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  • Writer's pictureIan Bennett

What Makes Good Audio Quality & Why MP3 Should be Extinct?

High end Speaker

Well that's just kicked the hornets nest...

I've spoken to many audiophiles and you seem to get a different answer to the question from person to person. What I do know there are two really common disagreements (and a hidden third which is similar to the second but with a distinction that dare not mention it's name more on that later). The first and less relevant reason is that well there are partisan brand snobs think Apple Vs Android, Audi Vs BMW and you get the idea it's petty much and ultimately a preference thing. The second? Well that's where it gets interesting you see there are genuine things you can do to improve audio but as a result there's an awful lot of snake oil out there. The real problem is the law of diminishing returns and that brings into the equation the hidden third issue money/price a lot of the time is it worth spending up to £10,000s for an almost inperceivable boost in audio quality? I think that rubs a lot of people up the wrong way. Think of it imagine those who can afford it justifying a ridiculously expensive purchase to lord over those that cannot. Verses those who cannot trying to justify why they will never need it and why it's pointless.

What's My Answer?

Well I think both parties are correct, I think you should strive for the best your budget can afford and not to cripple yourself trying to have virtually impercievable differences. i.e do all you can for what you can afford to do and no more.

How Does This Apply to Alt. Entertainments?

Despite what some may say I apply the same principle if I can afford to do it no matter how little the change I do it. I do all the obvious things such as the best speakers I can afford the best players etc. Perhaps the most notable thing we do over the vast majority of mobile DJs and Club DJs is opting for 'Hi Def' Audio (Which doesn't exist in Audio technically the industry term would be akin to high fidelity but HD is a good way to think about it). How do we Achieve this the WAV file (other 'HD' formats such as FLAC or apples own ALAC allsorts are available). I prefer WAV as it's universally excepted as there is zero compression so many MP3 players you will find can play it regardless of if it's mentioned or not (as far as I've been led to believe, I can't say I've tried all MP3 players so results may vary in practice)

Why Not MP3?

Quite frankly with storage and Internet speeds & caps where they are there is absolutely no reason why anyone should being using MP3 (even for streaming). Whilst a marvel of compression technology it really is an outdated format believe it or not and a relic of old internet. The MP3 file itself was invented in the 1980's (yep it's that old) as you can imagine the storage of the time was not big enough to store much in the way of the file size of a WAV for example. So MP3 compression technology was developed, to compress an MP3 the algorithm chops off the highs and the lows where it's believed most people can't hear. That's not all various experiments were held and those that developed MP3 compression and that reduce the quality of the various remaining frequencies where it is/was thought that humans couldn't tell the drop of quality. But wait there's more compression on top of those two compression there is a sample rate compression too where some information is lost the best way to explain it is in a digital file there are sample rates lets say you have a high quailty mp3 at 320kbps (FYI CD Quality is 1411kbps and usually where uncompressed formats start) that samples a frequency 320 times a second. These Samples plots a wave/line in between those points to create a representation of the sound obviously the more sample rates you have the smoother the line and theoretically the better it will sound (See picture as representation).

As a result a clever piece of compression was achieved to bring a perfectly acceptable audio quality. Which is great, when you had storage that's measured in the Megabites. So why use MP3 any longer it makes no sense to me why have acceptable sound quality when you can have great sound quality? Hard drives are usually measured in terabytes (Maybe even in Petabytes sooner rather than later) Internet speeds are vastly improved especially with fibre optic connections. I don't see why you wouldn't use an uncompressed file format in 2019 and beyond.

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