Audiophiles Run And Hide: Growing Number Of Young People Prefer The Sound Of MP3s

from the here-come-the-snobs dept

Every so often we have a story about how audiophiles freak out about how awful MP3s sound, and how they’re “ruining music.” We tend to joke about those stories, and then the audiophiles come out in the comments and scream about how we’re totally clueless and if we only spent six figures on our own stereo system, we’d feel the same way. So, I’m sure they’re going to be upset to hear that a growing number of young folks actually prefer the sound of MP3s to other, much higher “quality” systems. The theory is that they’re so used to hearing the sound associated with MP3s, they are more comfortable with it and prefer it. In fact, the article notes, some believe the same is true of those who believe that vinyl’s sound quality is so much greater than other formats: much of it is actually because they’re so used to the sound quality associated with vinyl.

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Comments on “Audiophiles Run And Hide: Growing Number Of Young People Prefer The Sound Of MP3s”

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A Dan says:

Re: Re:

Speaking as a Computer Engineer, this discussion of sound quality is not subjective. The problem the audiophiles have with MP3s is that the compression is lossy. Some of the qualities and properties of the sound are lost when it’s compressed to the format, so it comes out sounding different on the other side. This reminds me of the people who get used to diet colas and then start saying they taste the same. They don’t taste the same. But you can adjust to the taste of diet, and some people start to like it. It’s the same thing here, just with sound.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: Re:

Speaking as an Electrical Engineer, I can say 100% for certain that sound quality is indeed 100% subjective.

Here, let me show you why.

In order to know what the sound quality is like you have to be able to measure it being played over your speakers, right?

So once it hits the speakers, how can you tell if there is any distortion? You use a microphone that’s been calibrated, right?

So how do you calibrate the mic? With calibrated speakers. And how do you calibrate the speakers? With a calibrated mic. Do I need to explain why the deep dark secret that high-end stereo manufacturers don’t want you to think about this too much?

Well, for those uninitiated I’ll let you know. It’s impossible to know which has the distortion, the speakers or the mic sooo, they took that entirely out of the equation and let a human say “this is 100% audio quality” with a certain set of speakers and then certified a mic on that subjective experience. There IS NO OTHER WAY. It’s the chicken and the egg syndrome and there’s nothing they can ever do about it.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Actually, let me clarify that a bit by saying that the waveform could be from a waveform generator so you can generate a perfect sine wave or what have you and that can be reproduced and measured with absolute certainty but the moment you try to reproduce or measure the perfect waveform on “perfect” speakers with a “perfect” microphone, the equation becomes more like something in quantum mechanics than audio since uncertainty is introduced into the system.

So you are correct, I just didn’t say it the way you expected to read it at first.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Speaking as a Computer Engineer

Gee, you start off with an appeal to authority. What a way to win an argument.

this discussion of sound quality is not subjective

Nope, it is.

The problem the audiophiles have with MP3s is that the compression is lossy. Some of the qualities and properties of the sound are lost when it’s compressed to the format, so it comes out sounding different on the other side.

Back in the early 60s guitarists would overdrive their amps causing massive amounts of clipping and distortion. And if that wasn’t enough, they’d cut their speakers to add even more distortion. Are you saying that the music of the Who, the Kinks, and Blue Cheer (to name a few) would be of a higher quality without all of that lost information due to clipping and without all of the distortion?

But you can adjust to the taste of diet, and some people start to like it. It’s the same thing here, just with sound.

And thanks for proving my point. A person who thinks diet soda tastes better is not wrong. His beliefs are subjectively correct in the same way that someone raised on MP3s can think a lossy compression format makes the music sound better.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Here you are comparing two equals.

If diet soda is equal to regular soda, despite entirely different ingredients, exactly how is the same song in two different formats not also equal.

I’ll just add that I certainly do not think diet soda is equal to regular soda. Nor do I think to different formats of the same song are equal. In fact I think the entire notion of two different things being considered equal is asinine, I’m just awaiting your explanation.

Not an original to a lesser imitation.

Once again you’re somehow equating a quantity (lesser) with quality. Is a louder song always better than a quieter song? I certainly do not think so. However, under your logic, the quieter song would always be of “lessor” quality, because it has lessor volume, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“how is the same song in two different formats not also equal.”
This is not about two different formats.
It is about the difference between analog and digital.
It is like putting square wheels on your car and then comparing them.

“However, under your logic, the quieter song would always be of “lessor” quality, because it has lessor volume, right?”

Wrong. Read my comment over and over until you get it right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

btw, that’s not the correct usage of an appeal to authority. As a computer engineer, he has knowledge in the field beyond that of a lay person. If a doctor said, “Speaking as a doctor, this illness blah blah blah,” its not an appeal to authority because the guy actually does have authority in the topic over someone who doesn’t specialize in that field.

Ura Fish says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Are you saying that the music of the Who, the Kinks, and Blue Cheer (to name a few) would be of a higher quality without all of that lost information due to clipping and without all of the distortion?

You’re confusing “musical quality” with reproductive “sound quality”. They’re not the same.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sound quality is determined by how close to the original recording your source is. MP3s are highly compressed

Let me repeat myself. Back in the early 60s guitarists would overdrive their amps causing massive amounts of clipping and distortion. And if that wasn’t enough, they’d cut their speakers to add even more distortion. The original sound of their guitars would be radically changed. Are you saying that the music of the Who, the Kinks, and Blue Cheer (to name a few) would be of a higher quality without all of that lost information due to clipping and without all of the distortion?

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Quality is subjective. Quantity is objective. The problem audiophiles make is that they take quantifiable data regarding their systems and music, bits per second, etc., and extrapolate from that increased quantity a higher quality. Which is complete nonsense.

As an example, the entire Lo-Fi genre of music is predicated on a lower quantity of criteria versus regular recorded music, e.g., the inclusion of distortion, hum, or background noise, or limited frequency response. But yet, people find the resulting music to be of a higher quality when compared to how music is typically produced.

Let’s face it, does anyone seriously think that the Velvet Underground’s first LP would be a higher quality if it had been produced by George Martin or all digitally?

The same is true of us old fogies complaining about the so called loudness war. I.e., the production and mastering technique that compresses the sound of music to such an extent that very little dynamic range exists. What most people don’t get about this production/mastering technique is that some people like it and find it a higher quality.

Us old fogies don’t get it because we grew up where most artists wanted a lot of dynamic range. Since we’re used to it, we find a limited dynamic range to sound bad. But we’re not objectively right about it. Anymore than someone who claims that all MP3s sound bad.

Heck, let’s face it. Both SACD and DVD-Audio utterly failed in the market place. Increased bit rates and extra audio channels does not lead to a better quality of music.

madmie says:

Re: Re:

I’d have to disagree. Having been exposed to the world of Audiophile equipment. I’d say that Audiophiles are less likely to be interested in the “numerical measurements” of the quality of equipment than your average “Best Buy” customer. In fact, the greatest sound I ever heard came out of equipment with horrible numbers. I love mp3’s for convenience and portability, but due to compression, the music has been sapped of much of its lifelike qualities. Its soul is gone. And for those who comment on the inferior sound of some clasic recordings. Trust me, The Velvet Underground sounds stunning on an old LP through good equipment. Poor recording quality and all.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’d have to disagree. I’d say that Audiophiles are less likely to be interested in the “numerical measurements”

I have proof above from ehrichweiss, who claims to be an audio engineer and argues that because lossy music is lower quantity of bits, i.e., portions of the music are lost due to the compression, that it follows that the sound of the music is of lower quality.

And I’ve never met an Audiophile who didn’t attempt to use objective facts to prove subjective quality. If they exist, I’ve not met him or her.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t know if that’s what I said BUT we seem to be in agreement for the most part so I’ll just say…yeah..absolutely…..I think.

If all you’re saying is that it all boils down to the listener because there’s no way to objectively determine if a speaker or microphone are perfect, then yes, I said that.

Amplifiers can be as perfect as we can make them and we can measure with certainty how the input compares to the output but we have to listen to what comes out of the amps and that’s where the objectivity ceases for the above reasons.

OH, and I’m not really an audio engineer, though I’ve ran lights and sound for my share of bands, but rather an electrical engineer…or at least that’s how I started out.

brokeastunes says:

MP3 Sound "quality"

Believe me, you don’t need to have an expensive audiophile sound system to hear how obviously superior vinyl is. Even a crappy system will fill the the room with three-dimensional sound compared to the one-dimensional, tinny, transparent bass of MP3s. This post confirms what I already predicted-that after a few years of MP3s being the dominant medium, pretty soon people wouldn’t even know what recorded music was supposed to sound sound like. The dumbing down of our culture is nearly complete.

DCX2 says:

Re: MP3 Sound "quality"

I would not describe the bass of my mp3s as “one dimensional”, “tinny”, or “transparent”. But then again, I ripped my own mp3s rather than downloading them, so I know exactly what settings were used to make them.

Maybe if you used an equalizer, you could make the bass sound better. Hooray Loudness curve!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: MP3 Sound "quality"

I would agree with you on the MP3 aspect, that audio codec is only so-so and usually people using MP3s convert at a low bit-rate. But there are many other audio formats that you can use including completely loss less ones where you won’t lose any quality. That kind of quality (when listened to with a good sound system) is only beaten by actually being with the band while they are playing because you can hear it exactly the way the band intended it and the average user can also tweak the audio in many ways if they want.

moore850 (profile) says:

mp3's used in studio

The reason this is happening: more artists are producing songs and listening to the mp3’s themselves, and optimizing their music for mp3 playback. If the artist can make it sound good on grooves on a record/mp3/cd/etc, then more people will be able to enjoy that medium, regardless of whether the absolute quality of the medium is better. And for the record, fresh vinyl on a big system is incredible, but high-def cd’s are definitely a close second.

Paul Berry (user link) says:

Getting Flac?

What’s interesting is that MP3 continues to be the dominant format on players, hard drives and download sites, and this is despite bandwidth and storage being quite able to cope with much larger files (even uncompressed audio).

There’s always FLAC if you want to store CD-quality sound with the smallest file size. Most people don’t care enough though.

Anonymous Coward says:

I grew up on vinyl, from the 33 rpm LP’s to the 45 rpm singles, hell, there were even some 78’s floating around my house. It does have a wider range and a “warmer” sound, but that doesn’t mean mp3’s or cd’s sound bad either. I usually listen with a quality set of headphones (even (gasp) ear buds on occassion) and still thoroughly enjoy the music. It all comes down to this, vinyl isn’t made much anymore, like the recording industry, its time to move to a new model, whether you like it or not.

Rich says:

Why MP3'S are Dominant !

MP3’s are the dominant sound format for 2 main reasons !

1, They are small enough in size that you can fit a lot of them into your Portable Music player of Choice, and lets face it is kids that are pushing the use of MP3’s and they are a convenient way of listening and sharing music.

2, MP3 is supported by virtually any media player / Device

Eventually they will figure out how to keep the compression without losing quality and by that i mean that the compression will be less lossy.

R. Miles says:

Most devices do well with the MP3 format.

First, NO amount of quality will ever make Britney Spears sound better regardless of media type.

That being said, I believe the quality of the MP3 format is a component of the device playing it. A cheap MP3 player can make the music sound “tinny” vs. placing the same song in a high-end system, which uses plenty of filters and has an adjustable equalizer (as well as some MP3 players).

Sound quality is relative. I may enjoy music with increased bass while others may not. We adjust our equalizers to fit our needs, not what these audiophiles think we need.

These idiots just can’t seem to realize if they don’t like the MP3 format, quit buying the damn thing. Sheesh.

With that, time to listen to the soundtrack from “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”. Yes, it’s in Japanese. I wonder what these audiophiles will say about this, given Japanese women tend to sing with higher vocal ranges? As if I care.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Most devices do well with the MP3 format.

First, NO amount of quality will ever make Britney Spears sound better regardless of media type.

Objection: Any media player that’s in the “off” position greatly improves the quality of a Britney Spears track.

Counterpoint, Britaney Spears videos are quite tolerable when muted.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a waste of argument.
Personally I don’t care much what I listen to as far as quality. But there can/should be no doubt that when converting analog to digital you sacrifice a quality potential.

Most choose MP3 because they place value on quantity over quality.

Most do this in all aspects of life. Walmart is making a fortune on this, so is McDonalds etc. etc.

Bobby McDoogle says:

MP3's are hurting children across the world...

Now that our children don’t even know what good sound is, they are going to also forget things like what good home cooking is, or good old fashioned board games. What is next? Are they now going to forget what good old fashioned taffy is too? Where does this end? Why was it so important to do away with record, they were thin, easy to trot around, and really cool to show off. In fact, I have nailed a couple to my wall as decorations.

This is so very difficult to understand, why can’t we just all come together and decide that real music is dying and it is MP3’s fault.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: MP3's are hurting children across the world...

Already happened.
Immigrating from Europe to the states I find that the food culture here is terrible. I find this to be common knowledge, but what really drives home the point is seeing the 65+ age group at Burger King.
Prior to coming here I had never seen anyone older than 45 in a fast food chain.
America is in a fast lane to loss of quality and the current everyday newspaper shows you the result.

TDR says:

The thing about vinyl, though, if I remember right, is that you can only have one song per side. Could be wrong, though, as I’ve never used them much. Which is rather limiting. And not one person has said HOW the sound there is better and HOW digital formats lessen it. It’s easy to claim something, but less easy to back it up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Overly simplified and wrong on so many levels.
Compare it to your old style film camera vs. digital camera.
See all those Mega Pixel numbers. It is the attempt to get closer to real like what the potential of film cameras could reach.

Analog has capacity for higher quality because you don’t reduce a smooth curve to jagged blocks of 1’s and 0’s

Analog would be a smooth curve utilizing numbers from 0 to infinity.
Digital is a curve utilizing number from 0 to 1. Imagine the great curve it makes.
Now you can definitely add enough 1’s and 0’s into the equation to reduce the loss. But you will only be working towards reducing loss as you get closer to an imitation of infinity. You can never reach it.

StereoMike says:

It's also about the source

It’s subjective because many younger listeners do not know of anything else. They know of Ipods and small ear bud headphones. Most people I know of do not own a large component HiFi system, but small boombox or mini home theater. Granted on these systems MP3 and Lossless sound pretty much the same.

Step it up just a little with a good pair of full size headphones and a higher quality CD player or a dedicated 2CH audio system, and you will start to realize there is a slight difference between a compressed and Lossless source.

Training to hear the difference is needed to understand why a MP3 has X type of sound and why Lossless has Y type of sound; I will admit some music really has no difference encoded into a compressed source, really coming down to the music you listen to.

Now I will also go off on a tanget and complain about the engineering of almost all modern music over the last 15 or so years. Over compressed dynamics, terrible stereo tracking and completely over peak sound levels. You wonder why people don’t hear a difference or care when the Loseless source sounds like garbage.

Johnny Canada says:

Sound Quality

I use a high end ‘MP3′(Cowon) player but have listened to ‘low’ end players (iPod)and there is a difference.

But sound quality of the recording is the factor, or how it is produced.

Years ago April Wine would ‘produce’ their sound so it would sound good on cheap record players, as that is what their fans had.

And to add the ‘Best’ sound record of my gen was Pink Floyds, Dark Side of the Moon. I will let you in on something, the MASTER for that album is second generation. They re-recorded the master to use a new technology, so there was some sound loss alreadt.

Chad says:

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that young people these days just DON’T HEAR the difference. You can talk about the crappy compression of an MP3 until your face turns blue, but to the untrained ear it sounds just fine (or at least good enough).

To say it sounds better is going a bit too far though… and I think that must have to stem from MP3s being so popular. Of course a kid today will say an MP3 sounds better than Grandpa Joe’s old LP… and a kid several years down the line will be saying the same thing about their current format.

On a personal note though, it really is true what some audiophiles say.. you THINK MP3s sound great until you’re introduced to some cutting-edge sound technology. At that point, your mind is blown by how much of a difference there is. If you deny that, there must be something wrong with your hearing.

Anonymous Coward says:

So if we are going to embrace lower “quality” music, what does the RIAA offer us? If the convenience of MP3s outweighs the quality of CDs, does that indicate another area where the RIAA has completely missed the market.

A lot of the audiophile crowd seems to think quality is important. MP3 usage indicates many people don’t care.

Personally, I’ve always felt that if you are that into music, you should be creating your own. If you spend thousands on a stereo and you can’t even play one instrument, you are the Britney Spears of music fans. It just lacks authenticity.

It reminds me of a friend who got an HDTV, and then quit enjoying TV because he was too busy enjoying the enjoyment of TV.

Kent says:

audiophile equipment

A few months ago I listened to a few of my own CDs (that I’m very familiar with) on a ~$16,000 stereo and the nuances and life that were reproduced gave me a completely new experience with those recordings. Then I listened to a few well cared-for vinyls on the same system and the difference again was staggering. Don’t bother trying to discuss how ridiculous audiophiles are until you listen to a system that someone has fine-tuned for years upon years. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who (with an open and willing mind) can’t tell the difference between a vinyl and a CD on system like that. It’s something everyone should experience with at least a few of their most favorite songs.

…Of course if you’re like half of the people I know and don’t give half a $hit about your music and just listen to whatever is new on the alternative station because you’re so goddamn hip then you probably don’t need to bother.

Kevin (profile) says:


Yah, vinyl sounds great. CD’s sound good. I would argue most people people can’t tell the difference, esp when they listen on thier $30 computer speakers, and/or cell phone mp3 player. What is comes down to is that most people prefer the practicality and convience of MP3’s over CD’s, much less vinyl, and don’t care enough to use a another format that sounds more “pure”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think it boils down to this. Times change. Ask any older person about almost anything and it was better back in the good old days. Vinyl, tape, digital and live all sound different. One may sound better than the other in one persons opinion, but really, it’s just music, who cares? If one is that into vinyl it’s likely they don’t like any of the crappy new music anyway. Go read a book, they still print most of those on real paper.

Doombringer says:

Vinyl will never die

So what if some kids like Mp3’s better? Im a kid, or more a young adult, early 20’s, and I think they suck. These are the same kids who shovel McDonalds down there pie holes, and chug crack in the form of “Enery Drinks”, and listen to the bullshit on mainstream radio. These kids are stupid, and mass conusmers, who will never even understand what music is truly about. Art is not measured in mass appeal, shit is. Audiophiles unite, because analog is the way of the future.

“EMP from the mother and son, tore the digital down. Dawned at the age of the innocent ones, the indigo children come.” -Puscifer

This is for Ima Fish says:

Definition of Quality

You’re getting all caught up in the wrong arguments. I stopped reading a lot of them awhile ago because they were focused on the wrong thing.

The higher the quality of the recording, the more it sounds like the original song. Therefore, Lo-Fi music, those who use distortion, etc. are NOT counted out. That distortion, etc, is still there, it just sounds a lot closer to the original distortion. When it gets compressed, that distortion will get distorted as well.

The quality of recording is NOT subjective. The amount of difference it makes IS subjective. THAT you can argue over. Is the difference in quality worth thousands of dollars? Now that is definitely up for argument.

straif says:

I grew up listening to music on cassette through a department store boombox. Many years later, when I’ve listened to the same music on CD through a much better system, it sounds wrong. Better, but wrong.

For many people (not just the “young folks”), they listen to moderate bit-rate music (often mixed with a lot of dynamic range compression) through cheap earbuds. Hearing the same music uncompressed through a good quality system will sound wrong. Based upon the article, I assume they were listening to unfamiliar music, but I wonder how much of it was due to factors besides the format (earbuds vs. a high fidelity system, for example).

Also, there is one factor that is difficult to control in a test like this. Louder music is perceived as being higher quality than softer music. If, at any point–from encoding to decoding–the music is compressed (in the dynamic range sense, not in the number of bits) or the apparent volume of the mp3 is increased it will sound “better”. Gain normalization is one possible area that this can happen.

Your Mother says:


Quality of Sound vs Quality of Recording vs Quality of Medium vs Quality of Playback vs Quality of Acoustics vs Quality of Hearing vs Quality of Art vs Personal Preference vs Marketability vs Practicality. One of my favorite recordings is Thomas Jefferson’s “Mary had a Little Lamb”, it sounds horrible as an MP3. I wonder what he would think. I didn’t say something sounding horrible is bad necessarily.

hax says:

The purpose of music

I think people are ignoring the whole purpose of music. The music that I’m listening to on my MP3 Player or in my car is used for an entirely different purpose than the stuff you’re listening to on your $16,000 home system.

I’m not listening to Vivaldi while smoking my pipe and eating caviar. You want to listen to MP3’s while your lifting weights, driving, jogging, walking, etc. All of those things have sounds of their own which interrupt the finer points you’re discussing.

I have a $5000 stereo at home which I’d rather have lossless on, but the other 20 things I do in a day when I need an MP3 instead don’t really make it matter that much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The purpose of music

This post is dead on. Sure if I spend thousands of dollars on my home audio system, I might care to use something better than mp3’s. And it might be worth it, since your equipment could be used for TV’s and movies too.

But the majority of the reason why mp3’s became so popular is because of its small file size, allowing it to be easily transfered over the internet, and because its supported by nearly every portable music player.

People don’t just listen to music at home. The majority listen to it on the go, in the car, exercising, commuting on the bus, at work… the list goes on. And lossless formats just cannot WORK for these uses. MP3’s work the best, so they become the most popular.

If anything is to blame, it’s not the people, it’s the technology. Technology just hasn’t reached the point where it can deliver lossless quality music in the way people want to use it, at a price we can ALL afford.

robert says:

gee - I must be a young person

I’m 50. while I can appreciate the audiophile sound quality ( I don’t think, at least in my case) that it justifies the price paid. I find that MP3s do the job. Maybe its the old thing of “musician’s have crappy stereos”. I just am not going to pay $20k for a turntable or $5 per foot for speaker wire. it just doesn’t make that much difference to me

Doombringer says:

I must be a young person

You must be because your idea of what a decent stereo costs is outrageous. I paid about $150 for my turntable, and I got a huge stereo amp, with speakers and wire for free from my uncle, because he died, but it only ran him like $800 new. So that is no where near your guestimate of 20K for a stereo. And also Im a musician, so this “old thing” of us having “crappy stereos” has no weight.

On another note, hax has a point on the purpose of music. I am more selective because usually when I really listen to music, its at home, in a quite setting, with my home stereo and vinyl, and some of god’s grass to compliment the aural experience even further…

Anonymous Coward says:

Seems to me that the majority of quality loss happens at the recording studio (which consumers have no control over, unless you feel like funding your favorite artist’s next recording), even though most of the arguements here are focused on playback (which we as consumers have more control over, i.e. justify buying ridiculously expensive audio equipment).

Specifically, I have an old At The Drive-In CD with terrible sounding quality, which would continue to sound terrible no matter how expensive you home system is. They do have an LP of this album, but I highly doubt it sounds any better, as I believe the quality came from crappy recording equipment.

On a side note, it would be extremely interesting to see some figures regarding the tolerances at which records are made, along with the tolerance of different record player cartridges. Analog or no, everything is only good up to a certain percentage of accuracy.

brokeastunes says:

MP3 "Sound quality"

It’s amazing how threatened some people seem to get by the idea that they may be missing something they don’t even know they’re missing. My point is that I’m NOT talking about subtle audiophile shades of esoteric qualities-it’s blatant black and white as far as I’m concerned. Listening to the bass on a Bob Marley record vs. a MP3 or even a CD-try it and you’d quickly see what I’m talking about-and I sure don’t have any super fancy system. Digital bass sort of sounds like bass but doesn’t hit you in your chest, doesn’t really fill the air with anything-it’s like an invisible ghost that passes right through. Then again, if all you ever listen to is MP3s (no matter what bit rate) you’ll never know this. One more thing-vinyl sales have been climbing steadily for a long time now and last year almost a million NEW records were bought-that’s a far thing from just being a dead, nostalgic form of media.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: MP3 "Sound quality"

“Listening to the bass on a Bob Marley record vs. a MP3 or even a CD-try it and you’d quickly see what I’m talking about-and I sure don’t have any super fancy system. Digital bass sort of sounds like bass but doesn’t hit you in your chest, doesn’t really fill the air with anything-it’s like an invisible ghost that passes right through.”

Give me a system that can deliver this experience while I am at the gym exercising, without disturbing those around me, at a price under $400, and I’ll actually care that such an experience is possible in the first place.

Jeff says:

MP3 "Sound Quality"

Any music that you don’t hear produced by live people with live instruments is compromised by the process of recording it. So Vinyl or MP3 or any other reproduction process will introduce distortion. If you prefer the distortion produced by Vinyl great, if you prefer the distortion produced by MP3s that is great too. The key is in not fooling yourself into thinking that you sound reproduction system is equal to a live performance, especially when no microphones or amplifiers are used.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: MP3 "Sound Quality"

You are the reason a permit should be required before being allowed to post on the internet.
MP3 is a compressed format meaning you run an uncompressed file through an algorithm and remove a shitload of data to bring down the final size.
Imagine having the number from 1 – 100 lined up, now remove 90 of those numbers. It is still a range from 1 – 100 but you are missing 90% of the data.
You can for example remove a lot of data by stripping away the hertz ranges humans can’t hear.

In short. It is not the same fucking thing as vinyl. You may not enjoy vinyl but at least it hasn’t been fucking raped in the process of creation like a fucking MP3.

Sergio says:

Music has shifted roles

As a young person, I can say that music has a different purpose than it did 30 years ago. Music is no longer an experience, but part of an experience. Music is in the background. No one sits around listening to music, kids sit around and talk and they play music while they talk to enhance the experience. We play music while we drive to enhance the driving experience. When we play World of Warcraft and we enter some dark dungeon for the first time, the tuba and drum based music enhances that part of the game, not the other way around.

Because of this, it doesn’t matter what the “quality” is of the music because it’s not the focus, it’s just filling in the emptiness of whatever else is going on.

Now, when I have people come over and we watch a movie in my basement in HD with my decent, but nowhere near high end Yamaha 5.1 surround setup, everyone’s reaction is usually “Wow, that sounds amazing,” but I don’t think they would have enjoyed the movie any less if the audio was only the crappy 10-watt TV speakers. In fact, they would probably enjoy the movie more (at first) with their crappy speakers because the better audio quality becomes the focus and not the movie itself. They’re concentrating too much on how detailed the floor creaking and actor’s voice are instead of the scene those sounds are in. After a while of this though, they get used to it and the audio and music move into the background where it doesn’t matter if it’s 7.1 PCM or 2.0 CRAP.

ChimpBush McHitlerBurton says:





“Speaking as a Computer Engineer”



Doombringer says:

Music has shifted roles

Sergio, you are an idiot. Music is in the background? What are you an advocate for muzak? No one sits around listening to music? Are you kidding me? Everyone does. Thats the point of music! Just because you sit around with your douchebag freinds and try and talk over the Fall Out Boy blaring in the background doesnt mean people dont listen to music. World of Warcraft? God lord, go kill yourself now, you just lost all credibility in the music dept. Speak for yourself assclown, because you sure dont speak for me and the kids I represent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Music has shifted roles

I dunno. I kind of agree with Sergio. I can’t think of the last time I listened to music JUST to listen to music. It’s always been associated with something else.

Off the top of my head, here are the times I normally listen to music:

-in the car
-at the gym
-at work
-while using the computer

In all of those cases, the focus isn’t the music. The music is there to complement the environment. And for the majority of people, I’ll bet that’s the case.

Sergio says:

Re: Music has shifted roles

I wasn’t speaking for myself; I was talking about people who don’t care about audio quality.

Do you think a dance club is going to lose business because they play 128kbps MP3s instead of CDs or vinyl? No, but if the drinks suck, or it’s too small, or if the people are asshole’s, or if the actual songs being played don’t flow well, then that hurts the club experience, not the audio quality.

When I said no one sits around listening to music, I should have said the vast majority of young people today don’t sit around listening to music. I didn’t think I needed to make that distinction since the article is about young people today. You may be one of the young exceptions who actually sit in a room with your friends, without talking, and truly appreciate the music. For doing that, yes, you absolutely need something lossless going through a high end piece of equipment to be able to hear the individual instruments, not just one big ball of sound.

Concerts are further evidence that people…err… the vast majority of young people today don’t really care about the music itself, but about the experience it was associated with. If I went to see Green Day, and they had the most kickass sound setup, and they played their music perfectly, but all they did was play music, no talking to the crowed between songs, and everyone was forced to sit down and keep absolutely quiet, people would say the concert sucked (I personally would love it, since the music is the only part of a concert I enjoy).

Now I must go take my own life because at one time I played World of Warcraft and Doombringer, which sounds like a Warcraft name, does not approve.

Slackr says:

You guys are funny

Regardless of what equipment you playback your music on – your own equipment (read 2 ears and a brain) interprets that sound. Interpretation will be subjective. Even if lots of people may agree on that subjective interpretation, this does not make it objective.

There’s more to enjoying music than bit rates and hertz. Argue all you want but if I enjoy music my way inside my brain, who are you to tell me I’m wrong? I mean let’s be honest that’s what it is about isn’t it? It’s not about bit rates but who’s right and who’s wrong?

Scott Atkinson says:

the reluctant audiophile

FWIW, I fell down the audiophile rabbit hole a year or so back. I think it’ds an age thing.

I’ve always been a very, very heavy consumer of music – a few thousand cds and lots of (legal) downloads.

And I listened to all of it on a $99 Sony boombox.

Anyway, about a year and a half ago, I just started to get *tired* of listening. Nothing sounded dead wrong, but it didn’t sound right either; it was just kinda harsh.

So I bought better speakers for a computer (Audio Engines, for anyone keeping track) and that made things better, except…

Now I could hear more problems too. What was ok, (cds basically) got better, but by and large the downloads got worse.

*This was nothing I wanted.* The last thing I was interested in was becoming all obsessive about sound quality. As someone else noted, audiophiles are always at risk of listening to the sound instead of the music.

But it’s a vicious cycle: once you can hear things a little better, you are more aware of what’s not so good, which leads you to improve what you can, which leads you to better and worse.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I have zero quarrel with someone who listens to mp3s – I wish I still could. But I can’t and I get why other people can’t either.

Scott Atkinson
Watertown NY

btw – You can work yourself into the state I describe for a lot less than $20k or even $5 k. My current family room set up is a used set of Paradigm Atoms, ($100), an Oppo universal player for $135, a Trends class T amp for $150, an Antique Sound Lab pre-amp, (used) for $125 and a Squeezebox, which cost me a couple hundred bucks.

So maybe $700 in all, for a lifetime of music listening ruined. What a deal!

Mark says:

Here's my take

Most people these days listen to music “on the go” – either while walking to/from school (or work), driving in the car, sitting on a bus or whatever. In these situations, you can’t really ‘hear’ the quality of the music, regardless of high good your system/ears/headphones are, due to the noise surrounding you (people talking, the sound of your car engine, cars passing by).

Mp3’s are also far more convenient to handle, as they take up way less space then pure lossless files. You can fit maybe 6 mp3 albums in the space of 1 lossless album.

Even though there *is* a difference between a high-quality mp3 file and a lossless file, the difference you hear is NOT worth the storage space required (on a computer). It simply isn’t.

audio insider says:


The lame encoder at 386 is actually preferred to CD’s for some inside audio people (read – professionals). Try the test yourself audiofools.

The theory is that jitter is reduced and there is no brickwall filters and thus on ringing effect. I know it sounds crazy, what about bandwidth? Seems to not be a big factor.

I have not done the test myself, but know of some very respected engineers that preferred the LAME MP3 encoded stream vs the regular CD.

Bottom line, it is very important what algorithm you use when encoding. It seems to me the LAME encoder is king when it comes to encoding to mp3. Also check out “exact audio copy” and use it in the chain.

David says:

Compression, etc.

Seems ironic to me that early recordings didn’t have the technology (both recording and playback) to make them sound good at the time but modern treatment can make even old 78’s quite passable, yet “modern” recordings using, presumably, state-of-the-art equipment are butchered with hideous amounts of compression and processing. The same applies to radio. Even satellite broadcasts (potentially the best of the lot) sound dreadful. Here in the UK we have the debacle of DAB, which promised so much and what do we get? More and more stations being shoe-horned in the spectrum at ever-decreasing bit-rates and in one case, MONO for goodness sake!

Brother Robbie K says:

You're all f*cked in the head, and ears

Okay, I don’t give a flying fuck about your encoders or anything like that. Anybody dumb enough to say that a lower bitrate file sounds better than uncompressed audio has been cranking their headphones up for far too long. Even a LAME encoded mp3 has jitters and wavering at 320+. Try getting a hearing test, morons.

Brother Robbie K says:

Oh, and you can try and fight it all you want, but going BACKWARDS from compression actually does create more sound. GO FIGURE! All you little bastards out there encoding stuff like MC5, The Stooges and Blue Cheer into 128 and 192 should be shot. You’re pricks and you definately don’t appreciate the music enough to listen to it the way the artist intended, not your little pissy sounding interpretation.

Michael l penman (user link) says:


i’m sorry but this so off the mark.
One the reason why young kids say this is cause all they want is more more more, this is drilled into them from a early age by Parent, the government (especially if your american) and the media.
The dont care about how it sounds only that they have 100 days worth of degraded music. And MP3 allows them to do this, one cause you can find MP3 for free and at least for a small amount.
As for the vinyl part… people prefer vinyl due to the fact it produces a higher spectrum of sound.
With music in a computer you can only get tones up to 22K (44.1 k sample rate/nyquiest theory) using A-D/D-A Convertors.
But with vinyl these overtones stay in the signal allows for more even harmonics creating that pleasant warm sound.
And you say the kids prefer MP3 over Vinyl or WAV do they even know any better….
If you play Justin Timberlake on Mp3 then Mozart or Cream on Vinyl of course there going to say MP3… One there not listening for the sound difference they are listen to the music they like.

N Brown says:

Ok this is subjective Vinyl sucks compared to a cd produced properly. I have been comparing sacd rips (24bit 96Khz) to vinyl (24bit 96Khz) rips and the sacd rips win hands down. Vinyl colors treble so bad where the sacd rips are crisp and clear through the midrange and treble. I even compared standard (16bit 44.100) rips and they sound better too.

Oh and these were initially .flac format and I encoded to .mp4 using Nero AAC average bitrate 500k.

The old fogies who love vinyl prefer the soft treble but won’t admit that it is a worse copy than the cd (not always some studios cd plants screw up the cd mastering)

Anyone who thinks vinyl gives you honest midrange/treble needs to go see some live shows lol.

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