It’s funny to see another friend, Brian, write about the quality of both CDs and Mp3s in comment about my blog post Clouds and Cassettes Tapes. He stated that the “sound quality of vinyl is still unmatched” and that he was “still very disappointed in the MP3 sound quality”. I also have had those thoughts in the past, and at one point many years ago discovered lossless audio.
As some know, Mp3s are highly compressed audio files that lose both some of there high and low frequency when being “ripped”. The result is a much smaller file with lower audio quality then its soarce. They are considered a “lossy” file format, one that many audiophiles really hate. Hence was born the lossless audio format, ie SHN, FLAC, APE and ALAC. With lossless file you do have some compression but not enough to ruin the audio quality, the only drawback is a much larger file size. Below is visual representation of a single audio file ripped in several different bit rates and formats. Notice how the the sound spectrum gets cut off more and more as the bit rates decreases. (look at the top of each image)
So what does that mean to you and me. Well most people should be able to hear the difference between a lossless file and a 128KBPS Mp3. But some people won’t be able to tell the difference between any other. Why is that? For one thing your standard computer speakers or the headphones that came with your “iThing” just aren’t good enough. They just don’t have the capability of reaching such high or low frequencies. If you have a really nice sound system and speakers or great headphone you might. Yes still a might. Some of it has to do with the type of music, some of it is how it was recorded and even some more on depends on the person. I myself am half deaf from to many concert and having my stereo turned up to loud, so I don’t hear things the same way as say my fiance Andrea. (yes it’s a bit of a volume battle in our house).
So why is it worth my time you ask? Well it all depends on you. Some people swear they can hear a difference. Some people don’t care. Some people have great audio equipment. Some don’t. Some stuff is only available in lossless format. Some isn’t. Some artist make releases available in a variety of formats. For me I swing both ways (no not that way pervs!) but it really up to you to explore and decide.
There is a whole world of live music trading that goes on using only the lossless formats. These are completely legal with the permission of the artist of coarse. Bands such as Pearl Jam, Phish, Radiohead, Bela Fleck, Widespread Panic, Wilco and Jane’s Addiction are just a few of the hundreds of artists that allow taping at there shows. The only thing tapers ask is not to share the file in lossy format. (you are permitted to convert to lossy format for personal use though).
If you are interested the following are some link to get you on your way. You can find info about SHN files at Etree.org and info about Flac files at flac.sourceforge.net. You can find legal live music at these two sites: bt.etree.org or dimeadozen.org You will need a BitTorrent client to download them and I suggest uTorrent which you can get it at utorrent.com. You can always email me if you have any question at kidajoe at the email service starting with a g. (sorry don’t want spam!) Other who know me can message me on Facebook.