I've never previously announced or written about taking a vacation. In previous years, the old adage "when the cat's away, the mice will play" would've rang true within five minutes of my plane taking off. More recently, the Audiophile Style community has really come together and managed to live with people's differing views, without screaming "Oh the humanity," à la Herbert Morrison. For this reason, I'm happy to write an article detailing my vacation plans and how I manage a music addiction away from the 20,000 albums on my NAS.
I'd originally planned a little different style of article, but I received an email from a friend suggesting people may be interested in reading what I do for music when I travel and sharing their own experiences. So, here's a peak into my vacation and how I'll satisfy my needs to listen to music in high quality, away from home. I look forward to reading how others do it, and hope to pick up a tip or two before I leave.
Note: Content will keep flowing here on Audiophile Style. Our wonderful team of writers has already delivered articles that I will publish from the beach :~)
My wife, daughter, and I are going to the Hawaiian island of Kauai for two weeks! This trip has been planned for nearly two years, and literally nothing is going to stop us from having an incredible vacation. We've done, and continue to do, all we can to stay safe and healthy, and it's time to live a little.
Kauai is right up our alley, without much nightlife and plenty of beautiful places to relax and rejuvenate. We are staying half the time in Poipu and the other half in Hanalei. We scheduled a Na Pali Coast catamaran tour with Blue Ocean Adventure Tours and a special dinner another night, but have left the remaining time pretty much open. It's one of life's luxuries to wake up and do whatever you feel like doing, without a schedule to keep or a single commitment. In my much younger years, I would've had big New Year's Eve plans. This year, we'll likely be watching the Times Square ball drop from an iPhone on the beach. New Year's Eve is amateur night anyway, right?
We are looking forward to escaping the Minnesota snow and doing as little work as possible.
Music and Playback
A two week vacation away from my main audio system, and even my fantastic desktop audio system, is much easier in 2021 than it was when this site started in 2007. Back then, both hardware and music content were cumbersome. I used to load up an iPod Classic's 160GB drive and call it a day. Now, we have true high end portable players and an endless music library in either the commercial cloud or a personal cloud. Life is good for the music loving audiophiles.
Over the years I've used many different portable audio systems when traveling. I've had Astell&Kern units, an Android phone, and many different iPhones. At first blush, the Astell&Kern style player seems like the one I would use for travel. However, I just don't like them enough to use them and bring them on a trip. The sound is fantastic, but the interface is lacking and it's yet another device to pack.
My go-to hardware source right now is my iPhone 12 Pro with 512GB of storage. The interface and app selection are second to none. Plus, I need to bring this device even if I wasn't listening to music. It isn't an additional device in my carry-on.
Getting the best sound quality from my iPhone 12 Pro, with portability in mind, is my goal. I have two ways to do this. One is way over on the convenience side of the continuum and the other is my choice for high quality and portable hardware.
I always bring the Apple Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter for convenience. This $9.00 DAC is as flexible as they get and I won't care too much if I misplace it on the plane or in the rental car. It certainly isn't the height of audio living, but it's a tool that gets the job done when needed.
I always bring one or two AudioQuest DragonFlys for quality. The DragonFly Red and the DragonFly Black, usually work equally well with my headphones. I like the Black for its analog volume control and the Red for everything else. Given the small size of these units, it's simple to bring both. I connect the Flys to my iPhone 12 Pro with Apple's Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. This adapter has both a USB port for the DragonFly and a Lightning port to continuously power the phone and Fly.
The headphones I'm bringing on this trip are the Etymotic ER4SR, with Comply soft memory foam tips. This combination sounds fantastic, feels fantastic, and is a relative bargain for high end audio. I also have the Etymotic ER3SE that may come along on the trip, to use in case of an emergency. Both headphones are highly recommended.
I've had Etymotic ER series headphones off/on for over 15 years. I recently switched from my custom IEMs to the Etymotics because they sound better, hold up better, and with the comply tips are actually more comfortable. I wish I hadn't sunk the $1,000+ into the customs.
That's at the hardware I'm bringing. It's pretty basic, but fully capable of great sound on the go, and do't put me over the airline weight limit.
I depend on a couple different apps while traveling. My daily driver is the Qobuz native app. I will fill up as much of my 512GB iPhone as possible with offline albums because the flight is long and the mobile phone service in Kauai is spotty on good days. The other app I use is VOX. VOX enables me to access my entire album collection from anywhere in the world because I've uploaded it to the VOX servers. I have plenty of Three Blind Mice, Mobile Fidelity, and other albums that aren't available on any streaming service. Plus, there's no way I'm connecting my iPhone to my Mac and synchronizing music like the old days. VOX has all my music and has offline capability. Prior to leaving, I will offline several albums in VOX, that I know aren't available through Qobuz.
If, for some reason I can't get something I need, I connect back to my house via VPN for full access to everything on my network, as if I was home. This is always the failsafe last resort.
The complete system is really lightweight and simple.
iPhone > Qobuz & VOX > USB adapter > DragonFly > Etymotic earphones.
Before wrapping up and taking time off, I want to share some music related content that I recently found. The Audible Originals series has a category called Words + Music, that contains terrific biographical stories narrated by some really great artists. The first one that got me hooked on the series was called I Am Mine, by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. In this 1 hour and 22 minute audio story, Eddie talks about his early days prior to Pearl Jam, how he met people that connected him to the band, and the origins of some Pearl Jam songs. He also sings a couple songs and plays acoustic guitar, delivering versions unavailable anywhere else. This is a really neat series, with episodes available starting at $6.95 each.
Some notable episodes, all narrated by the artist: Eddie Vedder, Liz Phair, Sharon Van Etten, Alice Cooper, Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Steve Earle, Gary Clark Jr., Yo-yo Ma, Sting, Smokey Robinson, Alanis Morissette, T Bone Burnett, Sheryl Crow, Tom Morello, James Taylor, and Patti Smith.
I want to give both the Audiophile Style writers and the Audiophile Style community a gigantic THANK YOU!. You all are the best in high end audio and this site wouldn't exist without you. For everyone that celebrates, have a Merry Christmas and happy new year.
Now, queue Sheryl Crow's Soak Up The Sun video (filmed in Hawaii), and take note of one of my favorite lyrics of all time.
"It's not having what you want, It's wanting what you've got"
OK, I'm out :~)