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Does Going Digital Mean Missing Music? 751

arlanTLDR writes "The Seattle PI is running a story about how the MP3 format is the sign of a musical apocalypse. Apparently, many top music producers are 'howling' over the fact that files in a compressed format contain 'less than 10 percent of the original music on the CDs.' Is this just sensationalist FUD, or is there something to the assertion that listening to an MP3 is like hearing music 'through a screen door?'" The article mentions that the iPod and its cheap earbuds bear some of the responsibility for rendering this degradation in sound quality less objectionable.
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Does Going Digital Mean Missing Music?

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  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @07:57PM (#20218899)
    I remember AM tube radios.

    Now quit complaining and get off my lawn.
    • by Bonobo_Unknown ( 925651 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:01PM (#20218937)
      Does it really matter that kids listen to crap quality recordings of crap music?
      • by Xonstantine ( 947614 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:33PM (#20219367)
        Mod parent up. Increasing the recording quality or encoding quality won't improve a lot of what passes for music these days.
        • by rockout ( 1039072 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @11:36PM (#20220819)
          What's funny is this branch of this thread has come full circle - the OP making fun of old people always saying "It was better in my day!", and now a serious post declaring "That crap you're listening to isn't music!"

          I'm pretty sure my dad's parents said the same thing to him when they heard him playing the Beatles. In fact, I know they did, because I used that story he told me against him when he complained about me playing The Cult in the late 80's.

          Face it, you've fallen victim to the most tired, played-out cliche ever - absolutely every generation believes as teenagers that they're listening to the best music ever, and when they're old, they declare current music is "crap", and it happened in the 1920's, in the 1950's, and you get the idea.

          • by Basehart ( 633304 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @11:54PM (#20220945)
            Most music today really is crap, but so was most of the music in every time period. For every Led Zeppelin in the 70's there were a thousand crap bands making crap music, same with the 60's, 50's, 40's Etc Etc..

            It's strange that you should mention The Cult because the 80's was responsible for producing some of the crappiest as well as some of the best music ever written IMHO.

            I was with a band signed to the same label as The Cult in England, Beggars Banquet records, and they seemed to pick pretty good bands making pretty good music. They had a relatively small budget so they couldn't take as many chances as the likes of RCA, WB and other majors. So you tended to get a lot of crap music basically designed for people to dance and get drunk to, build walls to, shit to and anything else you can think of apart from actually listening to music to.

            Bottom line is Britney Spears is a steaming pile of crap compared to Kate Bush, but you try telling that to kids today :-)
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by rockout ( 1039072 )
              My point was actually more that even in the 70's, parents of kids listening to Led Zeppelin declared that Led Zeppelin was crap compared to whatever they had decided was "real" music. There is certainly music today that will stand the test of a couple/few decades, but whatever that music is, people in their 40s today almost certainly believe it to be crap if kids are listening to it. It's not a bad or good thing, it's just the way it is.

              And don't ask me what that current music is - I'm 35 and I already

              • by RudeIota ( 1131331 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @01:22AM (#20221519) Homepage

                There is certainly music today that will stand the test of a couple/few decades, but whatever that music is, people in their 40s today almost certainly believe it to be crap if kids are listening to it. It's not a bad or good thing, it's just the way it is.
                While predictable cycles will always exist with music just as with fashion etc... the industry has changed substantially from a couple of generations ago.

                Let us not forget that even though 'crap' applies to every generation of music, the most recent generations have been subjected to far greater mass marketing, production and exploitation. This certainly translates into the quality of the music, I'm sure.

                Being a super star musical act no longer requires any sort of talent and being found can easily just be luck of the draw, more so than any other generation. This increased musical exploitation undoubtedly results in a greater percentage of... junk.

                I agree with your sentiment though - Every generation thinks their music is the greatest and the one before it thinks it is garbage - whether it really is or not.
              • by Moodie-1 ( 966737 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @01:44AM (#20221607)
                Theodore Sturgeon said it all: 90% of everything is crap.
              • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @06:25AM (#20222725)
                "It's not a bad or good thing, it's just the way it is."

                Actually, I'd say it's most certainly a bad thing, and I'd wager it's largely a new phenomenon tied to the exploitative music business of the last century. I suspect it's an unavoidable artifact of heavy marketing of specific genres, targetted advertising and faux cultures. When people get older they get less susceptible to being told what to listen to by the industry (and is thus no longer a profitable segment to exploit), and as the industry isnt providing what they want, you get the age fracture.

                "And don't ask me what that current music is"

                See what they've done to you? The fact is, there is no 'current' music anymore, that's just a desperately projected last gasp of the corps. Sign on to some music social networking sites and/or emusic and have them build a profile over your taste, and you'll discover hundreds or thousands of new groups you'd never heard of that produce 'new' stuff appropriate for your taste in music.
                • by edmicman ( 830206 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @09:32AM (#20223907) Homepage Journal
                  Did you hear that whoosh fly over your head? There's no vast conspiracy; people's tastes change over time. There is no right or wrong, it really just *is*. Do you really think there was more creative outlets and more variety of music available to listeners in the days of the traveling minstrel? Elitism in music is the root of all problems with the industry, on par with the antics the RIAA pulls. The whole "if everyone is listening to it and it's popular then it must suck and be crap" cliche is tired and played out. People just need to realize that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to music. Same with books and art. What works for one person probably doesn't work for another. That really doesn't make it right or wrong!
              • by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @09:44AM (#20224007)

                And don't ask me what that current music is - I'm 35 and I already find myself listening to my old stuff more than the current stuff.
                When I saw the title of the thread (Does Going Digital Mean Missing Music?) I thought the above quote was going to be the focus of the discussion. Instead of whether MP3 is reducing the fidelity of the music, I'm more concerned about the music I'm missing because it's easier to buy some hit from my childhood and teen years on iTunes than it is to find some new, possibly challenging, music.

                To a certain extent, this is another aspect of the tyranny of choice. Given a limited amount of time and a near infinite number of options, I find myself retreating to the tried and true. An occasional new band makes it through the filters through some non-standard channel (that video by OK Go, for example) but for the most part I find myself re-buying the old hits from 10 and 20 years ago.

                I'm also in my mid-thirties. Where should I go to find the music that is new and relevant? The radio is a non-starter since there is no college radio in my town, MTV is just reality television every time I happen to check it out, I'm not hip enough to hang out at the local record shop, and at the iTunes store I can't tell which bikini-clad singer actually has talent and which is a corporate creation in the 20 seconds of preview that they give me.
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by xappax ( 876447 )
                  Where should I go to find the music that is new and relevant?

                  Internet radio. I like the Shoutcast feature built into winamp, because a huge number of stations are all accessible through one interface. It gives you just the right amount of choice for discovering new stuff - you get to choose the station, and they get to choose the music. Listen to a station - and not some generic crap like "Hits of the 80s" - something with some unique character or genre. Give it a chance, for like 15 minutes or a hal
              • by krunk7 ( 748055 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @11:16AM (#20225159)

                My point was actually more that even in the 70's, parents of kids listening to Led Zeppelin declared that Led Zeppelin was crap compared to whatever they had decided was "real" music.

                What your forgetting is that in the 50's, 60's, and to an extent the 70's were delving into completely new areas of music. In large part this was a result of an entirely new way of producing music (electronically) as well as an entirely new sound. Heck, many of the rock bands were using blues riffs that were truly revolutionary. So the older generations alive then wailing against this new genre of music are more akin to those that rejected the powerful and revolutionary concert musics brought about by amazing new instrumentation such as the piano and differing opinions on the role it should play.

                The difference is that today's 30+ year olds know very well what this new fangled thing called "rock" is. Electric guitars. Electronica. We grew up with it our entire lives. When we comment on the quality of contemporary music we aren't speaking from nearly the same "old foggy commenting on revolutionary new way of making music" that those railing against rock did a few decades ago or the sounds of Beethoven 100's of years ago.

                If brittany spears invented a instrument or was the first to use an electric guitar. If she used her own musical chords that were a different way of making harmony and progression. If then I took a step back and said "that sounds like shit to me". I'd have to begrudgingly admit that has harsh to my ears as her sound is, it is as least innovative. New.

                But our judgments on music doesn't need to be so conflicted. She making the same "type" of music I've heard all my life. A little more 90's and a little less 80's, but still the same old stuff I've been hearing since I can remember.

                And it sounds like tripe. Is not innovative or unique. It's a cookie cutter one woman "boy band" style music. It's entertainment backed by a bit of vocal talent and a flare for the stage...but nothing else.

                Please point me to a single bubble gum pop boy band that has withstood the test of time as anything more then a chuckle and a laugh to those that listened to them as children?

          • If music is compressed, limited and clipped like it is on many records today, there really isn't much argument for the need of an extra quality carrier. The quest of the artists, producers or record labels to GET THEIR MUSIC LOUDER THAN EVERYTHING ELSE, causes the dynamic range of music to be sacrificed in order to bump the sound as close as possible to the zero dB boundary. This loudness war causes severe digital clipping, and the distortion you get from it is much MUCH worse that what you get from the M

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by acroyear ( 5882 )
        It matters when eventually crap quality recordings will be the only way for GOOD music to appear as well. Granted, an artist in some control over his future can continue to use FLAC or WAV/CD-DR (or SACD or high-bit DVD-A) to release their material, but the expense of that and the inability to sell it through the same channels that other music is purchased through (as stores that carried "the good stuff" like Tower continue to disappear and stores like Borders and BN have their in-store stock slashed to ma
      • by lostguru ( 987112 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @01:42AM (#20221599) Homepage
        You gotta think about just what they're putting that music into, highest quality in the world won't matter for shit if your putting it into overdriven dime store earbuds

        Compression meh, for some things you can tell the difference, IF you know what your listening to and know your equipment
        Yes, an MP3 is probably about 10% the size of an uncompressed file, but MORE than 10% of the INFORMATION is there, not all of it is there, MP3 is a lossy compression scheme, yeh you lose data, BUT there are lossless compression schemes, and they still give you a file size smaller than uncompressed data.

        Does any of this MATTER? um nope not to me, whoop de do the industry complains, does i care? NO. Should the rest of the world care? Well if you are an audiophile you probably already knew about it and already listen in a way that works for you. If your not an audiophile, probably doesn't matter much, your music sounded fine yesterday, should sound fine today.

        i am a bit of an audiophile, good etymotic earphones, high quality cartridge in the record player, good cartridge amp and low noise preamp (with hand picked parts)

        ALL of the music on my ipod is compressed, jethro tull sounds great, so does blue man group, Manhattan Transfer, and panic at the disco
      • by fuzzix ( 700457 ) <> on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @04:56AM (#20222399) Journal

        Does it really matter that kids listen to crap quality recordings of crap music?

        Not really. Does it matter that the music producers who are howling are as much to blame [] as Apple's shitty cans.
    • 192KBPS seems OK (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @11:08PM (#20220641)
      To my middle-aged ears, 192K BPS MP3 sounds fine. It doesn't have the phase-shifter effect found on 128K bps MP3s.
      If you are younger in your teens or twenties, use 320K bps to get all the high frequencies that may be present in CD recordings. High frequency hearing diminishes with age.

            CDs are heavily filtered above 16KHz-18KHz to avoid digital aliasing and this affects the sound. It's why musicians say that vinyl sounds better. Plus musicians get full audio range very loudly and clearly from their stage amps. Johnny Winter says that CDs sound like shit. He has been standing 10 feet away from an amp playing the sounds that come from his guitar for 40 years. Compared to that, well yes, everything else pales in comparison. You probably won't hear any difference.

          What the top-flight music producers are really saying is "look, we get $50,000 - $100,000 plus percentage from every no-talent fuck band that walks in our studio off the top. Whether they sell ten or ten million albums, we still get ours. And this MP3 shit is causing people to not buy albums like they used to because instead of five friends buying the same 100 albums, now five friends buy one album each and make near-perfect copies for each other. So the record companies aren't signing as many no-talent one-hit wonder bands than they did ten years ago and this is beginning to affect our bottom-line as producers. And, as producers our greatest concern is to bring great music to the album-record-CD buying public, and we have to issue a statement saying that MP3 sucks. So there it is."

          The real question here is why do the record companies demand that the bands that they sign use a top-flight $100,000 (plus percentage of sales) producer? Because it's the only way that they can be assured that they will get the same crisp homogenized Clear-Channel sound that will most-likely get profitable record sales from each of the no-experience bands that they have signed.

          Of course the band pays the $100,000 to the producer up front out of their advance and they have no choice over who the producer is or what he (always a he) does to their sound.

          The big issue here is the centralization of musical recording distributorship. This is a 20th century phenomenon. The best musicians and bands sign to one of a half dozen or so companies. The company then records the band, makes the recording sound good, embeds the recording into the medium (vinyl, tape, or CD disk) and distributes it around the world. This worked for 100 years. But it's failing now due to both technological change (home recording studios and MP3 distribution) and overwhelming levels of greed and corruption on the part of the record companies. All well documented on Slashdot over the years.
      • Re:192KBPS seems OK (Score:5, Informative)

        by scalarscience ( 961494 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @03:36AM (#20222107)

        CDs are heavily filtered above 16KHz-18KHz to avoid digital aliasing and this affects the sound. It's why musicians say that vinyl sounds better.
        Actually most vinyl masters are typically filtered above 12-16KHz (depending on the mastering engineer and the cutting depth, the number to be run from each master plate, etc) as well. In fact Vinyl's low end is also 'rolled off', and then put through a filtering process twice (known as the RIAA curve) to insure that the low frequencies are attenuated on the vinyl plate then restored on playback. I would say that vinyl and analogue recording mediums in general tend to 'gel' the sounds together into a cohesive whole, while digital mixing and reproduction systems (CD for instance) tend to retain the separation between sounds and in some cases even increase this separation. Part of this is the drastically reduced noisefloor in digital systems (the higher noisefloor in vinyl playback would be considered to have a "masking effect" on things the ear might otherwise hear for instance) and part of it is due to the way Tape and analogue circuitry tends to have a compression effect on the dynamics of the overall waveform. Compression in this case means reduction of transients rather than loss of 'bit' data. There are other aspects to this discussion that the article completely ignores as well, such as the rediculous overuse of dynamic compression & limiting in modern commercial music, the fact that Pro Tools and modern systems are often used to simply 'fix' poor performance which (imo) still translates into a more lackluster product than one where the artist(s) got it 'right' in a single or a few takes, with little or no need for editing. Also note that Wav & Aiff are simply two different ways to store audio, one popularized by Windoze the other by Mac. Either format is perfectly suited to storing whatever data you have present in a variety of encodings, samplerates and bit-depths.
  • by Tama00 ( 967104 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @07:58PM (#20218907)
    You will be surprised at just how much of that 90% of sounds produced our ear cannot understand.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dknj ( 441802 )
      most people don't care about the sound difference between mp3 and cd. hell i have friends who like the over compression of FM radio. i can tell you the difference between 320kbps mp3 and a cd, and anyone who has a quality sound system can hear the difference as well. solution: audio reconstruction. there are many algorithms out there that can simulate the missing highs and lows which is satisfying enough for most people (i have a friend who can't stand the way mp3's fuck up guitars and high hats).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:26PM (#20219287)
        Trust me, you cannot tell the difference between a 320kbps mp3 and a CD.
        • by dabraun ( 626287 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @09:10PM (#20219745)

          Trust me, you cannot tell the difference between a 320kbps mp3 and a CD.

          Seriously, the people who say they can tell the difference would never pull it off in a blind comparison. They convince themselves that they can tell the difference. Heck at 500kbps or so you can have lossless - and the music industry would still claim you're only getting 50% of the music on the CD because it suits their interests to make that claim.

          I'd like to see an mp3-type format encoded against 24/96 source material. Odds are that even at ~256kbps you can get better-than-CD quality if you use better-than-CD source material. Sure, the 24/96 source sounds better, but you can't actually buy that anywhere so it's a moot point.
          • by fgodfrey ( 116175 ) <> on Monday August 13, 2007 @10:09PM (#20220239) Homepage
            I've done it. It's pretty darn easy. Listen to the cymbals and the kick drum. If the cymbals don't sound like distinct hits and the kick sounds a little muddy, it's an MP3. You're going to need a decent sound system to do it (no, not a $50k system, but computer speakers or headphones won't do it - a $500 home stereo system is probably good enough). The difference between MP3 and CD is also very evident in sound effects. Due to screwing up my iTunes import settings, I ended up doing a sound design in MP3. When I got to the theater, it sounded like crap and I had to redo almost all of it once I realized why.

            Now, if you can't hear the difference, by all means, keep listening to MP3's. Heck, I usually listen to them. However, most people can tell the difference in a blind test.

            • by flappinbooger ( 574405 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @10:40PM (#20220439) Homepage
              Good info. Also agree, lows and highs are what suffers with poor compression. Even with my awesome-for-the-price $20 sony headphones I can really tell a difference between mp3's ripped to 128 vs 320 vbr. What really stood out to me was the lows sounded so much more alive.
              • by JebusIsLord ( 566856 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @11:42PM (#20220849)
                Something i only became aware of after having done a real, double-blind ABX test, is that anyone who says things like "the CD sounded more alive" has never done a real, double-blind ABX test.

                If you had, you'd have failed the first time (at probably 96kbps) and then read up on and trained yourself what to listen for: things like pre-echo and ringing on the high frequencies. The "liveliness" of the recording is not really identifiable past about 96kbps - 128kbps with a modern codec.
            • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @11:09PM (#20220647) Homepage
              I'm not at all convinced. I have an awful lot of music encoded at a mere 160kbps, and I can't usually tell which I'm listening to. Of course, I don't have an astoundingly great stereo... But since I can't afford one, what do I care? In the world I actually live in, no, I can't tell the difference; it's swamped by other noises.
            • by tom's a-cold ( 253195 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @11:54PM (#20220943) Homepage
              I've used laptops to create music. Direct synthesis to CD, live tracks via an ACD, mixed using headphones directly connected to the little skanky computer audio-out. Even then, with a decent set of headphones, you can readily distinguish an AIFF stream from an MP3 in a duoble-blind test. A studio-quality signal chain sounds cleaner for this kind of work, but it's a couple of orders of magnitude more costly too. I did early mixes on the computer and mastered in a studio (good to have family members in the business).

              So you don't even need the $500 stereo to tell the difference.

              Along with noiselike sound sources such as cymbals, lossy compression also does a number on sharp transients. My own pet peeve is what happens to pick noise on acoustic instruments, as well as the "swoosh" effect on higher-frequency percussion events. Even at 256kbps you can hear mushiness. And my high-end hearing is not what it used to be-- I don't think I can hear much above 18khz anymore.

              What I wonder is how many engineers are now recording and mixing so that the song will sound OK even when it's mashed into a 128kbps MP3. Similar to how they used to listen to trial mixes on shitty speakers from AM radios since that's how the kids would hear it back in the day. You think there was an esthetic reason for all that compression? It was making the best of the limitations of the medium.

            • At what bitrate? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @12:00AM (#20220999) Homepage

              There's no point comparing MP3s to CDs without stating the bitrate. We all know low-bitrate MP3s sound like crap, but I've done my own tests on 320kbit/s MP3s (with some fairly expensive stereo equipment), and even switching between them and the original source, I couldn't pick it.

              Oh, and it'd need to be a blind comparison too. Misleading judgments due to the placebo effect are very common (see: Monster cable).

            • Correction (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ZxCv ( 6138 )
              I was completely with you on this one, right up until:

              However, most people can tell the difference in a blind test.

              That really should read:

              However, most people with expensive stereos that consider themselves 'audiophiles' can tell the difference in a blind test.

              People with expensive stereos that consider themselves 'audiophiles', however, do not constitute "most people". And everything I've ever seen or read doing any kind of blind test came to essentially the same conclusion: that "most people" simply ca
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:37PM (#20219417) Homepage Journal

        I don't know about guitars (I've never heard one compressed that wasn't too buried in the mix to identify), but I can't stand the way AAC screws up cymbals. Anything that naturally has no tonality tends to be massacred by lossy compression. If you can't hear the difference, you probably can't hear high frequencies.... It is annoying to me even with cheap earbuds in a quiet room. In noisy environments, I can't hear the difference, of course, thanks to the masking effect of everything else. Whether you can hear the effect or not depends largely on whether you are actively or passively listening to the music.

        Honestly, I don't mind the earbuds. The proximity to the ear makes up for most of the low frequency loss associated with a small diaphragm, so they sound acceptable. They aren't God's gift to man or anything, but they aren't nearly as awful as you make them out to be. Now computer speakers... those tend to be universally abhorrent. No bass response whatsoever, so they sound like tin can telephones.

        As for the $20 speakers with subwoofers, they get rave reviews mainly because most people have never heard good speakers. Compared to a set of 6 inch drivers, yeah, they probably sound great. You actually have deep bass response. Compared to a pair of properly tuned 3-ways with 12 inch drivers, they sound like ass because you have probably a couple of octaves of upper bass to lower mids that are mostly missing because it's too high for the sub to generate it and too low for the tiny 4 inch (or smaller) main speakers to generate it. Compared with my studio monitors, they're laughable. The problem is that most people have never heard speakers with drivers over about six inches... maybe eight. Oh, yeah, and most people don't have any hearing above 14 kHz anyway, so those tinny little speakers sound good to them. :-D

      • by E++99 ( 880734 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @09:03PM (#20219671) Homepage

        ipods have a few million users as a base, i bet at least 25% (probably way more) use the $0.50 earbuds that came with them. they suck, yet the users are fine with it.

        I've bought five or six ear buds in my lifetime, spending anywhere from $5 to $30, and the earbuds that came with my ipod are significantly better than any of them. I own better headphones, to be sure, but the point is that ipod earbuds are definitely not $0.50 cheapies.
      • >> hell i have friends who like the over compression of FM radio.

        you need to get some new friends
      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Monday August 13, 2007 @09:14PM (#20219765) Homepage Journal
        hell i have friends who like the over compression of FM radio.

        Just for the record - the FM radio modulation process, transmission process, and demodulation process do not compress. Compression today is applied as a pre-RF step to the audio itself, and then that audio is sent to the transmitter. There is no technical reason whatsoever you could not have a compression free FM broadcast.

        The reason that FM stations today use compression is because some (idiot) somewhere decided that it was a "bad thing" to "not be as loud" as other stations.

        FM can reproduce 20 Hz to 15 KHz with low noise and surprising dynamic range when the transmission and reception chains consist of high quality components and signals. Especially in mono, but stereo doesn't sacrifice too much.

        None of this solves the problems that (a) there are very few FM stations on the air that actually use the medium with the idea of providing the listener with a high fidelity experience, and (b) there are very few FM stations on the air that offer programming that consists of much more than a severely restricted playlist. I miss the days of progressive rock stations like WNEW in New York; DJ's like Allison Steele and Chris Fornatelle (spelling could easily be wrong there) would dig into the station's library and pull out something you'd never even heard of and then tell you all about the people involved. At the same time, at the other end of the dial, there were classical format stations in or near NYC that were absolutely compression-free; you could count on them for excellent audio.

        Personally, I play CDs or Sirius satellite radio into a reference Dolby FM transmitter (25 uS) and pipe it around the house using 75-ohm coaxial cable, then into various tuners from Marantz. I have a 2130, a model 10, a 2120, and a couple of receivers, a 2325 and a 2285B. I can't hear much above 15 KHz any longer anyway; I'm 51, a rock musician, and the ears are definitely going. Not that most recordings provide much audio above 15 KHz, especially in the rock genre.

        Otherwise, I'd have one FM station to listen to which plays a horrifying mix of country and pop, compresses the living daylights out of all of it, and intersperses the musical content with the farm report, insanely badly produced local commercials, and (mostly incorrect) weather predictions. The station is automation based, and commercials cut off the news announcers in mid-word, music cuts off commercials, and so on in every combination you can imagine. If there's a worse way to run a radio station, I'm afraid my imagination fails me. In this part of the country, you learn to be very grateful for Sirius and XM, believe me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jotok ( 728554 )
        I have six of those giant CD wallets full of CDs.

        It took me several weeks but I eventually ripped them all to my media server as FLACs.

        It took a few days straight for my shell script to conver them all to MP3s.

        Now I have files that play on my ipod (with shitty headphones) and I have files that play on my Myth box over my ridiculously overpriced stereo.

        To me this is win-win, but I also recognize not everyone feels like building a mutli-terabyte SAN in their guest bedroom just to serve music.
    • by BobPaul ( 710574 ) * on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:14PM (#20219143) Journal
      Quite right. Maximum PC had an article about a year ago where they pitted 4 people (A teeny-bopper or two and at least 1 audiophile) in a "Guess the Source" contest. They had a selection of songs and played 4 versions of each ranging from 160kpbs mp3 up to flac and uncompress wave on various sound systems (iPod earbuds, expensive head phones, expensive stereo system, etc).

      As I recall, nobody could really tell the more often than chance would predict. The audiophile did slightly better, but nothing to shake a stick at.
  • Shouldn't they only be charging a dime per download, instead of a buck?

    ... and shouldn't any copyright violations be for a lot less, since only 10% was copied?

  • Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @07:58PM (#20218911) Journal
    Clearly, all that hard work to polish the recorded sound isn't really very important to people.

    Doesn't bode well for the planned obsolescence system and it's efforts to shift us to new hi-def hardware.
    • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:22PM (#20219233)

      Clearly, all that hard work to polish the recorded sound isn't really very important to people.

      Have you heard any recent CD?!
      I'd say that 90% of all new CDs have less than 6dB of dynamic range... and clip at every crescendo. I think they're mastered by people whose previous careers had them working with jackhammers without protection.
      We can record in 24/192 all we want, but compression of the final product is rather moot when most of the damage was inflicted during mastering... where the "engineers" make the song as loud as humanly possible, so it could be used to silence thoughts while blasting 100dB through $5 earbuds.
      • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Saige ( 53303 ) <> on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:29PM (#20219327) Journal
        It's not the engineers that are doing the mastering that are causing recent albums to be run that loud. It's the record folks that don't want their music to sound "quieter" than the competition. The engineers are just as pissed about it, but if they don't do it, someone else will, and they need to work, so they do it.
      • Re:Damn (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:58PM (#20219623) Journal
        You listen to some old records, and I mean old ones from the 1960s, and the sound is infinitely superior. The last time I listened to Sgt. Pepper on vinyl, after years of listening to it on CD, I was just blown away by it. Those old engineers, with the limited analog equipment at their disposal (Sgt. Pepper was recorded on 8 track equipment), performed miracles. That entire body of knowledge has evaporated, and now, even for old catalogs, the words "digitally remastered" send chills up audiophiles spines.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by archieaa ( 961120 )
          (Sgt. Pepper was recorded on 8 track equipment),

          Nope, Not even 8 tracks. It was recorded on multiple 4 track machines. In one of the great hacks of all time, All the tapes were marked for their starting point with grease pencil and one track of the master machine recorded the the line current. They used the 100 volt outs from a Macintosh amp to drive the capstan motors of the slave machines. This kept the machines in sync. The engineers (and I do mean engineers complete with with lab coats and pocket protec
    • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dch24 ( 904899 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @09:07PM (#20219713) Journal
      The whole point of the article was to shift us to hi-def hardware. From the article:

      1. The internet is a series of tubes:

      In its journey from CD to MP3 player, the music has been compressed by eliminating data that computer analysis deems redundant, squeezed down until it fits through the Internet pipeline.

      2. These aren't the DRM you're looking for. Move along. (EMI's deal to do iTunes plus will be "indistinguishable." But, for me, it is DRM-free and that's all that matters! Why don't they mention DRM?)

      EMI Records announced earlier this year the introduction of higher-priced downloads at a slightly higher bit rate, although the difference will be difficult to detect. "It's probably indistinguishable to even a great set of ears," says Levitin.

      3. Leading comments about how this new-fangled "HD Audio" thang will fix it for you like magic. Just keep spending, spending, spending.

      The files will have to be stored at higher sampling rates and higher bit rates. [Please re-purchase all your music.]
      Computing power will have to grow. New playback machines will have to be introduced. [Please re-purchase all your home theater equipment, and include DRM this time.]
      (Ramone thinks high-definition television is the model for something that could be "HD audio.") [Since DVD-Audio didn't convince you, let's try it under a new name.]

      I won't be buying...
  • That's Fine (Score:4, Funny)

    by pedropolis ( 928836 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:02PM (#20218943)
    10% of Britney Spears or the Aguilera Monster is fine with me, although 5% would be better.
  • But (Score:5, Funny)

    by fishthegeek ( 943099 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:02PM (#20218949) Journal
    Seriously... 6% of any given Britney Spears song is still sufficient to cause internal hemorrhaging. The other 94%, if added back, would just be salt on the wound.
  • Backasswords (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WiiVault ( 1039946 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:02PM (#20218951)
    Saying that MP3s sport less than 10% of the music of a CD is just plain stupid. Perhaps 10% of the data, but frankly that would only be a low bit rates. That is a little like saying that radio is destroying music because it is not CD-quality. Everybody has a different tolerance. For me 128 just won't do it but up that to 256 and I can't tell the difference. These people are just dinosaurs afraid of the future. I'd take a high bit rate 6-channel AAC file over a CD any day of the week,
  • Whining. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) * <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:02PM (#20218953) Homepage Journal
    It's just whining. There have been numerous double-blind ABX [] tests, many done by the folks over at, comparing MP3 files to AIFFs, and with the right codec and right bitrates (depending on the type of source material), it's possible to get an MP3 that only the most refined ears can discriminate from the original. [1]

    Of course, it's quite possible to make an MP3 that sounds like a tin-can telephone with one end held underwater, and I'd argue that many of the consumer-ripped files floating around the P2P networks fall into this category, but these files only exist *because* there aren't legitimate, professionally-made, DRM-free MP3s. (And because some people like getting stuff for free and don't much care about the quality when they do. But I do think there is a market for and profit in digitally-delivered music, for the people who can do it right.)

    As more music begins to be distributed as MP3s, sound engineers will doubtless (if they have not already) begin studying the codecs and encoding procedures in order to wring the most quality out of a particular bit rate. Many amateurs and enthusiasts have already done this, and there is a sizable body of work devoted to the topic -- including the LAME encoder itself.

    Also, looking towards the future, while CDs have pegged the standard for digital music as 2 channel, 44.1kHz, 16-bit PCM, there is no reason why an appropriately-crafted MP3 file cannot *exceed* it in terms of quality. The Apple iPod already supports (slightly) higher sample rates, I believe, and if consumers desire it [2], there's no reason why modern digital formats cannot encapsulate very high-definition audio.

    The only people who I hear whining about MP3 are those with either an ulterior motive and a desire to try and keep the industry from moving away from a distribution model that revolves around physical objects, or those who just don't understand the technology. (There are a very small core of audiophiles and techies who seem to dislike MP3 because they prefer some other format, usually either for ethical/political reasons or technical ones, and there certainly is an argument in favor of using lossless formats in lieu of MP3 for distribution, but overall MP3 strikes a good balance between quality and portability. [3])

    [1] One 'competition' that pitted serious self-described audiophiles against modern codecs is described in detail here: ssical/mp3test.html []. While well-trained ears could discriminate between 128kbit MP3s and PCM, they could not reliably tell the difference between 256kbit and PCM, on average. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

    [2] Which is a big 'if.' The buying public, to date, has shown little interest in high-definition audio as such. The only exception to this is multichannel audio, but that only in movie soundtracks for surround sound.

    [3] This does raise the question, though, of why the legitimate music-download sites don't take a cue from the late, great, and just allow the *customers* to choose their format of choice for their downloads. There's really no particular excuse not to at least offer a few different quality/size options, particularly for popular music that is going to be enjoyed in a variety of settings (automobiles, portables, home stereos -- each lends itself to a slightly different EQ and compression).
    • That's all very interesting. Someone's probably going to follow up with a mention of some Fourier/Nyquist theorem about the sufficient conditions for reproduction of a sound.

      But I'm just hoping someone does the same double blind test, but for wine, so we can get connoisseurs to shut the **** up about the soil quality of where the grapes for their wine were grown...
  • What kind of screen doors do these people have and where can I buy one?
  • Yes and no. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:03PM (#20218963) Homepage Journal
    If music is only stored as an MP3 than yes we will be loosing some of the music. Flac would fix that. Now to the question, are MP3s and cheap earbuds ruining music? I would say the lost of dynamic range in modern CDs, the nightmare that is Clearchannel, and the general decline in the quality of music are much greater threats. Let's not forget the draconian tactics of the music industry also seem to come into play. It has gotten to the point that I hate the record companies and just don't want to pay their prices.
    • Sure, you can tell the difference between MP3 and CD, but untimately what is important is what the customers want. CD is technically overspecced. There is little point in having CD quality recordings which are a significant number of dB better than the microphones, speakers, funtiture, carpets, road noise, your eardums and other distortions and noise that inject their way into the deliver path.

      There's probably a sweet spot somewhere between MP3 and CD where you would not notice the difference.

      Clearly MP3 is

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @09:24PM (#20219853) Homepage

      the nightmare that is Clearchannel

      I freely admit that ClearChannel and the four-company record label oligopoly have both been bad things for the music industry. But isn't the RIAA proof enough that the music industry isn't something that any of us should mourn? If ClearChannel is helping to kill it -- if ClearChannel is standing right in front of us, plunging a butcher knife into the music industry over and over -- then I say all we need to do is point and laugh.

      The death of the music industry doesn't seem to be doing anything to slow musicians down. Not the real ones, anyway. Maybe I just live on the fringes, but more and more I'm hearing about how the major labels are struggling, cursing, and biting their nails, while at the same time independent labels are experiencing a boom time. It's certainly been true of punk and metal for a long time that the really important new artists are all going to be on indies. Some of the best rock bands of recent years -- bands that 20 years ago might have been deemed "radio rock" -- have emerged from the indie scene. And lately, more and more hip-hop artists have been releasing so-called mix tapes (many of which violate copyrights, bringing hip-hop proudly back to its roots) and putting out records through independent labels (and I don't mean "bespoke 'independent' subsidiary of Interscope created as a vanity imprint for a particular artist," I mean real indie labels).

      Meanwhile, other people sign to major labels and what do they get? In effect, they get to go into debt via a whopping big bank loan that someone else gets to spend to record, release, and market an album and a tour package. And then every penny of that loan has to be paid back by the artist before the artist sees a dime. Why do these musicians put up with it? Because they are not really musicians ... they are wage earners who made up their minds to go and work in the music industry. They don't see anything wrong with being the equivalent of a character from Office Space, working 9 to 5 in an industry than churns out factory-manufactured pap like Velvet Revolver, Audioslave, 50 Cent, Limp Bizkit, Avril Lavigne ... made-to-order music cobbled together in a studio by cynical marketers who don't differentiate music from any other disposable consumer good. The so-call artists don't care because they get to buy pretty clothes and date pretty girls, and that's it. So who needs 'em? If that's the music industry we're talking about, let's let it die.

      The real damage done by the recording industry cartel, unfortunately, has been to the independent retailer. Very few mom n' pop record stores can survive selling CDs that Best Buy and Wal*Mart are going to discount 30 percent. MP3s are also doing damage to indie retailers' sales, for sure ... but MP3s are surely only another nail in the coffin. The damage has been done by the industry itself, which is more reason to say "good riddance."

      MP3 (or pick your format) as a channel for legitimate music distribution is still only in its infancy. Who among you is going to tell me that digital downloads aren't going to continue to play a bigger and bigger part in music distribution of all types, though? It's a shame that this might effectively pull the rug out of the customer-friendly, independent retailer scene before it really puts the screws on ClearChannel et al, but nobody is better positioned to take advantage of the changes than the people who aren't paying off their student loans on their MBAs by getting piggy-back rides from other people's music.

  • by MagikSlinger ( 259969 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:03PM (#20218967) Homepage Journal
    Bad mixing. I can't find the link right now, but many people have complained about how CDs are being produced by mixing things loud and the sound getting clipped. Add to that most consumer CD players completely process the CD signal to hell and gone then they play it through cheap-ass head phones so seriously, the consumer has already lost a lot of quality. Most listeners won't notice the difference because of their playback set-up.

    Of course, some people are now going for the "super bitrate" MP3s ripped directly from CDs, but they are the rare ones.

    Also, if the mass market really wanted higher audio quality, don't you think any of the CD successors would have taken off already?
  • Background noise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hack slash ( 1064002 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:03PM (#20218969)
    Whilst it's true that lossy compressed audio can't sound exactly the same as the original, it's worth bearing in mind that people will listen to their portable mp3 player in places where the background noise is sufficient to drown out any imperfections the compression creates.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    because cd's are always perfect: []
  • by LowSNR ( 1138511 )
    MP3 is not the problem. Given a sufficiently high bitrate, MP3's are going to be indistinguishable from the CD (read: digital) audio that the producer is so overly concerned about. Even that is hugely dependent on what you're using to reproduce the audio.

    The article mentions that the iPod and its cheap earbuds bear some of the responsibility for rendering this degradation in sound quality less objectionable.

    This is a good point... even if you're still stuck on 128kbps/44.1kHz audio, unless you're talking a real high-quality stereo with high-quality speakers with perfect linearity and a flat response, you're not going to hear the difference.

  • 1) The sound reproduction is appalling; even a $10 pair of in-ear headphones leads to a vast improvement in the sound.

    2) Even if iPod is hidden from view, the white earbuds scream 'Please mug me, I have an iPod'

    3) If you're worried about losing the conspicuous consumption 'status' of having white earbuds, then ignore rule 2), and go listen to Brian Eno on a street corner in Compton.

  • It's true, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheCoders ( 955280 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:07PM (#20219049) Homepage
    While the 90% figure may be overblowing things a bit, there is a noticeable loss of sound fidelity when converting to a compressed format. In fact, it's actually quite impressive that the loss is not even more noticeable than it is, and that is a testament to the brilliance of the original MP3 algorithms, which have been tweaked and honed to make the quality even better.

    The fact remains, however, that most listeners, in most situations, don't care. For one thing, popular music has, since the 50s, been designed for listening to on cheap equipment. The dynamic range is enormously compressed, the sounds are often fuzzy to begin with, the voices are straight front and center. This can explain the dwindling popularity of classical and jazz, and the rise of the louder, simpler, more beat-oriented music like rock, rap, or pop. Note that I'm not saying the music is of lower quality, but that it can be reproduced "faithfully enough" on lower quality equipment.

    I don't have any statistics, but I would bet that most music listening happens while the listener is doing something else: driving, working out, coding python scripts, etc. In those circumstances, an average listener is not going to notice a little swishiness in the cymbals, or lack of crispness on the trumpet's timbre.

    Those who care (like me) will shell out the extra bucks for higher fidelity. Those who don't care, which are in the majority, will use whatever technology is most convenient.
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:08PM (#20219063)
    No worries! If you want high quality stuff, like sound board recordings of live shows of decent artists that aren't controlled by the RIAA, it's out there in SHN/FLAC (lossless codecs). It's just not what most of the consumer market wants for a variety of reasons including size constraints, the fact that the music has little depth as it is, and it takes too long to download.
  • by Uksi ( 68751 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:10PM (#20219079) Homepage
    Is the concern overblown? Maybe not with 128kbps mp3s (as opposed to say 256kbs ABR kind).

    However, these same producers compress the living bejeezus out of their music during the production, killing all the dynamics. So frankly, the effect of a lower-bitrate mp3 isn't quite the castration of full-on sonic fidelity that's portrayed in the TFA.

    10% of original music is an overblown claim, because the music is not just filtered down, but is also compressed. In truth, the article should be comparing against equivalent lossless audio compression formats, which yield about 60-70% of the original size (so does that mean that a FLAC file contains 60-70% of the original music? No!)

    The bit about the compressed music affecting the perception in a different manner is an interesting one, but I really struggle to see how the difference can come through the average consumer equipment. It just doesn't. For example, things such as SACDs or high-quality vinyl records allow the recording to retain a lot of the "air," ambience of the room, which gives a perception of larger-than-life sound, makes it sound more full, gives it an impression of better dimensionality, really puts you there. But shit, you can only hear that on high-end equipment with the entire signal chain made out of quality components, and you sure as hell won't hear the difference on a consumer system.

    Most people also do not listen to the music in an environment that allows for such an engaging listening experience.

    I too am sad to see the consumers ignore higher-quality audio (as I want that higher quality for myself, being an audio geek of sorts), but I completely understand where they are coming from.
  • by wall0159 ( 881759 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:10PM (#20219085)
    This reminds me of the fuss that currently exists over HD-TV. People gasp at the quality of the picture, but don't notice the lack-of-quality of the content. It's the same with music - people focus too much on the equipment, and ignore the music.

    I've got a beautiful violin recording from the 20s or 30s. It's very low-fi, scratchy as hell, but the playing is magnificent. Ask any jazz fan whether they'd prefer to listen to a well-used John Coltrane LP, or Kenny G in 192 kHz / 24-bit, DVD-A.

    People, listen to the music -- not the equipment! Otherwise you're a hifi-collector, not a music fan.
  • Cheap earbuds? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Satri ( 609291 ) <alexandreleroux&gmail,com> on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:12PM (#20219107) Homepage Journal

    iPod and its cheap earbuds bear some of the responsibility for rendering this degradation in sound quality less objectionable []
    I'm very satisfied with these earbuds and I'm probably not alone. I do feel these earbuds sound great. And no, I'm not your audiophile, just a regular guy who's satisfied and unhappy reading such a quote, fanboyism aside.
  • Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AttillaTheNun ( 618721 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:31PM (#20219339)
    True, any mp3 is technically inferior to their CD counterpart.

    True, decently encoded mp3s are barely distinguishable from their CD counterparts to the vast majority of listeners.

    Also true, even poorly encoded mp3s are capable of sounding vastly superior to the collection of cassettes and 4-tracks, which formed previous generations of portable music. Still, the record companies charged more for those formats than vinyl and the music producers didn't complain about their paychecks back then.

    The real difference that is affecting the livelihood of music professionals these days has less to do with the quality of the format than the quality of music produced these days. That and the end of the music industry's archaic and monopolistic distribution model.

  • Ad hominem productem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous McCartneyf ( 1037584 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:34PM (#20219383) Homepage Journal
    Couldn't the RIAA have found a better spokeperson for their argument than Phil Spector?
    Phil Spector, as a producer, is best known for the Wall of Sound--creating an effect by cramming as many instruments into the studio and on the master tape as possible. I suppose his music would be an edge case in data removal--if you could actually hear every detail in his recordings, then the Wall of Sound would really be overwhelming.
    But the Wall of Sound works best in mono; it doesn't fully work in stereo. Hearing more detail makes it less effective, and that kind of music tends to get called "overproduced" regardless of merit.
    Spector is also responsible for producing the original Let It Be. Spector laid an orchestra on "Long and Winding Road" that, in remastered Redbook CD detail, drowns out every other non-vocal instrument on the track and nearly swamps Paul's vocals.
    In short, the man often puts more detail in his tracks than the average ear can hear, on purpose.
    There is also the problem that Spector is on trial for murder right now. This makes no difference to the validity of his theories, but it would have been nice if the RIAA had tapped a famous producer who was not at risk of going to San Quentin.
  • by alchemist68 ( 550641 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @08:42PM (#20219467)
    OK folks, let's get real... I'm both an Apple fanatic and an audiophile, and I can tell you, if you want audiophile-quality playback and without 'missing' anything in the music assuming you've purchased the CD, then you need to be listening to that music on a stereo system of no less than $10,000 (U.S.) purchased from a professional sound shop. Forget that $1000 Sony, Pioneer, Fisher, Bose integrated amplifier with 5-speaker surround sound. It ain't gonna matter. When you start looking at the individual components and their specs, and how they integrate together, in addition to considering Transparent Cable interconnects and speaker cables (they have band-pass filters located at the terminals), then you have the beginnings of a decent system, not even a good one. In fact, if you can afford American-made stereo components, then you can walk about with a BIG STICK! Some of the best-sounding audio equipment in the world is designed and 'Made In America' if you can afford it - and I cannot! - 'nuff said...

    To make the best sounding MP3s, download iTunesLame and start making the best-sounding 320 kb/sec MP3 that the algorhythm can make. If that isn't good enough for you, you can always copy the original AIFF file off of the CD and drag it into iTunes, or use Apple's Lossless format to have the same quality at 1/2 the disk space.

    My point is, make the best possible sounding MP3 file you can, because eventually, you will upgrade you MP3 player to something better and you will find that upgrading the quality of your MP3 library is a very arduous task and a waste of time. Hard drive space is cheap, and getting cheaper. Just make the best sounding MP3 you can make, and be happy with it. Actually, most people are not missing all that much from the MP3 format. Even I, an audiophile, don't analyze every nuance of a music I listen to in MP3 format - I just ENJOY IT, hell, Journey, REO Speedwagon, and Van Halen aren't going to sound any better on my iPod as opposed to the radio in a 1976 AMC Gremlin or 1981 Chevy Chevette.

    MP3 format was designed for maximum music quality with music loss and compression - keep that in mind... You want to hear the 'real thing' without loss? Then go to the recording studio or the concert with no hearing loss.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm both an Apple fanatic and an audiophile, and I can tell you, if you want audiophile-quality playback and without 'missing' anything in the music assuming you've purchased the CD, then you need to be listening to that music on a stereo system of no less than $10,000 (U.S.) purchased from a professional sound shop.

      Sorry, but I disagree completely.

      A couple of years ago I went out and spent about £600 (= $1200) on a CD player, amplifier and speakers, I spent a lot of time listening to different se

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper ( 135110 )

      if you want audiophile-quality playback and without 'missing' anything in the music assuming you've purchased the CD, then you need to be listening to that music on a stereo system of no less than $10,000 (U.S.) purchased from a professional sound shop.

      That's just a bunch of pseudo audiophile dogma, and it's pure crap. Something along the lines of superstition.

      For $100 you can get an amplifier with 0.02% THD, which is about as good as you can get, and for another $100 a pair of very good full range speaker

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hcdejong ( 561314 )
        which is about as good as you can get,

        And that's just as dogmatic as the GP, just going the other way. Sound quality is a continuum: you can keep improving a sound system by throwing money at it. Diminishing returns do apply, and at the high end there's lots of bullshit to wade through. Not all components show the same amount of improvement for X amount of dollars: the quality curve flattens for CD players and amplifiers sooner than for loudspeakers.

        $100 does not get you a 'very good' pair of full-range spe
  • This is good ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cafe Alpha ( 891670 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @10:21PM (#20220311) Journal
    from the Music industry's point of view. You will buy the MP3. Then buy the high quality Vorbis or whatever. Then buy the 44khz stereo lossless. Then by the 98khz five channel lossless. There you go, four times the sales!

    And take may word for it, except for the jump 44khz to 98khz you can hear the difference (once you get to know the music). Children, who's hearing can go up to 30khz or higher, can hear the jump from 44khz to 98khz too, and some very young adults may still be able to hear a difference. But not for too long!
  • by paulbd ( 118132 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @10:44PM (#20220463) Homepage

    psycho-acoustic compression of audio was really devised as a band-aid for low bandwidth connectivity. its a tragedy that in 10 years time, when storage costs (disk + memory) and bandwidth have changed so dramatically as to render such compression as archaic, we will still have a couple of generations thinking that its the de facto standard for storing music on digital media. sigh. double sigh. triple sigh.

  • by aslvrstn ( 1047588 ) on Monday August 13, 2007 @10:57PM (#20220571)

    FLAC: ... reduces storage space by 30 percent to 50 percent, but without compression.
    Think of the possibilities! 50% smaller files, without compression! Think how small we could get the files if we compressed them!
  • Audio Resolution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @10:29AM (#20224513) Journal
    I'm an amateur producer of music and I find the comparison of mp3's to wav's or cd's similar to comparing low resolution screens to high resolution screens. I find the convenience of mp3's has been useful for work-out's and in the car where there is enough background noise to absorb the destruction of some audio artifacts.

    To me there seems to be some problems with the psycho-acoustic models that are being used for mp3, because those artifacts make my ears feel itchy. To me it sounds low resolution, especially cybals and other high frequency audio. It sounds pixelated and annoying, low and midrange sounds ok, but the high end sounds so annoying and obvious that listening for problems in the low and mid-range is irrelavent.

    The other thing is the capacity of flash devices keeps increasing and the fact that most car stereos have usb port I wonder if mp3 is useful any more, is there a point to having a massive music capacity, when you can have slightly less quantity and much better quality especially when the capability of technology increases. A 4Gb flash is enough for roughly 6 cd's at full resolution, or 12 at half resolution (approx fm radio) without lossy compression such as mp3.

    Another thing is the psycho-acoustic model, why is the ambient components of music not important, who decided that? Those seemingly redundant components of music are very interesting components of the piece, the echo, reverberation and some harmonic components are the character of the music. With all due repect to engineers, they are not musicians or producers. Writing and producing music is not a science, it's an art. Engineers involved in the production of equipment to produce music are constantly striving to create equipment that is capable of accuratley recording the musicians and producers intentions. Sampling rates on the recording side are increasing, 96khz sampling rates at 24bit are common place for recording and many other technological advancements, but the use of the technology, placement of microphones, type of microphones is similar to the way a painter uses paintbrushes.

    I would never listen to mp3's on my home hi-fi. High-fidelity music is a joy to listen to, and high resolution hi-fi sound is astounding. To draw the oposite analagy, at what point does lowering the resolution of a picture make it unviewable? It's the same with sound and that's the choice the listener has to make.

  • by DrVomact ( 726065 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @02:59PM (#20228287) Journal

    I've noticed what I believe to be an important and prevalent consequence of technological innovation: many recent technological advances entail lowering the qualitative expectations of consumers. For example, the average quality of cell phone calls is significantly lower than anything that would have been deemed acceptable by a land-line customer twenty years ago. Even using a high-end cell phone, you often have calls where there's lots of static, words get "dropped"--or maybe your whole call gets dropped because you're in a poor reception area. Airplane trips have gone from a near-luxurious experience to something like being run through sheep dip. Audio quality, as discussed in this thread, is another clear example of quality suffering at the hands of technology.

    Time was when "audiophiles" spent thousands of dollars on then-exotic "hi-fi" gadgetry to achieve a sound that was a "life-like" as possible. (As I recall, some of my friends thought that listening to a recording of a steam locomotive on their hi-fis at top volume was the ultimate auditory experience. I never quite figured that one out.) The ultimate objective of those who were truly "into sound" was to extract every note from their cosseted vinyl recordings with ultimate "fidelity".

    Then came the Compact Disk--a development greeted by apocalyptic horror on the part of many audiophiles. I'm aware that this topic has been discussed ad nauseam, so I'm not going to pursue at great length the question of whether CDs per se deliver sound inferior to that of vinyl. All I know is that I've listened to CD and Vinyl recordings of the same musical performances, and the vinyl sounded distinctly better. Maybe this is due to inherent technical limitations of the CD format--or perhaps the studios who produced those CDs just didn't exercise as much care in their making as they might have.

    Now we have yet another quality regression: MP3. Nobody is going to tell me that a 128kbps recording of a decent piece of music sounds as good as that same piece played from either a vinyl or CD recording on high-quality equipment. I know that for a fact because I've compared 128 and 256kbps recordings on mediocre equipment (my car stereo), and I cold tell that the 256 sounded way better than the 128. I'd be lying if I said I tried comparing 256kbs against vinyl on good equipment, but I have a hunch that the vinyl would win.

    Where am I going with all this? Well, probably not where you think I am. I recently MP3-ized my entire collection of Vinyl and CD recordings (at 256kbps), and the MP3 recordings are the only thing I listen to any more. Why? One word: convenience. I can carry a lot of music around with me on my little 130Mb USB disk. I can stuff many hours of music onto my MP3 player that I listen to at work. I can do the same in my car. At home, the stereo stands idle...I'm always listening to music via my computer's MP3 player while I play games (who needs to hear explosions, anyway?) or read. In other words, I'm willing to trade quality for other benefits, such as the ability to organize my entire music collection into playlists, to instantly find and play whatever song I feel like, or to be able to listen for hours and hours of music without having to get up and fiddle with finding a disk and putting it on the player.

    Likewise, I've always got my trusty cell-phone clipped to my belt--it's better to have a static-riddled conversation than not be able to talk to a person at all when time is of the essence. I sure think the airlines suck, though. (Actually, that's a red herring--the quality of airline travel cannot be said to have been improved in any way by technology in the last 20 years.)

    As another telling example of sacrificing quality for convenience via modern technology, consider this posting (or article or whatever the heck you call it). A few decades ago, I would have written a carefully polished essay. Now I toss off a piece of schlock while my employer thinks I'm working. Now that's progress!

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham