To the People

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

High Fidelity versus Compressed Music

I posted on this before and got lots of angry comments from iPod fans but now I am emboldened by a comprehensive Rolling Stone article on the subject.

The gist of it is that current music releases are being engineered to sound good on iPods, not stereo systems, as most buyers today listen through their computer or their iPod.
...today's listeners consume an increasing amount of music on MP3, which eliminates much of the data from the original CD file and can leave music sounding tinny or hollow. "With all the technical innovation, music sounds worse," says Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, who has made what are considered some of the best-sounding records of all time. "God is in the details. But there are no details anymore."
As a high fidelity partisan, I applaud the efforts of brilliant deceased Jeff Buckley's mom to force his record company to resist the low-fi MP3 craze and instead produce real, good-sounding music:
In 2004, Jeff Buckley's mom, Mary Guibert, listened to the original three-quarter-inch tape of her son's recordings as she was preparing the tenth-anniversary reissue of Grace. "We were hearing instruments you've never heard on that album, like finger cymbals and the sound of viola strings being plucked," she remembers. "It blew me away because it was exactly what he heard in the studio."

To Guibert's disappointment, the remastered 2004 version failed to capture these details. So last year, when Guibert assembled the best-of collection So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley, she insisted on an independent A&R consultant to oversee the reissue process and a mastering engineer who would reproduce the sound Buckley made in the studio. "You can hear the distinct instruments and the sound of the room," she says of the new release. "Compression smudges things together."

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