Lou Reed Upset By MP3 Quality; Has He Ever Listened To Velvet Underground Recordings?

from the it's-not-about-audio-quality dept

Since when is Lou Reed an audiophile? Down at SXSW Reed gave a talk where he complained about the sound quality of MP3 technology and the fact that people didn't realize how awful they sounded. This is a complaint made by quite a few other people as well, who seem to ignore the fact that for most people and most music, MP3 technology is perfectly good enough, and the convenience of being able to carry around more, is a lot more important than a barely (if at all) noticeable change in audio quality. In the meantime, has Lou Reed listened to any of his early Velvet Underground recordings? I don't recall "audio quality" being one of the key characteristics of those songs...


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  1.  
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    Jake, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 4:19pm

    Some Words Of Wisdom

    "Life has [expletive deleted] background noise!" - John Peel responding to someone extolling one of the virtues of the new compact disc over the LP.
    (And I bet he didn't have any truck with DRM either.)

     

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  2.  
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    Glaurung_quena, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 4:54pm

    It all depends on how you're listening

    MP3 quality depends on the bitrate. Some MP3s probably do sound awful, because they've been horribly overcompressed. On the other hand, I wouldn't know, because I've never listened to an MP3 on good quality speakers. MP3 players are not designed to be connected to Stonehenge-sized audiophile speakers. They're designed to be connected to earbuds at work or on the subway or during your commute. Under those conditions, MP3s sound just fine. If Reed is trying to hook his Ipod up to his $10,000 audiophile sound system, then no wonder he thinks they sound awful. Complaining about it just shows his ignorance of what the format is best at: enabling you to have your entire music library with you everywhere you go.

     

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  3.  
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    ehrichweiss, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 4:58pm

    why does this article say more than the linked art

    How did you derive all of that from the article you linked to?

    Reed seems to be referring to 128kbs mp3s, which do sound pretty crappy, because he then mentions the "better mp3 technology" which one can only assume is 256kbs+ mp3 or the like.

    Regardless, the linked article was lacking any substance for Reed "taking aim" at mp3 technology(it was HORRIBLY written to say the least) and why you chose to treat it as though it had something useful to impart is beyond me. If I were your editor the big question would be "where is the story?"

     

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  4.  
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    Senator Ted Stevens™, Creator of Law, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 5:07pm

    In my day we listened to real music. Stuff like Pat Boone, who knew how to rock. Today you people listen to stuff coming from the tubes, the tubes I tell you. It's terrible. The tubes are worse than rap. But this Reed fella, he's a bit of a scoundrel, and we need to outlaw his "music" because it is anti-American. My staff member played a tune called Waiting for my Man. I am offended, it's too gay. We need he-man music like Pat Boone. No wonder it sounds like it is coming from the tubes.

     

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  5.  
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    Oggr, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 5:15pm

    OGG

    Ogg's open source and sound great. Now if only the freaking iPod supported it.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 14th, 2008 @ 5:16pm

    Re: why does this article say more than the linked

    Reed seems to be referring to 128kbs mp3s, which do sound pretty crappy, because he then mentions the "better mp3 technology" which one can only assume is 256kbs+ mp3 or the like.

    I think that's the wrong assumption. On my read, he seems to be talking about some *new* audio offering, not higher bit rate mp3s. He says: "you hear they've got a newer version (of MP3) that sounds better..." That's not talking about higher bit rate, that's talking about a new technology and talking down about mp3 technology.

    Either way, the point does still stand. He seems to be trashing the sound quality of a technology that still offers much better sound quality than his own early recordings.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 5:19pm

    Analog is just better

    The best digital can do, is approach analog sound.

     

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  8.  
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    Hellsvilla, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 5:32pm

    Re: Analog is just better

    Not when it was originally digitally mastered. Then analog can only approach digital.

    Did you have a point?

     

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  9.  
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    trollificus, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 5:40pm

    audiophiles

    At the end of the day*, audiophiles going on about "superior warmth", "presence" and "acoustic space" are like someone you know has just jerked off in your bathroom. It's all about them feeling better, and you just pretend it never happened.

    Good music is good whether hummed by an acquaintance, on CD, on a high-end tape system or worn vinyl on a phonograph with a nickle taped to the tone arm. mp3 certainly fits in there somewhere...

    *-of course, "at the end of the day" ranks with "on the ground" and "moving forward" as an irritating and unnecessary phrase, but there it is...

     

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  10.  
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    freakengine, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 6:00pm

    Lou's getting old. After all that touring and years of aural abuse, his ears probably tell him even live orchestras sound like crap. Let's see what Pete Townsend has to say on the subject while we're at it...

    *yawn*

     

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  11.  
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    Mojo, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 6:01pm

    No one can hear the difference

    This sort of "debate" is very old news. Just about every serious audiophile magazine has done double-blind listening tests on compressed music (even dating back to Minidisc, which is essentially a 256 bitrate MP3) and the bottom line is pretty much no one can tell the difference.

    Most of the time, if someone could identify the compressed track, it was simply a correct guess and not repeatable with any accuracy.

    I doubt very many people could hear a difference in 256+ bitrate files, even on top-end gear.

     

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  12.  
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    Mark, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 6:08pm

    Re:

    REAL™ Music, or Real music?

     

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  13.  
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    Mark, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 6:09pm

    The heat was just getting to him

    I live in Austin, it was 96 today - unusually high for this time of year. The heat must have gotten to him.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 6:18pm

    Who the fuck is lou reed? I assumed you were talking about that Lou Rawls guy with the enormous teeth and the afro for like half the post.

     

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  15.  
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    Mark, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 6:23pm

    Re:

     

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  16.  
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    Shagga-Doobie!, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 8:09pm

    My version

    I think that you are again off-base. You are complaining about the quality of the recording, or of the song itself.

    Either of which is silly. All those years ago, the media was out of the box, and sounded great.

    I think most people will tell you, that as good as digital is, its not analog. The world we live in is. Light, and sound come to our sense in perfectly analougue way.

    What happens when you digitize something, you are giving the sound a series of cuts. No matter how fast you can sample, there is still that crazy sample rate.

    In fact, there was a study a few years ago, that MP3's were tricking your ears, into hearing something that wasnt there.
    Mostly because the music is compressed. The playback is missing a whole lot of dtuff in the middle.


    In effect rendering the listener deaf.

     

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  17.  
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    Rekrul, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 9:47pm

    I'm not an expert, but even I know that how good an MP3 file sounds depends in large part on what you're listening to it with. For quite a while, I didn't have any speakers hooked up to my computer, so I used a pair of earphones. When they wore out (the wires were shot and I didn't have any luck attaching new ones), I went out and got a couple inexpensive pairs of new ones. They both sounded dull and flat. Then I got a different pair that had deeper, fuller sound. For the curious, they were a cheap pair I bought at dollar store for $1.99.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 9:53pm

    If mp3s don't sound good on your system, its because your system sucks.

     

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  19.  
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    kip, Mar 15th, 2008 @ 2:39am

    Re: OGG

    suffers from the same sound anomalies as MP3s and AACs.

    you like OGG cuz you are an Open Source homo and youd rather listen to your free open source OGG crap than pay for quality. if you had ears, you would have said youd rather have slightly larger files employing FLAC or .shn lossless algorhythms and just buy bigger drives. OGG isnt any better than any other lossy paradigm.

    go lossless if you want open and cheap.

     

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  20.  
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    musterion, Mar 15th, 2008 @ 6:10am

    Re: No one can hear the difference

    This is not a troll. Can you cite some references? I don't read audiophile mags, as I can't afford that kind of high end stuff. But I'm always fascinated by the debate on such kinds of things. It reminds me of all the "natural" homeopathich remedies, etc. When you submit them to double blind (and that is the key) tests, they never seem to be effective.

     

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  21.  
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    rkme, Mar 15th, 2008 @ 9:14am

    lou who

    I'm old enough to remember Lou Reed, but I gotta say his song isn't on my mp3 player. I would take Linkin Park, NIN or Ludicris on mp3 over a scratched up lp anytime. I have shure epth500 ear buds and they sound pretty good to me. but i'm old and might be remembering wrong.

     

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  22.  
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    Lucretious, Mar 15th, 2008 @ 9:42am

    Lou Reed sucks, The Velvet Underground sucked. Their only purpose seems to have been a name-drop for pretentious music fans and Reed was simply a boy-toy for Warhol.

    "Satellite's gone, way up to Mars" my ass.

     

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  23.  
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    exitstageleft, Mar 15th, 2008 @ 10:25am

    Re: It all depends on how you're listening

    A $10,000 audiophile system?? Multiply that by 10 and then you'll have a mediocre audiophile system. Nonetheless, I agree with your comment. It all depends upon your listening habits and environment at that time.

    fwiw:

    Here’s one piece of equipment you can get for 10 grand.

     

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  24.  
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    Cixelsid, Mar 15th, 2008 @ 3:21pm

    This is ridiculous

    Fact is: NO audiophile (not even one who can fart a perfect G and hold it) can discern between 320 kbit MP3 and PCM audio.

    http://www.geocities.com/altbinariessoundsmusicclassical/mp3test.html

     

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  25.  
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    Cixelsid, Mar 15th, 2008 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Senator Ted Stevens™, Creator of Law

    I'm with ya Senator, music isn't just some dumptruck you can dump some hippy audio compression algorithm onto!

     

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  26.  
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    Crazy Coyote, Mar 15th, 2008 @ 5:48pm

    What you say sonny

    I had hearing loss long before digital. M80 went flying by my head at an analog concert. Sounds all the same to me.

     

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  27.  
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    Iron Chef, Mar 16th, 2008 @ 4:21am

    Back to Intertubes

    Tubes sound better! I like the McIntosh MC 275. It looks more like something that should be in a part of a laboratory experiment, and not on your component shelf! I've been quite impressed with some of the newer Digital Path Receivers that have come out too.

    No dumptrucks here!

     

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  28.  
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    ehrichweiss, Mar 16th, 2008 @ 5:43pm

    Re: Re: why does this article say more than the li

    If you say so. TFA didn't really have enough information to know what the hell Lou or the author were talking about since the author kept chopping sentences/context and overall making it incredibly hard to follow. I'd be willing to see it another way if there were more to go on but I'm betting there weren't ten sentences(total) of anything that Lou said in the whole article.

    I also haven't read where anyone else seems to have heard Lou say this and thought he was trashing mp3 technology(not like it matters since he's a musician and not a techie or audiophile) so I'll just hold any further comments until some real light is shed on the subject.

     

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  29.  
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    Yair, Mar 16th, 2008 @ 6:06pm

    It is not true- there is a major difference

    Indeed, it is very hard to examine scientificly the difference between mp3 (in every quality , even 320) to PCM. Using only your ears , looking for differences of quality and clearity , show's similar results in PCM and high bitrate mp3. The difference is more subtle but very essential. Lossy Compressed music reduces your ability to absorb into the music. As more as you decreace the bitrate ,it takes more time to "get into" the depth of the melody. You dont need to have any specail hearing in order to feel the difference , nor any audiophilic equipment. You just need to use a cd palyer (not a discman or 29.99 dvd) or a good soundcard (not onboard !!), nice amplifier , stereo speakers and most of all - your natural sensitivity. When examined by skeptical friends I just meditated into the music. The track which "communicated" with me stronger and faster, was judged to be the PCM. I had 100% of success in telling the differences , in any bitrate (yep , ill say again , up to 320kbps). I must say I am not fanatic , most of my music is still encoded on Mp3, and I do listen to it. But certainly, the CD (or lossless) experience is totally diferent - no matter if you can tell the difference or not.

     

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  30.  
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    raybo, Mar 16th, 2008 @ 7:56pm

    CDs are already bad enough - MP3s just don't sound

    Perhaps there is a high enough bit rate for MP3s to sound good. I have never heard a MP3 track that sounds good.

     

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  31.  
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    Daz, Mar 16th, 2008 @ 10:51pm

    He's right - its true

    If you have decent gear to listen with you can tell the difference every time. Thats not news! OTOH a lot of CD players have DA converters of ~ 128kbps mp3-equivalent quality, which is pretty funny...
    I still love my mp3s though, many other benefits besides quality.

     

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  32.  
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    moe, Mar 16th, 2008 @ 11:56pm

    Re: OGG

    Try Rockbox - www.rockbox.org

    It's an open-source replacement firmware project. They support most ipods and a bunch of other players, too (iRivers, Archos, etc). The firmware handles a ton of codecs, including ogg and flac.

     

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  33.  
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    Ferin, Mar 17th, 2008 @ 4:47am

    Having seen numerous double blinds done with purported audiophiles showing they couldn't tell their own damn music being played from their perfect stereo systems in whatever format they preferred from an mp3, I've kind of decided those people are full of it.

     

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  34.  
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    Todd, Mar 17th, 2008 @ 5:25am

    Re: It is not true- there is a major difference

    CD's are just as compressed as mp3's. If you want a completely "lossless" format you still have to listen to your music through a LP no questions about it. A true audiophile will still listen to LP's on an expensive sound system. With a mp3 you end up losing a lot of the highs.

    A friend of mine, his grandfather was an audiophile. His grandfather had a lot of vintage equipment from the 60's & 70's. I was never able to tell the difference but after listening & comparing 'Dark Side of the Moon' in LP form & then @ 320kb/s mp3. There is a HUGE difference but that's only if you are listening to it on a high end sound system. I couldn't really tell the difference on a normal system.

    If you ask me I will take the space savings any day. I have over 25,000 albums on my little 3.5" hard drive if I was to have the same amount of albums I would need an entire room to store all of that shit.

     

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  35.  
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    Xanthir, FCD, Mar 17th, 2008 @ 6:07am

    Re: Re: It is not true- there is a major differenc

    Yes, there *is* a huge difference... if you know which is which. Your mind is astoundingly good at tricking itself based on irrelevant information and preconceptions.

    Multiple double-blinded studies have shown that there is no perceptible difference between a high-bitrate lossy encoding, a standard lossless, and a fresh LP. Of course a worn LP will sound a bit different, because it's worn and that affects the sound.

    As well, the difference between a high-end audiophile system and a $200 stereo is so small that only people who were born with exceptionally sensitive ears can hear it. When comparing low-end audiophile equipment to high-end, we're once again in the realm of no perceptible difference. People will pay tens of thousands of dollars for absolutely nothing, and it's a nothing that can be scientifically proven.

     

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  36.  
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    Wavey Davey, Mar 17th, 2008 @ 6:10am

    Re:

    There will always, always be the clueless ipod zombies who are 'music lovers' *snigger*, extolling the brilliance of their shitty mp3's in the full belief that.... there is no difference *snigger2*.

    These are the music "consumers" we keep hearing about. They "consume" music... which is 21st century street-speak for "haven't even listened to 60% of stuff on my ipod but my mates like it and I'm well gangsta." They've never heard of Lou Reed *snigger3* or have any idea of the huge influence he and his band have had on the contents of their shit-filled-ipod. Music is like a big-mac to them.

    Reed is completely right: when DID digital come to mean shite?

     

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  37.  
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    Yair, Mar 17th, 2008 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re: Re: It is not true- there is a major diffe

    Sorry dude , its seems your too full with *scientific* psaudo objective information. When I wtote i had 100% of success i meant i was tested. I did not know which is which - if you do know, there is truely no point of testing you. Ill say again , everyone can fell the difference but its really hard to compare feelings and therefore to tell the differences. Thats why numerous pro Mp3 studies will alwyas end with no perceptible difference. Saying there is no difference between none of these formats (including LP (!!) which is truly on a different world ) , and between high-end systems to 200$ is pure ignorance, driven by extreme scientific obsession. Do you feel the difference between sitting on a live show to a recording ? Im sure you do. The better your equimpent is and the better the format your playing you get a closer experience to the real thing. Ignoring all of that just means your world is extremly small Stop using only your brain , there is another faculty in you body, its called sensitivity.And no ,you dont need to have any exceptional person, you just need to stop blocking it with objective thought that are *scientifically proven*. It would do you only good.

     

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  38.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 17th, 2008 @ 11:58am

    Monsters

    Oh. And Monster cables are worth every penny, too. (sarc.)

     

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  39.  
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    Ima Fish, Mar 18th, 2008 @ 10:31am

    Re: why does this article say more than the linked

    Agreed, but my guess is that the "better mp3 technology" to which Reed refers is lossless, e.g., FLAC or ALAC.

     

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  40.  
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    CJ, Mar 21st, 2008 @ 11:22am

    Re: Re: No one can hear the difference

    "Can you cite some references?" Can you maybe find a google somewhere and look it up yourself? There's not even really a debate about this anymore, except among the know-nothings at the audiophile mags.

    It's just butt-simple physics: Digital can never approach the fidelity of any analog format. Because it's *digital.*

    Can I get a "doye," please?

    Whether you let your records get dusty or scratchy, that's your problem, not the format's ...

    If you can't tell the difference between a CD and an LP (on even a half-decent system) then fine, don't worry about it. You're lucky. Enjoy.

     

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  41.  
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    Yeah, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:25am

    Re:

    You could not have said this better!

     

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  42.  
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    Yeah, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re:

    Newsflash! Lou Reed IS shit!

     

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  43.  
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    Billy, Apr 22nd, 2010 @ 2:17pm

    Re: No one can hear the difference

    I can tell the difference 100 percent of the time.

     

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