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Topic: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

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  1. #1
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    Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    Techdirt is reporting
    Every so often we have a story about how audiophiles freak out about how awful MP3s sound, and how they're "ruining music." We tend to joke about those stories, and then the audiophiles come out in the comments and scream about how we're totally clueless and if we only spent six figures on our own stereo system, we'd feel the same way. So, I'm sure they're going to be upset to hear that a growing number of young folks actually prefer the sound of MP3s to other, much higher "quality" systems. The theory is that they're so used to hearing the sound associated with MP3s, they are more comfortable with it and prefer it. In fact, the article notes, some believe the same is true of those who believe that vinyl's sound quality is so much greater than other formats: much of it is actually because they're so used to the sound quality associated with vinyl.
    Are standards devolving? Or are MP3s good enough?

    What do you think?

  2. #2
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    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    Hey Gary,

    My hearing has been slowly deteriorating for years, so I am not probably the best to comment. I was one of those who was told that vinyl was superior to digital about 10 years ago. I suppose on the first few playings that might have been true with the right equipment, but as they deteriorate from repeated playing even I was able to notice it. Depending on the music I can no longer hear the difference if the sampling rate of the mp3 is high enough (like on the kury/bacos mp3s in another thread). At the same time I am sure that some can, just like sometimes I can hear the difference with an dvdaudio disc. It depends on the music and the playback equipment. I do not think that my laptop speakers are good for showing differences that may occur. Just my 2 cents.

    Paul

  3. #3

    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    This is gonna be fun.


    Let me get this foundation track recorded and I'll be back.
    Producer ~ Sound Engineer ~ Musician

    http://www.myspace.com/451525581

  4. #4

    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    Generally speaking, the average human ear is just not that discerning. A dog maybe, but not a human. A person who tells you that he can distinguish between the sound of an mp3 and any other music recording media is probably fooling himself (or herself) and is engaging in a bit of wishful thinking.
    Larry G. Alexander
    www.alexandermusic.com

  5. #5

    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    Very interesting, Gary!

    I think this finding that young people seem to prefer the sound of MP3s could possibly mean that people's ears Are discerning enough to hear the differences between various forms of recordings, otherwise how could they have a preference? - Or are the young people in that study saying they prefer MP3s only out of a kind of "brand loyalty," and their preference has nothing to do with the actual sonic differences? They'll also say they much prefer Boxer shorts to briefs - and that's just an example of the fashion world selling them on a totally arbitrary preference.

    - Side note--You older guys, my age, did you Ever think you'd see the day when Boxers, which we used to consider "old man" style and extremely dorky looking would somehow become In again? Still amazes me!

    I think a lot of this underscores how people are creatures of habit, and we all tend to prefer what we're used to. People who still prefer the sound of vinyl, even though that sound is Very easily demonstrated to be full of imperfections--hum, rumble, scratches, surface noise - they're being nostalgic and wanting to stick with the sound they grew up with. That's an easy preference to understand.

    Young people also tend to detest black and white movies. I've been around young people (under 30 shall we say?) who get agitated and moan and groan, leave the room--unable to watch B&W because it's so different from what they're used to. They can accept B&W as a special effect - since it's often used in MTV videos and modern films as an effect rather than just a medium choice. But it's again just what they're used to. They tend to also dislike eating vegetables, and can be very stubborn to attempt expanding their taste palettes.

    When I make an MP3 copy of my own music, if I leave the settings to the medium ones used in most online MP3s - I can clearly hear a difference, because distortion creeps in, and muddiness simultaneously with rough-edged harshness. If I move the MP3 burner's controls to full quality, then it's much more difficult to distinguish the copy from the original .wav file.

    Regardless of how many people are finding the difference between full tilt recordings and MP3s to be subtle, I still can't imagine ever going directly to MP3s for archiving my music - the way a lot of people are apparently now doing.

    There are some thoughts on this. Interesting stuff!

    Randy

  6. #6

    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    A HUGE THANKS TO GARY!

    You had no idea, Gary, but you just provided some further bibliography for my thesis!

    Here's a part of my thesis, referring to the piece called Unique, and is developed while feeding this very forum at the same time (http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=65251)

    Quote Originally Posted by My Thesis
    ... Unique is a piece of music which exists only in recording, even the score has been provided for the scopes of the PhD research and examination. There's no need for a score, and by no means the work is playable in front of a live audience. Either way the objective of this music is to remain a single copy of recorded work, and under these requirements it can utilise any studio technique or effect needed to accomplish the envisioned aesthetic environment.


    The Internet and the widespread use of the mp3 format (a format using a form of lossy data compression), has brought the decline of audible quality in music listening. A music item that would be created with high fidelity in mind, by using the most up to date advancements in music and computer technology and composed in such a way as to accent all those characteristics which would be lost in an mp3 conversion, could possibly be created in vain for a world which no longer cares for such attributes.


    It's of high importance that the composer should be aware of the medium he/she's working on and the instrumentation she/he has been given. These are the very ground rules, the foundations from a practical point of view, on which a composer will build his/her music and are pretty much indisputable. Under the same sense, perhaps the composer should also be aware of the audience he's writing for, as it certainly happens in more marketable media, like pop music, or film music.


    But for an audience moulded over the years to not care for high fidelity and perfection in the sound they're listening to, might they have been also fixated away from contemporary music as well?...



    I think that it's very relevant today!


    In all honesty you need 2 things to be able to notice the difference between a "good" mp3 and a CD quality wav file: A good pair of ears (and your attention of course) and good reproduction of the sound.


    I'm a composer, I've been dealing all my (short compared to some of you) life with music and I deal with it professionally at a high level. When I'm out, I'm listening to crappy mp3 files and I don't mind at all! I don't expect my mp3 player, the crappy headphones and the noise in the tube or out on the street to give me a chance to notice the lossy quality of mp3s... In my $3000 monitors and my control room in my home studio, I certainly mind mp3s (lower than 192 kbp, I'm not such an audiofille) and I prefer the quality of the CDs...

  7. #7

    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    Quote Originally Posted by Garritan View Post
    in fact, the article notes, some believe the same is true of those who believe that vinyl's sound quality is so much greater than other formats: much of it is actually because they're so used to the sound quality associated with vinyl.
    Unless mistaken, BTW, vinyl is analogue and CD is digital, so there's every sense preferring an analogue recording, than a digital one (considering that the vinyl player goes through a normal amp and not some digitized, etc....)

    At least I think so

  8. #8

    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    What? no way... mp3's are good for getting the general idea across, but not for full musical sound depth. I liken it to the 1950's when 45 singles were the big thing. We listen for the biggest hits and danced to them at sock hops, but they were no where near the quality of even my grand dads old Philips console that would even record your voice on soft vinyl platters. And certainly not the quality of a good audiophile speaker system with cross-over networks that sent high frequencies to tweeters, middle range frequencies to mid-sized cones and low frequencies to 16 inch plus woofers! Now that was a sound to behold!!!


    Certainly doesn't match the quality of an iPod with earbuds.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  9. #9

    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    For me it all depends what the music is.

    I hear terrible aliasing / quantisation artefacts in things like cymbals, piccolos, high strings, etc. Even the best resolution of mp3 or wma doesn't come vaguely close. There are some sounds where I probably can't tell though.
    David

  10. #10

    Re: Discuss: Many prefer the sound of MP3 over hi-fi audio

    It all depends on the bitrate. Personally, I can't listen to most Internet radio stations for more than 30 minutes. I get fatigued. The sounds are without depth and harsh.

    On the other hand, some of the better encoded demos are fine. I can listen to them with enjoyment, though I don't typically string enough together to burn out.

    It's kind of like noise reduction. Reduce noise by a small amount and you hear the noise reduced with no discernible distortion. Reduce by too much, and the sounds are garbled and "underwater."

    I don't mind high bit rate MP3s for end distribution. I wouldn't record, mix, and master with it though!

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