Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sound Advice

Okay, so reports of the death of the CD format may have been greatly exaggerated, but it doesn't fail to amaze me that people's tolerance of poor quality audio seems to be infinite.

I still love to tinker with my audio equipment at home. You know, the stuff which used to be called hifi. Turntables, CD players, amplifiers and speakers dedicated to converting media which had been lovingly crafted into the best quality sound available.

It used to be a social thing, listening to music together, even just as a collective background to reading, knitting or whatever. And I'm not just talking about a vinyl versus CD thing. I love vinyl records. They have a quality about them which CD cannot match. I'm not saying it's better, just different.

Like, most of the time I'm happy sitting and sipping a rye & dry, ice and lemon. Sometimes it nice to sit and just concentrate on a single malt and contemplate where it came from, the moors, the heathers, the peat and copper, the barley and the water ... That, for me is the difference between vinyl records and CD/digital.

Now music is just a shoddy commodity squirted down a tube into your ears, and your ears alone, sadly just another solitary activity while you're on the commute, walking down the road.

Let me illustrate.

Lossless Audio File | Compressed Music File - .mp3
The above image illustrates what modern music formats are all about. The way a compressed image file and a compressed audio file such as .mp3 works is very similar. On the left an image with full dynamics. On the right compressed and pixelated.

Now imagine looking at this image through a pair of thrift store reading glasses compared to your own prescription lenses. It looks crap right? For dollar-store glasses read mp3 player and earbuds and for prescription glasses read hifi. In fact, the right hand side will still look crap through your honed to perfection glasses.

Compressed image files do not look good. Compressed audio files do not sound good.

Insist on good quality audio.
Lossless Audio File | Compressed Music File - .mp3

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