I mentioned in my New Media Resolutions post at the first of the year that I want to do whatever I can to improve the quality of audio on line and in downloadable media. I was reminded of that “cause” this past Sunday morning by the folks at, well, Sunday Morning. The CBS show presented a piece on how vinyl records are becoming “cutting edge.”
Just as I pointed out in January, the sound of what is being sent into the cloud needs to improve, if for no other reason than to avoid trying to figure out how to cram a “record” into your iPod. Seriously, for those that are my age, it’s unfair for us let those brought up on listening to audio in the mp3 format think that’s the best music can sound. For those that have never heard the sound of a vinyl LP you owe it to yourself to hear all of what the artist labored to put into the music, especially the parts the mp3 format has had to discard.
I know, I know, you’re going to say that the human ear can’t detect the difference between a vinyl album, a CD, MP3, WAV, etc. I’m sorry, I disagree. I hear a difference. And it’s especially noticeable in the MP3 format, the most popular format for portable devices and online streaming. The reason it is the most popular, if you didn’t already know, is that it is the smallest file size. An MP3 file is a fraction of the size of, say, a WAV file. File size is directly related to download time.
So what do we do about better sound quality on “the net?” First, don’t settle. If you can find a way to make that audio sound better then do it. Start with a Variable Bit Rate setting if you can. VBR allows the music to be compressed in places where the full audio spectrum will most likely not be missed, a fade in or out for example. Another option would be, with such advances in bandwidth and more and more access to higher speed connectivity, offer your audio in the WAV format. I’ll take a WAV over MP3 any day.
Whatever the case, I refuse to settle for what we now accept for high-quality audio. I don’t believe going back to vinyl is the answer. Memories of the cracks and pops of an over-played album and the need for the pennies on a tone-arm are enough to keep me away from climbing on that bandwagon.
If, as Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired commented, vinyl is the nail in the CD’s coffin in his article back in December, and is the best we can do then I would have to be very disappointed in technology. And, to date, I’m not.
Look I have great memories of opening that new album (I still distinctly remember taking the shrink wrap off that debut Boston album…sigh.), but beyond the romance of it all, I don’t want to go back. Hey, I liked the show Happy Days…it doesn’t mean I wanted to slick my hair back and do the stroll. Let’s move forward.
Have you got some tips? Let’s have em.