Music Quality vs Recording Quality

Pro ToolsWith all the advances in technology, it seems we’ve created a contrast in the way music is produced, and the way it’s consumed.

On one hand, recording technology has enabled the recording of high resolution audio. Most studios these days are able to record at least 24-bit/96Khz. Some studios have the capability to record even higher sampling rates such as 192Khz. This increased sampling rate smooths out the digital audio making it a more accurate representation of the original sound wave.

Hearing a recording like this over great speakers is an incredible experience. Yet that’s not how the vast majority of us listen to music.

In contrast to the advances in the production of recorded music, technology has also affected the way we listen to, or consume, music.

The CD serves as a de-facto, though declining, standard for music delivery. CD audio is served up at 16-bit/44.1Khz, far below the resolution now possible for recorded music. And if you’re anything like me, you rarely listen to a CD over a good set of speakers. My first listen is generally over the speakers in my laptop. If I like what I hear, I “rip” the CD to AAC files for playback on my iPod.

The AAC files are simply a newer standard than mp3, delivering a slight increase in quality and decrease in file size. Nonetheless, these files are highly compressed and there is a distinct loss of audio quality with either mp3 or AAC. Even so, this is my preferred listening format, simply for the convenience of it.

I listen to these compressed files over the speakers in my laptop, my iPod earbuds, or my car stereo via iPod playback. And I have to say, as one who works in the recording industry, I don’t mind the loss of quality. The favorable benefits of having my music with me wherever I find myself, far outweighs the downside of the reduction in audio quality.

For me, the quality of the music itself is far more important. Is it a good song? Is it well played and sung? Is the arrangement interesting? And on the recording side of things, the important factor isn’t the resolution, it’s tones and the mix. The quality of the tones captured comes through even in and mp3. And the mix is the most important part. If the recorded resolution is as high as it gets, but the mix is bad, I don’t want to listen to it. If the mix is good, I’ll tolerate a low fidelity file.

I would encourage all the artists out there to keep this in mind. I don’t think I’m alone as a music consumer. The quality of the music is much more important than the quality of the recording.