VIDEO: THE DISTORTION OF SOUND
A new documentary short as emerged from director Jeremy Rosenberg which explores the damage that today’s digital compression techniques do to the sound of artists music.
The film which was recently uploaded to Youtube, contains interviews with music heavyweights, such as Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park), Snoop Dogg, Slash, Hans Zimmer and Quincy Jones (amongst others) who complain that the music they take time to create and produce is largely consumed through highly compressed mp3 formats and low-cost earphones/laptop speakers, thus removing the dynamic frequencies, fidelity and the emotion of its sound.
“Compression removes up to 90% of the original song” said Chris Ludwig, Chief Engineer Acoustic Systems at Harman. Greg Timbers, Speaker Engineer at JBL, goes further in describing listening to music through a compressed format is “like looking at a Van Gogh through filtered glasses”.
The filmmaker’s recall the days of vinyl analogue recordings, when music was often consumed through the home turntable hi-fi systems, discussing each new generation of music consumption until the turn of millennium’s digital compression mp3 format.
Although it should be stated (which it isn’t) that in those times, the greatest consumers of modern music (the ages of 14 – 25) would have commonly accessed their music through ghettoblasters, portable turntables, tape recorders or AM radio, all of which have never offered high fidelity or true sound.
Many a baby boomer or Gen X-er will remember sitting on their beds listening to their old am radio, with tape recorder alongside (record & pause buttons on standby) trying to ‘catch’ a recording of their song when it was played (one of the earliest forms of pirating) or sharing tapes of the latest band’s album (recorded in the same way).
It begs the question, that for young consumers, has the quality changed so greatly?
The film goes to great length to point out that, today streaming services like Youtube, Spotify and Pandora have increased the consumption of music but at the cost of its quality. Arguing that most of today’s music consumers aren’t aware of how much of the songs they consumer are missing within the sound.
“We have a McDonald’s generation of music consumers” said Hans Zimmer.
The film is heavy-handed in its approach stating that “to date over 25 billion songs had been downloaded and 50 billion hours of music has been streamed”, with the final point being that “compression had stripped emotion from every note.” resulting in a plea that things can change.
Where the film lacks, is that it poses a problem without providing an answer for those who do want to consume their music at a higher resolution.
There is no mention of Neil Young’s Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund Pono (a high definition music player, with songs that have the similar quality as original master recordings) or Sony’s work with Universal Music Group and Warner to create HRA (high resolution audio, starting at 48Khz/24 bit and up) content.
There is also a comparison of uncompressed audio to highly compressed, so the audience can see the difference. Although it should be stated, that the film’s audio itself is compressed via Youtube to a lesser quality.
Whether this film will do anything to change the minds of consumer, or create a desire for HRA music is doubtful. It would require a massive change in the industry to adopt the higher standard, with few mobile phones being able to play the HRA files currently, in addition to the associated high costs and bandwidth required.
What the film does do well, is highlight the issue. We can only hope that the average consumers will care about it as much as audiophiles do.
Watch the film below and let us know your thoughts.