Another plea to reverse the decline in the sonic quality of today’s music

If you think the ultimate music listening experience involves listening to an MP3 sounds good through a pair of Beats plugged into your phone, I actually feel sorry for you.

I know that sounds condescending, but I don’t mean it that way. What I’m saying is that it’s terribly unfortunate that you’re not experiencing the full glory and power of your favourite music. All you’re getting is a compressed, over-bassy version of it.

It’s strange that for all our technological advances, today’s music sounds worse–i.e. isn’t as sonically pure in a high-fidelity sort of way–than music released in the 70s and early 80s. In fact, there are some recordings from the 1950s that are superior in audio quality to anything you might be listening to on Spotify right now. Far superior.

Do yourself a favour and find someone with a good two-channel stereo and listen to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. The purity of this 1959 recording is nothing short of heavenly. The dynamics, frequency response, clarity and all the nuances found int he recording of the record really makes it seem that Davis is right there in the room with you.

I’ve recently re-invested in a stereo system: a no-nonsense two-channel pile of NAD gear and PSB speakers dedicated to nothing but the serious listening of music. Later this month, my nephew–a music fan who has never heard a proper stereo recording in his life–is coming for a visit. I plan to blow his mind with high-fidelity.

If you need more convincing, try this article from Medium.

In the early 1980s, I had a friend who was a songwriter. He asked me to play guitar on a few demo recordings he was making. It was my first opportunity to record in a professional recording studio, so of course, I said yes. He booked time in the studio and we went in and recorded two songs.

Once we finished recording, the studio engineer played back the recordings. I was literally stunned by the audio quality. I had never heard recorded music sound that clear and realistic. It sounded amazing. The fact that it was me playing guitar on those recordings was a life-changing experience for me.

A few days later I got a cassette version of the recording. It was a pale imitation of the multi-track tape on playback. It sounded good, but the audio quality was not nearly as good as the original. It was a third generation recording. Multi-track tape to 1/4″ stereo master tape to cassette tape copy. I learned a quick lesson in audio quality that day.

People who appreciate high-quality audio (music) are called audiophiles. They attempt to get the best possible audio quality by using high-quality (usually expensive) components in their music playback system. When I was a teen in the 1970s, a good stereo system was on the wish list of almost every teen I knew. Music was important to us and we wanted it to sound good. So we filled our bedrooms with stereo components and huge speakers. And every 20 minutes we got up and flipped a vinyl album over to play the other side.

Then Philips and Sony introduced the CD.

Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37808 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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