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robertG's picture
Last seen: 11 years 3 months ago
Joined: Mar 11 2010 - 12:59pm
On Building Quality

Some MP3 files DO sound BETTER on cheap playback equipment. MP3 files CAN sound good on high resolution playback equipment. MP3 quality CAN be very good - or awful - or anywhere in between and ultimately depends on the talent of the recording/mixing/mastering engineer.
Bad recordings played on my high resolution system are unbearable - even if I like the music - and I can understand why some young listeners might prefer MP3 playback on cheap equipment. Some Indie bands are very creative but not very talented at presenting quality recordings - perhaps because their Indie status makes high quality mastering equipment too expensive - or perhaps they do not have the sensibility or knowhow or experience - or perhaps they just don't care.
Arcade Fire is a good example of a great band in serious need of a good engineer or producer. The band is fairly popular among young people and even the non-MP3 files are over-compressed, and a pain to listen to on a high quality system. So, yes, the Arcade Fire generation might very well prefer MP3 playback on cheap equipment- I would.
On the other hand, some compressed files do sound good: Phil Manzanera "Listen Now" album on iTunes sounds very good - almost analog. Same with most recordings of Deep Dive Corp., or Dave Gilmour (live), or The Kills or White Stripes...
By the same token, some super high resolution files - LessLoss recordings comes to mind - are just plain awful (performance AND recording) and a complete waste of hard disk space. A super high resolution studio master is just as bad as an MP3 if the performance or engineering is not up to snuff.
I can see that younger people are not attracted to high end music playback since the software was not designed with high-end equipment playback in mind. Garbage in, garbage out.
The audiophile danger is to alter listening habits with what sounds good and forget about the rest. You just can't sell a high quality stereo system to a young person with a Jazz at the Pawnshop demo. You can't demo either with Arcade Fire. No wonder this industry has problems attracting a new generation, and no wonder why hardware producers are also getting in the software business (B&W, Naim, etc.).
On the other side of the universe, most movie soundtracks do have very good recording quality with great dynamics. I think that if you're a quality sound engineer, you'd be more attracted to movie soundtrack engineering than music engineering.

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