Irrational Exuberance and The Next Big Thing

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have been as excited about DSD and MQA as I was when they first appeared. The thing is, in hifi we are always looking out for the Next Big Thing because the idea of something new that makes music sound better is exciting! The reality being rarely, if ever, is the Next Big Thing big.

Here’s what we should get exited about—for $20 a month, anyone with an Internet connection and a computer can listen to CD-quality music from a library of millions of albums. If you had a time machine and went back to 1979 and grabbed the high school senior me and dragged me back to the here & now and told me I can listen to CD-quality music from a library of millions of albums, I would say, What’s a CD?

But once we listen, we don’t need to know Nyquist from NyQuil to know that lossless streaming is the revolution music lovers have been waiting for. The reason being, listening to music is a present tense activity. To enjoy listening to recorded music, we just need to listen and CD-quality streaming is completely capable of delivering music’s message in tact, in toto. The mistake people like me can make, carried away by the thought of getting into the studio with Neil Young, a place I now realize I’m not sure I want to be, is overlooking what we have for the mythical beast of better.

Of course, better infests our lives in more places than hifi. “What are you driving these days?” “Well I have an X but I’m looking at Y.” “Where are you living?” “Williamsburg but we’re looking in Red Hook.” “How’s your wife?” “We’re divorced.” And so on, ad infinitum. The search for better often obscures the beauty of the present, and that is a tragedy of epicurean proportions.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d say there are more reasons to be happy with what we have than any Next Big Thing can deliver. When it comes to the reproduction of music, we have more available to us via streaming than any small nation could ever listen to even if they did nothing else, forever. Add in all the LPs, CDs, and cassettes floating around on the new and used market, and we are in fact living The Next Big Thing.

The present is always sitting right under our nose and all we have to do to enjoy it is sniff.