Having a couple of months off work after the move to Geneva, plus some late nights sitting up baby-watching during Robert’s first few weeks while Nadine caught up on sleep gave me some time to do a few things that have really given a new lease of life to our music collection.
A new toy
When we moved into our new place we bought a Logitech Squeezebox Touch and, to accompany it, a NetGear ReadyNAS Duo (which is basically a 1TB home server). The Squeezebox sits underneath our TV connected to the stereo system, from where it communicates over our wifi network with the server. The Squeezebox is basically a touchscreen interface that lets you browse through your music collection or very easily access internet radio stations. There’s also a remote control and a smartphone app, either of which can be used to control it.
The user interface is really superb – I have the feeling that it was designed by people who listen to a lot of music and understand how music fans want to interact with their collections. Since we got it we’ve found ourselves listening to albums we forgot we had. There’s something about the interface that reduces the tendency to overlook albums you’re less familiar with and just skip straight to the stuff you listen to most often. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s a lot more satisfactory than playing from Windows Media Player, WinAmp, MediaSource, etc.
Spring cleaning the collection
Buying the Squeezebox also made me realise how messy our music collection had become, with incomplete tagging, duplicate files, missing album artwork, etc… None of this mattered until we had this super interface that gets so much out of the metadata attached to the music files (the ID3 tags that get added when you rip CDs or come attached to music downloaded). I found a great piece of software that made the task of cleaning up the tags on more than 40GB of music much easier. Musicbrainz Picard scans through your music collection, tries to recognise what the albums are, and adds the correct tags overwriting whatever errors crept into the collection over the years. It pulls its info from a huge and impressively complete database.
We stopped buying CDs altogether about three years ago. Just about all music we buy now comes from 7digital.com and therefore usually comes properly tagged. But some good tagging software is handy for when you get compilation CDs from friends (you can’t beat a good mixtape!) or buy music direct from artists at gigs, etc.. I’ve found Mp3tag to be really good for this.
Now I just need to find the time to work out how to access the home server remotely so that we can access our music collection from anywhere. For now we’ll continue to use MP3tunes.com for that.