Lazy Rainy Sunday

I went for a brief walk this morning. I wanted to get outside before the Zyrtec got its hooks in, but a biting wind accompanied the rain and drove me back indoors. Now, the Zyrtec has settled in. I'm tired, stiff, and a tad irritable. The urge to nap is oppressive. I'm holding it at bay with Golden Needle tea. I like it with a dollop of honey and some half-and-half. Perhaps whole milk would be better. I must remember to try that. I'm keeping warm under an Afghan, wasting the day away on this blog post and listening to music. I've started listening to a lot of music lately.

My soundbar had been on the fritz for a couple of years and finally called it quits last week. I paid $195[1] for it, along with a subwoofer, in 2015. It had an okay run. After much procrastination and many hours spent researching and pricing replacement soundbars, I decided I didn't want one. My heart longed for a real-life stereo system like I had when I was young.[2] But I live in a small big city apartment, so I instead bought a Denon mini-amp and some bookshelf speakers with actual wires. I have the speakers on vibration-isolating stands and the stands perched atop acoustic foam risers. I ordered another set of isolating platforms to further the soundproofing for the sake of my neighbors downstairs. Nobody has ever complained, but taking steps where one can is considerate and avoids problems.

The stereo system could use a small subwoofer to round out the low-end, and I can't connect to it with my universal remote; otherwise, the setup is terrific. I have the amp wired to an old Mac mini running a Plex Media Server and Plexamp music player (hereafter referred to collectively as Plex). I'm all of a sudden a huge fan of Plex. I can stream my music library to any device on my network,[3] and I can control what's playing on any given device from any other device. That means I can use my phone to control what the Mac mini is playing on the stereo! Plex also natively supports Tidal account linking. All such streaming services have essentially the same catalog, but Tidal stands out a little for not prioritizing trying to sell you stuff like Apple Music and Amazon Music do.

Plex is, hands down, the best thing I've found for music discovery in the last ten years or more.[4] There are various tools for automatically generating playlists based on your existing library contents or whatever Tidal has come up with that day. Another option lets you select a handful of artists, songs, or albums, and Plex will assemble a bunch of related tracks into a playlist. Various "Guest DJ" modes inject selections between songs of an existing playlist as you listen. You can combine Guest DJs with the other playlist-generation tools for hours and hours of fun. There's even a feature called Sonic Sage that lets you prompt ChatGPT to create playlists. ChatGPT is excellent at making musical connections, although the AI doesn't currently appear to have access to your library or listening history to provide context, which is slightly limiting and makes a Tidal subscription necessary to get the most out of this feature. Last, and probably least, it can scrobble to like it's 2009!

  1. That's $250, adjusted for inflation!
  2. I'm not sure if this qualifies as a midlife crisis purchase or if I even qualify for midlife crises anymore but keep the comments to yourself regardless.
  3. Technically, you can connect your server to the internet for something like your own privately hosted version of a Netflix/Spotify combo, but I haven't tried that.
  4. Some of the features described here are only available with Plex Pass, Tidal, and OpenAi subscriptions. Not everything can be free. People gotta eat.

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