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"At any rate, it's a bit of a rip-off .." - CD vs Download?

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Bruce Lindfield, Feb 6, 2006.


  1. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    So last week I was reading the article with this title, in the Guardian Newspaper :

    http://media.guardian.co.uk/newmedia/story/0,,1699708,00.html

    So here's the relevant part(s) :

    "If you bought the Arctic Monkeys' new album on CD (and an awful lot of people already have) then you knew what you were getting: a silver disc of virtually uncompressed audio and a paper cover featuring a lad smoking a fag.

    Buy it by download, though, and you're into a minefield, not only in terms of digital rights management (DRM) and player compatibility, but also sound quality.

    On the iTunes Music Store, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not goes for £7.99 and is encoded in AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) format encoded at 128kbps - that is, every second of music is represented by 128 kilobits of data. On the CD, every second takes up 175 kilobytes - 11 times more.

    Buy the album from Napster, for £7.95, and you'll get WMA (Windows Media Audio) files encoded at 192kbps. Better sound quality than Apple's, for 4p less.

    Meanwhile, over at Bleep.com, the download store run by Warp Records, you can download the UK's fastest selling debut album as DRM-free MP3s for £6.99, and at the noticeably higher bitrate of 320kbps - still four times less than the CD."


    So buy it on iTunes and you are getting something that is 11 times worse than CD quality....:confused: :eek:

    The article goes on :

    "However, Rob Wells, new media director of Universal Music UK, thinks that aside from audiophile fans of jazz and classical, the digital market will remain driven by convenience. "In the short to medium term, I'd say that the majority of consumers aren't really that fussed," he says. "Quality is quite far down their list. "


    So - are you happy that you could be losing so much sound quality, as compared to CD?

    Is it about music or just having the latest, "fashionable" accessory...?
     
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    So were they right that only Jazz and Classical fans, care about sound quality...? :(
     
  3. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    that's a bit naughty... '11 times worse' is a subjective judgement... you'd be wrong to imply a listener's experience will be 1/11th as enjoyable because the compression ratio is 10:1 or whatever...

    I think people all the time make a trade off between audio quality/cost/convenience... if you're going to be listening to something on an ipod anyway, you perhaps don't need hifi quality because you'll be listening to it on a tiny pair of earphones, probably on a train or bus or something... it's hardly an ideal environment for audio quality anyway

    i'd be happy to listen to mp3's encoded at 192kbps or above on my ipod, as in the environment that material is consumed, a higher encoding rate or less lossy encoding format would be completely inaudible

    if we only ever listened to recorded music on high-end hifi systems, in special listening rooms, then lossy compression formats don't make as much sense.. but in the real world...
     
  4. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Well Bruce, maybe its just me, or the sources I have downloaded CD's for purchase from before, but I have never noticed a drop in quality. I dont know if thats because there wasnt one, or that I couldnt hear it, or that my audio equipment isnt up to reproducing it anyhow. I personally cant tell the difference between a 320Kbps MP3 and a losses wav file. 192Kbps is usually fine for me even. 128Kbps I can start to hear the loss, so I try not to buy anything below 192. The few times I have bought CD's for digital download have all been either Wav, or 320Kbps MP3's, which is fine with me.
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It struck me this morning as somebody played me a file of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" and it sounded so lacking in "oomph" and just sounded like background music... no stereo separation, weedy riffs :(

    So then I went and dug out my CD of Led Zep "Remastered" and listened to the same track on my big monitor speakers at home- no comparison!!

    So the CD sounded sooooooo much better - so alive and vibrant - so exciting as a piece of music!!

    I just can't believe that if anybody heard the two, side by side - they could ever want to listen to anything but the CD !!
     
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    No it's not subjective this is what was actually said :


    "On the iTunes Music Store..... music is encoded in AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) format encoded at 128kbps - that is, every second of music is represented by 128 kilobits of data. On the CD, every second takes up 175 kilobytes - 11 times more."
     
  7. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Was the "lacking" version played through your home speakers? If not, the comparison isn't valid.
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    Yes it was !! And it was valid!!
     
  9. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    No. The numbers in that article are obfuscated. The different compression formats are not comparable like that, each has different efficiencies.
     
  10. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    That comparison has absolutely no meaning. If itunes was downloading PCM data 1/11th the size of the PCM data on the original CD it would have some relevance, but since AAC is a compressed format, the comparison of bits against bits is totally irrelevant.
     
  11. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    well, it was your interpretation of those figures as "11 times worse than CD quality" that I was saying was naughty :) it implied the sound quality was an order of magnitude worse than CD :ninja:
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - whatever the detalis - there's no doubt that your typical iPod is putting out a much lower quality sound than CD!! :meh:
     
  13. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    exactly... so why should people spend extra money on a CD when they can get a more appropriate format for less money?

    sorted! :)
     
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well if you want to take it up with the writer - they put this at the end of the article :


    If you'd like to comment on any aspect of Technology Guardian, send your emails to tech@guardian.co.uk
     
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Or forget about the iPod altogether....;)
     
  16. Most people buying MP3's are most interested in portability not sound quality. Me personally, yes, I buy CDs. And I listen to them on a nice, high end sytem. But then I rip them into MP3s compressing the snot out of them and dump them onto my iPod. Can I hear a difference? Sure, but when I'm at the gym on the treadmill listening to music through those crappy iPod earphones I am plenty happy. My iPod has like 12 DAYS of music on it. Everything is about purpose. MP3's are designed to be small files so that you can load up 10x as many on your device. And for that purpose they work great.
     
  17. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Arguing over sound quality with these things has always been pretty absurd to me. When you're talking CD vs compressed, there is somewhat of a point, but when it comes to .aac vs .mp3 vs .wma vs. .ogg vs. whatever. It really is silly. Anyone who can hear the difference between these formats within the 128-320 kbps range is either lying to themselves or they have a medical condition of oversensitive ears.

    For starters. If you're arguing over compressed audio to begin with, you are demonstrating that you are okay with compression anyway. So right off the bat your quality arguments get nullified since you're already accepting to such a 'low quality' anyway. So, it is fair to want to have the 'best' low quality, but the differences in terms of actual hearing and more importantly ENJOYMENT are so negligible for everyone that it is mostly all a bunch of hot water.

    the .AAC codec is actually more modern and advanced codec than .wma or .mp3. It is the audio layer of the MPEG-4 video codec and in a sense could be called .mp4(if that name wasn't already taken). It was designed to preserve higher qualities at lower bit rates and many lab tests have shown that to be true. But there is no point in arguing test results because numbers don't have an effect on how a human perceives or enjoys their music.

    Would you honestly stop someone who was rocking out and say "um excuse me, I have this fact sheet right here, and you're listening to music that is 11 times less enjoyable than the leading competitor, yea, sorry, you wasted your money"


    Now you get into the disparity between CDs and Compression. Here there is a valid case to be made. CDs offer not only high quality but the capability to convert into any number of lower qualities without destroying the source and making progressively lower quality clones. This is a major advantage for... well, some people I guess, but it's really a niche when you think about it.

    Already established, the difference in varying compressions is nominal. Truly, people that insist on having VBR encoded at 320 kbps .aac They are almost always lying to themselves that they can actually hear any noticeable difference, and they do it more for peace of mind than anything.

    Of course, there are exceptions, and some people do genuinely hear/feel a difference that effects their enjoyment between 128 and 192 kbps. They are the exception, and far from the norm, the norm(consumer base), mind you can't even hold a pitch.

    So you're left with the last trait of CDs that is desirable. The unaltered sound quality. This is great. Buy CDs and keep them, enjoy uncompressed audio, since out of high quality systems there is a difference. But linking it negatively to mp3 players and computer playback is rather specious.

    When it comes to it. I have bought over 1000 songs on iTunes. No that is not $1000, I buy mostly albums and discounted ones at that. I have only bought 2 classical albums and I still enjoy them quite a lot. I primarily listen through sennheiser HD 280 pro headphones.

    Have I heard a difference between varying compressions, occasionally I have, but it has never mattered since the music still comes through. The difference is far slighter than any shift in EQ presets one can make. Have I heard a difference between uncompressed CD and varying compression. Of course, has that difference ruined my listening, of course not.

    blahblahblah. etc..etc.
     
  18. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Then it's not exactly crap. :meh:
     
  19. I have been long wanting to write an article on 'Why-Pods?' as virtually everyone under the age of 30 who lives in London has one - I'm a few years over 30 - 33 to be precise - and I don't own one. A. because I have issues with using headphones now have a mild form of tinitus and B. because it disturbs me how many people suddenly require an item to constantly listen to music on - when we were quite happy without them before they arrived.

    I admit the iPod is a brilliant invention - but we have been sold it through clever marketing and Apple aren't so keen on telling everyone that both the new batteries they will require when the current one breaks, cost about half as much as the ipod itself - and also they make half-arsed attempts at warning people to the dangers of constantly using headphones at excessive volumes.

    The argument about better quality is a hard one as the convenience of having a lot of music anytime anywhere is a huge advantage over your half-ton of CDs sitting at home - but we have as consumers been sold yet another fad-based format that will be superceded once again in an increasingly short time.

    In terms of buying music to be quickly consumed (mmm, McMusic tastes so good), immediately is very tempting but it's also a symptom of our on-demand culture, consuming things before we've even had a chance to digest them, or even given them the time of day. I really hate the argument against actually taking the time to listen to music properly - dissing the whole, old, way of getting to know a record, really appreciating the production, song writing, performances - album artwork - yes I know it meant buyiong a piece of plastic etc etc etc ecte cte caksjnakldnawlkdn but it worked.

    Using music as a constant background soundtrack to your life is 'cool' I admit it, but it's also a distraction from actually interacting with the real world - enclosed in your own 'media-bubble' life can be just as you want it to be - but it's all getting way too virtual for me - it's just how I feel.

    I'm not for or against technology or convenience - but MP3s are not the great music solution everyone is telling you they are - they are still making big companies rich - and so are iPods.

    Mike
     
  20. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    How are any of those 2 points at all indicative that apple is trying to slight people or undermine anyone. Or, that they are trying to sweep those issues under a rug as if they are iPod-centric or somehow apple's fault?

    Firstly, iPod batteries are $30-60 depending on where you go, varying plans will replace them for you or provide the tools/instructions necessary to do it yourself. The cost and turnaround time varies, but it is a far cry from being "about half as much as the ipod". Even still, it isn't a pandemic that the batteries break. Apple makes and sells millions of these things, perhaps hundreds of thousands have had bonked batteries, but if it was truly as big a deal as people try and hype, then there would be well over 10-20 million completely bunk iPods every year. This is not the case. It is also not iPod centric, as it can and will happen to any competitor, we don't hear about them though because they don't control the market.

    Secondly, headphones have not only been around for a long time, and they are part of the 'classic' listening environment you described. It is so blatantly obvious that prolonged listening of music on headphones at excessive volumes will be dangerous that you can hardly hold apple or anyone else accountable for someone hurting themselves that way. Apple could have provided the best warning ever, and that wouldn't change a dumbass from hurting himself that way.

    I mean, there are many criticisms you could come up with, but those two are astoundingly weak.