You have no idea what bad audio is.

Are you one of those people who seriously want to complain about the quality of .MP3 and .AAC music files? You dare to tell me that iTunes killed fidelity as you know it? Dork…



Are you one of those people who seriously want to complain about the quality of .MP3 and .AAC music files? You dare to tell me that iTunes killed fidelity as you know it? Puhleeze…

It’s time for you to be schooled, know it all. Let’s go back a number of years…

When I was in high school, there were these things called record albums. They were made of vinyl. It’s kind of like bendable plastic (in my grandfather’s day they weren’t bendable – I found that out the hard way when I was a kid…). We put them on things called turntables. Turntables spun this giant cd-shaped 12 inch hunk of black plastic at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. Placing a tone arm on the record, a needle sat in the groove of the record, transmitting the information in an analogue format to a receiver, which in turn could blare it through the stereo speakers of your choice. And they had a ton of inherent rnoise – you couldn’t just drag a needle over plastic without hearing something besides the music. You also heard artifacts from the delivery method: pops, crackles, and a faint whooshing sound in quiet passages, especially if there was a warp in the record.

Now, try as they might, a record just wasn’t good for portable listening. It was primarily for the home. After an attempt or two for a more portable method to transmit personal audio (reel to reel tape and 8-track tape) technicians stumbled upon a mini reel-to-reel tape in a plastic cassette housing. They dubbed this (amazingly enough) a cassette tape. They sucked, but they were all we had. We recorded our vinyl album onto a cassette tape to play in a car or a portable listening device.

We placed the cassette into a player, and listened to ten seconds of unbearable, annoying tape hiss, before the music started, drowning out the noise of the magnetic tape medium, and with each song end, we were reminded by the re-emergence of the hiss, that we were listening to a cassette tape. Yet another artifact caused by the delivery method.

The technicians got busy again. Better formulations of tape lowered the hiss threshold, and, of course, we needed better cassette players to enjoy the better tape formulations. These players and recorders had a Cro2 (also referred to as ‘chrome’) switch. Later, they added another formulation, and a ‘Metal’ tape switch. Of course, if you recorded with the metal switch on, you needed a cassette player in the car with high-bias tape playback capability.

After re-buying all of our cassette technology, they came out with another thing, Dolby Noise Reduction. Dolby noise reduction worked, to put it simply, by recording crap so loudly, that when you played it back at normal volume, the hiss was almost invisible to the naked ear. Unfortunately, so were cymbal crashes and any word with an “s” sound. It basically got rid of unwanted noise by mashing wanted noise into the dirt, as well. Dolby ‘B’ noise reduction was replaced by Dolby ‘C’ noise reduction. Once again, we all ran out to buy new car stereos and home recorders.

Finally all the powers that be (Phillips and Sony, working together, believe it or not) created the Compact Disc format. The music CD. A little silver disc. A digital recording format that allowed the music to be free of noise, and nearly impervious to the wear and tear that records and cassettes had to deal with. The music is encoded into a digital format, which a player translates back into analogue sound that can then be blared at excessive levels, just like the good old days. Of course, CD players were initially very expensive, so in the early days we wound up recording our newfangled CDs onto our oldfangled cassettes for listening in the car. With Dolby ‘C’ on, of course.

But you know what? People complained about CDs. Audio people. This is important, read this very carefully – a CD is a compressed format. While it didn’t have record or tape noise, it had a different type of artifact produced by it’s unique delivery method: It was not the complete audio picture, but the original audio compressed into a portable format, missing things that supposedly you wouldn’t hear normally, anyway. It wasn’t right, according to these audio people, that CDs were destroying the audio quality of the original recordings.

Do I need to repeat that? Of course not. You are intelligent. That’s why you read my blog.

Fast forward to today. Now people are whining and complaining about how compressed music formats like .MP3 and .AAC are not a true picture of the sound. they are destroying the quality of the – now get this, this is the good part: They are destroying the quality of the original CD.

The Original CD? That thing that is already a compressed format, and ruining the quality of the original recordings? What, are you stupid? Have you been smoking something? Or are you just another kid born after the birth of the CD, with a blog and newfound clout, not realizing what the heck you are talking about? Kids like you really bug me. You probably even think Nintendo was the founder of the cartridge-based home Video Game. Duh. You’ve been duped. You have accepted the CD as pristine, and now you’re ticked off at yet another lossy format. One that, if purchased from iTunes, Amazon or the like, is usually created from a higher quality master than your CD, which means its actually derived from a better source than things you rip from your home music collection. Sure enough, it has it’s own artifacts produced by the delivery method, yet it’s miles above the old days.

And don’t even start telling me about the glorious future where storage space will be pennies and all recordings will be uncompressed. That’s just wishful thinking. The truth is we will continue to figure out how to further compress things. We will always be trying to stick the most information into the smallest space on the smallest device we can find.

You are an idiot, and I’m done writing to you. Stop bitching. So you don’t like your iTunes copy of that latest album? I have a nice Dolby ‘C’ equipped cassette recorder that you can use to make a hissy copy of your lossy CD. Me, I’ll just hit play on my iPod, and enjoy music that has become so uncomplicated to acquire, easy to play anywhere, and is so far beyond ancient recording techniques, that it boggles the imagination.

And Atari was the true founder of the home cartridge-based video game. Moron.

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