Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Are MP3's "Good" or just "Good Enough"

I always laugh when I see car commercials touting "mp3 quality sound" or iPod integration as some high water mark for audio fidelity. Just like how it drove me crazy watching the old Dodge commercials with a vapid wife loudly proclaiming "It's gawt uh deeveedee!" (PLAYER YOU WHORE! It has a DVD PLAYER), I don't think most consumers really understand what an MP3 really is.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a pretty decent write up on what mp3's are, and they get the perspectives of several Grammy award winning recording engineers. You can image they aren't that satisfied with the current state of digital compression.

"When even the full files on the CDs contain less than half the information
stored to studio hard drives during recording, these compressed MP3s represent
a minuscule fraction of the actual recording. For purists, it's the dark ages
of recorded sound.
"You can get used to awful," says record producer Phil Ramone. "You can
appreciate nothing. We've done it with fast food."

These studio professionals bring their experience and expensive, modern
technology to bear on their work; they're scrupulous and fastidious. Then they
hear their work played back on an iPod through a pair of plastic earbuds. Ask
Ramone how it feels to hear his work on MP3s, and he doesn't mince words.
"It's painful," he says.
MP3s have won the war of the formats because of technology, not because of
their audio quality. "It's like hearing through a screen door," says
neuroscientist Daniel Levitin of McGill University, author of "This Is Your
Brain on Music." "There are lines between me and what I want to see."

Article also goes on to talk about what your brain might need to do to fill in the gaps left by current mp3 tech (does it need to work harder?), and compares it to the early days of portable radios.

MP3 Music - It's Better Than It Sounds

My own experiences, I've learned to stop worrying and kind of love the mp3. It's universal, ubiquitous, and easy. Also there is something to be said for WHERE and HOW you listen to music.

If you think you're hawt stuff then you should try this music quiz. Can YOU tell the difference between compressed and not. I shoot almost perfectly 50%, and that's only on my Senny hd25-1's.

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