back to article Bye bye MP3: You sucked the life out of music. But vinyl is just as warped

When I was younger, I had a chronic problem with fluff gathering in awkward-to-reach places. What can I say? My personal grooves acquired dirt very easily. It was a teenage thing, I suppose. Neither sterile wipes nor the careful application of a vacuum cleaner seemed to help so I ended up seeking professional advice. A man-in …

MP3

RIP...until the hipsters get nostalgic and it becomes ironic to use MP3.

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Re: MP3

I was using MP3 before it was cool.

Or I wasn't using MP3 before it was cool not to.

This being hip thing is so confusing, I'm going back to playing sheet music on my chamber organ. Insert your own innuendo.

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Re: MP3

Erm.. I bet 95% of people still use it and that will not change very quickly at all

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Re: MP3

"This being hip thing is so confusing, I'm going back to playing sheet music on my chamber organ."

Obligatory Pratchett Quote™:

"In fact the kind of music he really liked was the kind that never got played. It ruined music, in his opinion, to torment it by involving it on dried skins, bits of dead cat and lumps of metal hammered into wires and tubes. It ought to stay written down, on the page, in rows of little dots and crotchets, all neatly caught between lines. Only there was it pure. It was when people started doing things with it that the rot set in. Much better to sit quietly in a room and read the sheets, with nothing between yourself and the mind of the composer but a scribble of ink. Having it played by sweaty fat men and people with hair in their ears and spit dribbling out of the end of their oboe...well, the idea made him shudder. Although not much, because he never did anything to extremes."

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Re: MP3

MP3, I'll be back in fashion when the hipsters ironically adopt it.

I'm fine with it as long as the compression is kept to a minimum. Hell, I still use Winamp Pro (on a Win7 partition as it won't see the CD drive on WINE in Linux Mint for some reason) with LAME set to VBR quality 0 and the bit rate from 32kbps to 320kbps and it works. Far smaller file sizes than FLAC and when listening on the move or with other noise around it sounds fine to my uneducated ears.

The thing we should really remember is CD is a 'compressed' format too - with arty farty facts as well. It's 'only' 16 bit and 44.1KHz, so a fair bit of the original sound of a performance has been lost. But that gets us onto the merits (or otherwise) of HD formats like 24bit 96KHz, etc, which will probably just end up with us all flaming each other...

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Re: MP3

"Erm.. I bet 95% of people still use it and that will not change very quickly at all"

^ This.

I've encountered a few people that seem to think this is the end of the MP3 - but patent expiry doesn't in any way, shape, or form mean the format is suddenly going to stop being used, or that it's going to somehow die off overnight.

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Re: MP3

Quite the opposite - I'd say it will pop up even in places it hasn't been before, but it would not be true: it's already everywhere and it's not going anywhere any time soon.

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Coat

Re: MP3

"I'm so hip I can't even see over my own pelvis!" - Zaphod Beeblebrox

'I used to be "with it" then they change what "it" was. Now "it" seems awful scary to me."

-Grampa Simpson

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Headmaster

Re: It's 'only' 16 bit and 44.1KHz CD

The only thing that is lost is stuff you cannot hear. The difference between a 24bit and 16bit sample is inaudible hiss. There is nothing to be gained by using higher rates as every one born has 'human' ears and cannot hear high frequencies that animal can. Dogs, cats, bats, dolphins and elephants for the low notes might appreciate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Bd99cADk70 It is all explained in easy to understand terms there.

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Re: It's 'only' 16 bit and 44.1KHz CD

The reason for using 96KHz/24bit sampling in studios is that they need to process that audio -- mix, equalize and so on -- before it ends up as the master. The extra headroom allows you to lose the inevitable arithmetical rounding errors, errors that would show up as noise. There's no point in using it at home because your ears won't know the difference -- even the best pair of ears is inherently lo-fi.

Its really an echo of the analog world. Analog studio tape recorders run at 15 or 30 inches per second to get a better signal to noise ratio so the mix wouldn't be degraded. You could use reel to reel tape at these speeds at home but it would be both inconvenient and unnecessary.

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Re: It's 'only' 16 bit and 44.1KHz CD

I can hear the difference from CD audio to DVD Audio, but the correct headphones and amplifier is needed.

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Re: It's 'only' 16 bit and 44.1KHz CD

People always say this but as someone who has done a lot of recording I disagree. Higher frequencies don't seem to add a lot but the difference between 16 and 24 bit has always seemed clearly audible to me. What I do have trouble distinguishing is between a good mp3 and a CD. MP3 is an excellent format, one reason it is so astonishingly popular.

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Pirate

Re: MP3

Screw MP3. You will have to pry Fibonacci-Delta compressed IFFs from my cold dead hands.

Long live 8SVX.

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Holmes

Re: MP3

Storage is cheap now, and most Android devices play lossless FLAC, not just audibly compromised MP3, so I prefer FLAC to MP3.

A agree with A. Dabbs, Vinyl was shit and was a lot more bulky than significantly better sounding, but now zombie CDROM. Unfortunately a lot of CD audio was ruined by abuse of loudness processing, and use of inferior analogue recording/mixing sources, which maybe why some nostalgics still prefer it.

All my old CDs were been ripped to FLAC several years ago because were inconvenient, not scratch proof, and a bulky zombie format, even back then! I only keep a thin USB 3.0 DVD drive around for immediately ripping any new/discovered stuff to FLAC, ISO or BIN/CUE on a NAS.

It's about f'ing time installers and media was supplied on read-only microSDs.

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Re: MP3

Haha, I miss Multiview..

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Re: MP3

I still use MP3, for compatibility reasons. I have a lot of music from ages ago in MP3, I have no idea where some of it came from so that's not going to change. The rest of my music is all encoded in FLAC on my NAS box - but FLAC is way too big for an SD card, so I copy all of that to MP3 in a "lo-fi" folder.

Even today, MP3 is the only format you can rely on being able to play on an arbitrary device (certain early Sony players excepted). I'll only get proper equipment that plays FLAC, OGG, etc - but you've always got those friends who insist on using some weird device and then moans that it's not compatible with your standards-compliant kit.

(Yes, I'm looking at you, Apple.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MP3

Its been done for marketing, the companies with interests in selling files (Apple) want their DRM back! ALAC is perfect replacement for MP3's.

Which company will be first to discontiue support for MP3's? Bet its Apple.

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Alien

Re: MP3

"I'm so hip I can't even see over my own pelvis!" - Zaphod Beeblebrox

"Shee, you guys are so unhip it's a wonder your bums don't fall off" - Zaphod Beeblebrox

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Re: It's 'only' 16 bit and 44.1KHz CD

And even better:

https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

plus video link:

https://xiph.org/video/vid2.shtml

This is the best article and video I ever found about the topic.

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Re: It's 'only' 16 bit and 44.1KHz CD

If you do hear a difference, it's because the 2 media have a different master, one better than, or simply different from, the other.

Double blind tests have proven over and over again that no-one can hear the difference if the same master is used and the correct sampling techniques are used.

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Re: MP3

This story provides no evidence that expiration of MP3 patents would discourage use of the MP3 format.

Yes, compression always reduces quality, but any MP3 with 256-320 kbs typical for Amazon etc. downloads is indistinguishable from a CD for almost all users - 90+ of stereos, 99+% of car stereos, and 100% of phones.

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Re: MP3

One thing, as the owner of a large collection of vinyl and CDs there are none of my vinyl records that are unplayable - occassionally small artifacts, but mostly listenable.

Lots of my CDs have started jumping and become utterly unlistenable. I'm transferring them all to digital storage and just keeping the CD inserts - the rest are just junk now.

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Re: It's 'only' 16 bit and 44.1KHz CD

Agreed the big difference is not the frequency range.

The difference between 16 bits and 24 bits is the dynamic range and that can make a considerable difference. The quiet will be quiet etc.

1812 overture anyone!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MP3

"Unfortunately a lot of CD audio was ruined by abuse of loudness processing,"

_Was_ ruined?

That shit happens every day and it has been getting only worse: Typical dynamic range in a mainstream CD now is _less than 5dB_.

And all of that is in the high bits to make it as loud as possible. Even vinyl typically used 40dB of dynamic range,

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Anonymous Coward

Hipsters

Oh no, please don't let there be hipsters who yearn for the exact artefacts of 128kbps LAME 1.0 encodings.

FLAC is the last audio format that needs to exist. It's got the quality, meta-data, album art, and good enough compression rate based on current storage.

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Re: Hipsters

I still have mine from that era.

Actually I re-encoded a load to 84kbps so that I could fit a few more songs onto my 128MB MP3 player back in the day that cost me over 100 quid - that was 10 weeks worth of paper-rounds at age 14.

Besides, Avril Lavigne sounds just as terrible at 84kpbs as at 320kpbs so I don't kid myself that I was missing out... Indeed, some songs I hear again on the radio still jar me as they don't have the specific audiable artefacts as the bad pirated napster downloads that I listened to a hundred times as a teenager.

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Re: Hipsters

The hipsters will surely be going for early versions of Xing?

Speaking of FLAC, one day several years ago I decided to re-rip my collection after installing Rockbox on my old iRiver. What I didn't count on was the files now being larger than the device's buffer, which didn't stop playback but it did mean the HDD never got a rest. Whoops.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hipsters

>hipsters

You're only a true hipster if you've carved the LP out of wood from a tree you felled* and lovingly butchered yourself.

*They all look like lumberjacks, cue the Monty Python lumberjack song.

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404
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Re: Hipsters

As you wish...

BARBER:

I wanted to be... a lumberjack!

Leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia. The Giant Redwood. The Larch. The Fir! The mighty Scots Pine! The lofty flowering Cherry! The plucky little Apsen! The limping Roo tree of Nigeria. The towering Wattle of Aldershot! The Maidenhead Weeping Water Plant! The naughty Leicestershire Flashing Oak! The flatulent Elm of West Ruislip! The Quercus Maximus Bamber Gascoigni! The Epigillus! The Barter Hughius Greenus!

With my best buddy by my side, we'd sing! Sing! Sing!

[singing]

I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay.

I sleep all night and I work all day.

MOUNTIES:

He's a lumberjack, and he's okay.

He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER:

I cut down trees. I eat my lunch.

I go to the lavatory.

On Wednesdays I go shoppin'

And have buttered scones for tea.

MOUNTIES:

He cuts down trees. He eats his lunch.

He goes to the lavatory.

On Wednesdays he goes shopping

And has buttered scones for tea.

He's a lumberjack, and he's okay.

He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER:

I cut down trees. I skip and jump.

I like to press wild flowers.

I put on women's clothing

And hang around in bars.

MOUNTIES:

He cuts down trees. He skips and jumps.

He likes to press wild flowers.

He puts on women's clothing

And hangs around in bars?!

He's a lumberjack, and he's okay.

He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER:

I cut down trees. I wear high heels,

Suspendies, and a bra.

I wish I'd been a girlie,

Just like my dear Papa.

MOUNTIES:

He cuts down trees. He wears high heels,

Suspendies, and a bra?!

[talking]

What's this? Wants to be a girlie?! Oh, My!

And I thought you were so rugged! Poofter!...

[singing]

He's a lumberjack, and he's okay.

He sleeps all night and he works all day.

He's a lumberjack, and he's okaaaaay.

He sleeps all night and he works all day.

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Happy

Re: Hipsters

@404: Oh, you're no fun any more.

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Re: Hipsters

You're only a true hipster if you've carved the LP out of wood from a tree you felled and lovingly butchered yourself

You can actually hear the higher authenticity of hand-carved, artisanal audio, but only when it's played through sustainably-grown, fair-trade bamboo speakers.

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Re: Hipsters

And now... No. 1... The Larch...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hipsters

128MB? You were lucky. My first mp3 player was a #100 MPMan F20. It had 32MB but could be expanded with SmartMedia* to 64MB. I think I encoded at 64kb/s to fit albums on it. Also it had horribly slow copying via parallel port..

But I _loved_ that thing and it was obvious that mp3 players (remember that they were called mp3 players?) were the future. It was small and light (the AA battery seemed to be half the weight), it had great battery life with just 1 AA, and you didn't have to worry about skipping (remember CD players boasting of their seconds of electronic skip protection?).

When I got the SmartMedia I was able to fit The Wall on it. Oh, except ABITW Part 2 and Young Lust, but they're no loss anyway.

As for vinyl, we lived in a house where heavy treading on the first floor could mean scratches or skips on an old record player. And my dad's News of the World had a scratch in We Will Rock You that meant Freddie sang about mud on your ... big disgrace. When I eventually got my own copy it took a while to get used to it not skipping.

I don't miss vinyl. Or cassette. Or CD.

* SmartMedia was cheaper than flash at the time, but hit a capacity wall at 128MB while flash just kept getting better.

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Re: Hipsters

I can only hear 'Angie' on Made in the Shade, in my head, with a click at the beginning that went on for about 10 seconds, it will always be how it sounds for me....

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Unhappy

Shame

My first MP3 was Don't Speak by No Doubt and from that point committed to ripping all my audio into mp3. I still listen to it daily with some 60Gb of files on the server. In the kitchen our radio is also hooked up to the network and plays random tunes.

Only issue I will have is being able to play those tunes on future radios / devices, especially all the early ones that were purchased on digital download. I will have to look for a bulk converter but suspect long periods of time re-ripping all the CD's that's in the attic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shame

Future radios will refuse to play unauthorized music. The firemen will be along shortly to burn all your discs.

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Re: Shame

"Only issue I will have is being able to play those tunes on future radios / devices"

I'd have thought if anything the patents expiring will mean more devices offering support as I assume that means no licencing costs.

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Re: Shame

>> I'd have thought if anything the patents expiring will mean more devices offering support as I assume that means no licencing costs.

Well, you'd think so. But while manufacturers like it when they don't have to pay licensing fees for patents, they like it even more when they have an excuse to move customers on to a new format and sell us new kit to play it on.

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Go

Re: Shame

@Tezfair

Snap. 100%. My only saving grace is I never actually got around to digitizing half of it anyway, so I think a few new HDDs for the NAS and I'll start all over again. Or I could do as Dabsy suggests and stick to the discs, especially as I've just been given a lovely Marantz CD separate that's hardly been used.

Hmmm. Do Ikea still sell CD storage?

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Re: Shame

"Well, you'd think so. But while manufacturers like it when they don't have to pay licensing fees for patents, they like it even more when they have an excuse to move customers on to a new format and sell us new kit to play it on."

I wouldn't worry too much about. Without patent encumbrance, hobbyists can now legally link MP3 libraries into their tools and provide converters and the like for you to use. And since FLAC is an both lossless and open, you should always have some safe refuge.

Me? I use both. I use FLAC for gapless recordings because they're sample-exact (the next-best option would be Ogg Vorbis since it at least records the sample length) and use 320kpbs MP3 for general music as an effective compromise (they're smaller than the FLACs and under normal—read rather noisy—conditions I can't tell what I'm missing).

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Paris Hilton

Re: Shame

All music will be rated EC-10 and media burned, anyway.

A while back I ripped all of my CDs to FLAC, and do as I obtain new ones. Then I can mass convert FLAC into whatever format I need, which right now is medium-quality AAC in M4A so I can play from my phone over Bluetooth. Might not be "high fidelity" but it does sound far better than the MP3s from way back in the day, at any bit-rate setting.

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Bronze badge

Re: Shame

... but suspect long periods of time re-ripping all the CD's that's in the attic.

Hah, I rip my digital audio from vinyl. I usually rip an album to AudioCD as well as MP3, and sometimes even FLAC as a 3rd format. Back when I started doing that (probably 15 years ago) I was ripping to OggVorbis, because at the time the whole pattent thing was heating up, and I didn't want mine locked out. Gave up on that once I had car and portable players that were never going to understand OGG. I suppose now there are Android-based car audio units, you could play OGG and FLAC on the go.

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Silver badge

Re: Shame

"The firemen will be along shortly to burn all your discs."

Fahrenheit....what? Not 451, that's the paper flashpoint. What's the acrylic(??) flashpoint?

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Flame

Re: Shame

Polycarbonate.

MP, BP & therefore FP would depend on chain length but ignition temperature is nominally 500C... so...

Celcius500

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The music industry has to take a lot of the blame. Since the mid 90s, sound quality has basically been disregarded with the only focus being on volume. Heading into the 2000s, it didn't matter whether you used CDs on a high-end Hifi, or a tin can at the end of a piece of string. The production quality of modern music is simply awful.

The result is that when the sound quality of modern music is dreadful no matter what the medium, it's easy to see why so many people are satisfied with low-quality streams, tinny iPhone speakers and the likes.

I think MP3 often gets a bum rap. Well encoded MP3s can sound virtually indistinguishable from the original CDs in blind tests, even for earlier and well-mastered music. The fault isn't the audio format being used, it's the quality of the original source material - and only the music industry can fix that by abandoning the pursuit of volume above all else and returning to sound quality as the top production priority. However even with volume normalisation becoming increasingly prevalent, most music is still mastered for volume over quality...

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Boffin

> Well encoded MP3s can sound virtually indistinguishable from the original CDs in blind tests, even for earlier and well-mastered music.

Indeed. There was a test with musicians (classic and modern), studio technicians, and "just" music lovers. Double blind test, top notch studio, and all that. The result was that no one can tell mp3 apart from CD quality if the bit rate is sufficient (IIRC 256 already suffices, 320 most definitely).

There was ONE exception, a guy who could tell what is what above statistical error: he was deaf on one ear and his hearing on the other ear was severely limited (due to an explosion, IIRC). He described the artifacts of the mp3 encoding as some sort of "breathing".

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Childcatcher

On air compression

It's not necessarily all the fault of the production on the song, it could be the radio station you're listening to.

If you listen to most radio stations playing modern pop it's quite obvious that they are compressing (dynamic range compression, rather than digital) the hell out of everything. This means everything retains a CONSTANT PEAK LEVEL OF VOLUME WITH ZERO DYNAMICS THAT NEVER CEASES STRAIGHT THROUGH EVERY SONG, INTO THE NEWS AND OUT THE OTHER END INTO THE ADVERTS AND HERE'S THE NEW ONE BY THE CHAINSMOKERS AND NOW SOME DJ BANTER LAYERED OVER THE TOP WHILE ALL THE TIME MAINTAINING THE SAME LEVELS THROUGHOUT BECAUSE WE ARE SCARED YOUR FICKLE ATTENTION SPAN MAY SWITCH OFF.

It's truly dreadful, and once you notice it it can't be ignored. And yes I do realise I'm sounding like an old fart, but that doesn't make it any less true.

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Yup. I bought a CD by Train a while back and even though I played it on low volume it was distorting. I actually thought it was my ageing Arcam Alpha 7 amp biting the dust but playing any of my old CD's afterwards never displayed this anomaly !

Bloody annoying as the songs on the Train CD are quite good.

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Meh

Train?

"Bloody annoying as the songs on the Train CD are quite good"

Is that the bloke that doesn't know / understand the meaning of deja vu?

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Re: On air compression

>> CONSTANT PEAK LEVEL OF VOLUME

This was something else that the Abbey Road crusties were complaining about. All those audio shades of light and dark, quiet passages, etc have been replaced by a single constant level of audio volume throughout. It's not the radio, it's in the recordings now.

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