Saturday, December 10, 2005

A World of Music

I'm a music freak but not necessarily an audiophile.

There isn't a musical genre that I don't like, although a half hour or so of polkas every few months seems to leave me more than satisfied. When I hit the power switch on my pre-amp, classical competes with rock which competes with reggae which competes with jazz which competes with bluegrass which . . . well, you get the idea.

But I tend to go years without upgrading the gear through which I entertain my polyglot tastes. I bought myself a magnificent McIntosh tube amp and AM-FM receiver and a pair of recording studio-grade JBL monitor speakers in 1978 as a reward for enduring the months long trial in Delaware's Chancery Court to determine which of the competing wills said to be left by freakazoid gazillionaire Howard Hughes was genuine. The New York Times paid me major coin to be their on-the-scene eyes and ears, and I knew that I wouldn't have another opportunity to invest in a hot stereo system for a long time.

I was right. I finally mothballed the Macs in 1988. A friend inherited the JBLs, which have undergone unspeakable torture over the decades but soldier on. With the exception of the DVD player, the system filling Kiko's House with Ella Fitzgerald as I write this is reconditioned Sony gear, as are the Bose bookshelf speakers, the whole lot of them several years old but just fine for my needs.

The one problem has been getting decent FM radio reception. Kiko's house is in an area with notoriously awful reception, which means that picking up the great public radio stations at the left end of the dial, all weaklings in the wattage department, is difficult to impossible.

Which brings me to one of the few product endorsements you're ever likely to see here: A marvelous and marvelously inexpensive device called HiFi Link.

HiFi Link is an audio processor about the size of a small flashlight (as in the little guys with two AA batteries) that connects your computer to your stereo, enabling you to stream any radio station with an Internet presence right into your living room. For more info, click on this link:

HiFi Link has been nothing less than liberating for me. I simply click on one of the radio stations that I've bookmarked and watch the station's website load either Windows Media Player or Real Player and sit back and enjoy. More and more stations -- including WBGO-FM in Newark, N.J., the greatest jazz radio station on the planet -- are now broadcasting in High Definition Radio, which like High Definition Television dramatically enhances the quality of the signal. I don't have an HDR, let alone an HDTV, and probably never will, but the difference is breathtakingly better when I blast 'BGO through my factory outlet Sony-Bose system.

HiFi Link will set you back only $50 US, or a bit less if you shop around. I haven't tried it with dial-up Internet, but would recommend that you have DSL or some other form of high-speed service for the best signal with the fewest dropouts.

HiFi Link is a perfect gift for that loved one. If it's too late for Christmas, there's always Tet.

PS: Here's a link to WBGO. If you love jazz, you'll dig it:

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