Book Review: To Serve & Groove – Oliver Masciarotte
I consider myself an audiophile, albeit on a budget. When it came to digital music files I was all about convenience. I was original driven to rip CDs to get them on my iPod. But over the last few years I have found myself more and more listening to digital music files on my Mac hooked to my “real” stereo. That quickly revealed the inadequacies of a 192 kbps MP3.
My first improvement step was to start ripping my CDs at 320 kbps in the MP3 format. That helped. Then I got an inexpensive DAC. That helped. Then I started to rip via the ALAC format. That helped. But I still preferred to listen to music via my turntable or my CD player. I concluded iTunes and my iPod are for convenience listening and not for serious listening through a real stereo.
Last fall I started to do some research on a new CD player – figuring that was the digital format for my real stereo. I ran into a guy from the Needle Doctor at the Electric Fetus on Black Friday/Record Store Day and told him about my situation. I asked him to recommend a CD player. His immediate response was “upgrade your DAC and get a legitimate audiophile digital music player.” Huh?
Fast forward to Oliver (Omas) Masciarotte’s recent talk at Analog Audio where he gave a high level road-map to how to do digital right. I then picked up the detailed road-map (his recently published book) to learn more.
To Serve & Groove is exactly the recipe book I needed. You can scan the book quickly to get the basic idea and then you can dive deeper into the instructional chapters that give you step-by-step instructions. There is plenty of background material if you want a deeper understanding – but you can gloss over that if you only need the basics (me). Omas is willing to meet you wherever you are – a non-technical noob like me or a full-fledged audio nerd. No matter what, the music always comes first. The book is easy to follow, has good illustrations, and Omas slips in humor at the right times.
The good news is I now have a reference document to explore doing digital music right. The bad news is that it is not easy and it is not cheap. For most people using iTunes and hooking their computer to home stereo is about all they are going to want to do (its cheap and nearly effortless). Unfortunately if you have a discriminating ear you won’t be happy for very long. You will need this book (a bargain at $4.99 – cheaper that most audio magazines) and some discretionary funds (e.g. to buy a DAC, an audiophile music player, a RAID unit, a dedicated Mac, etc.) and some hobby time (e.g., configure computer, re-rip music, set up a RAID, etc.). Warning – the books assumes you a will use a Mac as your computer. Hopefully in future posts I will be bragging about my digital music server!