Quality Lacking in New Music Technology

March 02, 2008 12:01 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
CD sales are down and MP3 downloads are up. But is sound quality suffering at the hands of the new technology?

30-Second Summary

A majority of the music produced today ends up as MP3s, played over computers and digital players and listened to through headphones.

In fact, the rise of the MP3 as the music industry’s dominant format even has engineers mixing music differently. They do that by “applying dynamic range compression, which reduces the difference between the loudest and softest sounds in a song,” Rolling Stone reports.

According to Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Bob Dylan and others quoted in the music magazine’s article, these new production methods are making music sound worse.

Nonetheless, MP3s are how most people, especially teenagers, are listening to music.

The Los Angeles Times reports that almost half of teenagers bought no CDs last year.

Instead, they are turning to both legal and illegal download sites. Apple’s iTunes store recently surpassed Best Buy Co. to become the second-most popular place for music sales in the United States. Wal-Mart is number one.

Slate’s Fred Kaplan both defends and criticizes the MP3 revolution.

Some music aficionados claim the search for quality-sounding music in this new technological age is a waste of time, but Kaplan disagrees.

He argues that high-quality stereo systems make it possible to remain an “audiophile” even in the realm of the MP3.

Regardless of their sound-quality shortcomings, MP3s are the superior format when efficiency is of utmost importance. Then “bad sound is good enough,” Kaplan writes.

Headline Links: The decline of sound quality

Opinion: ‘In Defense of Audiophiles’

Analysis: "Few Listeners Can Tell "Best" MP3 Samples from "Average"'

Related Topic: ‘Want Better Music? Don't Stiff the Songwriters’


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