Monday, June 1, 2009

Can You Download Sound Quality?

By: Sherry Rashad

Despite of the issue of copyright infringement dogging it since its inception, the concept really has credible green / environmentally friendly credentials because no physical media is transported - often thousands of miles - between point A and point B which generates a somewhat sizable carbon footprint. As the digital download music via the Internet – formerly the magic bullet of music piracy - evolved into a legitimate arm of the embattled music industry. Professional musicians of the mainstream pop / rock persuasion can finally reclaim their bread and butter that was once stolen from them by illegal peer-to-peer sharing of copyrighted media sites like NAPSTER.

But when it comes to sound quality, I’m sorry to say that the digital downloadable music industry has left me wanting for a better alternative - sound quality wise. Having the good fortune of acquiring notable Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan vinyl LPs – touted as the exemplars of sound quality when it comes to 1970’s studio recordings – it seems that their downloaded incarnations are nothing more than a digitized pale shadow versions of these recordings. My 500 US dollar i-Pod – bought out of curiosity – can never match the vinyl-like levels of sound quality that my 100 US dollar MSRP Pioneer universal player being used as a CD transport for my trusty-but-rusty Audio Alchemy DAC – never mind my second-hand Rega Planar 3 bought in the 1990s.

Music piracy and illegal digital music filesharing on the Internet never would have became the best thing since free money if the music industry teamed up with the hi-fi industry in promoting sound quality awareness to the general public. Remember that it is easier to control sound quality from the production side of things – i.e. the music industry’s own CD, DVD Audio / Video and SACD pressing plants. I mean when does a petty music pirates ever concerned themselves with sound quality? When we entered the new millennium almost a decade ago, the introduction of high-resolution digital music formats that promised true better-than-vinyl-LP sound quality became stillborn in terms of sales. Basing on the current state of the music industry, I think sound quality – to them – is something that belongs in the past. Like those garish BORON gasoline adverts from the 1960’s.