Monday, December 08, 2008

Music Today, gone tomorrow

Dear Music Today

So I get myself a new Sarod CD set: one with Amjad Ali Khan, my hero. It is called The Best of Sarod and has music by Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Khan.

Unlike the other CDs that I own, this one must have passed through Satan's fiery hands. For one, it had two layers of plastic covering that was scientifically designed to repulse knives. So after much struggling, I open the packaging, and look at the label sides. Nothing fancy, they seem decently manufactured, though the authoring is only marginally better than the illegal CDs that one can buy along the roadside. The first CD was fairly error prone. cdparanoia, my ripper of choice, struggled with the first but came out with a decent rip. The second CD was a completely different story. It had track errors by the dozen. The first track had some read errors and cdparanoia gave up after multiple reads. The last track had so many errors that I let the rip run for two whole days, and still it did not rip a good quality file. If I were to play this on a CD player, I am guaranteed that the last track will skip nearly constantly, and will resemble a rat squeaking more than great masters playing sarod.

This is about the worst CD I have seen, and for a brand new CD to do this is unimaginable. Imagine my surprise when I visually inspect the shiny side, and realize that it has extremely poor pressing. When light reflects off it, you can see large patches of discoloration. Music Today must have little or no idea of quality control, for this disastrous CD to pass through.

Every CD is authored in an automated setup, where it is usually trivial to test a large fraction of the CDs for quality. I'm guessing this was not the case. The ring identification says "SL NO. 0044 7172 B. THE BEST OF SAROD II ACD MT/CIPL", in case it helps someone track down the pressing plant.

Luckily the missing track has music by Ayaan Ali Khan, and not Amjad Ali Khan, so I can rationalize its loss. Note to self: avoid Music Today CDs like the plague.

On a more positive note, the CDs that were not Music Today worked beautifully. Somehow, I enjoy the sound of the sarod far more than the fretted sitar. In case you haven't heard the sarod yet, here is a recording at the BBC and a video of a live performance.