Digital step forward

I succumbed to one of the new fifth-generation iPods, a nice sleek black one, which shows video and has an 80 gb hard drive. Quite cool, especially since iPod prices have come way down. I’ve had an iPod for quite a while, and before that another digital player, but now I’m looking forward to ripping CDs at much higher bitrates, giving me much better sound. (The extra hard drive space leaves plenty of room for the larger files.) And, of course, to watching episodes of Battlestar Galactica when I’m traveling, not to mention that DVD about Poulenc I’ve been meaning to get to.

But this isn’t why I’m making this post. The new iPod — along with the new version 7.0 of iTunes — fixes one well known and really annoying problem. That’s the gap that shows up between tracks, a momentary hiccup while (or so I’ve read) the player reads textual data from the hard drive (like the track’s name). This is no fun when you’re listening to an opera, or to a symphony like Beethoven’s Fifth or Sixth, where movements flow into each other, or, for that matter, when you’re listening to live pop albums.

But all of us who use digital players have been putting up with this for years. And now the problem is gone. The new iTunes allows you to specify “gapless playback” for any of the music you put into it, and that music then plays back on the new iPod (though not on my old one) without any hitch or hesitation. A small but significant blessing. So now if only the tagging of classical music– the labels that tell you what each digital classical track is — would improve…(I’ve had a grimly funny time putting the new Mariss Jansons complete Shostakovich symphonies on my iPod, discovering that separate CDs might show up with different versions of, just for instance, the composer’s name.)

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