Mp3 this, Mp3 that. Is it really that bad?

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Mp3 this, Mp3 that. Is it really that bad?

Post by fossiltooth » Tue Nov 13, 2007 11:31 pm

Inspired by reading yet another anti-mp3 thread on gearslutz. Some people think we're doing a disservice to our nation's youth by making them grow up on mp3's. Sure other mediums can sound far superior, but:

When I was a kid, I listened to most of my music on an old cassette boom box with dreadful frequency response. It also played cassettes slightly too slow, so I had to figure out how to play songs by detuning my guitar about a quarter-step. I enjoyed it immensely and I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

Also, remember that speaker technology has improved dramatically since the days of our youth. Whether you're 24 or 64, you can get more speaker for far less money than you could have when you were growing up.

Mp3's don't sound one-tenth as fluorescent and funky as they did 5 years ago, and kids without amazing hi-fi systems have far better sound-reproduction equipment than they ever had in the past.

7 years ago I would have said I'd rather listen to AM radio or a scratched-to-death vinyl record over an mp3. I can't say that now.

Keep things in perspective, people. It ain't that bad.

What kind of system did you grow up with?

I've cataloged most of my CD collection into iTunes as 192 AAC files. Can I tell the difference in an ABX test? Sometimes... but, does it truly hinder my listening experience?

Not at all.

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Post by Brett Siler » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:45 am

Man, I have a tape that I dubbed of the Germs in 8th grade. You could still hear the album that was orginally on the tape in the background (I think it was Supertramp or something). I have listen to that tape waaay more times than I can count, mostly on this shitty yellow tape player that only had one speaker! I have many other tapes that I loved when I was younger and there was tons of loud hiss, tape all warped at the beginning and end of each side, or albums in the background (the stereo my I used to dub tapes must have sucked pretty bad). Comparetivily, listening to mp3's with ear buds on my Ipod sound way better than my beloved tapes on that shitty boom box or in my van (which actually only has a tape player and I still have some of those tapes!).

I remember listening to stuff on RealPlayer like 10-12 years ago and yeah the quality sucked ass. All those weird digital artifacts made it hard to listen. I actually think now that might be kinda a cool effect to use on something now.
Last edited by Brett Siler on Wed Nov 14, 2007 1:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by RefD » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:55 am

i have no problem thinking of mp3s as the digital equivalent of cassettes.

somewhere i have a Memorex tape containing a really badass King Crimson concert i taped off The King Biscuit Flower Hour in 1984 where they kicked off with a blistering rendition of "Red".

wish i could find it on CD, tho.
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Post by theBaldfather » Wed Nov 14, 2007 6:55 am

haha, I used to "high-speed dub" tapes all the time. It was my version of filesharing. They sounded truly horrible, but it spawned a love of music. Even back when I was 11 I remember playing around with my boomboxe's 3 band graphic eq. I left it pretty scooped as I recall.
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Post by cfMC » Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:16 am

yeah I don't get the MP3 complaints. MP3s sound way better than any of my old cassettes, lol. and back in the day, nobody was carrying around portable record players for the high fidelity, they had the boombox and the walkman and the crappy tapes and THEY LIKED IT

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Post by apropos of nothing » Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:36 am

Amen. Hell, I've got mp3s of cassettes!

I've got a hardware mp3 recorder that I use for remote and filed recording sometimes. I've played back results for professional engineers and seen their eyes fall out of their heads when I tell'em what it was recorded on. Would it be better as 192khz, 24-bit or 2"? Hells yeah! Is it useable stuff anyway? Better believe it.

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Post by chris harris » Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:42 am

Amen Justin! Great post!

It's hilarious. It's like these people think that prior to mp3s, families would all gather around the stereo and listen to pristine vinyl, all the while appreciating and pointing out how much hard work probably went into that kick drum sound.

99.99999999999999999999999999999999% of the time that music is listened to, it's on a compromised playback system.

"but, I worked so hard getting good sounds and then some kid encodes it to mp3 and it sounds like crap." well, guess what? They've encoded all of their other stuff, too. If your mix sounds like crap in comparison, then it's not because of the mp3 encoding.

I guess I've just never been THAT disappointed in what mp3 encoding does to my mixes. I mean, it obviously changes the sound. But, to me, my mixes seem to hold up just fine. As good as other mixes, anyway.

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Post by A-Barr » Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:46 am

I used to hold up a cassette recorder with a built in mic to a cheap one-speaker clock-radio and record my favorite songs, I actually can't imagine a more lo-fi format. But what fun that was!

Truth is, a lot of people record at 24/48/96/192, that's a far cry from 16/44.1, so to say that mp3's are crap while cd's are audiophile-grade really makes little sense. If compact discs were 24 bit and mp3's were 16/44, we'd probably experience an equal amount of bitching about mp3 quality as we do today.

It's all kind of relative, if you are buying a car, a 5 dollar surcharge is insignificant, if you are buying a 6-pack, 5 dollars is HUGE.

Ever download a TV show from itunes? It's like 400 meg's, they could easily sell apple lossless, I would buy so much music that way if they did that, as is though, I am stuck being a snob who refuses to buy mp3's. I yam what I yam!

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Post by scott anthony » Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:55 am

When I was just getting into doing live sound, I had a nice gig with a very popular cover band. I was replaced by a more experienced engineer who convinced the leader that an engineer's mixes reflect what he grew up listening to. He then went on how grew up in an audiophile home, listening to Klipsch's or some $hit...

The leader came to me and asked, out of the blue, what I grew up listening to. I told him "a clock radio." I was gone in 2 weeks.

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Post by A-Barr » Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:01 am

Wow. That is sickening.

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Post by cgarges » Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:22 am

Until they can get MP3s to stop sounding like music being played through a ceiling fan, I'll continue to assert that they sound terrible. I have yet to hear an MP3 that doesn't exhibit this kind of artifacting to some degree. At the same time, I have heard cassettes that sound really, really excellent. Many mediums can be well-made and botched either at the listening stage or by poor reproduction. MP3s sound crappy from the get-go.

I realize, though, that that's what people are listening to and that my opinions are far from likely to change world view. I'm not pretending to believe that MP3s are a fad or anything, but that doesn't mean I'm going to say that they sound alright or that I'm not going to try to make better-sounding recordings regardless of the delivery format.

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Post by jmpace » Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:29 am

I think the quality of the MP3 is important. I still use OiNK's LAME VBR scheme of:

-V 0 --vbr-new

in which the target bitrate is 245 and the bitrate range is between 220-260

Files sound pretty darn good.
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Post by The Real MC » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:06 am

I use Razorlame encoder for making mp3s at 192K. After extensive A/B comparision between source and mp3, I am hard pressed to hear a difference.

mp3 encoders work fine on mixed program material, but I have some single instrument wavs (analog synth) that the encoder choked on. So there is no way mp3s would work for multitrack systems.

I love playing mp3s in my car radio. It has a CD player that can play mp3 CDs. I can fit 150 songs on a CD, press random play, and it's like having my personalized radio. It is so liberating, especially with the terrible quality of music on radio today.

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:06 am

scott anthony wrote: I told him "a clock radio."
man. i TRY to make most everything i mix sound the way classic rock radio does on my clock radio.

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Post by kayagum » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:19 am

Sounds weird, but my ears are waxing nostalgic (no pun intended) for the swooshing artifacts on drum cymbals in the same way I actually liked cassette tape hiss and wow & flutter. Just like pops on vinyl, it's now a part of what I associate with the song. Twisted and wrong, huh?
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