The Problem With Digital Audio Files

It seems that mainstream digital files are finally getting the sonic treatment they deserve.  Apple claims that they are in the works to improve the quality of their downloads in the Itunes store, and HDTracks recently announced that they would be releasing The Rolling Stones catalog in high-resolution audio downloads.  It’s no secret that the sound quality of MP3s is inferior to that of CDs and vinyl.

While this is fantastic news, it should have been occurred earlier.  In most other areas consumers have not only expected, but demanded high quality products. Organic foods are getting more popular every year.  Hollywood has been pushing digital versions of their movies for years.  And who wants to go back to watching an NFL game on a television that’s not in HD?  So why is it, that when it comes to music, most consumers opt for a shitty low quality product?

It probably comes from ignorance of what constitutes good sound, and a preference for convenience.  Sure, an Ipod gives you access to as music as you could possibly want at one time, but you’re getting the audio equivalent of a grainy technicolor movie.  Due to the compression, some instruments in a song are either buried, or left out completely.

I’ve always been aware that MP3s give a distorted version of a particular track, but I never paid much attention to it until recently.  I could tell that an album sounded better on a CD or vinyl than it did on my Ipod.  When I received Bob Dylan’s Original Mono Recordings as a christmas present, I really became aware of how much we settle for inferior sound.

With the exception of Bob Dylan, I’ve listened to his first eight albums probably hundreds of times.  I know most of the tracks by heart.  Listening to the Mono versions, I heard instruments on “Like a Rolling Stone” that I didn’t know existed on the song.  The songs on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan had a warmth and immediacy that is lost on even the CD version.  On “Mr. Tambourine Man”, it sounds like Dylan is actually playing in front on you, complete with an echo that sounds a shiver down the spine.  The set came with a coupon to download high quality MP3s of the albums, and I was surprised to find out that they sounded almost the same as the CD versions.  I’ve since deleted my original copies of the album, as I can’t go back.

The quality presented on the Original Mono Recordings is for a specific group of fans, but it shouldn’t have to be that way.  Music fans deserve more than bastardized versions of their favorite songs. And perhaps, people would be more willing to pay for a product that actually sounds good.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Problem With Digital Audio Files

  1. toomanyconverse

    Oh my goodness I totally agree. A lot of people are just going for convenience, but they don’t understand that they’re missing out on an entire EXPERIENCE by not getting the CD or vinyl.

    • Besides the sound quality, I also like vinyl because it forces you to listen to the album as a whole. It’s not as easy to skip to the next song…I also feel that your reward for finishing a side is flipping it over and discovering what’s on the next side.

      I checked out your site and signed up for the subscription. I’ll add a link when I get around to doing it…I have lots that I need to put up, I just keep forgetting.

      • toomanyconverse

        Yeah, I have a friend who’s OBSESSED with Muse and he was telling me how it’s a completely different experience to sit down and JUST LISTEN to one of their CD’s without doing something else at the same time. Even though he was just talking about the one band, I think this could also apply to many others. I definitely agree with you about vinyl. I love listening to my parents’ old records. It has a totally different feel, you know?

        Thanks for subscribing! You don’t have to though haha. I didn’t comment on your post to try and get more readers. I’m not sure that the things I put up are going to be things that you care about….

      • No, I’ll add. I like to add people who read my blog. Never listened to Muse, but they seem like a band that puts effort into the actual album aspect of their music, and not just the songs.

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