Go, economics. One of the pure joys in my life is being able to listen to well-recorded, high fidelity music. Weather through headphones, or on a carefully selected component system, there is nothing that beats the sound of a great recording. Unfortunately, this has been gradually changing for the past 15 years.
This past summer, I met an audio-enthusiest who has been noticing sometheing peculiar while listening to music. He observed that some music was fatiguing to listen to, while other music was not. He also noticed that this did not seem to be related to the overall volume at which he listened to the music. Originally, I thought that this fatigue was caused by peaky, unnatural response in the audio playback system. It seems, however, that the recording industry may have much more to do with this modern phenomenon than many audiophiles could have imagined.
Apparently, due to the prolific use of mp3’s, and other compressive storage devices, record lables seem to be responding by actually requesting that audio engineers limit the fidelity of more and more recordings. They are doing this by compressing the data stored on the recording, and by limiting the dynamic range of the recording. This, in turn, causes the music to sound louder and more foreward; it decidedly worsens the sound quality. Read all about it here [if you can stomach it].
This seems like a great idea – if, like many, you listen to all of your music on a crappy system, ipod, or download all your music from the internet. A great idea – if you listen to music while exercising, while programming, or if the music is a background filler. A great idea, if you stand to profit from jamming more data into less space. However, if you appreciate the ability to relax with a glass of Sandeman’s Port wine, and listen to some great music on a great system, you may be greatly dissapointed.
So, what will happen?
Will more an more people become dissatisfied with listening to crap, and will the artists get tired of their recordings sounding like crap? Or does cheap, easy music that whores the industry out to a modern trend in electronics make crappy, ineffectual recordings acceptable?
Hat tip: Oliver, Ben