Why High-Quality Music Downloads Might Not Make Sense

Reader Brad sent me this link to a story on why we may never get proper high-fidelity digital downloads. The site is Xiph.org:

Articles last month revealed that musician Neil Young and Apple’s Steve Jobs discussed offering digital music downloads of ‘uncompromised studio quality’. Much of the press and user commentary was particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of uncompressed 24 bit 192kHz downloads. 24/192 featured prominently in my own conversations with Mr. Young’s group several months ago.

Unfortunately, there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space.

There are a few real problems with the audio quality and ‘experience’ of digitally distributed music today. 24/192 solves none of them. While everyone fixates on 24/192 as a magic bullet, we’re not going to see any actual improvement.

Read the rest here.

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.

5 thoughts on “Why High-Quality Music Downloads Might Not Make Sense

  • March 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm
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    Is 16/44.1 readily available now? Not really it's all compressed mp3/mp4. Why not CD quality at a little higher price?

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  • March 6, 2012 at 6:16 pm
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    Until the majority of fans of music understand the benefits of good sound, as opposed to merely what's available, I don't think it matters too much. Most consumers of music seem to want the easiest possible access to what they want to hear and if they don't know what they want to hear, the easiest service (radio included) let the music be heard.

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  • March 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm
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    The headline is a somewhat misleading. The conclusion of the referenced article is not that high-quality music downloads don't make sense, but rather that 24/192 recordings are not high-quality. I'm sure many people would enjoy higher quality downloads, where that quality comes from better mastering or lossless compression.

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  • March 6, 2012 at 9:46 pm
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    Interesting article, thanks. I tend to agree with Nscafe's comments, the majority of people don't really understand the differences and just want easy access to music. When you see someone comment that a "concert must have sucked because it sounds shitty" as they're commenting on someone's smartphone video recording posted to Youtube, I feel just a bit resigned at the ignorance that abounds.

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  • March 7, 2012 at 1:43 am
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    The other issue is what device of convenience is being used for playback. Frequently these digital downloads are pumped through iPods or other portable MP3 players, or enjoyed on laptop, desktop, and tablet computers. Seldom do these acquisitions get pumped through systems capable of true high-fidelity playback. If I'm playing through my laptop speakers, I'm barely going to notice a quality difference. You're damn well right I'm going to notice a bad MP3 going through my home theatre setup.

    Reply

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