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Mastering Engineer Explains Types of Compression, Effects On Today's Music 382

Posted by timothy
from the squeeze-play dept.
Stowie101 writes "Today is Dynamic Range Day, which is an event to educate the public about the 'Loudness Wars' that are compressing and harming the quality of today's music. Ian Shepherd, a mastering engineer and founder of Dynamic Range Day, explains why music lovers should avoid MP3 files. 'The one that springs to mind is to avoid MP3, especially if it's 128 kbps. Apple uses a more advanced technology called AAC, but if someone can get lossless files like FLAC that's a better place to start.' Shepherd says it's actually harder to make a good 'lossy' encode of something that has been heavily musically compressed. Very heavy dynamic compression and limiting makes MP3s sound worse, so the loudness wars indirectly make MP3s sound worse."
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Mastering Engineer Explains Types of Compression, Effects On Today's Music

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:08PM (#39385071)

    Hearing the difference now isn't the reason to encode to FLAC. FLAC uses lossless compression, while MP3 is 'lossy'. What this means is that for each year the MP3 sits on your hard drive, it will lose roughly 12kbps, assuming you have SATA - it's about 15kbps on IDE, but only 7kbps on SCSI, due to rotational velocidensity. You don't want to know how much worse it is on CD-ROM or other optical media.

    I started collecting MP3s in about 2001, and if I try to play any of the tracks I downloaded back then, even the stuff I grabbed at 320kbps, they just sound like crap. The bass is terrible, the midrange...well don't get me started. Some of those albums have degraded down to 32 or even 16kbps. FLAC rips from the same period still sound great, even if they weren't stored correctly, in a cool, dry place. Seriously, stick to FLAC, you may not be able to hear the difference now, but in a year or two, you'll be glad you did.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:15PM (#39385135)

      Did you even look for a job today?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Too much technobabble. Can you give me a car analogy instead?

      • Re:obligatory... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anaerin (905998) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:31PM (#39385333)

        Of course. Cars made of plain, cheap, sheet steel might look great when you first get them, but store them in a leaky garage for a few years and they'll be rusty and broken, and a real problem to drive. Cars made of "Exotic" materials like Aluminium and Carbon Fibre are more expensive to purchase initially, but if you left them in the same leaky garage there would be no (or at least fewer) problems with rusting or breaking down.

        Does this fulfill my nerd quotia for the day?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "for each year the MP3 sits on your hard drive, it will lose roughly 12kbps"
      ok so 12 kbps / 8 * 60 * 60 * 24 * 365.25 = 47.3 GB of audio stream loss per year. niceee

    • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:36PM (#39385377)

      Tip: put a magnet on top of your hard drive. If bits do fall off they'll stick to the magnet so you can recycle them. These are also known as "sticky bits."

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:18PM (#39385179)

    I've heard one engineer complain that he mixes the music correctly, with loud and soft passages, but the musicians then demand he make it sound louder. They are not satisfied until the quiet passages are just as loud as the loud passages.

    So basically a CD with 90 db range is compressed to about 10 db (plus clipping off the top of the max volume scale).

    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:25PM (#39385271) Homepage Journal
      I never noticed that back when I actually listened to CD's, until recently when my friend played Metallica's steaming pile of shit album Death Magnetic in his truck.

      It sounded so loud and compressed, as if it were all played through a powerful and well designed portable radio with a 1.5" speaker.

      Sigh, at least I can still depend on classical music recordings to have that quaint ol' thing called dynamic range.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:30PM (#39385317)

        Death Magnetic did indeed sound terrible, which is sad since it's Metallica's best album in 15 years. There's a solution though. When the album was released for the Guitar Hero games, they were given the original multi-track mixes, which means that each individual track in the game (vocal, lead, rhythm, bass, drums) was basically the master before the engineers mangled it.

        A bunch of fans were then able to take those multi-tracks and mix their own version of the album, and these went out on torrent sites. I downloaded the Deceifer Remaster, and the album sounds absolutely amazing. I deleted the digital download I actually paid for, because it pales in comparison.

        • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:00PM (#39386329) Homepage

          Good to know. Thanks for sharing. It's sad that music lovers have to run to a video game to get the best source material though. It further reminds me that just when I think the music industry couldn't get any worse, it does. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. :(

    • by Hentes (2461350) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:31PM (#39385335)

      Just tell them it goes up to 11.

    • by hardie (716254) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:43PM (#39385457)

      I don't think the engineer is working with musicians.

    • by CaptainLugnuts (2594663) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:45PM (#39385481)
      If modern albums had 10db of dynamic range it would be a huge improvement, modern pop has only a couple dB of dynamic range at best. If you look at the waveforms in an editor the songs today are rectangles. Ugh.
    • 10 dB??? (Score:5, Informative)

      by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:48PM (#39385505) Homepage

      You should be so lucky. These days most mastering engineers shoot for 4 dB of dynamic range at most because, otherwise, the soft passages will be lost in the car noise.

      • Re:10 dB??? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270) on Friday March 16, 2012 @09:21PM (#39386111) Journal

        This. Which is why all the car manufacturers should be beaten upside the head with clue bats until every new car built comes with a proper sound system that compensates for volume changes relative to the vehicle's current noise floor. It isn't particularly hard to do....

    • by afeeney (719690) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:57PM (#39385571)

      It's not just the musicians, it's the listeners, especially because of so many listening through earphones. If you listen to music with dynamic variations in an open area, a room, or through speakers, you pay more attention to the softer passages. If you listen through headphones, as often as not, you turn it up to have a constant volume in your ears.

      Some people say that it started with the Wall of Sound, where everybody wanted that massive effect on everything, regardless of whether it was right for the album or song or not, others say that it started later, with boomboxes, but in any case, we've lost one of the most powerful ways to create musical tension and drama. Now there's pretty much only abrupt changes in tempo, which doesn't work for music where you need a constant beat, or suspensions, which only work for a while before they get too self-indulgent.

      Hey! Get off my lawn!

  • by Biff Stu (654099) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:19PM (#39385189)

    It's also known as ALAC. I don't believe that it's an option for the iTunes store, but if you own a CD and want to get it into your iDevice environment, it's a good option.

  • Trusted Source (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Linegod (9952) <pasnak@@@warpedsystems...sk...ca> on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:23PM (#39385241) Homepage Journal

    Neil Young made the same argument last month in Wired. The interviewer was a douchbag, so I'm not going to link to it, but Neil was right, and first.

  • by EdIII (1114411)

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know all this.

    Problem is where is the support for the alternatives? Hardly any software really supports FLAC at all. I don't use iTunes, but does it support it? I know that Zune does not. Most standalone players don't support it.

    Of course, every other technology I use takes advantage of MP3. Asterisk can't use FLAC. Which would be hilarious if it did because the standard codecs are about the worst way to transmit music anyways. A phone call is terrible for quality. Unless you ar

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      From what I've seen, many standalone players do support FLAC. Last time I checked, I think it may have had more support than AAC, but it's been a couple of years.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:36PM (#39385375)

      every other technology I use takes advantage of MP3. Asterisk can't use FLAC. Which would be hilarious if it did because the standard codecs are about the worst way to transmit music anyways. A phone call is terrible for quality.

      Phone calls don't use MP3. The wired phones are uncompressed 7-bit PCM, while the cell phones use a codec designed specifically for speech and barely stream faster than 4-5 kbit/s. (Yes that's right... 1/10th the speed of a 56k dialup connection.)

      • by EdIII (1114411) on Friday March 16, 2012 @08:03PM (#39385617)

        Yes, the connections to the PSTN don't use the MP3 codec, and it would be very strange to use MP3 between phones on a PBX system. However, PBX systems like Asterisk do transcode MP3 files to play as MOH or even system sounds on a channel.

        If you build a jukebox system to provide MOH, typically the end user uses MP3's to load their music, not FLAC.

        Also, if you are doing anything scripted on a Linux system for dynamic content generation Sox does not fully support FLAC. FFMPEG does have support for it, but I am not sure about any others.

        So while it is possible to convert FLAC to MP3, so it can be converted to g729 or whatever codec you prefer it does not make a lot of sense when the codecs actually used for transport to most PSTNs are terrible for music and audio fidelity in general.

        Which is kind of my point. Unless you are talking about some in-house conference systems, even MP3 is wasted.

    • by MachDelta (704883) on Friday March 16, 2012 @08:12PM (#39385685)

      More research into your platforms? You really have to make it something you look for, rather than something you expect to just appear.

      Personally, I use MediaMonkey as a library app and have a Cowon S9 for music/movies on the go (battery life is fantastic with the screen off). They both support FLAC, OGG, and a bunch of other filetypes. Heck even my phone (Galaxy Nexus) supports FLAC and OGG.

  • by asdbffg (1902686) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:27PM (#39385293)
    All this switching back and forth between dynamic range compression and data compression makes my head hurt.

    So to clear things up... dynamic range compression is a form of signal processing that is usually used to make the average level of a signal louder, hence the loudness wars.

    Data compression probably doesn't need to be explained to this crowd. But you know... MP3s and stuff.
    • by JazzHarper (745403) on Friday March 16, 2012 @08:02PM (#39385615) Journal

      It is unfortunate that the same term is used for two entirely different things. The article does a pretty good job of conflating the two.

      Anyway, the loudness war is over. Digital players, as opposed to CD players, now routinely apply SoundCheck (Apple) or ReplayGain to normalize levels from track to track, so mastering a digital track into saturation no longer makes it "louder" than the next track on the player. Most streaming services do the same. The advantage, if there ever was any, is gone.

      It's not surprising that there are still some producers who still indulge in mastering at saturated levels. It's also not surprising that RHCP are still turning out such recordings; they were among the worst offenders at the peak of the loudness war, 13 years ago, and they are probably superstitious enough to believe that it still has some benefit.

      • by Nemyst (1383049) on Friday March 16, 2012 @09:48PM (#39386267) Homepage

        ReplayGain can't fix poor dynamic range though, that's the big shame. It removes the problem of certain tracks being mastered for maximum level, but still doesn't change the fact that most music nowadays is almost uniformly of the same volume - be that loud or not. There's little to no difference in volume between a quiet passage and a thundering chorus.

        • by wrook (134116) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @02:22AM (#39387385) Homepage

          Indeed. And it can lead to strange effects. The other day I was listening to some music on the radio (I forget what) where the singer started out with what was probably a quiet solo. After a while the orchestra swelled in the background. The singer's voice should have increased in volume to sing over top of the orchestra, but because the music was so heavily compressed, their voice actually diminished in volume while still being over top of the orchestra. The overall volume stayed the same.

          I remember thinking, "Well, that's bizarre". It completely ruined the song. The soft, quiet part was annoyingly loud, with the singer's voice piercing my eardrums, and as the song built momentum and energy, the singer kept getting quieter and quieter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:28PM (#39385301)

    I am greatly enjoying 'Adopt an Audiophile... And Beat Some Sense Into Him' Month here on Slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:31PM (#39385325)

    I've been a musician for many years, and I have a nice studio set-up so that I can hear music as clear as possible. Yet I have amassed... umm, through various ways thousands of mp3s as well as flacs and oogs. Do I like the quality of lossless files better, yeah. But does that make me want to get on some flac-only crusade and not listen to mp3s? Not at all. Maybe it's because I'm of that age where I remember scratchy records, or pressing a transistor radio against my ear to hear the latest Jackson-5 or Stevie Wonder cut that was playing on the radio. For me it's the notes, melody, rhythm, lyrics that matter, that's the true musical information. From my music collection I have grown in my musical sensibilities immensely. I don't think it would be possible to have the library I have if everything was lossless just from the standpoint of space and perhaps download time.

    So of course, lossless is better than lossy by definition, but mp3s still bring me to where I want to me in terms of getting the music the artist wanted to convey.
       

  • It's one thing to encode your music as mp3 so it fits on a portable device, and another altogether to purchase it in that form. Sooner or later you will wish that you had bought the lossless encoding.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When I can somehow distinguish between FLAC and 192 mp3 VBR on equipment costing less than 2K, I'll consider it.

  • Quality (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:39PM (#39385407)

    Personally I wouldn't blame the degrading quality of modern music on compression. Even with a high dynamic range, there's a higher ratio of crap out there than during the disco era.. Of course, you may be standing on my lawn.

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:42PM (#39385439) Homepage
    Due to the loudness wars, I'm surprised chip music (e.g. C64) hasn't taken off more, considering that the soundwaves always peak at the maximum floor and ceiling levels.

    After all, louder is better, so Monty on the Run or R-Type on the radio or TV would be heaven! (Irony being they do beat 99.9% of pop today anyway...)
    • Re:C64 anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday March 16, 2012 @08:06PM (#39385641)

      >>>soundwaves always peak at the maximum floor and ceiling levels

      Hardly. The C64 has a volume control. 0 to 255 if I recall correctly, so the music could range from soft to loud (not maxed-out like today's CDs). Ditto other "chip music" produced by Atari 800s or Commodore Amigas.

      I've tried sharing 64, amiga, and Super Nintendo music on facebook but most people think it sounds like junk. They don't appreciate that electronic sound. (shrug). BTW http://www.lemon64.com/ [lemon64.com] let's you hear 64 music directly over the web.

  • Not avoiding MP3s (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:43PM (#39385459)

    MP3s are still a wonderful compression and it's quite amazing how it has withstood the test of time. Large scale ABX tests have shown people are unable to tell the difference between a 256kbps mp3 and the original lossless recording. Over the past several years I've also noticed a trend for MP3s no longer to be encoded at stupidly low bitrates.

    No I won't be avoiding MP3s. I much prefer an MP3 (even at 128kbps) than one of those wonderful "remasters" of an old album. Quite frankly there's nothing masterful about how the loudness war has managed to destroy modern music. The real shame is it doesn't end with the CD master. SACD, DVD-A and I guess now we can include the new supposedly magical itunes format have all tried to tell us the wonders of 24bit music, and yet the dynamic range of music rarely drops below -7dB.

    When people download some backyard mp3 digitisation of a Red Hot Chilli Pepper's vinyl release of an album to get better sound quality, or when they download rips of the GuitarHero versions of Metallica songs to get some form of dynamic range you really know the industry has gone to shit.

  • by Geak (790376) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:46PM (#39385491)
    The loudness wars have been a complaint of mine for some time now. The example video at the end of the article gives an EXCELLENT explanation. I only wish that more people would complain about this so that the quality of recordings would get better. Unfortunately most of the music of today sounds more like a Stephen Hawking lecture with distorted beeping and buzzing in the background and no actual music. When I was in school - music was part of the curriculum. I don't know if it still is but the kids of today are completely CLUELESS when it comes to music. They only seem to like songs about 'guns, money, drugs, niggas and bitches' because they SEE not HEAR these videos on MTV. They see some gun toting loser driving a ferrari, throwing stacks of cash around, surrounded by half naked crack whores and think - "Man that is the life I want to lead!" Their music tastes follow accordingly. If they actually listened to the lyrics - they might actually be disgusted.
  • by MpVpRb (1423381) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:47PM (#39385499)

    When audio recording was first invented, quality was awful, but people loved it, because it was new and exciting, and nothing like it had ever existed before..

    Year after year, quality improved.

    We expected that someday, recorded music would become indistinguishable from live performance.

    Then everything changed.

    Convenience became more important than quality.

    Storing 5000 mediocre quality recordings on an ipod became the norm.

    Combine that with the excessive compression used to fight the loudness war, and it really makes an old-school audiophile sad.

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:53PM (#39385537)
    but when I do, I buy the CD and make my own flac set from it. Then I can re-encode that to mp3 for portability, etc.
  • Loudness war (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha (103154) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:55PM (#39385555) Homepage

    Wikipedia's article on the "loudness war" does a good job of explaining the problem.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war [wikipedia.org]

    I used to work for JJ Johnston. He took a popular music track (I won't say which one) and ripped a .wav file from the CD, and then ran a simple Matlab script that tallied how many samples there were of each value. CDs use 16-bit samples, so there were 64K bins in this histogram. You would expect a pretty much Bell-curve shape to the histogram. With this particular song, over half of all samples were either +1 or -1 (i.e., 16-bit sample values of either +32767 or -32768).

    That music is so horribly overcompressed that most of the wave forms are sawed-off into square waves [wikipedia.org]. Square waves, in turn, add unpleasant harmonics [diyguitarist.com], which make the music harder to enjoy, and make it louder (in the psychoacoustic meaning of "louder").

    I'm hoping that "audiophile" versions of songs become available, not because I think I need all my music in 24-bit 192KHz but because I'm hoping the mix engineers will be allowed to do the mix properly, instead of mixing it far too hot.

    I'm sort of afraid to buy remastered versions of old classic rock albums, because I'm worried they will actually sound worse [youtube.com] than the originals!

    steveha

    • Re:Loudness war (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Friday March 16, 2012 @08:20PM (#39385759)

      I'm sort of afraid to buy remastered versions of old classic rock albums, because I'm worried they will actually sound worse [youtube.com] than the originals!

      They do. I used to use the oscillosope plugin for winamp, and you could directly see the effect of range compression. I think I did a comparison of new vs old versions of the same song, and it wasn't pleasant. For sure, the old, unmastered albums (like Dark Side of the Moon) had interesting structure even visually on the scope. I compared it to a modern album and it looked completely tortured on the scope.

      The worst I ever heard was a green day greatest hits album (I know, I know, blank CD), which was so distorted that even as a non-audiophile, I couldn't even listen to it.

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Friday March 16, 2012 @08:45PM (#39385881) Homepage

    Y'know, there's always someone harping all day long about how MP3 takes a steaming liquid crap all over your sound, and I cannot agree with them. I have a mid-range yet respectable sound system, worth maybe $4000 new. I listen to a LOT of music with an unforgiving ear for detail, and what I often joke as "digital audio memory". Anytime I listen to something, I'm comparing it to a very precise memory in my head. If the pitch is off by a hundredth, there's subtle (dynamic) compression, or phasing issues, I know immediately.

    Back when we were peddling 112 and 128kbps MP3s (y'know, 15 years ago), it was pretty obvious that our encoders sucked. You could hear the nasty phasing all over the high end. Today, with most dedicated rippers using "LAME -V0" or 256/320kbps CBR, I'll say that it is impossible to tell the difference on 99.9% of all music out there. Yes, you theoretically lose some high-frequency information above 19khz, but hardly any adults can hear those frequencies anyway, as our range of hearing degrades with age. At 32, I have supposedly great hearing, yet I can barely hear 18khz, and 19khz I can't really hear but just "feel" as pressure on my ears canal. The parts MP3 encoders discard, most people can't hear anyway, and even if we could, it's so high in the audio spectrum that it's just headache-inducing whine. In practice, many mastering engineers will filter that out anyway, because those frequencies are nothing but trouble, they can mess with playback on cheap (read: common) stereos, and are basically a waste of signal which could be better allocated to the mids.

    The compression artifacts themselves, they are nothing like they were 15 years ago. If you really want to see how much sound is lost from compression, take an uncompressed WAV, convert it to MP3, then back to WAV. Pull a spectrogram for both the original and processed WAVs, and compare these in a graphics editor. If you're lazy, you can grab the screenshots from here [blowfish.be] instead. If you're using photoshop, change the blending mode to "Difference" on one of them. Any coloured pixels are the differences, while black means both images are identical.

    So, that's digital compression. The other big thing audiophiles bitch about is dynamic compression, and that is an all-too real problem. This is the "brick wall" sound people often cite as the cancer that's killing music. It is the process by which quiet sounds are made disproportionately loud, resulting in the average signal level being louder across the entire album. Most common audio is stored as 16-bit data, this means there are 65536 different intensities available, from silence to maximum, across what is often quoted as 96dbfs of range. Most modern pop music crunches all the sound into the uppermost 6db, so you're kind-of getting 1/16th of the fidelity (yes my math is flawed). This makes crappy speakers and earbuds sound "better" (still shit), and good speakers sound equally shit. It's the sonic equivalent of turning the brightness and contrast on your TV all the way up, now everyone has bright red skin and look like cartoon characters. If you want a painful example of this distortion, cue up Metallica's Death Magnetic, the official CD or iTunes version. Then go find the Guitar Hero version of the same album on TPB and compare. The pressed version is brickwalled, the Guitar Hero version was mixed much more reasonably, in-line with past Metallica releases. Then if you want to hear the opposite, something with very wide dynamic range, try ZZ Top's Eliminator, or Van Halen's 1984. Björk's albums also tend to have good characteristics. You're looking for quiet sounds amid the louder ones - they might be the little squeaks of guitar strings or drum skins, or the long fade of a cymbal.

    Back to our buddy boy Ian Shepherd... one of his recommendations for good dynamic range is Daft Punk's Tron Legacy soundtrack. This is pretty much an admission that the man is completely full of shit. Don't get

  • by rossdee (243626) on Friday March 16, 2012 @09:33PM (#39386181)

    I upgraded my MP3s to AFLAC - not only do I get a better sound, but if I am off work for injury, I get paid cash to buy groceries

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday March 16, 2012 @09:55PM (#39386307) Homepage Journal

    So, according to this article, MP3's of music that's been heavily compressed don't sound good.

    So maybe the problem is with MP3?

    "Better" or "worse" when talking about digital music is highly subjective. There are some very interesting effects that can be achieved through manipulating dynamics.

    Try to play an uncompressed recording at a dance club and see how it takes the air out of the room. What's good sometimes is not always good all the time.

    Some of my favorite moments in recorded music came from things that sound "bad" to your average recording engineer or hi-fi enthusiast. The last person you want making musical decisions is a hi-fi enthusiast. And make no mistake, compression can be used very musically, from subtle effects that you don't notice except there's something about a song or recording that really gets you, to very non-subtle over-compressed aural assaults.

    And I'm sorry if Bader Meinhoff Franfenfeurter or whatever the name of the guy who invented MP3 has his feelings hurt, but who cares if heavily compressed music doesn't sound good in Mp3? That's why God made flac. Plus, as the price of digital storage comes down, maybe we won't need to compress our files so drastically using lossy methods much longer.

    Oh, by the way, if you're interested in remixing well-known recordings, you can often find uncompressed copies of the unmixed master tracks if you know where to look. They've been around "underground" for years. In fact, I learned the rudiments of digital mixing and musical post-production from a copy of Logic Audio and the master tracks from a bunch of Motown classic albums, starting with "Heard it Through the Grapevine" on an early PPC Mac (well, it was a new mac at the time). I can't give out any links because it would make me persona non grata in certain circles, but if you visit the right forum and you're polite, you might find someone to share the goodies with you.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @12:25AM (#39387011)
    Why even consider lossy compression any more? In the current world we have the luxury of plenty of cheap storage, so why not use it and just keep everything in CD quality. A 500 GB HDD can store about 1000 albums uncompressed (even more if you FLAC them).
    • Because most people can't hear the difference anyway so why waste space on stuff you won't hear?

  • by plonk420 (750939) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @12:55AM (#39387153)
    so that article links to a list of 9 good albums, one of which is Nirvana's Nevermind. note: the 2011 remaster is smashed to the wall, and, iirc, you could even hear clipping: http://i.imgur.com/i0Vag.png [imgur.com]
  • by Kohlrabi82 (1672654) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @03:05AM (#39387505)

    Ian Shepherd's mentioning that one should avoid 128kbit/s encoded MP3. This is leaving out a critical piece of information. Luckily he mentioned himself that heavily (audio) compressed music (data) compresses very badly. This will be especially evident if you force the encoder to only allocate a fixed number of bits to a section, called "Constant Bitrate" (CBR) in MP3 encoders. "Busy" sections will get the same data allotment as quiet sections. This problem can be diminished by using "Variable Bitrate" (VBR) mode when encoding, which encodes to a specific target quality rather than file size. With that, (LAME) MP3s can still sound good enough around 128kbit/s, since the encoder is free to allocate more bits to critical sections and less bits to non-critical section.

    In short, there is no reason to use CBR encoding, unless your target device is unable to decode VBR encoded files, or you absolutely need to know the exact bandwidth requirement of a stream. It defeats the whole point of lossy encoding, which is to reproduce the original with highest possible fidelity, not reach a target file size.

  • by bickerdyke (670000) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @04:11AM (#39387715)

    Dynamic Range Day?

    TODAY???

    Good luck promoting that on your St. Patrick's Day parties....

    "Hey DJ, can you turn the volume up and down a bit? It's Dynamic Range Day today...."

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