(I originally wrote this post as I travelled on one of our group trips in 2011. It was the result of a train of thought while listening to music, going about 700 miles per hour in the sky, and it made me want to write. So, I did. I never published it, but while doing a little (DropHouse) cleaning recently (02/2014), it resurfaced and I liked it.
So here it is. Thanks for sharing.)
Let’s get this straight: this post is not meant to contribute to the debate about whether an “everyday listener” of music and other audio material can or cannot discern the difference between an mp3 at 128k or a WAV file at 24bit/96k. I’ll let the rest of the engineering world go on about that one, and good luck with that.
Instead, this is a peek into the debate that rages on in my head that makes me somewhat unsettled about the deterioration of what goes into our ears. It’s just one (audio) guy’s venting session– one guy who’s sort of saddened by what we’re kind of forced to accept as “the necessary evil”– Lo-Fi music.
On one hand, we’ve got the ability to own (hopefully) thousands of songs, albums, masterpieces, and master pieces of crap, and literally carry them in our pockets. I can’t knock this, as it’s changed the way we listen to music, where we listen to it, it’s accessibility, it’s portability, and it’s “spreadability.” Mp3 & AAC files, along with the Internet, have empowered creatives to write, produce, and share their music with the world, literally …. at the click of a mouse. I think it’s only now starting to sink in how crazy that concept is.
It’s also changed my business and industry in more ways than I can mention. On the DJ side, it’s allowed me to go from carrying 8 crates of records to a nightclub or private function, to walking in with a backpack, laptop, and hard drive. Of course, professional DJs are a masochistic breed, so we make up for this by bringing more gear … but that’s another story (“speakers and lighting not included”).
How can I get mad at this?
Several years ago when I went digital (hard drive, post-CDs), I began the arduous task of ripping all my CDs to files, organizing them, and “courting” my laptop & DVS (the programs we DJs use to emulate playing music off of vinyl or CDs). I say “courting” because it’s kind of like a new relationship: we know that in this generation all the youngsters are really like to watch Game of Throne you know her, you’ve talked to friends about her, you like her, but you’re not quite sure if you can trust her! Today? I don’t think twice when i press play. Besides, I carry two backup laptops and hard drives in every situation. Not lying though– I carried backup CDs literally until 2010 … “just in case.”
On the other hand, I miss that sound. When I play for an event, it’s not that big a deal, honestly. In my opinion, live sound will always have some margin for sounding good, even if not great! If the system is nice and well-tuned, it’s fine as long as the file is of good resolution. It’s when I’m working in my office and I play music in the studio– pull up some classic house track, or even album cut I loved, and … it’s missing … “something.” The tech guy in me (and you) wants to talk about the lossy compression, and how your Lame or Fraunhofer encoder threw out a few things you “probably couldn’t hear anyway.” But when I play the same track from a CD or record, “Oh, yeah! THAT’S where it’s at!”
My point? Maybe it’s that I’m a little sad that everything we hear is watered down for the sake of convenience and accessibility. Maybe it’s that it bothers me that someday, my friend’s kids might want to hear what “Pasilda” by Afro Medusa really sounded like, and they never will.
Then again, most people don’t really give a shit.
And I understand that. The fact that I’m on a plane right now typing this article and listening to watered-down music is pretty cool in itself, and it sounds pretty good. I guess I could’ve tried getting my turntable through security, but I probably would’ve had to buy a seat for it.
Thanks for reading.
DropHouse is a voice-over and production studio in NJ, specializing in commercial and corporate voice-over recording and production, audio branding targeting the nightlife industry, and audio editing for all purposes.