Inferior audio quality of MP3's

For those not wanting to read this whole blog...the CDBaby MP3's are higher audio quality than iTunes. The price on CDBaby is the same or cheaper than iTunes (We can't control the price on iTunes - sorry).

The full explanation...

I've realized over the past few years that many people don't care about audio quality of their music. While I can understand their indifference, it's still frustrating from the "artist perspective" (In wanting their recorded music to be heard in the best light possible).

I've also realized many people don't know that MP3's are lesser quality than CD quality. The irony is, that while recording technology continues to advance, the consumer (play-back) end has become worse! I have yet to hear a recording engineer or producer praise MP3's. On the contrary, the quality is despised. It doesn't do the original recordings justice.

To be fair, it's not all bad...MP3's are a great way to share/send files with quick download times (as the files are much smaller...they are compressed...hence the inferior sound quality). Additionally, you can add many MP3 files to your phone or computer at a fraction of the memory it would take to have a library of CD quality WAV files. But, as memory gets cheaper and cheaper, it's now time to phase out those inferior MP3's.

While television technology is constantly improving (HD quality), music & audio has gone in reverse! MP3's are the equivalent of non-HD...kinda like 480p...as opposed to true 1080p HD. For those with HD tv's, do you want to go back to the picture quality of yesterday? Then, why is it ok for us to go from CD quality 10-15 years ago, to a now lesser audio quality? Truth be told, CD quality isn't even the best option...DVD audio is better...and there is even better quality than that (higher sample & bit rate resolution used in the recording studio). But, that's a discussion for another day. The studio audio quality is the equivalent of an awesome 3D IMAX film. But, one step at a time...can we at least get back to the CD quality of 15 years ago? Then maybe we can go from there to ultimately let the consumer hear what the artist is hearing through the recording studio speakers.

Having said that, I'm glad to see CD Baby has taken steps to rectify this, by offering higher resolution MP3's, and even FLAC downloads (CD quality), at no extra cost to the artist or consumer. The hi-res MP3's are 320kbps (kilobytes per second)...typical consumer MP3's, like on iTunes, are MP3's at 256kbps. The higher the number, the better the quality...like HDTV resolution.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), is an open-source format that’s popular among audiophiles. It can handle 24-bit audio, which is the same resolution at which most artists record these days. The current downside to FLAC is, you can’t just drop those FLAC files into iTunes. You need special software to play FLACs, like Foobar2000, VLC or Cog. Alternatively, some consumer hardware players can handle the format, like Logitech’s line of Squeezebox devices and players from Olive.

However, I must admit...MP3's at this hi-res 320 sound pretty decent. It's not quite CD quality, but it's not a huge noticeable difference. It's kind of like watching 2 TV's at a store...one is 720p, the other 1080p...sometimes hard to notice the difference.

In conclusion... this mini-rant is not totally from a selfish perspective. There are so many great recordings over the last 50 years or so, and it is an 'artistic crime' to hear these wonderful recordings get destroyed with inferior audio quality. If you have ever heard great recordings with nice speakers (or even really good headphones)....and close your eyes....Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon', Tears For Fears 'Sowing The Seeds Of Love', Jellyfish 'Spilt Milk', Donald Fagen 'The Nightfly', Michael Jackson 'Thriller', Steely Dan's 'Aja', to name but a few...the sonic depth transports you to another world (like a great film can do visually). Then listen to the MP3's of those...it's not even close....going from 3D IMAX to grainy 2D black & white.