I’m an Apple guy. Started with a 512k “Fat Mac” and an ImageWriter II. (Had a Thunderscan for it too… bet you’re jealous).
When the iPod was introduced, I thought, $400, who would buy one? And look what happened. I got my 2g (that’s Second Generation) 10gig from Target when the 3g’s were introduced for $200. It’s great for listening to music while on a plane or a beach, or running a party mix at a party, but, when it comes to really hearing music, it sucks.
In a former life I sold high end Hi-Fi equipment. If you’ve never heard of Linn, Creek, Naim, Arcam, Music Hall, Conrad Johnson, Wilson Audio, Thiel, Mark Levinson, etc- then you probably don’t know what high end is.
In the day of the CD player, I’d still prefer to listen to music on vinyl, not because of any nostalgia (believe me, cueing records and getting up every 20 minutes to flip a record SUCKS) but because it sounds better.
That’s right, it sounds better.
Music is a bunch of waves in the air, and waves are continuous and very analog. When we digitize music, we cut it up in slices, 44,100 times in the case of a CD and try to pretend that we hear the same way we see. What I mean by that, is when you watch a movie, you see 24 frames per second of still pictures and you get the impression that it’s moving. When we slice music up 44,100 times per second, and expect our ears to fill in the blanks, it doesn’t work quite right. The reason is easiest to understand with very high frequencies, over 16,000 hz (a fancy way of saying cycles per second). Cymbals create sound in this range a lot. So we have a 20,000 cycle wave, and we sample it 44,100 times, picture a wave- with a high point and a low point and a mid-point- if we happen to sample only at the high point and the low point- we get the top and bottom of the wave- and we can cheat it a bit, and tell the components that it isn’t a zig-zag that we have to reproduce, but a wave- but if we sample at the midpoint each time- we get a straight line- and that, is noise.
So- digital sampling already has it’s flaws. That’s why the industry has the next generation of audio formats- DVD audio or SACD, both, with much higher sampling rates. But with higher sampling rates, we end up with even bigger files, and that will take up even more room on our hard drives than regular old Compact Disc audio.
That’s why we’ve been “compressing” music into MP3’s to play on our iPods, to keep the files small, and to be able to carry 10,000 songs in your pocket.
Well, when you start out with a flawed format (CD) and then compress it even more, you end up with audio that is actually a step backward.
With people buying music from the iTunes music store instead of buying the CD , and the model of distribution changing, there will be whole generations that don’t know what music is really supposed to sound like.
Granted, most people don’t have a system in their home that can really give a good CD a good reproduction, but, with an iPod as a source, we’ve got the classic- garbage in, garbage out paradigm in full force.
Typically, technology gives us better quality at a lower price, but that’s not what’s happening in music today. My big worry, is musicians will stop recording at the best quality, and just go straight to MP3, losing the nuances and beauty of what music can sound like when done right.
Even when the imperfect vinyl record was the standard, it was the limiting factor in reproduction as anyone who has heard a 30 inches per second 1” tape master played back on a reference system. The beauty of the performance is only at risk of being lost as the tapes deteriorate over time, but, with digital recording becoming the standard, we may have already lost too much of the waveform to ever be able to re-release something amazing once we get over the idea of the MP3 and the iPod.
Viva Vinyl and higher sampling rates. I love my iPod, but, it’s the fast food of music instead of the steak we should be digesting.
What do you think?