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#1127956 - 09/14/07 04:56 PM Is todays Technology ruining music?
dpvjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/05
Posts: 287
Loc: phoenix az
Here is an interesting article and it got me thinking because so many of you have been posting music on different sites. Plus there have been many posts on the newest digital recorders and I wonder if you are happy with the results or can you tell a difference? I can and I PERSONALLY FEEL that compressed music is not the best way to let others hear your music but that a personal opinion. What is yours? DPVJAZZ

PORTALS
By LEE GOMES
DOW JONES REPRINTS

Are Technology Limits
In MP3s and iPods
Ruining Pop Music?
September 12, 2007; Page B1

If it seems like you are listening to music more but enjoying it less, some people in the recording industry say they know why. They blame that iPod that you can't live without, along with all the compressed MP3 music files you've loaded on it.

Those who work behind-the-mic in the music industry -- producers, engineers, mixers and the like -- say they increasingly assume their recordings will be heard as MP3s on an iPod music player. That combination is thus becoming the "reference platform" used as a test of how a track should sound. (Movie makers make much the same complaint when they see their filmed images in low-quality digital form.)

COMPARE THE FILES
[Music icon]1
Audio lovers often complain about what happens to sound quality when you "rip" a CD into a compressed MP3 file. Stereophile magazine's Michael Fremer tells Portals columnist Lee Gomes2 that anyone can hear the difference. Can you? Compare two different versions of the same tracks. (This is a large audio file; for best results, right click it and save it to your computer, and then play it.)

The MP3 version3 of Ella Fitzgerald's "Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!" loses some of its three dimensionality, compared with the full-resolution file4.

The MP3 file5 of "Come to Find," by Doug MacLeod, is a "shallow, flat, harsh version" of the uncompressed file6, according to Mr. Fremer.

In Elvis Costello's "No Action," the digitized analog copy7 includes clatter, drums and cymbals that "sound hard and annoying" in the MP3 file8.

But because both compressed music and the iPod's relatively low-quality earbuds have many limitations, music producers fret that they are engineering music to a technical lowest common denominator. The result, many say, is music that is loud but harsh and flat, and thus not enjoyable for long periods of time.

"Right now, when you are done recording a track, the first thing the band does is to load it onto an iPod and give it a listen," said Alan Douches, who has worked with Fleetwood Mac and others. "Years ago, we might have checked the sound of a track on a Walkman, but no one believed that was the best it could sound. Today, young artists think MP3s are a high-quality medium and the iPod is state-of-the-art sound."

It isn't. Producers and engineers say there are many ways they might change a track to accommodate an iPod MP3. Sometimes, the changes are for the worse.

For example, says veteran Los Angeles studio owner Skip Saylor, high frequencies that might seem splendid on a CD might not sound as good as an MP3 file and so will get taken out of the mix. "The result might make you happy on an MP3, but it wouldn't make you happy on a CD," he says. "Am I glad I am doing this? No. But it's the real world and so you make adjustments."

This shift to compressed music heard via an iPod is occurring at the same time as another music trend that bothers audiophiles: Music today is released at higher volume levels than ever before, on the assumption that louder music sells better. The process of boosting volume, though, tends to eliminate a track's distinct highs and lows.
As a result, contemporary pop music has a characteristic sound, says veteran L.A. engineer Jack Joseph Puig, whose credits include the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. "Ten years ago, music was warmer; it was rich and thick, with more tones and more 'real power.' But newer records are more brittle and bright. They have what I call 'implied power.' It's all done with delays and reverbs and compression to fool your brain."

All these engineers tend to be audiophiles, the sort who would fuss over a track to make it perfect. But they're beginning to wonder if they should bother.

"I care about quality, even though the kid on the street might like what he hears on MySpace, which is even worse than an MP3," said Stuart Brawley, an L.A. engineer who has recorded Cher and Michael Jackson. "We try to make the best quality sound we can, but we increasingly have to be realistic about how much time we can spend doing it."

Howard Benson, who has done work for Santana and Chris Daughtry, says members of a studio recording crew will sometimes complain after a session, "I just spent all this time getting the greatest guitar and drums solo, and it ends up as an MP3."

Even those who complain about MP3s say they own and enjoy iPods, and appreciate how they have made music so widely available. They just wish, they say, the device wasn't setting the technical standard for how music gets made.

Of course, not all music producers agree that MP3s and iPods are affecting music in quite so bad a way. Larry Klein, noted for his work with Joni Mitchell, said, "If something sounds really good on an average pair of speakers, it will sound great on earbuds. I can't imagine mixing a record so that it sounds better on earbuds."

And Clif Magness, who has recorded with Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken, says music recorded by young artists in living rooms via MP3s, while technically crude, can sometimes have an urgency and immediacy that might be missing from slick studio projects.

When CDs were first introduced, they were regarded as cold and flat, compared with vinyl. But their sound improved as engineers learned the medium, a process many hope will happen again with MP3s and portable music players.

Michael Bradford, who has produced Kid Rock, notes that as storage and bandwidth capabilities grow, music won't need to be as compressed. Even now, some audio buffs, such as Stereophile magazine columnist Michael Fremer, insist on a best-of-both-worlds approach to digital music. He uses $500 earbuds with his iPod to listen to digital, but uncompressed, music he captures from vinyl LPs.

Still, engineers experience some nostalgia about earlier technologies. Says Mr. Saylor, "What we've lost with this new era of massive compression and low fidelity are the records that sounds so good that you get lost in them. "Dark Side of the Moon" -- records like that just aren't being made today."

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#1127957 - 09/14/07 09:07 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
My main concern is that of correct pitch for the recorded music. I understand this to be a problem with incorrect speed of the CD or what ever medium we use. I'm not into I Pods at all.

Alan (swingal)

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#1127958 - 09/14/07 09:24 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Tony V Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/07
Posts: 354
I've been noticing in the music piracy world that people are beginning to rip songs from CDs into lossless files in the format of .FLAC. The file size is increased dramatically compared to MP3s, but maintains the same quality of the original recording.

Computer parts are always improving at a very fast rate. You'll be sure to see a 250 gigabyte iPod someday. And with all that space, I'm pretty sure .FLAC or other lossless quality file formats will become the norm.

The term "MP3 Player" will disappear and will be replaced by "Flac Player"... Ok, that doesn't sound too catchy, but I'm sure they'll think of something. \:D Also, the device will be capable of playing any sound file format.

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#1127959 - 09/15/07 12:36 AM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Mike Warren Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/07
Posts: 192
Loc: Cairns Australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by swingal:
My main concern is that of correct pitch for the recorded music. [/b]
Hi Alan,

Have a go at this test:

http://tonometric.com/adaptivepitch/
_________________________
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http://mike-warren.net/digitalfakebook/

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#1127960 - 09/15/07 01:10 AM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Tony V Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/07
Posts: 354
What an interesting test.

On my first try, was placed in the 5th percentile... I think that was because I rushed it.

On my second try, I took more time and analyzed the sounds more closely. I received a score of 0.6 hertz, placed in the the 87th percentile.

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#1127961 - 09/15/07 12:12 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Serge88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 775
Loc: Canada
I don't know what they're talking about !!!!

My Ipod sounds a lot, a lot, a lot better than my grandfather phonograph.

Serge
_________________________

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#1127962 - 09/16/07 12:45 AM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17746
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by dpvjazz:
Still, engineers experience some nostalgia about earlier technologies. Says Mr. Saylor, "What we've lost with this new era of massive compression and low fidelity are the records that sounds so good that you get lost in them. "Dark Side of the Moon" -- records like that just aren't being made today." [/b]
Good point, though I'd argue there are other social/artistic factors inhibiting albums like "Dark Side of the Moon" and not just engineering factors. With rap/hip-hop and mindless pop dominating the charts, the concept album seems extinct. \:\(

Thanks for the article, dpvjazz. \:\)
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#1127963 - 09/16/07 02:55 AM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Stephen Hazel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 734
Loc: Seattle-ish, WA
I don't see why people still use lossy compression.
And why isn't there a standard popular dvd audio format?
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#1127964 - 09/16/07 11:19 AM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
I am with Serge.. My grandfather (born 1892) talked about selling Polyphone discs (like a giant music box), phonograph "jam pots", 78 records and pianola rolls.. all within a few years. People argued then about which was best, whether to buy metal or thorn gramophone needles.. etc. But what is new, is eventually cheaper and better, though the path is rocky. Betamax started out better than VHS, but VHS was developed to be better than Betamax ever was. Who remembers 8 track tape? How many decoding systems were used for CDs??? Who uses minidisk outside a studio? The use of compression formats such as MP3 is driven largely by memory costs and band width.. as these constraints ease.. it will change.
The tweaking needed to make something sound OK through crummy speakers, and now little earpieces, has been with us ever since music was recorded.
And by the way no matter how great Dark Side of the Moon was on vinyl.. it was nothing like the live show:-)
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#1127965 - 09/16/07 11:44 AM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
Hi Mike.. thanks for posting those tests.. proves what I always suspected.. I should have been a drummer!!
_________________________
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#1127966 - 09/16/07 11:59 AM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
I admit I like the convience of CDs..but albums from the late 50s and early 60s with high fidelity
it had a warm full sound..even with the remastering technics make CDs sound sterile and flat sounding...plus my concern is the pitch sounds off..if I try to play/practice with a CD..

Bob

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#1127967 - 09/16/07 12:06 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
I have never had that problem with CDs.. but I have just learned from those little tests above that my pitch discrimination is pants.. so maybe that helps:)
_________________________
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#1127968 - 09/16/07 12:42 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Mike Warren Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/07
Posts: 192
Loc: Cairns Australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Newbie:
plus my concern is the pitch sounds off..if I try to play/practice with a CD..[/b]
This doesn't make sense scientifically. LPs are driven by a motor (usually governed by mains frequency) and CDs are locked to a quartz crystal. With some rare exceptions CDs are more accurate.

I would love to know what you actually find the problem to be. Does every note sound out of tune or just some?

If you record your piano on a computer or other digital recorder do you experience the same pitch problems on playback?
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Free Chord/Lyric Display Software for Windows.
http://mike-warren.net/digitalfakebook/

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#1127969 - 09/16/07 07:39 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
If there is singing..it sounds off pitch Sinatra sounds more shrill on the CD than the album..maybe they "cleaned" it more than necessary
there have been issues..with some record companies
reissues/remastering..some comapnies do have half speed mastering..mobile fidelty used to do this..
Bob

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#1127970 - 09/18/07 09:04 AM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
To Mike Warren and Bob

Sorry to miss your post until today. I tried to access your clip of tonometric but no success with a connection to the site.

I don't know how good my pitch is but it was diagnosed some years ago as absolute. It's all I've got so it has to do. But I'm certain that the pitch I have is as good as possible because otherwise I could not play by ear as I do.

What I was meaning about recorded music is that it is often off key but not always 100% such as a semitone out. Somewhere between. And my piano is 100% A440. Tuned 4 times a year.

The reason I mentioned this in the previous post was because some recorded music is off key and it's therefore impossible to play along with. None of us can moderate for anything better than a semitone surely.

From my experience CDs are far better than some of the vinyl which of course is regulated by the turntable speed and quite importantly so.

I suppose this pitch thing is very difficult for an accompanist to play for a singer that drops or raises less than a semitone. It must happen.

swingal (Alan)

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#1127971 - 09/18/07 06:26 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
Ah ....Alan thats exactly what I was getting at
its just off slightly..somewhere in between natural and say sharp..it makes you think the piano's off? or the CD! I think record companies are aware of the Tape transfer to CDs being "off" Bob

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#1127972 - 09/18/07 06:44 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1785
Loc: Central TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by Stephen Hazel:
I don't see why people still use lossy compression.
And why isn't there a standard popular dvd audio format? [/b]
Convenience. For the majority of people 128/256 bit compression is good enough. How many people use their ipods while doing other activities vs using them for "serious listening". I would venture to guess that the numbers are pretty overwhelming. Given that, the convenience of being able to store more songs and transfer them more quickly will outweigh any quality loss by compression. I rip all my cd's lossless, I am the only person I personally know of that does this. Going forward when disk size, bandwidth, player performance increases, then we may all standardize on lossless formats, but for the foreseeable future, lossy is where it's at.

WRT the tone test, it would seem that there is some dependency on the quality of headphones/speakers that you take the test on?

WRT the issue of mixing down to the lowest common denominator (128bit), the only positive I can think of is that (hopefully) classical works will be the last to follow this trend.

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#1127973 - 09/19/07 01:44 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music?
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
I use 192 bit on all my Mp3s..I think the Mp3 format is useful for artists with large collections..Sinatra ..Nat Cole..etc..it can reduce bulky sets of CDs.. Bob

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#1229495 - 07/10/09 12:25 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music? [Re: Bob Newbie]
r1card0 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/09
Posts: 64
Loc: Mexico City
I download all my music from http://www.waffles.fm/ they have thousands upon thousands of albums in flac, but for space and iPod compatibility I decided to better get all in V0, which is mp3 but still transparent (can't be differenced from flac by most people)

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#1235078 - 07/21/09 09:06 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music? [Re: r1card0]
marimorimo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/02/09
Posts: 429
Loc: Kingdom of Nodame
All this talk about cds being less than a semitone off is over my head, but I agree that excessively compressed formats do degrade the music. I don't have a very good ear at all, but I can distinguish between a 128kbps ripped mp3 file vs. a 320kbps mp3 file. I've seen music ripped at 64kpbs(!!) and it was total garbage - deleted immediately. I can't stand the 128kbps file unless it's all I have to make do with. In the end, it's all about portability and compatibility, so I try striking out a balance by ripping my cds at 192kbps. Next time I buy an mp3 player, I'll get one that supports lossless files and has a bigger capacity (I think Samsung has already released one that can handle FLAC). And I really do need to get better earphones, but they're so expensive!
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#1235424 - 07/22/09 01:53 PM Re: Is todays Technology ruining music? [Re: marimorimo]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I think ProTools and pitch correction have done more damage than ipods. Those horrible old recordings of Titta Ruffo and Luisa Tetrazzini never killed opera, even if they sounded like they were singing into tin cans. :-)

But ProTools has made it standard for recorded music to be inherently unplayable in a live setting. It's done to live music what the movies have done to live stage plays, and music is such an inherently live thing that I feel that to be a bad thing. Not to say that I don't like some studio-produced highly touched-up stuff (Sgt Pepper is the vanguard of that in some ways, and it's excellent), but sometimes I think that I've gotten so fiercely back into opera and other classical music because it's so wonderful and refreshing to hear people start at the beginning of a piece and play all the way to the end, then stop. ProTools means that most bands nowdays play their music in bits and pieces and then just sew it all together. Frankenmusic. Which is why they stink on ice live.

And don't get me started on pitch correction. I'm glad I grew up in the era of real voices in rock; I know what it's like to hear a band live and get a good, solid belter on key.
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