One could argue that the history human progress is a history towards greater convenience. How comfortably numb and lazy is it possible to become?
– And the rest of history have been people saying things don’t need improving and everything was better in the old days…
We have a gas grill from Weber that we use all the time. It doesn’t have the smokey flavor you get from coal. We use it because it’s convenient. In a busy household lighting up a traditional grill with charcoal or wood is so inconvenient that we would end up not doing it. Sort of like the outside pizza oven we all wish we had and neither of us would use. Gas is easy and the result is tasty enough that we use the grill several times a week – all year around.
What about Nespresso? No, it doesn’t taste as good as a freshly brewed Cortado from an Italian monster machine. Especially not when you use those biodegradable capsules instead of the ones in aluminum. We use Nespresso because it is easy and tastes alright when you just need a quick shot of caffeine – which is 80 pct of the time…
I read a lot of books – science fiction is my drug of choice – and the convenience of a Kindle is amazing. I miss the tactility of paper and the way letters and sentences read on it. I miss putting a book I’ve read back on the shelf, like chronicling a little part of my past. I like looking at books I’ve read and books I’m looking forward to reading. I also miss being able to recall names of authors and titles of books. But a Kindle is so convenient that I keep downloading books and reading them. Tactility be damned.
Convenience in audio is everywhere. Remember Walkmen and CDs? Now convenience means streaming. At home, we embraced Sonos years ago. To paraphrase the late and great Arthur C. Clarke: I still consider the Sonos multiroom-solution to be almost indistinguishable from magic. Sonos doesn’t sound as good as my two-channel system. But the convenience of Sonos (or Bluesound/Naim/B&O/etc) makes the hit to sound quality non-critical. I don’t listen to music critically through Sonos (I almost don’t do that with my much more expensive and much less convenient hi-fi), I listen to Sonos when I’m doing all sorts of other stuff, and so does my family.
And Sonos might be the (second) best way I know to discover new music.
But the best and most convenient way of discovering new music is through a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. I use the Sony WH-1000XM3 and they are glorious, particularly with electronic music which is right up my alley. Comfortable shoes and my Sonys and three hours on footpaths through woods and villages is probably my favorite way to discover new music and reacquaint myself with the old. The Sony doesn’t sound as good as my HD6XX via the DragonFly Cobalt, not even close, but they make music listening and -discovery so incredibly convenient that I couldn’t care less.
All these modern appliances that many of us rely on are solutions to make modern life more convenient. Which is why it is interesting that there is a movement that go the other way: inconvenience. I have an idea that maybe the resurgence of vinyl and the hipster way of doing things – weird bikes, extremely meticulous coffee-making, vinyl play-back, small-batch everything, from wine to beer to honey – is less about flavor, tactility, and sound quality, and more about simply getting away from the numbing convenience of modern life and embracing inconvenience. Everyone knows that a beer tastes better after you moved the lawn…
So maybe vinyl sounds great because it is so expensive and incredibly inconvenient?