Is audio fidelity important?

I’ve talked about making different file sizes available for download before. We’ve acknowledged that there are differences of opinion on the topic. For some, OGG is everything. For others, 128k is sufficient and makes things better for people with slow connections.

For some (myself included), in most instances and for most practical purposes, a 320k mp3 file ticks all the boxes. Most of the time.

But the question I often get confronted with – and it’s one that raises some real passion – is whether people (that is to say, civilians) actually care about audio fidelity anymore.


What's the loudness war?

This is about compression. Not the sort of compression that makes file sizes smaller, though the two types are often confused. Audio compression reduces dynamic range (the difference between loud and soft) in order to make recordings sound ‘punchier’ or – at least perceptually – louder.

One of the advantages of a louder sounding recording is to make albums more ‘impressive’. This is often considered particularly important on smaller speakers, through radio, or via mp3 where most users are not listening in ideal conditions (ie: on little headphones, on the bus).

But audiophiles – and, increasingly, just people who like music – are complaining that too much compression and not enough dynamic range is killing the quality of recorded music. And they kind of have a point.


How long should song samples be?

Simon HarrisI’ve gone on record as saying that in almost all circumstances, I’m generally opposed to the 30-second sample. 30-seconds is not enough time to learn to like a song. It might be enough to recognise one, but that’s about it.

As a rule of thumb, if you want people to like your music, you have to let them hear it. And that means give them the whole track. I still maintain that this is far and away the best way to build an audience for your music.

But I was lucky enough to bump into a musician friend of mine who hops between London and Birmingham (making the most of the strengths of both places for musicians) and he played me a sample track that takes a slightly different approach.

It’s a smart one and not one I’d considered.