mp3: How much music are we missing?

I just stumbled across this interesting, if somewhat overly earnest, documentary about the low audio quality of digitally released music. This is an issue I was aware of, but frankly hadn’t given much thought; and one that pertains to our little project here.

I’m just old enough to have had a few vinyl records when I was a kid. I managed to skip 8-track, and spent most of my childhood with cassettes (for transcribing, they still can’t be beat, in my opinion…). I eagerly moved to CDs when they arrived, and am now grudgingly accepting the digital format as the way forward. But we might be missing out on a lot; and I worry that the more we listen to compressed music, and value convenience and portability over sound quality, the lower our standards will become.

What do you think? Is this important to you, or is the ability to have a thousand tunes on your phone worth a drop in quality? Have you ever put on a vinyl record after listening to mp3s and been blown away? Let me know in the comments!

Cheers, Nick

(For the record, I upload tracks for Catch and Release in CD-quality .wav files. If you buy them through Bandcamp, you can choose to download in formats of varying levels of compression. However, once iTunes gets their hands on them, it’s out of my control…)


4 thoughts on “mp3: How much music are we missing?

  1. Interesting movie, although obviously biased.

    I think the discussion about sound quality is not very useful.
    Is it only worthwhile listening to music when sitting in your sonically optimized HiFi room, listening studio master quality material (do not forget, the CD is already a compressed format) through your $50k sound system?
    While listening to music on the train, with a baby crying a few rows back and the person next to me talking on the phone, do I care about compression rates of my music?

    I really like listening to high quality music at home through my sound system (unfortuantely not $50k worth, but still) and I always replace the iPod/iPhone earbuds with better quality ones.

    But sound quality is at the end really down to your preferences and definitely also budget.

    However, I found the comment about how much music we consume and its value very interesting. “In the old days”, I used to have some tapes and later a relatively small CD collection. But I would listen to my favourite records over and over again. Even when they were some years old already. And finding that rare Japan release of your favourite band in your record store really could make my weekend.
    Now, I have the feeling that I can hardly keep up with listening to the new stuff, which is out. Records from the last year I put on very seldom anymore. And Japan releases are all on youtube.

    There I think MP3, iTunes and streaming (youtube) really have devalued music.


    1. I think the discussion is worthwhile, if only to open people’s ears to the fact that better sound quality exists. Audiophiles, musicians, or those who know something about music recording have made a calculated decision to accept various levels of compression for the sake of convenience, but some, especially younger listeners might not realize there’s more to music than mp3s through Beats headphones.
      I wish that doco had discussed different formats- AAC, wav, “lossless”, etc, because those options are available, but consumers have to make the choice.
      I totally agree with your comment about the downside of having such a vast amount of music available. When I had 30 albums, I knew every tune, every solo, inside-out. Now it takes real dedication not to listen once and move on.
      Thanks for getting in touch!


  2. I have made a point of sitting my kids down in my studio and giving them the opportunity to hear LP’s through a great setup. The obvious difference, to the medium that they were used to hearing (in the self imposed isolation of their ‘teenaged caves’), was clearly telegraphed by their facial expression. It was a parental gift, according to my son “from the time when everything was made of wood”, gladly given and gratefully received.


    1. That’s wonderful to hear, JT. They’ll never forget that experience; and if, sometime in the future, they decide to listen to music via an inferior delivery system (for convenience sake), they’ll always know there’s more to it.
      Thanks for sharing!


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