticks “50% Off!” from Pure Hockey? I don’t play. Hell, I don’t even watch. There are 5 frikkin’ ads that all say the same thing on my screen right now.

  13. 13
    BGinCHI says:

    @PsiFighter37: Combination.

  14. 14
    General Stuck says:

    I got nothin’. Politics is officially stranger than any known fiction, to the point I find myself almost rooting for the republicans, like some kind of morbid liberal need to rescue the fucked up and forlorned

    Then I remember they are cold cruel sumbitches eating their own brains, and reaching for mine. If we survive as a country the next 5 or 6 years, it will be a goddam miracle.

  15. 15
    Omnes Omnibus says:


    Anyone have suggestions aside from a) working out, b) cleaning the apartment, or c) becoming vociferously drunk?

    Have you considered combining these activities?

    ETA: @BGinCHI: Damn you.

  16. 16
    Poopyman says:

    @PsiFighter37: Anything but (c). Give it (and your liver) a rest.

  17. 17
    shortstop says:

    Sometimes you just have to let the velvet flow over you, all undeconstructed and shit.

    I could have sent you every VU album had I known. I haven’t had anything to play vinyl on for years and it’s just taking up space.

    ETA: Oh, I am stupid. You didn’t buy it on vinyl. Reading too quickly and too distractedly.

  18. 18
    Roger Moore says:

    Does this mean you’re going to start surprising us with a whole new set of song lyric based post titles?

  19. 19
    Roger Moore says:


    Anyone have suggestions aside from a) working out, b) cleaning the apartment, or c) becoming vociferously drunk?

    Avoid c). Seriously dude, we don’t need to hear about PF37 +eleventy.

  20. 20
    Doug Galt says:


    I don’t have anything plays vinyl either, that’s why I hadn’t listened to it in years til I bought it on MP3 last week.

  21. 21
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    I’m gonna go with drugs. I mean, I have nothing to base that on except it being Lou Reed in the 70’s, so…yeah, drugs.

    The Velvets are one of a long lost of ‘important’ bands that everyone but me seems to get. I’d like to get them, because why wouldn’t I want more music that I like? But I just never have.

  22. 22
    shortstop says:

    @Doug Galt: Right, I corrected my supergigantic obtuseness. I am doing about 15 things at once, none of them well.

  23. 23
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I have not, but it’s kind of interesting to contemplate. Unfortunately, washing dishes and folding clothes is hard to make exercise-worthy. Is there such thing as intense clothes-folding?

  24. 24
    My Truth Hurts says:

    The song is about a transsexual woman’s botched lobotomy.

  25. 25
    Omnes Omnibus says:


    Is there such thing as intense clothes-folding?

    Do it along with one armed pushups.

  26. 26
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: I don’t get it either. VU is up there with Sonic Youth and Radiohead in the category of “seriously, just between us, y’all just pretend to like this, right?”

  27. 27
    shortstop says:

    Now I’m doing 16 things at once because I had to put WL/WH on. This can only end in heartache.

  28. 28
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I still think they’ll swallow hard and support him if he looks like the best bet against Hillary, but in the mean time this warms my dark cold heart:
    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) high-flying public criticism of his own party seems to have finally cost him a price: an invitation to this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

  29. 29
    different-church-lady says:

    @the Conster:

    …Mr. Conster has decided that the best quality listening is to return to vinyl…

    Sometimes this is true. Other times this is not true.

    It is not wise to get me started on the topic, as I am quite capable of dope-slapping the snot out of anyone who expresses an under-informed opinion on it.

  30. 30
    Roger Moore says:

    I can imagine aerobic sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. Just make sure to keep your clothes on when doing the mopping.

  31. 31
    trollhattan says:


    I’m getting ad-bombed BY “LEARCAPITAL” (at least three of them) exhorting me to rollover[sic] my 401k/IRA to GOOOOLD or SILLLLVERRR.

    Which somehow makes hockey sound wicked smaht.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    You can get whole albums for six bucks.

    So, we’ve time warped into the 70’s? Is that what I’m hearing, here?

  33. 33
    shortstop says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Aren’t the keynoters Palin, Romney, West, Gingrich and Paul? I do not think this bodes so badly for Christie’s political future.

  34. 34

    @PsiFighter37: Yes, fold clothes whie standing on your head.

  35. 35
    shortstop says:

    @Roger Moore: Not because there’s anything wrong with nude mopping, but because it’s less humiliating when the EMTs appear.

  36. 36
    joel hanes says:

    vinyl “best” ? I dunno.

    I do know that I can hear the distortion caused by compression in most downloadable mp3s, and it bothers me a lot.

  37. 37
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @shortstop: The would-be triumphant return of that guy Republicans vaguely remember for some reason is another schadenfreudemacher.

  38. 38
    trollhattan says:

    @Doug Galt:

    When I began buying ceedees instead of elpees I stubbornly refused to dump my records and replace them with yet more ceedees. Then (two decades later) when I heard what improvements had been made to tables and cartridges, I bought a new rig, ironically the first fully manual table I’ve ever owned.

    The only sad thing is how many worn out LPs I discovered in the stacks, but otherwise it’s been rediscovering old friends. But only when the house is empty.

  39. 39
    Litlebritdifrnt says:


    I vote c)

  40. 40
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Those are hard to do; I have to do them from my knees…don’t have that pure upper-body strength for it yet.

    @Ninedragonspot: I cannot begin to fathom how bad that would feel to do a headstand on the hardwood floor of my apartment.

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Good to know there’s still one Juicer out there who doesn’t think I’m enough of a raging alcoholic.

  41. 41
    shortstop says:

    @trollhattan: Because of the way you dance, right? You don’t have to be ashamed.

  42. 42
    Suffern ACE says:

    @PsiFighter37: well if you find that your place isn’t sufficiently challenging, you can come on up and do mine.

  43. 43
    Violet says:


    Is there such thing as intense clothes-folding?

    March in place while you fold and every sixty seconds do a minute of push ups, crunches or some other similar activity.

  44. 44
    Poopyman says:


    Triple-starch them. Folding will be great exercise.

    So will the wearing.

  45. 45
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    I posted this downstairs but ya’ll were already up here so I will post it again. Have I mentioned how much I love Chris Kluwe?

    Chris Kluwe ‏@ChrisWarcraft

    For those curious who NOM is, it’s the National Organization for Marriage. They’re pretty much awful. #hatemongeringshitfucksismoreaccurate

    He really is fun to follow on twitter

  46. 46
    goblue72 says:

    I always took it as either a botched male-to-female sex change operation or a botched lobotomy of a drag queen.

    Great album. The Gift is a goofy kind of split-speaker fun. Here She Comes Now is classic Velvets proving they can craft a pop tune whenever they feel like it. And on the same album as the thoroughly ridiculous (in the best way) 17 minute noise jam of Sister Ray.

    Best Velvets album.

  47. 47
    Poopyman says:

    @trollhattan: Yeah, I’m getting one or maybe 2 LEARCAPITAL ads per refresh. Hockey sticks seem to have burnt out. Must be the staying power of gold, or something.

  48. 48
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Poopyman: Eeek! Horrible flashback to OCS.

  49. 49
    mclaren says:

    Tom Friedman has finally done it.

    He’s finally gone completely insane:

    “In India, people ask you about China, and, in China, people ask you about India: Which country will become the more dominant economic power in the 21st century? I now have the answer: Mexico.”

    Source: “How Mexico Got Back in the Game,” Tom Friedman, New York Times, 23 February 2013.

    Yes, those severed heads tossed onto dance floors are a sure sign of explosive economic growth a-borning…

  50. 50
    Omnes Omnibus says:


    Best Velvets album.

    No, their first album was their best. WL,WH is awesome, but it doesn’t compare. YMMV and obviously does.

  51. 51
    Baud says:


    I feel like French Guyana is about to break out.

  52. 52
    Lolis says:

    Doug, I think Daily Kos featured one of your tweets as an example of an unhinged Republican in a recent diary. Way to go!

  53. 53
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @mclaren: I don’t like reading the Furiously Serious Mustache, but I would imagine he wrote garbage like this from the cozy confines of Cabo, or something equivalent. Let’s drop his ass on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez and see how awesome things are then.

    @Suffern ACE: I do say, I like the feeling of cleaning. My fiancee hates it and has insisted on getting someone to clean our apartment…I’d rather spend an hour or two scrubbing and cleaning and vacuuming on my own instead. I feel like if I had a maid, I’d be selling myself out a bit (as I’ve always felt like people who have maids come and clean their house are rich, which I don’t feel I am, despite what the tax returns may claim).

  54. 54
    jibeaux says:

    Emusic used to have a subscription service, and my plan was 30 songs a month for $9.99. I loved that model, encouraged me to find new things. I haven’t used it since they switched models, kept hoping they’d go back.

  55. 55
    different-church-lady says:

    @joel hanes: A well done MP3 can sometimes sound as good as a mediocre cassette tape.

  56. 56
    trollhattan says:


    Hey, I’m smoove, really smoove! (not)

    As bad as my Sprockets dance is, the real show-stopper is the household females not tolerating dad in audio geek mode. Ess ist verboten.

    The dog never tells, she just leaves the room.

  57. 57
    PsiFighter37 says:

    Linkin Park made its fame on loud rap/rock (a genre they managed to outlive once they mastered it), but I do like this quiet, contemplative track off their latest disc.

  58. 58
    sb says:

    @jibeaux: Ah, emusic! I had 90 songs a month then they kept raising prices, ripping off new members by charging them after free trials… the place went to hell and I got out.

    But before it went to hell, I loved it.

  59. 59
    sb says:

    @jibeaux: Ah, emusic! I had 90 songs a month then they kept raising prices, ripping off new members by charging them after free trials… the place went to hell and I got out.

    But before it went to hell, I loved it.

  60. 60
    p.a. says:

    Have a B&O turntable that needs a cartridge(~$200 aftermarket) so I bought one of those tables that let you burn CD’s from vinyl. Meh. But I’m glad I kept some albums. Not sure they sound better than CD, it may just be that the vinyl’s aural dynamics are different and sound fresh to me after all that time with CD’s. LIFE: BROUGHT TO YOU IN REALISTIC ANALOG. (Shut up, quantum physicists.)

  61. 61
    magurakurin says:

    People buy mp3 files? Who knew?

  62. 62
    Suffern ACE says:

    @mclaren: I wonder which investment fund he’s agreed to shill for. It’s not like Mexico on the cusp is something new. I believe they were supposed to be in the BRICs, but they were left off because you couldn’t spell anything memorable with a M and that assemblage of letters.

  63. 63
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @magurakurin: I still can’t fathom it. I watched the Chappelle’s Show skit about the Internet where everyone is running out of a music store with bags labeled “Free Downloaded Music”. I still feel like that’s what most people still do nowadays, even with the advent of the iTunes music store, etc.

  64. 64
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    If you were to replace India with the UAE, you could have the CRUMBs.

  65. 65
    Spaghetti Lee says:


    I can honestly say I’ve never put music on my computer without paying for it. I’m the RIAA’s dream customer, except I can’t bring myself to support them, because they’re dicks.

  66. 66
    danielx says:


    Yes, those severed heads tossed onto dance floors are a sure sign of explosive economic growth a-borning…

    It’s an advanced marketing technique, demonstrating how FREE MARKETS deal with those found to be economically unproductive.

    Come to think of it, Friedman’s head lobbed into Arthur Sulzberger Jr’s office might be an adequate demonstration as to the validity people assign to Friedman’s views.

    Bad! Bad! No biscuit for me!

  67. 67
    gbear says:

    @joel hanes:

    I do know that I can hear the distortion caused by compression in most downloadable mp3s, and it bothers me a lot.

    Vinyl records will beat the snot out of any download.

    I’m evenly split between LPs and CDs. The experience of playing a record is still way cooler than CDs, but you can’t throw 5 records on random play (although I can still play a stack of records on my old Dual 1229). I can’t stand mp3s as anything more than quiet background noise.

  68. 68
    magurakurin says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    I know one thing, if I ever did download music without paying for it, the first songs I would download would be all the songs I had bought years ago on vinyl. Because, you know, I already paid for them. It isn’t my fault that the medium completely changed to…nothing…bits and bytes of data easily moved around the world at the speed of light.

    So, any song I ever bought, I’m not giving the Apple Corporation 99 cents for them to convert it into an exclusive file which mimics a file type that they didn’t even invent. No, fuck that. Fuck them.

  69. 69
  70. 70
    goblue72 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I find the Banana album not nearly as listenable years later than WL/WH. When I first heard VU, the Banana album seemed like the best thing evar. But over the years, Nico just got on my nerves and the 2nd album freed of Warhol’s noodling has been the album I can keep coming back to.

  71. 71
    raven says:

    @magurakurin: That’s exactly what I did in the heyday of Naptser. Then I sold all my record and it hasn’t meant one goddamn thing to me.

  72. 72
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @goblue72: Aha, Nico’s songs have grown on me over time.

  73. 73
    PurpleGirl says:

    @shortstop: Multitasking is highly over-rated. I recommend doing one thing at a time and your concentration/productivity improves. (At least mine has.)

  74. 74
    Djur says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I genuinely can’t understand how anyone could not like all three of those bands. I mean, VU has “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, Radiohead has “Airbag”, SY has “Cotton Crown” and “Teen Age Riot”… I don’t know how anyone could not like those songs.

    I suppose if you had a really, really low tolerance for noise you might not be able to handle these bands, but I can’t imagine what you’d listen to if Radiohead was too noisy for you. Cheap Trick?

  75. 75
    gbear says:

    Another vote for WLWH over the first album, but why choose? Anyone who has one should have both + the third album too. they’re all so different from each other.

  76. 76
    trollhattan says:


    Saddest audio story I know regards my spouse’s best friend’s FIL. Married the evil step mom who demanded he get rid of either the LPs or CDs–couldn’t have both. I’d seen the house and system, and the LPs were in a library of custom shelving, cross-ref’d, the works.

    So he makes his decision and hauls the LPs to the local dump.

    I’m horrified to this day.

  77. 77
    Origuy says:


    Is there such thing as intense clothes-folding?

    Get a pair of wrist weights?

  78. 78
    magurakurin says:


    Cheap Trick?

    damn you! damn you to Hell! oooh, earworm, earworm…must…not…listen….think of…something else….

    aarrrggghhhhh…..”I want you to want me………….


  79. 79
    raven says:

    @trollhattan: When I was a kid my father and step-mother had strict rules about leaving the stereo on. I violated it and, when I came home, she had smashed all my surfin records. I put my fist through the front door and vanished for a couple of days!

  80. 80

    I tried to listen to sports talk radio to escape the sequester-fest and JD Hayworth was on the local show. I made it through one description of him as courageous for taking on McCain. So long for evah terrestrial radio.

  81. 81
    gbear says:


    You wouldn’t think so if you did it midnight-6am for 15 years.

    Well I can’t argue with that.

    I did work in a cutouts warehouse for five years. All the collectors worked their way into the receiving department and it was almost always fun to dig into a pallet stacked full of records to see what treasures might come up (and some weeks there were LOTS of treasures to be found).

  82. 82
    Spaghetti Lee says:


    Well, I still go to used music stores when I can. There’s a great one in a mall not far from home, but who knows how long they have? I figure eventually I’ll have to switch to downloading only, which I loathe. No, I don’t have a rational reason why. I just don’t like it.

  83. 83
    James Gary says:

    Re “Lady Godiva’s Operation:” I have no idea what that song’s about, but then, I haven’t actually *heard* it in twenty years. I gave “White Light/White Heat” five or ten bold open-minded listening sessions as a callow young Gen-Xer in the mid 1980s and haven’t listened to the album in its entirety since….the “experimental” tracks on that album rendered it a bit too annoying/abrasive to listen through on a regular basis.

    In fact, if it weren’t for iTunes’ ability to scan in and resequence playlists, I probably would’ve never heard “Sister Ray” or “Here She Comes Now” again, which would’ve been a bit of a shame.

  84. 84
    raven says:

    @gbear: God, I worked at a post office that handled the returns for the Columbia Record Club. Huge fucking wire bins of record that weighed tons. What a bitch.

  85. 85
    gbear says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Minneapolis is lucky to have a good half-dozen independent record stores that are doing OK. The Electric Fetus is kind of the flagship and they’ve been expanding their LP section as CDs lose out to downloading. Tuesdays and Weekends there’s always hipsters walking around with 6-7 vinyl records in their arms.

    When music is download only, I’ll be going back through all of the stuff that I haven’t listened to for years.

  86. 86
    magurakurin says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    No, I don’t have a rational reason why. I just don’t like it.

    I’d say you have a rational reason. When you buy a CD or an album you get something. I suppose it’s irrational when we think of the actual money value of the raw material, but it still is something. You can hold it in your hands, turn it around, look at the jacket notes, arrange it on your shelf.

    an mp3 file is about as close to air as it gets.

  87. 87
    gbear says:

    @raven: That’s why I learned to drive a forklift when I was at the record warehouse.

  88. 88
    Spaghetti Lee says:


    Well, that’s about my reasoning. And just free-floating anti-Apple sentiment. And honestly, if I buy a used CD for $4-6, it’s usually quite cheaper than 99 cents a song.

    I got into a big dumb fight over this on this site a while back, so maybe I shouldn’t start it again, but any sort of streaming service, for music or movies or games or whatever, you never really own it. The company owns it and you’re paying to use it. Maybe that’s working fine for the customer now, but if the content owners decide we need a little slapping around, they’ll have a great system to do that. Much easier for them to slap us around that way than ‘go into store, buy object, own object, use object at leisure.’

  89. 89
    raven says:

    @efgoldman: This was not all that far away in Champaign. One of the best things that ever happened to me was getting fired from the PO.

  90. 90

    @FlipYrWhig: I really do like Radiohead. No foolies. I take a bunch of crap for it from my friends. http://ranchandsyrup.com/2012/.....-new-band/

    Preemptive sorry for blogwhoring.

  91. 91
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    I figure eventually I’ll have to switch to downloading only, which I loathe. No, I don’t have a rational reason why. I just don’t like it.

    You hate it because this 128,000 bps crap is like sticking a knitting needle in your ear, and asking anybody to pay money for it is a fu¢king outrage.

    No, I’m not a analog dinosaur—I don’t miss LPs in any way, shape, or form. Most audiophile’s criticism of CDs is founded in ignorance, basically.

    That being said, there are some bad, bad transfers out there—one of the first CDs I ever bought was The Doors’ Greatest Hits, and I’ve never heard anything remotely so horrible. Shrill, metallic, harsh—it was a shitshow.

    The thing is, we’ll never have video that can’t be told from the real thing in my lifetime (or a few more lifetimes), but we were there with audio—thirty freaking years ago, and now we’ve pissed it away. Equipment with .1% total harmonic distortion used to be entry-level, now 9% is considered OK!

  92. 92
    dance around in your bones says:

    I don’t need to buy any of this stuff, since it is stuck in my brain forever.

    All I need is for one of you guys to remind me of it. Uh, thanks?

  93. 93
    Spaghetti Lee says:


    I think Radiohead is OK, but that’s about it. Certainly not the gods of alt rock like you’d hear the media tell it. Even if we limit the conversation to bands of a fairly similar sound, I’d take any random track by Animal Collective or Muse over most of Radiohead’s oeuvre.

  94. 94
    Spaghetti Lee says:


    Not speaking for Flip, but for me it’s not about being not able to “handle” it, whatever that means. I just don’t think the music is that interesting. I don’t know much about Sonic Youth so I’ll leave that alone, but Airbag just sounds like middle-of-the-road alt rock for me. RH peaked with The Bends, in my opinion, and it’s just been downhill from there. All Tomorrow’s Parties isn’t even in the top half of that album. And wouldn’t most bands get dragged through the mud for making such a long and repetitive song? I guess for some it’s OK.

  95. 95
    Suffern ACE says:

    @PsiFighter37: well you could bide your time taking advantage of the educational opportunities of your city. Here’s a guy giving a lecture on dirty words tomorrow night. http://www.timeout.com/newyork.....-interview

  96. 96
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says:


    I was told one of the problems early on was using the wrong kind of filter to chop off the >20 kHz frequencies (Chuybyshev? I’ve lost it.) because the human ear can’t hear phase distortion, right? Wrong, as it turns out.

    (Just like in the early days of solid-state amplifiers—minimize harmonic distortion, but inharmonic distortion is OK, right?)

    (Or with stereo—all that counts is relative loudness, the human ear can’t distinguish arrival-times…oh, that’s still with us—and Bob Carver’s out of business.)

  97. 97
    Steeplejack says:


    A nice performance with George and . . . everybody: “My Back Pages.” Birthday boy at 3:25.

  98. 98
    different-church-lady says:

    @efgoldman: My goodness, how dare they charge for their product after giving it away for free!

  99. 99
    Steeplejack says:

    Halp! I iz moderated.

  100. 100
    trollhattan says:


    I was lured into ceedees first by the massive dynamic range and S/N ratios they were produced to, dramatic when compared to analogue. And what’s this, up to seventy minutes per disc with no flipping? I’m so there. Side benefit was much better cassette dubs for the car–car stereos didn’t like “shy” transfers from LPs that avoided clipping; CD transfers worked much better in that environment.

    Took quite awhile (years) to realize how fatiguing a lot of the CD mixes were, and I’m certain the engineers were on orders to punch the hell out of them, at least for pop music. Musicality? Not so much.

    Fast forward to SACD and discovering layer upon layer of music I’d been missing with red book CDs, and that’s what brought me full circle to rediscovering LPs. Yeah, there’s still surface noise and unwanted debris, but there can be magic found in the grooves.

    Have a scant few triples–LP-CD-SACD sets of the same recording. Pretty fascinating comparison.

  101. 101
    different-church-lady says:

    @The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge:

    No, I’m not a analog dinosaur—I don’t miss LPs in any way, shape, or form. Most audiophile’s criticism of CDs is founded in ignorance, basically.

    I have a little trick I like to play on vinyl snobs: when they start prattling on about how superior vinyl is to digital I say, “When you can explain what deliberately introduced negative second harmonic distortion is and why it was used, we can continue this conversation.”

    I say this as a person who still buys used vinyl to this day.

    When one understands how many steps the signal goes through from master tape to that little squiggle on your own turntable, you think it’s nothing short of a miracle there’s anything resembling music coming out of your speakers.

  102. 102
    different-church-lady says:


    Took quite awhile (years) to realize how fatiguing a lot of the CD mixes were, and I’m certain the engineers were on orders to punch the hell out of them, at least for pop music. Musicality? Not so much.

    Which I could remember which engineer said of the volume wars, “Are we really in the business of making square waves?”

    I was lured into ceedees first by the massive dynamic range…

    Ain’t that the perverse thing? The format has all that dynamic range, and now everyone had decided they’re only going to use the upper 10 dB of it.

  103. 103
    different-church-lady says:

    So, here’s another perverse thing: the only internet music stealing I’ve ever done is rips of The Beatles vinyl by this character named Dr. Ebbetts. The common Beatlephile perspective is that the original CD issues from 1987 sounded terrible. So the good Doctor embarked on a process of finding the most pristine vinyl copies he could find and ripping them to CD using some high-falutin’ secret sauce. I find them fascinating, as not only is it fun to compare the sound of the mastered vinyl to CD, but he also tracked down all the mono mixes and alternate oddities.

    Then Apple did their reissue a couple of years ago and Dr. Ebbetts announced his retirement, saying that the newly mastered issues were so good there was no point to continuing.

  104. 104
    Ken J. says:

    So many comments to make… I can’t get too wound up on this tonight, I have to wake up for work in about 7 hours.

    LPs can sound better on the outer grooves, but CDs generally win by the time tracking error and lower linear speed kick in on the inner grooves. (1/2 :-) ) And for solo piano recording, and other music with lots of empty spaces, no contest: any concerns about digital sound are wiped away by the end of surface noise.

    I listened to LPs 1965-1988, then switched to CDs and I have never really looked back. The history of recorded sound is a story of tradeoffs between fidelity and portability. CDs relieved me of worry about record and stylus wear (I used to lose sleep over stylus issues) and they can be loaned to friends. (There were only 2 people I would loan LPs to.)

    And now I have an iPod: it’s not my first choice for quality, but it means something that when I hit work I can instantly jump into a selection of about 100+ albums with no setup time. I acknowledge the shortcomings of MP3 — prolonged listening will grate on me a bit.

    What’s driving things right now is cost. An imported folk/world music CD from the UK costs about USD $20, delivered. From Continental Europe, it’s about USD $30. And I have to wait for two weeks for delivery. Amazon MP3 files give me instant gratification for $8 – $9 per album.

  105. 105
    danielx says:


    I’ve embarked on the process of ripping all of – okay, a lot of – vinyl to digital format, just so I can listen to it while driving. It’s doable, but a pain in the ass. Ripping a cd is easy by comparison – drop it in the tray and it’s done in a minute or less. You don’t realize how spoiled you are until you have to listen to an album from beginning to end and diddle around with recording, maybe stopping and restarting the process to fool with recording level, etc. Having to listen to the filler to which my reaction was ‘meh’ twenty years ago gets old…but oh so worth the end result.

  106. 106
    Djur says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Yeah, but that’s different from “y’all just pretend to like this”, isn’t it?

    And I would really like to listen to the alt-rock radio where “Airbag” didn’t stand out in 1997. It was certainly the first time I’d ever heard a drum loop in a rock song on the radio.

  107. 107
    mclaren says:

    @The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge:

    The very earliest CD players used analog brickwall filters to cut out frequencies over 20 khz. The problem with analog brickwall filters is that they introduce massive phase distortion which changes with frequency, so every frequency passing through those analog brickwall filters got phase-shifted by various amounts. That did dire things to the coherence of the waveforms.

    More modern CD players use massive oversampling (typically 64x) and much gentler digital filters. The nice thing about a digital filter is that it can be made phase-neutral, i.e., you can design it to avoid phase shifts in the output.

    All modern CD players combine massive oversampling with gentle digital filters on the output, avoiding any problems with phase-shifts. A modern CD player sounds effectively identical to the original signal, the only different being thermal noise in the DACs, which is so insignificant (typically about 90+ dB down in the noise floor) that is it entirely inaudible even if you turn your amplifier up to the max on a silent section of the CD.

    Or, to put it another way, noise and distortion in modern CD players is so low that if you record perfect silence and burn it to CD and then turn up your amplifier to the maximum setting, any noise you hear from the CD will be swamped by the noise from the amplifier and preamp etc.

    Moreover, tests have been done with Super Audio CDs. Listeners proved unable to hear any difference twixt SACDs and regular CDs in ABX double-blind tests.

    “Conventional wisdom asserts that the wider bandwidth and dynamic range of SACD and DVD-A make them of audibly higher quality than the CD format. A carefully controlled double-blind test with many experienced listeners showed no ability to hear any differences between formats. High-resolution audio discs were still judged to be of superior quality because sound engineers have more freedom to make them that way. There is no evidence that perceived quality has anything to do with additional resolution or bandwidth.” — AES Journal, Vol. 55 No. 9, “Audibility of a CD-Standard A/D/A Loop Inserted into High-Resolution Audio Playback,” E. Brad Meyer and David R. Moran, pg. 775.

  108. 108
    Djur says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Long and repetitive can be a good thing in music.

    Butthole Surfers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGrO-08Rmyg
    Big Black: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuO3wwLuF0w
    Bauhaus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKRJfIPiJGY

    Although I’ll admit I’m not a huge VU fan. Best VU-related thing for me is Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.

  109. 109
    different-church-lady says:

    @mclaren: Drat… I’m going to have to stop considering you a total asshole now…

  110. 110
    mclaren says:

    Meanwhile, more evidence that much of current economics and game theory and sociology is junk science, the mathematical equivalent of scientology:

    If you take a broad look at the social science curriculum of the last few decades, it becomes a little more clear why modern graduates are so unmoored. The last generation or two of undergraduates have largely been taught by a cohort of social scientists busily doing penance for the racism and Eurocentrism of their predecessors, albeit in different ways. Many anthropologists took to the navel gazing of postmodernism and swore off attempts at rationality and science, which were disparaged as weapons of cultural imperialism.

    Economists and psychologists, for their part, did an end run around the issue with the convenient assumption that their job was to study the human mind stripped of culture. The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners—with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.

    Henrich’s work with the ultimatum game was an example of a small but growing countertrend in the social sciences, one in which researchers look straight at the question of how deeply culture shapes human cognition. His new colleagues in the psychology department, Heine and Norenzayan, were also part of this trend. Heine focused on the different ways people in Western and Eastern cultures perceived the world, reasoned, and understood themselves in relationship to others. Norenzayan’s research focused on the ways religious belief influenced bonding and behavior. The three began to compile examples of cross-cultural research that, like Henrich’s work with the Machiguenga, challenged long-held assumptions of human psychological universality.

    (..) In the end they titled their paper “The Weirdest People in the World?” (pdf) By “weird” they meant both unusual and Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. It is not just our Western habits and cultural preferences that are different from the rest of the world, it appears. The very way we think about ourselves and others—and even the way we perceive reality—makes us distinct from other humans on the planet, not to mention from the vast majority of our ancestors. Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that “American participants are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners—outliers among outliers.”

    Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.

    Source: “Why Americans are the Weirdest People in the World.” (original peer-reviewed journal article here, pdf format.)

    It goes without saying that most of American social and economic policies, from tax cuts to drug enforcement policy, from medical care funding to K-12 education, from welfare cuts misnamed ‘reform’ to the toxic process of business deregulation promoted by the Chicago School of Economics, all result from the conclusions drawn by this junk science.

    Throw out the junk science, and guess what? You suddenly discover that most of the policies put in place by America over the last 30 years are insane and self-destructive and wildly out of line not just with the rest of the world, but with observed human behavior in most of the world.

    Standard, typical, usual and quotidian. America has 80% of the world’s serial killers, according to the FBI, and produces 90% of the world’s neo-Nazi hate literature. American violence is off the charts, exceeding even the murders in the kidnapping capitol of Bogota, Columbia.

    Americans are indeed outliers among outliers…and not in a good way.

  111. 111
    mclaren says:


    Drat… I’m going to have to stop considering you a total asshole now…

    Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

    Did I inadvertently say something stupid…?

  112. 112
    Ken J. says:


    How did the filter evolution affect the recording side? My experience is that classical CDs recorded digitally before 1986 or so generally sound harsh. 1987-1988 or so sound transitional, and then anything 1989 or later can be expected to sound open and airy. I think this was working out phase distortion issues.

    There are lots of very good sounding classical, folk, world music CDs coming out these days. I wish there was more rock I wanted to listen to, but rock died for me around my 40th birthday.

  113. 113
    different-church-lady says:


    Did I inadvertently say something stupid…?

    You said something smart, but I’m thinking it had to have been inadvertent.

  114. 114
    Death Panel Truck says:

    Reel-to-reel rules, ‘ceptin’ you can’t just order up yer tapes on Amazon. I had an Akai GX-630D that I sold to buy a car. Car went tits up, but that deck will last forever.

  115. 115
    mclaren says:

    @Ken J.:

    I actually have some first-hand experience regarding the analog filters used on the recording side. I mastered a CD using an old-time PCM encoder back in 1990. The recording unit used was a Sony PCM 501-ES and used an old-fashioned Burr-Brown hybrid A/D and D/A section. The sampling rate employed was 40.1 Khz. Yes, that’s 40.1 Khz, not the modern 44.1 Khz. The recording was re-recorded into a rented DAT machine via the analog outs -> analog ins.

    To make matters even more interesting, I used a 14-bit option instead of the 16-bit option on the PCM encoder, because 14 bits gives you more error correction when recording to a VHS tape. (The SONY PCM Encoder stores a digital PCM datastream on an analog VHS tape.)

    1987 technology and two steps of A/D + D/A conversion, but not a single person has ever had any complaints about the sound of the resulting CD.

    The main takeaway of that AES Journal article is that it’s the mix that makes the audible difference. I used no compression and no limiting.

    The CDs probably sound transitional, I would guess, because recording engineers were still used to mixing for LP but didn’t need to.

  116. 116
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Djur: I have a problem with structureless and dissonant music. I want melody, I want control over the material, I don’t want buzzing and droning. I’m the same way with films: I want a plot and characters and a beginning, middle, and end. I just don’t have the tools to derive pleasure from a wide range of sounds and textures. It defeats me. (I’m to a large degree the same with liquor. I don’t want it to burn me so I feel like I earned bragging rights and sophistication, I want it to be sweet or spicy or something.). And I don’t think that means I want everything to be _bland_, but I definitely have a very low tolerance for any kind of would-be artistry that “redefines the form” or anything like that. I have a friend who’s a “new music” performer and composer. I listened to his stuff once. It was basically a bunch of weird sounds, and then people clapped. I was just confused by the whole thing.

  117. 117
    Spaghetti Lee says:


    Weren’t the Stone Roses doing it circa ’89-90? I don’t know if they were a ‘radio band’ at the time though.

  118. 118
    mclaren says:

    Audiophiles might also find intriguing this ABX double-blind test in which the tester found it impossible to reliably distinguish twixt a WAV file and the MP3 encoded version at 256 kbits and above:

    “Blind testing mp3 compression”

    If you want to check this stuff yourself, you can perform ABX tests using the ABX plugin for the audio player Foobar 2000. Here’s the Foobar 2000 plugin repository with support for hundreds of different audio plug-ins.

    and here’s a YouTube video showing do-it-yourself ABX testing.

    You can find lots of free VST plugins on the internet (along with free VST hosts if you need ’em) that will do things like convert bit depth from 16 bits to 14 bits or 12 bits or whatever, and other VST plug-ins that can resample down or up to a wide variety of sample rates. Voxengo Recorder, for instance, can resample into any lower bit-depth you want and save as a WAV file.

    Note that if you’re hoping to draw reasonable conclusions from any listening experiment, you should have some knowledge of experimental design, including use of Student’s t-distribution, the chi-squared test, an understanding of 95% confidence levels, and a knowledge of basic statistics including the normal distribution and Bayes’ Theorem.

    Here’s a quick test for you:

    Let’s say 1% of listeners who participate in an ABX listening test are actually “golden ears” who can really hear the difference between a 14 bit PCM file and a 16 bit PCM file. 80% of the listeners who can hear this difference score correctly on an ABX listening test. 9.6% of people who can’t actually hear a difference will also score correctly on the ABX test by pure luck.

    Now for the question: you score correctly on an ABX test. What is the probability that you can actually hear a difference between 14 bit and 16 bit PCM files?

    According to Bayes’ Theorem, the probability is 50%. Good experimental design is non-trivial.

  119. 119
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    @mclaren: ” Listeners proved unable to hear any difference twixt SACDs and regular CDs in ABX double-blind tests.”

    Heh – I belong to a headphones message board (don’t go there much these days), and dang if one of the few DO NOT *EVER* POST ABOUT THIS subjects is DB ABX. Apparently the audiophile equivalent of throwing down a “your mamma” insult.

    Me (to let my ignorance show), I could never distinguish between AAC 256k and lossless, and that was back when I had my (then) flagship Grado GS1000s. I mean, I do love my music and I do value a good playback setup. I guess it depends on one’s willingness to pursue those diminishing returns.

    [Edit: Ah, I see you got more into DB ABX while I was reading upthread (downthread? — the posts prior to your last) and then composing this comment.]

  120. 120
    Paul in KY says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: They are not my cup of tea, either.

  121. 121
    Paul in KY says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I do like Sonic Youth much more than either Radiohead or VU.

    I am weird in that way…

  122. 122
    Paul in KY says:

    @Djur: I’d take Cheap Trick any day over Radiohead. Actually saw Radiohead last year. They are playing before 80,000 people (at least 1/2 are not big Radiohead fans) & they refused to play Creep or My Iron Lung.

    That tells you all you need to know about Thom & his band.

  123. 123
    Paul in KY says:

    @efgoldman: Same here. There is acoustical degradation, but the positives you mentioned outweigh the negatives (for me).

  124. 124
    Paul in KY says:

    @magurakurin: ‘I neeeed you to need meeeeee’ ;-)

  125. 125
    gbear says:

    @Paul in KY: The closest I have to an ipod is a ‘cloud’ file at Amazon with copies of all the CD’s I’ve bought. I set it on shuffle play as background music. Every now and then a song that I really like but can’t place comes up. Pretty often, it’s a song from Cheap Trick’s ‘Rockford’ album. Not every song by Cheap Trick is overplayed. They were writing some great songs then and they’re writing some great songs now (although there was kind of a bad run after Dream Police).

  126. 126
    gbear says:

    @Death Panel Truck: I’ve got a Sony 640B R-to-R deck that I can’t use because the brakes have worn out and there’s no way to stop it without tape spinning off everywhere. I’ve looked around but I can’t find anyone who will fix my deck.

    When I was at the record warehouse, I came across some boxes with about 3 dozen pre-recorded reel-to-reel tapes (Beach Boys ‘Smiley Smile’ and “20/20′ etc.). I’d be afraid to play those tapes now because the oxide would just fall off the tape. Mid 70’s tape wasn’t very good. I’ve also got a lot of old tapes of bands I played in and it would be fun to have them transferred to digital.

  127. 127
    Paul in KY says:

    @gbear: Will have to get that album. All I have is their Greatest Hits album. Did listen to Live at the Budokan alot way back in college.

    Would love to see them in concert some day.

  128. 128
    nastybrutishntall says:

    @The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge: Good music compressed and distorted can sound more interesting (see: Pink, Ariel). Having things sound like bad cassettes is fashionable.

    On the other hand, music that should sound crisp and lush like EDM sounds like glass shattering when commercial radio gets through with it. Pop radio is bizarrely unlistenable right now, and I love dance music.

  129. 129
    gbear says:

    @nastybrutishntall: IIRC, the into guitar part on The Stones’ ‘Street Fighting man’ was recorded onto a cheap cassette deck. It has that kind of tinny and unsteady sound to it.

  130. 130
    Larv says:

    @Paul in KY:

    ‘I neeeed you to need meeeeee’ ;-)

    Heh, being a punk fan, my first thought on reading that was of the Propaghandi cover (which is actually pretty good, if you like snotty canuck punk).

    And on the original topic of emusic, I’ve been a member since they started it. Originally, it was a subscription service with no download limit; you paid your $20/month and could download as much as you wanted, although their catalog was a lot more limited back then – strictly smaller indie labels. Even so, I don’t even know how many albums I downloaded before they pulled the plug on the unlimited model and made it 30 songs/month. Hundreds if not thousands. I still haven’t listened to some of them and it’s been a decade or so. I still like emusic, but it’s gotten steadily less distinguishable from Amazon or Itunes, except that you’re locked in to buying a certain amount of music every month (unused credits don’t carry over). I only stay a member because I’m on a grandfathered pricing schedule that makes it a slightly better deal than new subscribers.

  131. 131
    Warren says:

    To my mind, my iPod is no different than the cassette Walkman I had in junior high and high school: my “real” music collection is on my LPs and CDs, and mp3s are just how I make the music fit into my pocket.

  132. 132
    Paul in KY says:

    @Larv: I likes some Canuck bands. Will check them out. Thanks!

  133. 133
    mr_gravity says:

    @trollhattan: He deserves the evil step mom for not taking those albums to the thriftstore.

  134. 134
    xian says:

    @gbear: there are ways to “bake” the magnetic. residue on at least long enough for a transfer to digital.

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