I am a brand new Bluesound user. I just bought the Vault 2i. I love the concept. It seems perfectly suited to music lovers like me who have spent the last 35 years amassing a large and carefully curated collection of CDs, who care about sound quality (the built-in DAC sounds great!) and who have reservations about Spotify and other streaming services based on sound quality and business model. I’m loading up my CDs and enjoying listening through the Vault.
The one glaring problem is library organization. From reading online, I know I am not alone in this frustration. It’s a maddening enough issue that it has me on the fence sending the Vault back before my 30 day money back period expires.
I am here to propose a simple solution.
But first a brief outline of a very massive problem (if you already feel my pain, skip ahead to the solution.)
- As we know, the Bluos library organizes itself based on the metadata it pulls from the magical database of all the albums in the universe (except for the approximately 5-10% that it fails to recognize or completely misidentifies. If you also take into account missing cover art or wrong cover art, that percentage rises as high as 20% in some sections of my collection). However, as we also know, that metadata is a complete mess. It’s far too inconsistent, inaccurate and wildly illogical to provide a useful system of organization. I cannot overstate the scope of this problem and the accompanying frustration.
- Perhaps for good reason, Blueos does not include the capability to edit metadata. They also seem unmoved by the many queries users have registered about that fact. Thus, the editing of metadata has to be done via a third party app with a process that is extremely tedious and time consuming. I’ve paid for two different apps and downloaded another for free. The first works excruciatingly slowly. The second works sporadically. The third, not at all. Even with the insane amount of time I have spent editing metadata, the inherent organizational problems are only slightly mitigated.
- The organizational problem is significantly magnified in a library that includes anything outside of the mainstream. My library ranges from basic mainstream pop/rock stuff to more obscure entries to many sub-genres of jazz, classical and world music.
-Classical: What an absolute nightmare. The artist might be tagged as the ensemble, the conductor, the soloist or something else entirely. In several cases, two discs of a double disc set will be tagged completely differently. None of the discs seem to be tagged with a composer despite the fact that most classical listeners organize their physical libraries by composer. When I look under “composer” in Blueos, I’ve got a few jazz artists and a rock producer. As for genres, the metadata has my classical collection split into 9 different genres so far. I would love it if they were all together under “classical” so I knew where to find them and so I could see my whole collection in one place.
-World: I won’t even talk about how many world music CDs the Vault failed to recognize (importing those same CDs into my computer through itunes is no problem). But speaking strictly organizationally, my vast collection of world music is now all lumped together as “world” (or, sometimes, annoyingly, “international”) and alphabetized by artist. On my physical shelf, I have it logically divided up by region, country and then genres within that country: Javanese Gamelan, Baliniese Gamelan, Hindustani Ragas, Carnatic Music, etc. It’s maddening to not have control over that.
4. Genres. I see that Bluesound has suggested using the “genre” category to browse a complex collection but this is totally impractical. After loading in 250 CDs I had already somehow accumulated over 40 different genres, each one problematically populated. It’s truly a mess. I’ve got an “Avant-Garde” and an “Avant Garde” (one of which contains an album Middle Eatern music and one of which contains a big-band album). I’ve got Indian music showing up in “Classical.” I’ve got Mahalia Jackson in ”Religious,” while the Staple Singers are in “Gospel.” Classical albums might show up as “Orchestral,” “Chamber Music,” “Concerto,” “Choral” “Symphony,” “Ballet,” and every once in a while, if I’m lucky, as “Classical.” I’ve got a genre called “Retrospective Pop,” which contains a single Bob Dylan album while the rest of his work sits in “Rock.” It filed a Keith Jarrett solo Album under “Bop.” I’ve got “Unknown” and “unknown” along with “Miscellaneous” and “miscellaneous.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s ridiculous. It will take many months of editing genre tags in the metadata of hundreds of albums and to turn into something usable.
I could go on but, to put it simply, In the current system, we are at the mercy of the computer with little to no control over the organization of our music libraries--libraries which are very personal and reflect the idiosyncratic tastes of each user.
The metadata disaster is not Bluesound’s fault, but it affects Bluesound users and I believe there is a simple remedy that would address the majority of their organizational woes (while avoiding the necessity of editing metadata).
Bluesound simply needs to add a single category to the library sorting list--the one which currently includes albums, artists, songs, genres, playlists, composers, folders, favorites. This new category should be labeled “collections.” It should function somewhat like playlists but for albums instead of songs. Users would click on the three dots on an album, click “add to collection” and then create and name collections according to their wishes. Unlike playlists, the intention would not be to create play queues but simply to group albums for browsing purposes. This would give the user the same control over their digital library as they have over the organization of their physical shelves of CDs--perhaps with some advantages in that a single album could be added to multiple collections. For example I could file my Bill Evans albums in a broad “Jazz” collection that I create and also file it under my collection of “Piano Trios.” It’s almost like creating your own genres.
The potential applications for this are too many to list but just imagine…
- Classical listeners could create collections for every composer (that alone should win a lot of hearts) and/or sub-genres of their own choosing like “Baroque,” “Minimalist,” “Solo Piano,” “Opera,” etc.
- World music could be logically divided up into “Brazillian,” “Celtic,” “Afrobeat,” “Javanese Gamelan,” “Balinese Gamelan,” etc. just like it would be in a record store or on someone’s physical shelf Instead of all lumped together as “world” and alphabetized by artist.
- Sometimes you want to find the right album for a certain mood or function. You could create collections for “Mellow classical,” “Dinner music,” “Stuff Molly Likes,” “Piano Trios,” “Nap Time,” “Workout Albums,” “Make-out Albums,” “Old School Hip Hop,” “Vintage Bluegrass,” “Sunday Morning Listening,” Etc.
- A music historian could make collections for each year. An Indian music aficionado could make collections of Morning Ragas, Afternoon, Ragas, Evening Ragas, etc.
- Artists that record under multiple names could be grouped together in a single collection (for me that would allow my to file my Gillian Welch with my David Rawlings)
- Album art galleries--I’m imagining browsing classic Bluenote covers or the unified, minimalist aesthetic of the ECM label
- Alphabetization. I would never do this, but one could, if they were so inclined, make a collection for each letter of the alphabet and return some sense of proper alphabetization to the digital world--I mean, seriously? In the age of AI, a computer can’t alphabetize by last name or skip the word “the?”
Yes, I could do something similar with “playlists” but I don’t want to see songs, I want to see albums. I would wager that most of the people to whom the Vault appeals are album listeners rather than single song listeners. I want to be able to open a collection that suits my mood and browse album covers until I find one I want to put on.
Yes, you could also do something similar with “folders.” You could get your computer out, connect to the server and make a bunch of folders for yourself but you can’t see the album covers that way. Plus you wouldn’t be able to put an album in multiple collections that way.
The point is that this simple addition gives the power to the user and liberates them from the fickle whims of the metadata.
Please, I beseech the benevolent developers to consider this simple solution. I believe it would improve the user experience for the entire Bluesound community. If you need to make room, get rid of the “songs” category. I honestly have no idea why anyone would ever want to look at a list of 10,000 songs listed alphabetically.
Thank you for your consideration.
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