Friday, December 07, 2007

Quality of classical MP3s

There have been a bunch of recent articles and blog posts about the sound quality of MP3 files on iPods, some related to the opening of the Deutsche Grammophon (DG) Web Shop. It is disheartening how little evidence is presented regarding the claims of relative quality of MP3s versus CDs. Given how passionate some of the authors are about audiophile equipment and the like, they could have at least done some ABX testing to see how well they could distinguish between the formats. I'd especially like to see Fred Kaplan claim that lossless formats like FLAC only sound "very close to CD-quality" after such a test; give me a break. I'm also curious which of the authors could distinguish the 320kbps MP3s from the DG store from 192kpbs VBR MP3s properly encoded by LAME, the format long used by eMusic. On my decent equipment, I can't tell the difference between the 192kbps VBR MP3s and CDs, and that's good enough for me.

On the other hand, it seems that DG made a good choice with 320kpbs MP3s. The files easily work on all kinds of devices and players, and they seem to satisfy people who usually complain about MP3 sound quality (rationally or otherwise). Personally, until I can get lossless tracks for reasonable prices (around $10 an album), I'm sticking with CDs and eMusic.