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ARSCLIST  January 2008

ARSCLIST January 2008

Subject:

Re: The "dumbing down" of Downloaded Recordings

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 07:04:39 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (161 lines)

Hi David:

Your statement does seem to apply to many youngsters, but not all of them. I know a few kids who are
involved in music, not dabblers but kids who can really play. Once they learn enough about an
instrument to be able to tune to a group by ear and to find individual note intonation, they
understand what something real sounds like in a real space. Some of these kids don't listen to
recorded music for pleasure because in their iPod-compter speaker world, they don't find the
experience pleasant or "real-sounding." Let such a kid listen to just about ANYTHING in at least CD
resolution on a decent pair of speakers and suddenly they're very clear on what's wrong with the
128kbps iTunes downloads. Remember, their hearing is better than ours (theoretically), so they can
hear the horrible artifacts in the top end. Also, if they've played in an ensemble and felt the
vibrations of real bass notes moving real air, they understand how fake the earbud or computer
speaker experience is and don't like it.

But, let's remember that the majority of people were never finicky listeners, this is why
music-over-radio thrived. When I was in college (mid-80's), the boombox was the standard listening
setup, some with CD playback but most playing pre-recorded cassettes. Is that really any worse than
iTunes downloads over earbuds and computer speakers? In an earlier era, it was portable
"phonographs" with junky little speakers, flea-watt amps and crystal cartridges.

You mention the 1955 recording that sounds so good. Now that brings up what I consider a real
mystery. Why haven't the big music companies seen that iTunes and similar are the PERFECT venue for
the long-out-of-print great-sounding MONO recordings in their collections? First of all, the lossy
compression, 128kbps and higher, isn't as destructive to mono content as stereo because it's not
messing with the channel-location cues and single-channel pieces of "air and space" since there's
only one channel signal to lossy-compress. Second, many but not all of these old recordings have a
lower effective high-frequency cutoff, either as a product of the old technology used to make them
or as a product that the microphone simply didn't capture useful information up there and
location-cues aren't as important in a single-point signal. And, this stuff sounds great over
earbuds (whereas heavily-panned stereo like many 50's and early 60's jazz recordings does not) --
what better single-point source than the center of your brain? Finally, these are decidedly niche
products (hence a good "annuity" revenue stream from downloads but not enough to justify the cost of
printed CD's), but they are assets on the books of these companies and this is a method to renew and
enforce copyrights in some large markets. As I say, it's surprising no copyright owners made this a
priority. Now there's no one left to do it at most of these places, I guess.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message -----
From: "David Lennick" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 1:01 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] The "dumbing down" of Downloaded Recordings


> Obviously, a generation that sticks things in their ears and watches "movies" on a one inch screen
> DOESN'T care and doesn't have the faintest idea what music is supposed to sound like. As I'm
> typing this, I'm listening to Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, recorded in 1955 by Charles Munch and
> the Boston Symphony Orchestra, on an original 1956 pressing..and boy does it sound glorious..
>
> dl
>
> Joel Bresler wrote:
>> "With the hundreds of articles I have been reading on the changes in media
>> distribution (literally hundreds and is this a REALLY big surprise??) I have
>> not read one - not one - that makes any mention of the fact that the quality
>> of the recordings being distributed by download are significantly compressed
>> and poorer then those distributed on media."
>>
>> Here's one such article, by the way. It ran Monday in the Boston Globe.
>> Someone cares!
>>
>> Best,
>>
>> Joel
>>
>> http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2008/01/28/more_music_dea
>> lers_offering_downloads_with_sound_quality_that_rivals_a_cds/ More music dealers offering
>> downloads with sound quality that rivals a CD's
>> By Hiawatha Bray
>> Globe Staff / January 28, 2008
>>
>> Internet music retailers offer millions of tunes, in every genre from opera
>> to hip-hop to Palestinian folk songs. But it's still hard to find online
>> music that sounds good on a $10,000 stereo system.
>>
>> Online music sellers like Apple Inc. and Amazon.com use digital compression
>> technologies to shrink the sizes of music files, making them easier to store
>> and download. But compression also hollows out the music, eliminating many
>> of the sonic subtleties cherished by hardcore audiophiles. That's why many
>> finicky music lovers won't sully their ears with today's downloadable tunes
>> and are clamoring for something better.
>>
>>
>> Joel Bresler
>> 250 E. Emerson Rd.
>> Lexington, MA 02420
>> USA
>>
>> 781-862-4104 (Telephone & FAX)
>> [log in to unmask]
>> IN CASE OF VERIZON EMAIL PROBLEMS, PLEASE USE MY BACK-UP EMAIL:
>> joelbresler-at-gmail.com
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jim Lindner
>> Sent: Friday, January 25, 2008 8:54 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] The "dumbing down" of Downloaded Recordings
>>
>> Is it just me who wonders about this? With the hundreds of articles I have been reading on the
>> changes in media distribution (literally hundreds and is this a REALLY big surprise??) I have
>> not read one - not one - that makes any mention of the fact that the quality of the recordings
>> being distributed by download are significantly compressed and poorer then those distributed on
>> media. Of course it does not have to be this way - there is no reason why .wav files could not
>> be being downloaded instead of AAC or MP3 - but no one seems to care - at all.
>>
>> I figure that if anywhere - the members on this list should care. I don't get it - why aren't
>> people complaining? Has our benchmark for quality become Apple Ipod earbuds? Tell me it isn't
>> so. While people are spending untold thousands on Krell's and esoteric speakers what we are
>> witnessing here is a recording media and quality implosion and I for one am concerned that
>> getting a recording that is of the former relatively high (ok we can debate that but this is not
>> the real point) quality of recordings on CD will become an impossibility in the not too distant
>> future. How come there aren't a bunch of audiophiles - or professionals - or both - speaking up
>> and saying to the downloading public and to the distributors - hey wait a minute - if I am
>> paying the same prices for downloading as I am for physical media - the least you can do is give
>> me the same quality.
>>
>> All I hear is - silence. To me this is a HUGE threat - even short term - to what you are going
>> to be able to listen to, and the quality of what you will be able to listen to.
>>
>> So, members of ARSC - I ask you - to discuss this - and - OK I will say it - as an
>> organization - take an actual position on this subject - let the world know that this is a BIG
>> issue. That is right - I am actually advocating for standing up and talking out loud - not to
>> our group but to the rest of the planet. If we are not going to take a stand on this - what
>> will we take a stand on? Get some manufacturers behind you - you know the Krell and "monster
>> cable" kind of folk that have lots of marketing smarts - because there really isn't any point
>> in spending thousands of dollars on esoteric gear when the quality of the recordings will not
>> let you hear it anyhow. They have allot to lose also. What we are talking about here is the
>> dumbing down - the AAC'ing of all distributed music and I for one think this is an issue. Does
>> anyone agree?
>>
>>
>>
>> Jim Lindner
>>
>> Email: [log in to unmask]
>>
>> Media Matters LLC.
>> SAMMA Systems Inc.
>> 450 West 31st Street 4th Floor
>> New York, N.Y. 10001
>>
>> eFax (646) 349-4475
>> Mobile: (917) 945-2662
>> Office: (212) 268-5528
>>
>> www.media-matters.net
>> Media Matters LLC. is a technical consultancy specializing in archival audio and video material.
>> We provide advice and analysis, to media archives that apply the beneficial advances in
>> technology to collection management.
>>
>> www.sammasystems.com
>> SAMMA Systems provides tools and products that implement and optimize the advances in modern
>> technology with established media preservation and access practices.
>>
>>
>

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