E-Commerce Times Talkback
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Now that Apple's iTunes Music Store (iTMS) does Windows and Napster has been rehabilitated, more people are venturing into the world of legal music downloads. However, the onset of legal music download services has brought a new issue front and center: sound quality. The bit rate of an iTMS AAC file is 128 kbps -- just a fraction of the 1,411 kbps used for CD WAV and AIFF files. Once the initial wave of excitement subsides, will sound quality become a hurdle for online music companies that want to lure consumers?
This whole question of online music and the cost to the consumer really needs to be examined. From my point of view a buck a song is way too high. How about ten cents per song and then watch the action? These music companies don't think about the volume that they would sell if the price was really right.
I must agree that although I too prefer vinyl, online music is good enough for most listening (it's almost as good as FM radio).
As for downloading, all of the music services should be ashamed of themselves for vending their poor quality overly compressed fare. At $0.79 per song, they're clearly insane. The quality is nowhere close to CD and the price is higher. Frankly, the compression algorithm is horrible and in my opinion, they would do well to license ATRAC from Sony (this is the one that most "pros" can't hear... my 'Golden' ears included).
Selling inferior products at premium prices has always been a bad business model and this is no exception.
As a moderator in an audio community devoted to scientific evaluation of compressed music (www.hydrogenaudio.org), I'd like to point out some misconceptions is this article
-----To audiophiles, compression is the worst-------
This one is not a misconception in itself, this is right, but this is the audiophiles who are wrong. Most of the time, this claim is based on the expectation for compressed audio to sound bad, but when the audiophile is asked to prove that he can hear a difference in a blind test, using very high quality compressed audio, either he can't, either he refuses to pass the test. Audiophiles having passed the test with success are rare (about one out of 10).
------John Atkinson, editor of Stereophile Magazine, told the E-Commerce Times that, to some extent, the better the equipment, the better the compressed music will sound.-------
This seems to be pure speculation. It goes against the belief of audiophiles, that on the opposite, compressed music will sound worse on better equipment, because the higher quality of the equipment reveals subtle alterations of the sound that go unnoticed on cheaper equipment. But this is also an unfounded assumption. The common experience is that the quality of compressed music is in fact unrelated to the equipment. Though there is no technical relationship, it is the same as the rightness of the notes sung by a singer. They'll be as right on a cheap or on an expensive speaker.
-----the most dramatic improvement to compression formats may occur as a result of changes to computer motherboards, [...] According to SonicFocus CEO Tom Paddock, his company's technology returns sound quality lost in the compression process.-------
This is plain impossible. The information was erased during the process. All it can do, mathematically, is replace the information with noise.
SonicFocus' website doesn't give any information about the process used. Thus we must assume that this is just a post processing algorithm. It can make the sound nicer to the ear, and mask some compression artifacts as a declicker masks clics, but the sound won't be closer to the original after the process.
For example, if we consider transient sounds, like castanets, and smooth sounds, like maracas, after compression, they will sound the same, because of "time smearing", an artifact introduced by compression. Sonic Focus can't guess which smooth sound were castanets and which ones were maracas before the compression. Either all is restored as maracas and the castanets are wrong, or all are restored as castanets and the maracas are wrong.
To me, the sound difference between CD and mp3 doesn't matter. I prefer the sound of vinyl over both.