Record Labels Planning Yet Another Way To Try To Get You To Rebuy Music You Already 'Bought'

from the not-adding-value dept

For years, the strategy of the entertainment industry is to come out with “new formats” that more or less require people to rebuy the content they’ve already purchased so that they can use it on modern equipment. One of the things that worries them so much about digital content is the idea that it might be somewhat future-proof, in that it can be moved from device to device with ease. Yet, it won’t stop them from trying. A whole bunch of you sent in this story about how Apple and some of the labels are looking at ways to sell (really “license”) higher quality versions of digital music files. Amusingly, almost everyone who submitted this sent it in with some sort of sneering line about how this is clearly yet another attempt by the labels to get people to re-“buy” the same music they had already bought, suggesting an awful lot of people aren’t very interested in such a deal. Honestly, if the labels are serious about offering higher quality files, they should let people upgrade their existing authorized versions as a thank you for actually paying, instead of getting unauthorized versions. Otherwise, it seems pretty likely that people will decide to go for the unauthorized option anyway. Consumers aren’t stupid, no matter how much some folks in the industry seem to think they are.

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Comments on “Record Labels Planning Yet Another Way To Try To Get You To Rebuy Music You Already 'Bought'”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

“One of the things that worries them so much about digital content is the idea that it might be somewhat future-proof”

Digital (mp3, flac, etc) are the final formats for music. Most people do not buy high end stereo systems anymore. They buy iPods with docking stations, they listen to music on their TV’s, use computer speakers, bluetooth the car stereo, use ear bud headphones. All of these are low quality sound systems so upgrading to 24 bit digital music is a waste, so why bother?

Even with the new format getting them some sales, two or three years down the line, it will not make up for the fact that digital music sales have gone flat, and will begin tanking in the next year or so.

Christopher Gizzi (profile) says:

Tell you what....

It isn’t the compression their changing – they did that already with iTunes Plus where they got rid of the DRM and bumped up the bit rate from 128 to 256kbps.

The changes they say might be coming are changing the number of bits per channel of audio – its supposed to be a more natural sound because it can replicate the analog wave more finely.

FLAC is still compression and unless the file was a compressed version of the 24-bit master, it still will sound poorly… just not as poorly as a 256kbps iTunes file.

Christopher Gizzi (profile) says:


I wrote something about this the other day and I agree that most people won’t be able to tell the difference. Only a select few – and mostly those who listen to classical music – will benefit from this (besides the labels and Apple).

Apple gets to sell newer iPods. New storage capacities would be needed for the later files and new hardware needed to process the 24-bit audio. They also get their 30% of any “upgrade” fee like they charged for iTunes Plus files.

The labels get to charge more money like they once did for iTunes Plus files and also charge a re-buy fee to “upgrade” any existing music.

Not worth it if you ask me – much different from earlier format shifts (vinyl to cassette, cassette to CD, CD to MP3) where there was some value in the purchase.

Planespotter (profile) says:


Yes, what they are saying is that they will increase the bitrate from 16 to 24 which will increase the quality of the audio. All our FLAC rips are 16-bit, I spent years downloading FLAC versions of all the albums I own, and as Hephaestus so aptly points out in the first comment I listen to them on all the devices he mentions, we haven’t owned a proper stereo for over 5 years! So I for one won’t be paying to upgrade, I already own them and most have been paid for twice seeing as I upgraded from tapes to CD already!

fogbugzd (profile) says:


Most young people today have grown up on MP3’s and that is what their ears have been trained to consider “normal.” There was a study a couple of years ago where they asked people of different ages to pick between music recorded as normal MP3’s and high quality recordings. Young people preferred the clipped and compressed MP3 sounds, saying it was more natural.

That does not bode well for the hope of mass repurchasing of music collections.

Christopher Gizzi (profile) says:

Tell you what....

Of course it does. Loss-less refers to the compression, not bit depth. If you make a FLAC out of a 16-bit CD and a FLAC out of a 24-bit master, the FLAC on the 24-bit master will still sound better. The DB range is much greater with 24-bits which means that instead of (roughly) 65k levels you have 16m levels. That’s a huge difference in audio clarity.

WAV is also loss-less because there is no compression. But make a WAV file out of a 16-bit CD and compare it to a 24-bit WAV file created out of the “master” and not only are you going to get a better sounding file, but it would be larger, too – almost 3 times the size.

Gwiz (profile) says:


Thanks. I hadn’t refreshed in a bit. I see the discussion above now. 🙂

And I agree about the devices – I haven’t purchased any “high quality” audio equipment since around the time of the cassette. I have gotten older and really feel no need to abuse my neighbors with loud music any more. If I ever get around to getting another drum kit, well, then they might have to worry.

rosspruden (profile) says:


I know this post is about music, but it’s the same issue with movies.

If I already own a favorite movie on VHS, I’d gladly pay $1 or $2 to upgrade that movie to a higher quality DVD, and the same amount again to upgrade it to a Blu-Ray or MPEG. The quality of a Blu-Ray is superior, but the VHS or DVD version may be good enough for my tastes. The allure of a cheap upgrade into a better quality format is one way to make consumers feel like they aren’t getting gouged by buying new formats. Seriously, who’s go out seeking unauthorized content when they can get it for just another $1 or $2?

The reason why this service isn’t offered yet in a viable format is because there isn’t a centralized “bank” of content from which content licenses are sold and managed. iTunes comes close as a platform for buying music MP3s & TV/movie MPEGs, and Amazon is close behind them… but there’s no single one-stop shop solution for all music, all movies, all software, on a license-based platform like Steam or the Apple’s App Store. Offer that, make it run as seamless as Steam does, and I guarantee you that wallets will open.

Even though Netflix’s streaming solution is changing the very idea of owning content into on-demand pay-for-access, I still feel many people will gladly pay to have constant, reliable access to content (i.e., offline & high quality, be it on Blu-Ray or as an MPEG), and will pay to upgrade that quality if they liked the content they originally purchased.

Garrett (profile) says:

Gotta Disagree


I think that offering higher quality isn’t a bad idea. As long as consumers are free to downgrade the product. I liken this to purchasing the DVD and then ripping a 700mb version to stream around my house. I keep the high quality version on the shelf nice and safe. Being able to do the same with music doesn’t seem like a bad idea at least in this case because it is better quality than the CD.

Get the higher quality version (if you desire it) then just format change it to fit more on your ipod or anything else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Honestly, if the labels are serious about offering higher quality files, they should let people upgrade their existing authorized versions as a thank you for actually paying, instead of getting unauthorized versions. Otherwise, it seems pretty likely that people will decide to go for the unauthorized option anyway. Consumers aren’t stupid, no matter how much some folks in the industry seem to think they are.

Piracy’s not OK, unless the consumer doesn’t get exactly what they want when they want it. In that case it’s OK, because, you know, consumers aren’t stupid.

Anonymous Coward says:


I shall give the appearance of having neither read nor understood anything you have ever written despite feeling the need to comment on almost everything you have ever written.

To do so, I will first need to say you have taken a stance you have never taken.

Why are you in favour of child molestation
Why do you support piracy
Why do you insist every business follow exactly the same business model

I will now castigate you for taking these positions that you have never taken.

When you cite evidence I will dismiss the citing of evidence as being pointless.

When you describe the general thrust of an argument I will complain that you are not citing specific evidence.

I am eternal
I am ever present
I am troll.

I do not possess the capacity to feel shame.

Freetards are destroying us all.

Tom (profile) says:

Maybe for the srious audiophile

As a few other commentors have pointed out, I think this would be a tough sell for the average music listener. Will that better quality really make much difference through the headphones for your Shuffle or iPod?

Serious audiophiles might go for higher quality “natural” sounding digital files. My dad still keeps an LP collection because he likes the sound better than digital recordings. But, the market for a higher priced digital file seems pretty small to me.

Anonymous Coward says:


Every person that comes over to my house and sees what a $3k home theater sounds like wants one.

Even though I might listen to some rock in the gym on crap earbuds, I still don’t use 128kbps songs. I like being able to take my high quality audio and move it to lesser systems, than be handcuffed to crappy MP3s.

Simply stating that a particular format is the final one is just assinine. There will always be new technoligies and new techniques.

At some point, the price point for high quality speakers will shift down as new speaker technology comes available and yes, people will hear the difference.

And yes, people will be jealous and try to keep up with the jones’s.

Don’t make the mistake that there is no market for this or that MP3 is the final format.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:


Is this what you’ve been reduced to? Head in the sand? Sticking fingers in your ears and shouting “I’m not listening”? Consumers aren’t stupid. They know that they can pirate this stuff. Whether or not they should might hold sway on whether or not they will, but it holds no sway on whether or not they can, and it is fairly obvious that there is a large number of people who will.

weneedhelp (profile) says:


“Piracy’s not OK, unless the consumer doesn’t get exactly what they want when they want it. In that case it’s OK, because, you know, consumers aren’t stupid.”

If there is a well known demand(consumer doesn’t get exactly what they want when they want it)then it is the fault of whatever industry for not realizing and meeting that demand, because someone/something will. Right? Wrong? Does not matter.

Consumers are not stupid.

Dennis S. (profile) says:

Ars Technica had a good analysis of why this doesn't make sense yesterday.

iTunes may upgrade to 24-bit files, but why bother?
Quote: “Some music producers and artists want to sell higher-quality, 24-bit audio files via iTunes and other download sources. But would consumers actually get any real benefit? We think not.”

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Tell you what....

“The changes they say might be coming are changing the number of bits per channel of audio – its supposed to be a more natural sound because it can replicate the analog wave more finely.”

Yes it will, in a studio full of equipment or on a mid to high end stereo.

On an iPod, my BlackBerry with Bose head phones, in my car with Bose sound system, it makes no difference. The speakers, headphones, and earbuds can not handle the range.

Anonymous Coward says:


This article is just more sour grapes from Masnick because he hates the record labels.

And most of the comments confirm the stupidity of this pirate blog’s readership.

Saying MP3 is the final format is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen written anywhere. It’s like someone in the 70s saying 8 track was the final format. 24 bit sounds vastly superior to the CD, which is tech from the early 80s.

The desire to have the best is inate in every consumer.

The labels are moving forward and you luddites that don’t want to adapt are quite obviously being left behind.

Bill M. says:

Yes, actually.

If you look more into the details, it’s apparently going to be a 24-bit lossless ALAC file. I am hoping they bump the sample rate up to 48Khz as well, so that you can just ALAC the masters and be done with it (almost nothing is actually mastered at 44.1, it’s dithered afterward). No more loss period, you get the same series of bits that the mastering engineer was listening to.

xenomancer (profile) says:


“Don’t make the mistake that there is no market for this or that MP3 is the final format.”

The argument is that DIGITAL is the current format (for now) and that attempts to create artificial scarcities within a medium with no distribution cost barriers is futile. Simply repackaging what is in many cases arguably the same content (“take my high quality audio and move it to lesser systems”) is simply a money grab. Yes, higher quality means the option of hearing fuller sound etc., but what about the legal aspect of the conversion process. Given the manner with which the legacy labels tend to constrain change of formats by consumers (with out their help or paying them a toll), I don’t see a free and *authorized* means of the downgrading you see as a natural use being available for quite some time.

Also, if mp3 sucks, go with wav. 😀

Hephaestus (profile) says:



We are not saying the quality isn’t better, it is. There are several things going aginst the record labels on this.

1) People have stopped rebuying music.
2) The speakers and headphones people use can not handle the ranges.
3) People between the ages of 14 and 45 now prefer mp3s, they “sounds better” to them.
4) Audiophiles will buy this but they are less than 10% of the population.
5) The first time it doesn’t work on someones old mp3 player they will go back to normal mp3s.
7) If they can not buy the normal mp3 of the song they are looking for they will infringe.


Richard (profile) says:


Saying MP3 is the final format is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen written anywhere. It’s like someone in the 70s saying 8 track was the final format. 24 bit sounds vastly superior to the CD, which is tech from the early 80s.

The desire to have the best is inate in every consumer.

If this is true why have all the hi fi shops disappeared from the high street?

The fact is that the consumer lost interest in sound quality sometime in the 80’s. It has been technically possible to do better than CD quality for a good 20 years and possible to do it cheaply for a good 10.

The fact is that almost no one owns a speaker or headphone system capable of telling the difference. I have a 96ksps 24 bit digital recorder but frankly it is pointless for me to use it in maximum quality because I have no way of listening in equivalent quality.

In fact – as I mentioned above – the average consumer has no clue how to get hold of the equipment to take advantage of this capability since no regular shops are selling it.

The standard for consumer sound quality was set by the vinyl stereo LP in the 50’s. CD’s merely matched that quality with greater robustness and none of the attempts to sell anything better have been successful. In fact several worse quality formats have been successful in the meantime. eg compact cassette, 8 track, and mp3

crade (profile) says:


dude, what are you on? If the desire to have the best were inate in every consumer no one would have or use mp3s today since they aren’t as good as cd, which weren’t as good as tapes or vinyl (if “bitrate” is your measure). They bought tapes and cd’s because they were more convenient. If you want to sell music, make it more convenient than mp3s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lets do a very un-scientific survey here

1) yes, I can tell the difference, but it’s a gift. 🙂

2) no thanks. Please consider the old “gud enuf rvluton” thing. The quality of content on a CD or even a reasonable MP3 is high enough that most people won’t be bothered. Think DVD to blu-ray, most people can’t justify the benefit.

But what is really key is I checked both sides of my head, and I didn’t see anyone with a gun trying to force me to buy. I am not sure why these guys only visit Mike’s house.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lets do a very un-scientific survey here

1) i have tinnitus and i can tell the difference between tape and cd (dont laugh i know people that cant in a blind test) cd and mp3, mp3 and flac. short hops in mp3 bitrate i cant though. in other words, i dont know… i dont know how big the difference is.

2) i may or may not have paid for any music at all since i discovered newsgroups in the once-upon-a-time. but if it becomes the new standard, and i, say, lose a hd, then yes ill likely be upgrading.

Planespotter (profile) says:

Lets do a very un-scientific survey here

Remember this site is about business models, good, bad, new and old… the fact that the recording industry probably see this as some new innovative business model is what interests the people that come here to read about, the “other” people just come here because they’ve run out of material to wank off to.

Anonymous Coward says:


I don’t know where you live in England, but in the US every major city has numerous hi-end and home theater stores. They’re all over the web too.

The way Masnick and the others have decreed that “no one cares about quality and never will again” is friggin hilarious. Awesome how you guys somehow know how things will be forever into the future. LOL

Apple has indeed added massive value here, contrary to what head asshat says. And maybe they will allow buyers to upgrade. Of course all of you would be left out of that offer…

Sychodelix (profile) says:

I can definitely tell the difference between any mp3 and flac. FLAC is totally lossless and impossible to tell the difference from whatever the source is. As for creating a perfect FLAC from the source, you have to take all settings into account, including 16 or 24 bit (or higher), sampling rate, etc. Just using a higher level for one setting is not enough, it has to match the source, or you are getting loss.

I don’t have the sound system to need higher than 44Khz-48Khz and there isn’t a massive difference between 16 and 24 bit. If I got rich and had the cash to buy a sound system worth several thousand dollars, sure I’d rebuy. But that’s more than likely not going to happen, so if not, I’ll keep the 16 bit 48Khz FLAC cd rips.

Ryan Diederich says:

In my mind...

Lol at above^^^

I think theres a reason music quality doesnt follow the same doubling formula that other computer related things follow. Hard drive size doubles every year or two for the same price. Music quality has stayed the same, capped at around 400kbs (let me know if I am wrong, I havnt seen hardly any commercial music encoded any higher than this)

I assume this is the case because our ears cant distinguish the higher quality, why make it 1000kbs if it sounds exactly the same at 300? It doesnt make sense, and if thats all the quality I need for it to sound good, I dont want producers trying any harder.

By the way, I still cant tell the difference between 180kbs and 300, if you can then kudos to you.

abc gum says:

Often we hear that it is only a license that we are buying … if that is case then we should be afforded an upgrade at cost. I have not seen any reference to an expiration of said license, so where is my friggin upgrade? – Huh?

I am not holding my breath because I know this will not happen, but really – a license? You’ve got to be kidding.

Anonymous Coward says:


Would you be impressed to konw that your sound system is no better then the Playstation 2?

People are building high end music listening stations using that as a building block because the chip inside the PS 2 was the same found in higher end music players.

But not only that, just a player will make no difference if you don’t have the room with the right acoustics. Did you expend 10K on reforming your room?

Anonymous Coward says:


1. Wrong. Go ask the Beatles about that.
2. Wrong. You must think earbuds sound good. Amusing.
3. Wrong. Besides the fact that you have no data to back that up, the idea that higher fidelity would sound worse to someone is retarded.
4. Who cares? I personally can’t wait to buy these. The demand is there and the supply is on the way.
5. Nonsensical grasping at straws.
6. You wrote nothing. Most correct thing in your post.
7. People can buy just about anything they want and many still infringe. There’s douchebags in the world. So?

Anonymous Coward says:

24 bits is all good and well, but what I don’t understand is people who don’t know their own limitations getting all excited about things they don’t understand or even would notice.

Humans has only 2 ears and a limited range of tones they can hear it has also limitations about the limits of one note to the other.

The future is not a 10K piece of equipment it will be a $10 dollar ear-bud that can make your hairs inside your ear vibrate accordingly to hear anything in any quality and that will be software not hardware as we have already the equipment necessary to produce the tones we just don’t know how to produce them yet.

Floyd (profile) says:

Stupid is as stupid does...

“Honestly, if the labels are serious about offering higher quality files, they should let people upgrade their existing authorized versions as a thank you for actually paying, instead of getting unauthorized versions.”

After I read that line to my wife, she replied, “Well, if they’re stupid enough to buy it once…” I almost laughed my ass off.

PS- Techdirt, please make it less of a pain in the @$$ to leave comments on your site. Every single time I try to leave a comment I have to reset my password. Can you just integrate OAuth/Facebook Connect/Disqus/ANYTHING!!!!! I’m tired of logging in to every damn website. Kthx.

Floyd (profile) says:


You say that its declared no one cares about quality and never will…. but I’ve never seen that. I care about quality, and that’s why I get FLAC files from ThePirateBay. Once 24-bit files become available on TPB, I’ll download those, too. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on CD’s in the past, only to realize that I was a sucker. No more. Kthx.

Floyd (profile) says:


And I’m sure that the people you bring over to your house are the type who would be impressed by a $3k stereo (I would be, if it’s well put together… which yours probably isn’t). Take my mother over to your house, and she wouldn’t give a shit. Neither would more than probably 80% (or more) of the people I’ve met over 40. Those under 20 have never, and will never buy music, and don’t seem to care about fidelity. So good for you. No one else cares.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

One more time for the fun of it

I’ve made this point before in regard to other topics on this blog, but this time it’s spot on.


The music industry had their chance to be friends with us consumers and they blew it. Need a new format for your music? Bring us your old vinyl and we will give you a discount on that cassette. Bring us that old cassette and we will give you a discount on your CD. It could have been, bring us your old CD and we will update your flash drive or ipod or storage device.

We could have been treated like customers and not criminals and been trained to keep sucking on the music teat forever.

Sadly it didn’t work like that. Most of us had been recording from the radio for years and sharing music with friends looooooong before the rise of file sharing. Its natural and no one went to jail and there were no threatening letters. Now they want to disrupt decades of learned behavior because the distribution method and format changed and they were not prepared with a business model?

hegemon13 says:


Effectively, I’ve done just that a couple times buy renting a Netflix Blu-ray of a DVD I already own. I wanted to see the movie in HD, but I didn’t want to pay for it again.

Frankly, in the Netflix era, I don’t understand why people buy movies at all. When you have access to a virtually unlimited library for less than the cost of a single movie each month, why pay to own a movie? If you really like it, throw it back in the queue again. Don’t get me wrong, I own a ton of DVDs, but the only ones that I have purchased since starting Netflix are a few Blu-rays from a $5 Black Friday sale.

I can see having a small collection of prized movies that you watch over and over, but there’s certainly no need for a vast collection for “selection” anymore.

Hephaestus (profile) says:



Other than 5 which is opinion. There are numerous studies for everything I pointed out.

One of the greatest things holding back the record labels is the labels themselves.

We have the record labels and RIAA doing studies to show a specific point of view, that after being repeated often enough, become fact in the “industry”. Every other study that shows something different is ignored or shouted down. You seem to be doing the same thing.

We have the labels blaming everything on piracy. Ignoring competition for peoples time from social networking, texting, gaming, surfing the web, blogging. Ignoring the direct competition from 5 million artists and bands, free music from FMA and label promotional music, ex-label artists that now give their music away for free, YouTube, the list goes on.

We have the labels alienating their customers with law suits, laws and treaties, domain seizures, high prices, DRM, root kits, calling them thieves, threatening them with disconnection from the internet, shutting down (read – black mailing) legitimate music sites by negotitating via lawsuit, threatening universities with loss of federal funding. All of these things they have done, spread like lightning across the internet making people dislike and not trust them. Their most important asset are their customers, with out the customers the labels do not exist.

We have the labels alienting their artists.

We have the labels alienting bloggers.

All in all, the labels are doing everthing you are told not to do in business school.

Jebrew (profile) says:

Lets do a very un-scientific survey here

1. As much as I can tell the difference between VHS and HD video. It’s a huge difference. It also doesn’t matter to me. I stream movies via Netflix on lo-def and I listen to songs that are compressed so bad they make AM radio sound good.

2. Absolutely not. I’m sure I don’t represent the entire market, but expense and convenience are the top dogs as far as I’m concerned. If I’ve already got the song, paying to download a better version is both costly and inconvenient, so I won’t do it. Allow me to click a button and have it update the songs in the background free of charge and I’ll gladly upgrade.

Jeff Rife says:

Tell you what....

Although 24-bit will give you slightly more precision, there are three reasons it won’t really matter:

1. Most music released today has so much dynamic range compression that 16-bit is probably overkill. This is true even of older music. The much-trumpeted Beatles 24-bit FLAC files sound only a little bit better in some places, and much worse overall due to up to 10dB of DRC on some tracks.

2. The quality of most DACs (especially in anything portable) is such that they can’t resolve 24-bit to better than about 4-bit resolution, so you’re down to about 20-bits effective right from the start.

3. One of the biggest issue in digital sound quality is the filters required because of the low sampling rates. Jumping to 96KHz would do far more for sound quality than moving to 24-bit, although both *should* be done.

Also, the Windows “WAV” format is actually just a container (Google “RIFF”) than can hold things like compressed audio. It’s rare to see it, but it does happen. DTS audio is one compressed format that is often stored in files with WAV extensions. If you substitute “PCM” for “WAV” in your post, then what you say is accurate.

Huph (user link) says:


^^^That’s nonsense. I can tell the difference between a 192kbit mp3 and an 320 kbit mp3. If you know what to listen for, it becomes very obvious. There’s a lack of ‘tightness’ in the low-end, a strident midrange, and a screechy high end that sounds like keys jingling or small chains being dragged across the floor.

It’s also key to remember that it’s what you don’t actively perceive that’s being lost. You may not be able to ‘sense’ sounds over 5,000 hz, but all those upper frequencies are still taken in by the ear, and they inform your brain, which is painting the ‘picture’ of the sound. And the upper vibrations beyond even that point are affecting the vibrations you can hear. Think of UV rays, or X-rays, we can’t sense them, but they *very much* have an effect on us. (“Hearing”, like seeing, is really an illusion, it’s just our way of processing a kind of vibration.)

And I honestly can’t believe that people here at a tech-oriented site think that mp3s are somehow final. Internet connections will only get faster, iPods will have more memory (if they don’t forego the need for memory altogether eventually), and speaker tech is only going to advance the quality of sound reproduction. Even earbuds will sound better. In fact, some of them now sound amazing. It’s inevitable that a sound format will come along which trumps even virgin vinyl played through a 10K system. I firmly believe that we are simply in a ‘dark age’ for music, but we will emerge into a brighter, better sounding future.

Now, the real reason I’m writing. A lot of you are confusing the sound of mp3 compression with the over-compression during mastering that we engineer/musicians call the “Loudness War”. These two things are only tangentially related to each other. The loudness war started a long time ago, before mp3s. The two only became intertwined during the early 00s when mp3 quality was so poor that one couldn’t appreciate the the difference between an excellent recording and a mediocre one once the file had been encoded to mp3. In fact, at that time, shittier recordings often sounded better since they have less information to drop in the compression process. I mean, who cares if the low-end was gutted if there was no low-end to begin with?

ltlw0lf (profile) says:


That’s nonsense. I can tell the difference between a 192kbit mp3 and an 320 kbit mp3.

I do not have a golden ear…but there are some songs where even I can hear the difference. Many of Pink Floyd’s songs (which were not affected by the loudness war,) sound very different on 192kbit mp3 vs 320 kbit mp3. I can hear the difference in those songs (though I usually use VBR anyway, so when I use 320 VBR vs 192 VBR, the difference is not as noticeable.) Still, I can hear the difference with them, but not so much with music recorded after the 90s. Most likely because all of the music on CDs from that era are already over compressed anyway.

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