Saturday, March 25, 2006

Music Industry Facts FUD and Fiction

Over the next while I will be going systematically through what we call the "Music business" and decoding all the fictions, falsehoods and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) used in the industry to confuse and burr the lines where ever convenient. This is an easy project to start but a daunting one to complete because this has happened at almost every level. Nowhere is this absent.

Don't anyone think I do not love the music business, I have been a hi fidelity efficianado since I was a teenager. That teenager would rather have a high end audio system than a hot car hands down! These days I'm still as enthusiasic about good sound and great music, just a little more savvy and warry of things I read (especialy press reports).

If you've been reading my blog you will have seen "I'm confused: What exactly do you mean by label?" and "Perfect Digital Copies".

he Hijacking of Audio standard definitions

Who defines the standards you use on the Internet. Usualy sound quaility is divided like this with CD-Audio at the top as the higheset, then FM-Stero, then AM Radio, then acceptable for the human voice ie. Telephone.

Which of these is not like the other? Only one stands out as singularly different than the others. CD-Audio. CD-Audio is the only digital-only standard. All the other standards were set by the limits of the technology. CD-Audio was set by a group of hardware and media.

44.1 hz was sampling rate for CD-Audio, and that decided its frequency response limits. Digital Video had a 48 hz sampling rate and already incompatibilities are built into the new system. For what ever reasons, an arbitrary standard was set for home digital audio. The reasons for this are interesting but a subject for a later article. I won't go into them now.

What was significantly different about CD-Audio was its drastically improved dynamic range. The industry lost no time in advertising this along with its "totally silent background". Formerly, one of the biggest problems in recording was the background hiss introduced by metal oxide tapes. However, by the early 70's Dolby Labs had introduced a system of noise reduction which for all intents and purposes reduced tape hiss in professional studios to inaudible. Recordings were already silent. Good advertising ploy, but it was based on a failicy.

The indestructible CD. Vinyl recordings were delicate things, subject to wear with continued use, damage from dust, damage from scratches. As well the dynamic range of vinyl recordings was limited by the medium itself, but it was the fragility of vinyl and its suseptability to changes in the production quality of the vinyl itself which proved its downfall and the reason for which CD sales took off like a rocket in North America.

ust remember when you listen to your next CD, that an analogue master tape of the same recording session has more data and more information and more frequency response than a digital master made at the same session. You might also think about how it was possible to get you to accept the comparrison between two incompatible technologies without questioning it. Slight of hand, a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat -- it is the same thing. I'm not suggesting a conspiricy, just a convenient arrangements of the facts, an over simplification which has servered a very useful purpose -- the lowering of expectations on the part of the public.

By the way, I have lost my "fear of analogue" and am enjoying those recording just as much as my "pure digital" ones.

For more Music Industry double speak and gobledy-gook please read "The Music Industry vs. the People".

Cheers, and go to you loca CD retailer and browse the shelves, see what you find that you didn't know existed! Part of the fun is the hunt for what you've alwyas been looking for!

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