The future of music storage isn’t physical media; it’s abstraction.
To think that we’re going to continue sticking pieces of removable digital media into players for much longer is naïve. Everything has to be stored somewhere, but it’s going to be abstracted, cloud-based storage, and users will neither know, nor care what sort of physical media is being used (although it will be hard drives for the foreseeable future, as flash storage prices haven’t fallen low enough yet). Odds are it sure as hell won’t be SDXC cards.
With iTunes Match, I’m most of the way there. I still maintain lossless, local copies of my music for home use, where quality matters more than in my car or when I’m otherwise travelling, but even that’s striped across four hard drives resting in a Drobo storage enclosure. I rarely think about it. It’s redundant, it’s backed up to another set of hard drives, and if I run out of room, I pull out a hard drive and replace it with a bigger one, with no further intervention required. It’s about as close to a local cloud as you can come.
AudioStream is a new sister site of Stereophile (a la InnerFidelity, which of course focuses on headphones and “personal listening”) focused on computer-based audio—mostly DACs, streaming music players, and music servers. My approach is to use the computer for audio playback and then either output a digital signal from the computer locally (i.e. optical digital, or you could do USB) or over a network to an AirPort Express (which itself has an optical digital out), and then passing the digital signal through a DAC and onto my stereo. I’ve played CDs fewer than a dozen times over the past few years, and likewise I haven’t played files off of a USB flash drive, flash memory card, or other physical media that’s not a hard drive or other primary storage device. So I think these streaming players and music servers are a waste. ↩