The Distortion of Sound
This is a short star-studded documentary put together by artist within the music industry chatting about the quality of music. The documentary focuses on “how technology has changed the way we listen to music.”
“We have become a McDonald generation of music consumers.” – Han Zimmer
So MP3 changed it all. The revolution of music compression has allowed us to fit thousands of songs into our pockets. MP3’s were both a blessing and a curse making it more convenient than ever to listen to music on the go. This comes at a price in lack of audio quality. Compression works by removing the “unnecessary” parts of the audio and leaves the brain to fill in the rest.
It is scary that little advances have been made in music compression since its introduction. Yet functionality and music delivery is given the spotlight with a focus on convenience over audio quality.
There are two types of compression when it comes to listening to music:
Lossy compression involves the removal of the “unnecessary” parts of the file. In music this compression allows the file size of an MP3 to be about a 10th of the size when on a CD. The loss in data includes quiet nuances and detail found in the higher frequencies. With lossy files, once compressed the original file data cannot be returned.
With lossless file compression you can return to the original, hence the quality is retained and no parts of the file are lost. One downside of this is that file size is massive with a single song being 30-40MB in size. WAV, FLAC and ALAC are example of lossless file types.
The stat below stood out, shame it wasn’t done scientifically:
Up to 4x as many people will nod their heads when listening to hi-fidelity audio over the low-res counterpart!
I guess this has got me thinking and I want to ask you as a reader to just think about the quality of music you listen to.
After watching/reading this I want to know do you care? Would you be interested in trying an alternative? Feel free to continue the discussion below in the comments!
- Trying some lossless music
- Importing a CD in a lossless file type
- Thinking about where and how you listen to music
What I did next:
I have brought an album from a website called Bandcamp. The site allows users to download the tracks in an array of formats and offers higher quality lossless files for download. The best bit is that the price is the same or cheaper than you pay at any other music site. One downside is not all artist are on the platform.
As an aside, for those who care I use ALAC format which allows me to keep them in iTunes and on my iPad.
I got an album called We Like it Here by Snarky Puppy.
I’ve been listening via my headphones (Sennheiser CX300II) and have thoroughly enjoyed the album. I can’t specifically tie that down to the high quality version but I think it helps.
After the stat, consciously or not I did find myself air drumming, moving around and enjoying the music a lot more than in the past. I noticed considerably more high frequency content and clearer differentiation between instruments. If I was to try and describe it I’d say that the lossless file alternatives just had more ‘life’ in them.
I was going to go on a rant about how great live music is but I think I’ll save that for another time!