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A dumb question about downloads... (Read 950 times)
Matchstikman
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A dumb question about downloads...
08/28/10 at 22:00:13
 
I sometimes forget things I knew and this may be one of them.  A friend at work knows that I have a system a bit more sophisticated that then average listener so he asked me a question about downloads and I don't think I have a true answer for him.

Here is the question:

If a album (or a song) is downloaded off Amazon or some other service, is the sound quality as good as compared to the same album (or song) if purchased in the CD format that a person would buy at a store?

In my opinion, the quality is not the same.  I have downloads of songs that I can compare to the CD version and the download is distorted and grainy in comparison.  That's what I hear.  Of course, I have not downloaded any FLAC version music to compare as yet.
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Rivieraranch
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Re: A dumb question about downloads...
Reply #1 - 08/29/10 at 13:19:23
 
If your player is better than your computer audio equipment, the CD version will definitely sound better. On the other hand, the download may be just junk that is all attenuated.

I don't really know anything about computer audio other than that I hate it; especially what is has done with the music acquisition and delivery business.
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Juan Antonio
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Re: A dumb question about downloads...
Reply #2 - 08/29/10 at 18:08:26
 
There are many factors apart from what Riveraranch has mentioned. If you refer to licit downloads, then they may be as good as a well extracted/ripped file from the original CD. (ONLY lossless)

Take into account that 99% of the illicit downloads of music around the Internet suck because that certain people upload degraded music files which were reconverted, bad extracted, bad compressed and so on. You can convert a lossless file into MP3 and this must be the end. A lossy format mustn't be converted again because it'd degrade the quality even if a 192kbps file were converted to 192kbps again. This is why lossless also means "backup". Or also why lossless is appropriate for professional editing ( 24 bits/ 96 kHz) . In photography edition you must work with RAW/lossless files of the pictures before the final format of the file.

A music file can be better than the same track from the CD in the same conditions with the appropriate gear, appropriate software set up, appropriate ripped lossless files from the original CD by programs like Exact Audio Copy (Windows) & XLD (Macintosh), etc.

Of course this is valid ONLY if the file is lossless. If the download were MP3, no matter how much perfect and unchanged the file was. The CD would be better. So you need the two: bit perfect extracted file & lossless.

Due to the need of many factors involved and perfectly set up, generally the CD is better in most cases.
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« Last Edit: 08/29/10 at 18:30:53 by Juan Antonio »  
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Rivieraranch
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Re: A dumb question about downloads...
Reply #3 - 08/29/10 at 18:42:31
 
There are a lot of other reasons why a recording of music in tangible form such as a vinyl phonographic record or compact disc, along with the accompanying printed material, is far superior to all this computer "rip this, load that" garbage. One reason is that there is some connection between the performance and the end user. Many vinyl LP covers are works of art in their own right.  

Like Tone write, illicit music downloads that are not lossless sound inferior to CD. But again, if somebody is going to get into computer audio they need the right equipment.
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Matchstikman
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Re: A dumb question about downloads...
Reply #4 - 08/29/10 at 19:28:04
 
Illicit downloads?  Computer audio?  What are you guys talking about?

Ok, so, check this out.  I go down to Best Buy and I but the Let It Be album on CD and I play Get Back in the car because I like it.  So, how does this version of Get Back compare to when I go to Amazon and download Get Back, burn it to a CD and then pop it into the same cd player in the same car?  Are the bits from the store purchased CD the same as the bits of the downloaded version and then burned to CD?

I'm just talking about the music and not about the art work or the free sticker that comes with the album.

In the end all of this is software now.  The CD is software and the downloaded file from Amazon or I-tunes or any LEGITIMATE service is also software.  I"m not talking about getting music from some shady character on some dark corner somewhere.

Are the bits from the download equal in sound to the bits from the CD version?  Apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

Of course, now the story is what kind of compact discs do I have and what is the quality of the burner and yadda, yadda, yadda.  

It is my opinion that music sold on CD is starting to dwindle.  More of it will be sold online and we will have to burn it on CD to hear it or have some kind of music server at home.  Of course, there will always be the traditional sources, but that is how things are going.
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Juan Antonio
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Re: A dumb question about downloads...
Reply #5 - 08/29/10 at 22:05:10
 
Riveraranch, even illicit lossless music can sound inferior to CDs if the guy doesn't use EAC or XLD applications and set up correctly. Ultimately, many details.

Matchstikman, for instance, if you prefer streaming music files, the appropriate way is to purchase lossless music online or.. (I prefer the second one) buy the CD if you can and extract the tracks with EAC, so you have the CD and the file (way better in my opinion). With this, you don't have to burn crap virgin CD's that will sound inferior to the original one. Yes, you have to burn a good virgin CD for audio use, get a good CD audio recorder and yadda, yadda, yadda to approach the same quality.

Since most of the music in the industry use the CD as the main source of distribution you won't have any problem.

If some record is only online, the better choice is to stream the file to a DAC instead of burning a CD. But... if you're gonna play the CD in your car, most probably you are not gonna differentiate the quality even if the car audio is real Hifi. The super unstable transport and the resonances and vibrations of the car is gonna induce more jitter and imperfections on the playback than anything else. Compared with this, the burned CD is heavenly perfect.

You have to understand that I'm talking with the maximum pure quality in mind, not convenience.
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« Last Edit: 08/29/10 at 22:14:55 by Juan Antonio »  
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Rivieraranch
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Re: A dumb question about downloads...
Reply #6 - 08/30/10 at 00:14:52
 
I hate internet music and will resist it for as long as possible. Just listen to the language you have created, "rip, burn." These are violent, painful words.

It is a shame that the music industry were such idiots when it came to the internet; they really lost out. But in the end, when the music industry folds then there will not be any way for music to be developed and marketed. So we all lose out.

So keep downloading, ripping and burning.
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Lon
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Re: A dumb question about downloads...
Reply #7 - 08/30/10 at 01:12:57
 
There are already other means to get the music out than the "record industry" itself. Take just one of many examples:  Steve Wilson and Porcupine Tree.  They have for years now made their own recordings, owned their masters, and have used various record companies mostly as distribution managers.  More and more artists are filling in the void and bringing music more directly from their efforts. For example Artist Share, they are growing larger all the time, look them up.  I think it can be a good thing, music made with more artistic freedom, more rights to the creators etc.

I'm not a fan of musical files, EAC, etc.  Not my idea of a recording, in sound or form, and I don't need the "convenience" . . . I don't think there will be a cd drought for some time to come, and if the day comes, I'll have plenty to play!
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