Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Is CD the New LP?

In today’s world of online music downloads, are CDs becoming the new vinyl LP for those of us who still give a damn about sound quality and album cover art?

By: Vanessa Uy

Twenty years from now, I’d be telling wild tales about the good old days to my son or daughter about how airlines back then fly at twice the speed of sound. That it used to take just three hours give or take a few minutes to cross the Atlantic. The sad part about this is that all my children will live out the rest of their lives believing that it takes more than eight hours to cross the Atlantic by air.

Does today’s trends on passenger flight / civil aviation mirror that of the audio electronic industry's faulty view on current consumer wants and needs? About the time when I was born during the mid- 1990’s, every serious audiophile was praising the superior musicality of the vinyl LP over that of CD. And thank God that I was fortunate enough to invest in a very good vinyl LP replay equipment even though my music software collection is mostly CD like a hundred times more plentiful than my LP collection.

Now that the “music industry” finally learned how to profit from on line music downloads which almost destroyed it at the end of the 20th Century this inadvertently raised the status of the humble 16-bit 44.1Khz- sampled compact disc. CD thus became the new vinyl LP to the “generation next” audiophiles who still give a damn about sound quality and cover art. Should we audiophiles be up in arms about this? Should we speak out before it’s too late? Well…

Let’s take a look back on why human beings invented/created music recording and playback technologies in the first place. Near the end of the 19th Century when Thomas Edison invented the first phonograph/sound- recording device primarily for educational purposes. But many an entrepreneur saw the money making potential as an entertainment device by selling recordings of famous singers and musicians of the day thus spawned the beginnings of the recording/music-industry. Enrico Caruso, a very famous opera singer at the time became a multi-millionaire almost overnight from the royalties of the recordings being sold. As time went on, the sound recording/reproducing-device was refined. And everyone noticed that for every improvement in sound quality, the closer it sounds to the sounds in nature. Thus making this the driving force to make “man-made” or synthetic sound indistinguishable from nature. Thus the term hi-fidelity or hi-fi which means as close as possible to the original event. Audiophiles old enough to have lived through the “golden age of audio” a period roughly between after World War II to about the early 1970’s were everyone on either side of the “consumer-electronic” fence was happy i.e. the customers and the businesspeople.

When you look at the bright side, online music downloads has recently been extremely helpful to genuinely talented but unknown musicians like Arctic Monkeys for example to break through into the music market without going through the increasingly very cynical major labels. But lets not kid ourselves on why we entered this hobby in the first place. It’s the search for the perfect sound reproduction or to be existential “the uncompromisingly highest possible quality of recorded sound. My older “audio buddies” opined that the multinational conglomerate we call today’s “music industry” has been living a charmed life of source because if MP3 technology and the internet had become as user friendly as its 1999 incarnation back in 1989 when “Heavy Metal” music ruled the charts. Who knows where the “music industry” would end up today?

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