It’s quite hard to determine the point of releasing Bob Dylan‘s Complete Album Collection, Vol. One on a USB stick, housed in a (non-working) harmonica.
Although it was originally announced as containing better-than-CD quality audio, Sony ended up updating their marketing material and the digital files on here are actually 16bit /44.1kHz FLAC format, which is identical quality to what’s on the CD version. In other words the ‘carrot’ of hi-res Bob Dylan disappeared.
If you’re interested in the mechanics of how the USB stick works, the process is that you plug it into your computer and (for Mac owners) you navigate to the drive called “DYLAN” and double click on a file called ‘MacStart’. That launches the interface which looks like this:
As you can see, you have a choice whether to select the contents of the booklet or navigate to the music (‘albums’). The interface to access the albums is quite an attractive 3D affair and once you’ve clicked on your album of choice, you can navigate through the different tracks.
The interface seems nice enough to start off with, but it quickly becomes apparent that anyone who buys the USB harmonica is NEVER in a million years going to have this as their main way to play these files. There are some major shortcomings. For example if you are listening to a track on one album (e.g. Slow Train Coming) you cannot look for a track to play on another album (e.g. Blonde On Blonde) without stopping the audio you are listening to. There is no search facility either, so you have no choice other than to manually navigate to the song you want to hear. You can’t create playlists, queue tracks up or bookmark favourites. It’s all very basic.
Even when reading the booklet there is no zoom facility. You just have a ‘full screen’ option or the normal view. It is possible to zoom but that’s only by reverting to right-clicking to access the context-sensitive Flash animation menu and that’s hardly convenient (once you’ve zoomed in you can’t move the content in any direction).
Of course, you are not forced to use this interface. There are two folders on the USB stick within the ‘music’ folder (MP3 and FLAC) which provide lossy MP3s or lossless FLAC files. You can copy these onto your hard disk and play them on whichever system you like.
However, the pertinent point is that aside from the hassle of ripping from the discs, you are able to do exactly this with the CD box set.
So it all comes down to whether you want to pay £140 for a set of 47 CDs in an attractive box with a hardback book, or whether you prefer the idea of paying the same money for a box which is about the same size and length of the average smart phone with an attractive – but useless – metal harmonica.
Aside from the novelty and the (potential) collectibility it’s hard to see the average Dylan fan preferring this USB edition with its invisible digital audio, to the big bold 47CD box set. Especially when the latter gives you the option of the ripping the same digital audio that is provided on the USB stick. Hi-res audio within the USB would have been a game-changer, but with CD quality at CD prices, we say just buy the CD box.
You can order either version via the official Dylan online store > CLICK HERE
CD Box set
- • UK Pre-order: The Complete Album Collection Vol. One
- • USA Pre-order: The Bob Dylan Complete Album Collection
- • CANADA Pre-order: The Bob Dylan Complete Album Collection
- • GERMANY Pre-order: The Bob Dylan Complete Album Collection
- • FRANCE Order: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection, Volume 1
Harmonica USB Stick