Will hi-fi die with the compact disc?

Home Theatre Systems

kooldeep

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We're happy to pay for high-definition TV. So why stick with compressed audio?

It's little surprise that today's digital consumers are obsessed with pixels. If we buy a new digital camera, we want to know how many megapixels it is. If we buy a new high-definition television, we obsess over its picture quality: is it 720p or 1080i? What's the refresh rate? How good will it look when I'm watching the football in high-definition, or playing a game on my PlayStation?

Curiously, however, we don't appear to have the same concerns about our music. Most people, in fact, are probably unaware that the music they download on to their MP3 player sounds different to the CD version, and bears almost no relation to the original studio recording.

You could say that an entire generation, having spurned CDs in favour of digital downloads, has no idea how its favourite albums should really sound.

That's because the songs you download from online stores have been compressed to make them take up less space on your MP3 player and to ensure you can download them faster. Some of the detail of the music is lost, hence these compressed songs are known as "lossy" files.

Think of it in these terms. The average CD can fit about an hour of high-fidelity music on it. That same CD could fit about seven hours worth of MP3 tracks on it - MP3 is a "lossy" format; but if you load up the CD with "lossless" music - songs minimally compressed into a format such as FLAC, Windows Media Audio, or Apple Lossless - you will squeeze in just shy of two hours' music.

While this will matter little to fans of bubblegum pop, it exasperates many music aficionados. Not even the best pair of headphones in the world will make up for missing sound detail.

The fact that we treat picture quality and sound quality so differently is telling. It's true that to most people, the difference between compressed and lossless music won't be immediately obvious, whereas the contrast between a good and bad television picture is glaring.

But does that mean we should accept it? Are we, in fact, doing musicians and their producers a grave disservice by listening to their hard-engineered tracks in anything less than the best quality possible?

And then there is the question of enjoyment, and even the consistency of the musical experience: will the person who has only ever listened to a downloaded, digital version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon on their MP3 player have "heard" the same album as the person who listens to it on CD, on their high-end music system?

While music download stores are concentrating their efforts on selling music that's free from digital rights-management restrictions, less of an emphasis is placed on the overall quality of tracks.

But given that many of the obstacles that necessitated the compression of music in the first place - such as the small capacity of early MP3 players, as well as the reliance of dial-up internet access when the first music download services launched - have long since fallen by the wayside, it seems strange that no major vendor has yet begun to offer high-quality tracks at a premium-rate price. Independent download services, of course, are making strides into this area. Some online stores, such as Magnatune and iTrax, have carved out a niche, but the fact remains that most of the high-definition music offered by these services is not much known and wildly eclectic.

Last week, Peter Gabriel launched a new music-download service that offers tracks in the Apple Lossless format. He expressed his frustration at the inferior downloads that form the bulk of musical output. "We spend a lot of time working hard to get things to sound right," he lamented.

The idea of his music club is to provide tracks that sound as close to the studio version as possible, with a new album from up-and-coming acts released every month. Intriguingly, the cost of recording the album is covered by the co-founders of the venture, Bowers & Wilkins, makers of high-end speakers. In return, B&W holds the license for the music for a two-month period, after which it is returned to the artist to do with as they wish.

This sort of arrangement - with those involved openly admitting that they are not attempting to "establish a revenue stream" from the venture - could encourage established groups to push for their music to be made available as downloads in the highest-quality format possible. Vendors such as iTunes and Amazon already offer many tracks without DRM encryption, and could add lossless versions of songs to the site for an extra fee.

While time remains of the essence for some people, others favour quality: indeed, a high-quality lossless album would only take about 10 minutes to download on the average broadband internet connection, less than twice the amount of time for an inferior MP3 recording. A little patience will go a long way.
 

soundsgreat

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Hi,

Its a very controversial subject ! why people choose mp3's over lossless or cd may vary,but most of them (atleast as far as Iam concerned) went for it for the simple reason which you have mentioned yourself ! so for what ever reason they choose the mp3 option,that kept them hooked onto it and all of a sudden if a lossless download is offered at premium they have two problem,first they are soo used to the sound quality of mp3 (by listening to it from its inception days ) that they feel that they don't need to pay premium (or a little extra) for this new stuff as they cannot differentiate the sound quality all of a sudden,secondly majority of the this portable players cannot handle the lossless formats so they are bound to listen the usual stuff unless some companies upgraded their players to play this lossless format!! Now even if some companies upgrade their players software or hardware to read this lossless format,there will be many issues,in the initial days they will be very expensive and may have some bugs,again the whole point will come where the cd and this lossless will be of the same cost so neither the quality conscious folks will take it nor the fans of cheap mp3( 99 cents or less per song) we have all seen the battle royal of the formats from the 80's where betammax died in the hands of vhs and JVC's digivhs never properly saw the day of light,the latest debacle of HD-DVD ( how this is relevent to mp3 vs lossless is left to one own knowledge) so if all these hurdles are crossed the lossless will take lot of time to get accepted with the general public for obvious reasons !!


Here I don't think we will ever talk bout the people who are into Audiophile equipment and have stuck Audiophile sound or the people who own some decent hi-fi gear and have limited themselves to CD or the likes of it !! so the general public is what the target group for this discussion !!


Having said all this I appreciate and welcome the change thats happening in the music industry !!

Now coming to the speed of download,I don't know which broadband you refer to,BSNL,Airtel and others give 256kbps as normal speed(32kBps download speed) so a typical lossless Album ( usually around 250+mb) will never be downloaded in 10 min,I myself have the said connection from past 2+ years and it takes 1hour to download 100 mb !! so no need to guess the time for the 250+mb

As stated in the beginning this very controversial subject so if some may not agree to my points,its no big surprise to me !!


Regards.
 

Jagat

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With the compression levels in most new popular CD releases, I think Hi-Fi is slowly dying!

Everytime a BUY a new CD of a popular artist I am forced to switch off my system or move to another of my old CD's which does not have the high compression levels in today's CD's.

The YouTube movie below should expalin it all!

YouTube - I Want to Break Free from Loudness War
 

soundsgreat

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Hi,

Well thats a whole lot information !! but if we start this debate then Am sure there will be lot fire works all over the forum !!;)

So don't want that for sure !!


Regards.
 

kooldeep

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Now coming to the speed of download,I don't know which broadband you refer to,BSNL,Airtel and others give 256kbps as normal speed(32kBps download speed) so a typical lossless Album ( usually around 250+mb) will never be downloaded in 10 min,I myself have the said connection from past 2+ years and it takes 1hour to download 100 mb !! so no need to guess the time for the 250+mb


I Apologies to describe maximum available B band (Bsnl 2 mb) speed as normal speed.
 

soundsgreat

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Hi,

The maximum speed that you mentioned (2Mbps) is not dedicated as other speeds they offer (both BSNL&Airtel) its just a showoff the actual speed may vary (it is very clearly shown in their respective sites )

Just for the info thats all,So don't take it in any other way !!;)


Regards.
 

RB9

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Hi Guys

I never mix mp3 with my hi fi !! I want to keep my hifi as pure as possible & im quite sure that all of you must be doing it by whatever means in your own capacity !! I do have mp4 player but i try to convert songs from cds to in a Big Flac file to have the best possible sound from it (takes more space) ! Yes i do download songs from internet but i never play on my hifi ! I hope,by now every one on this forum is aware that cd form is better than the mp3 & they both are respected in their own way !
 

audiodelic

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Measures i take....

Go for FLAC files and never turn back. lossless format(Hard to find songs in this format though)

All my mp3's i try to get 320KBPS CBR or at least Variable Bit Rate which are still better than 128, 192.
As a student its very expensive for me to buy audio cd's for all the music i listen to, although i do buy the albums i like to support the industry.
 

smedhavi

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Hi,

Is it you who owns all the equipment listed here, including the Panasonic AE2000 Projector, Pre/ Power Amps, Towers, Sub etc? But, you find the CDs too expensive, and hence live with pirated music!

I'm sorry. I think I am missing something here. Maybe I am looking at the wrong email footer.

Thanks,
Sharad
 

audiodelic

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Hi,

Is it you who owns all the equipment listed here, including the Panasonic AE2000 Projector, Pre/ Power Amps, Towers, Sub etc? But, you find the CDs too expensive, and hence live with pirated music!

I'm sorry. I think I am missing something here. Maybe I am looking at the wrong email footer.

Thanks,
Sharad

All the equipment is not mine personally but my dad's.

I think it impossible(or atleast i cant afford it) to buy cd's for 60 gb of music. Out of which i really listen to approx 40.
But i do buy albums which i like as i specified earlier.

I also like to download and give it a listen to check whether its worth it before i go out and spend hard earned cash on buying the album.

I'm a dj and when i play i try using original cd's to preserve quality.
 
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Kamal

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I see you have the latest Oppo, the 983.
How do you find its Audio performance with the standard Redbook Cds ?
I have the earlier model, the 981 & find that it compares pretty favourably with standalone CD players costing Rs 30k or so here.
The 983 is stated to have better DACs-whats your opinion?
 

Shahrukh

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HIFI WAS BORN WAY BEFORE THE FIRST COMPACT DISC WAS EVEN THOUGHT OF! WHY SHOULD IT DIE WITH THE COMPACT DISC THEN??? :confused:
 

audiodelic

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I see you have the latest Oppo, the 983.
How do you find its Audio performance with the standard Redbook Cds ?
I have the earlier model, the 981 & find that it compares pretty favourably with standalone CD players costing Rs 30k or so here.
The 983 is stated to have better DACs-whats your opinion?

In the 983H oppo upgraded on the Oppo 980H audio pathway which had better audio circuitry than the the 981hd.
Look up some reviews they'll have all the info you need.

But the 983H is a beast on the video side of things.

Its funny that my HT is in india and i am studying at university in canada so i haven't heard it myself.

My dad has heard it although all the technical questions i pose to him about how the sound all he says is its amazing.
 

ranjeetrain

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If HiFi ever dies it will never be because Compact Disc, MP3, FLAC or any such format. It would die because people would not be able to afford to BUY music.

Buy music to save audio companies and the music they sell, who spend mega bucks on the production floor.

PS: CD actually gave a new life to HiFi. Newer / more advanced formats would add more life to it.
 

rikhav

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Totally agree with what Ranjeet has to say
All we have to do is buy original stuff be it digital files or audio cds
If these record labels do make substantial profits, they will release their material in both the formats i.e. digital files and audio cds.

And its not that Hi-fi will die if it goes all towards digital files. Some online stores offer WAV files as well which and its at par to any recording on a audio cd as its totally uncompressed.

So whatever advancment happens all we need is to get totally uncompressed form and that will mean no loss in quality

One thing i fear is as more and more artists and companies jump into the bandwagon, the production quality has gone down. What i mean is the final product or the recording quality is not up to the mark. Not all can minatin that.
 

smedhavi

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>>>All we have to do is buy original stuff be it digital files or audio cds

Unfortunately, not may people even understand what this means :(
Few months back, I had to argue and explain this (over email) to a music director from Hindi movies, who had uploaded a pirated version of his own songs on youtube!
It never occurred to him this this could harm him and the music industry in the long term.

A request to everyone on this group, "PLEASE buy the original stuff ONLY".

Thanks,
Sharad
 
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