Almost everything David Byrne writes is interesting, but when the subject is music and you’re someone who cares about it, you really want to read it. While he falls for the “an LP has more information than a CD” canard, and that in an essay where he has earlier considered the effects of CD’s vastly-superior handling of the high and low ends of the frequency range, it doesn’t really weaken the force of his argument. Many will probably be too young to spot that his title Crappy Sound Forever! is a reference to the initial 1983 CD marketing pitch “Perfect sound forever”. This pitch was widely derided by audiophiles, who justly criticized the bleed-from-the-ears effect resulting from playing quite a few of the early CDs on quite a few of the early players. Byrne speculates about the kind of music that might start to be written under the influence of the ubiquitous MP3 players’ private listening experience, and says he doesn’t know of any examples. My own private-listening-experience music includes pretty well every kind of music imaginable, so the new medium doesn’t seem to rule anything out. Having said that, Lola Dutronic (@ MySpace) has been in heavy rotation on my iPod and matches Byrne’s criteria well. Mind you, it also sounds great on the home stereo and in the car.



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From: Robin Wilton (Jan 11 2007, at 04:17)

I wonder what those 'bleed from the ears' merchants were listening to!

The first time I ever heard a CD (albeit on someone else's hi-fi, which was probably a reasonably good one) it was Suzanne Vega's unaccompanied vocal "Tom's Diner". It was probably the best advertisement the medium could have wished for.

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From: Mark (Jan 11 2007, at 05:51)

"[H]e falls for the “an LP has more information than a CD” canard" -- this is at least arguably correct, if perhaps unimportant. Why do you call it a canard?

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From: M. David Peterson (Jan 11 2007, at 10:55)

"While he falls for the “an LP has more information than a CD” canard"

Canard? I guess its all how you look at it, and while I agree that in terms of bits and bytes, a CD has the ability to store *MUCH* more bit-based information, and while the range of the highs and lows are obviously immensely better on a CD than on vinyl, what I disagree with is that the quality of information is better on a CD than on vinyl.

What makes me smile about digitized music is its portability, and the ability to reproduce such a broad spectrum of sound.

What makes me smile about vinyl is the feeling of being more authentic; more accurate to how the original recording actually sounded as opposed to the digitized perfection we find in the digital counterpart.

And ultimately, I guess it comes down to mood: Sometimes listening to a vinyl recording just feels better; Sometimes its the opposite.

In short: I'm not sure if using the term "Canard" is really all that fair, as I think both sides of the argument have valid points for consideration. If this was a "there are 8 bits per byte" type situation in which someone was suggesting that there are, in fact, 10 bits per byte, then fine, fair enough, canard fits the mold. But if you are going to use the term "information" as opposed to "data" then I believe this to be an unfair statement that disregards the fact that in many situations the opposite statement can be the more accurate of the two.

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From: Derek K. Miller (Jan 13 2007, at 22:45)

Recording engineers perform some interesting tricks to give digital recordings a more analogue sound. It's not unusual, for instance, to perform "analogue summing," where the engineer routes submixes (perhaps four or eight stereo pairs) from digital audio software such as Pro Tools into an external hardware device that combines them through analogue circuitry into a stereo pair, which then goes back into the digital software to make the final mix.

Each analogue bus has its own sound, but what it does is introduce distortion -- the kind of analogue distortion that people like and that we have become used to since the age of vinyl, and which emerged naturally from old analogue mixing boards and tape machines -- that makes the sound less analytical and more pleasing to the ear.

Other alternatives include software plugins that simulate that same kind of distortion. Interestingly, if you listen to the ongoing series of interviews with engineer Charles Dye over at the Project Studio Network podcast (projectstudionetwork.com), he notes that while rock and jazz recordings use those sorts of techniques extensively, newer styles such as hip-hop tend to use it less, if at all.

I wonder how much of the warmth of vinyl is just that pleasing distortion.

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From: piers (Jan 17 2007, at 10:45)

"Oversampling" on your CD player is a process of DA conversion, also: the sound is digitally multiplied and then divided back down using analog methods, to give it a warmer sound. I wonder if at some point we'll find ourselves lamenting how we miss the "warmer sound" of 128 kbps streaming audio!

One thing I have noticed is that, whereas I would trade mixtapes of whatever music interested me back in the day, now my iPod has become a collection of music, interviews, podcasts, audiobooks, so much more multimedia. During my 30 minute commute, I may end up listening to 10 audio tracks, a chapter of a book, etc, kind of reminiscent of NPR format.

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