I just wanna listen to some music
By Leslie Scanlon from June 2014 Issue
Credit: Jackie Larkins
Untangling the tech choices for your tunes
Here's what never changes: the stunning power music has to lift our mood, to unite us, to express an emotion, to get us dancing, to transport us like a blast to another time and place.
Here's what never stands still: the options we have for how to listen to music, both at home and on the road. The possibilities can be both exhilarating and confusing—depending in part on your comfort with technology, your inclination to try something new, or to stick with what's familiar.
As you consider the technology choices, think about what you want to hear. Not so much country versus classical, but whether you want to listen to music you already own in some format, if you want to listen to specific pieces of music (a particular artist or song or album), or whether you're not so picky about that—you'd be happy listening to surprises and discovering new music. Answering that is a good starting spot.
Equipment ranges from old vinyl to wireless streaming
It's possible to still go completely old-school—to listen to vinyl records on a turntable (making a comeback among some young adults) or to play CDs from your personal library directly through your home or car stereo equipment's speakers. But loading digital music files onto a computer, MP3 player, or mobile device adds more options for listening, either with traditional wired speakers, Bluetooth wireless speakers, headphones (wired or wireless), or by placing mobile devices into a dock that will both charge the device and play the music.
New-school options that are increasingly popular involve services such as Spotify, Pandora, Songza, and others, which are similar to old-school radio. These new services allow listeners to stream a mix of music from the Internet using either a wired or wireless connection to computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices.
Each service has its own limits as well as cost, with some offering basic service for free (often with ads) and premium service for a monthly fee. Some allow a listener to select particular songs; others let you make suggestions, then use your ideas to build offerings of similar artists and styles.
It's complicated, but with a little homework (and the right mix of equipment) you can have a great audio set-up.
Even old autos can learn new musical tricks
Depending on the age of your vehicle, you may be able to make a direct connection from your phone or MP3 player to your vehicle's stereo system, or you may need to use an adapter. You can also subscribe to a satellite radio service such as Sirius XM. Some newer-model cars and trucks have stereo systems that include pre-installed apps for mobile music streaming, some of which are controlled by voice commands.