mp3 vs. wave, 2 out of three falls ten round limit

there's been quite a lot written about the superiority of wave files vs. mp3. there exists a certain collective wisdom bandied about in regard to how great waves are and how terrible mp3s are. here are some things to consider about this comparison.

first off, i grew up listening to 45s, and am radios. my first radio [and i want to get another one of these] was a tiny little transistor that i carried about with me and kept glued to my ear. i believe i was about six. if i remember correctly, it came from a garage sale, and was in a tiny little leather case. am only. and i remember how thrilling it was when a song i liked would come on. at night i could tune in [at that point i lived up in vernon texas where it was very flat and in the middle of the country roughly speaking] and get this amazing "skip" whereby i could catch stations from all over the country. i would lie awake under the covers and listen. the first vinyl record i ever had, i got at a harvest festival or fall festival at the elementary school or something where you pay a quarter and you have a fake fishing pole and someone from behind the curtain puts a little gift on there. i got a 45 of etta james singing you got it, and i need it. strangely it had no b side, if i remember correctly, it was the same cut on both sides. i listened to them both. it was a well worn copy. and my player was a little portable mono table top unit made by ge. the point here is that i suppose in a sense, a contemporary ipod is a higher quality audio playback device than what i had in my initial stages of development. yet, the power of the music as i heard it [and i still consume music in those formats] was enough to launch me on a lifetime commitment to exploring the joys of music. the rudimentary playback system was not an impediment to musical enjoyment.

within reason, the quality of the playback device just isn't that big of a deal. i remember back in the day, there were these hi-fi nerds that would have these big systems and could spout the specs of various units. they typically didn't really care for music as much as they just liked have something expensive that could be lorded over others. 5000 dollars worth of audio gear and four records.

i was paying pretty close attention to music all through the late sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, and the naughts, and here's something to consider: the music is the thing, not the format so much. people love to make lots of opinions about things they can easily count or quantify. [wether or not a song is any good is hard for folks to quantify, what format it is on, and how many copies it has sold is much easier because there is an assigned number to regurgitate.] people also tend to repeat little opinions [they have heard others say] about things as though it were a proven fact and a big deal.

consider this: it would be possible for me to set up a blind test, of a wave file vs. and mp3 that 99% of the population would not be able to pass. perhaps 100% why? because just because something is a wave doesn't mean it was well recorded. and just because it's an mp3 doesn't mean it necessarily sounds defective. it's very simple.

the way i look at it, formats are like tools. a 9mm socket is really good for certain things. however, it's not good for everything. formats have different uses. my main juke is vinyl and cassette. however, i can get a zillion songs in my ipod and carry that on the plane at a very advantageous power to weight ratio. so what? much like the fact that basically speaking, all music exists for me to enjoy at once in the great database of all that exists [fred van eps to architecture in helsinki], i have various formats at my disposal to take advantage of. what a great time to be a music fan. i'm sorry, none of this killed the music industry or ruined anything.

example: of course that prius isn't going to "run." it's designed to get gas mileage. [i use the word run in the southern hot rod slang meaning to go quickly enough to be a threat at the drag strip.] however, trying to drive that big block v8 to la is going to cost a fortune. things are designed according to use. also, the designer typically wants the use to be fairly obvious, so in verbally stating the use, it's not like you've found another moon orbiting jupiter or something. it's a small leap to say, yes mp3s are a compressed format. but they are really cheap to make and easy to email and they don't take up much space. before they were around folks dreamt of them, and now that they are common, folks complain.

how does the format sound? well it depends. there are quite a few musical styles that make great use of that format [check out alva noto]. certainly if you invest in a decent pair of headphones, that will greatly up the quality.

remember, the point is the music itself. to me, the format is like the shirt the artist has on or the day of the week they were born on. who cares? if i find a piece of music that adds meaning to my life, i'll take it in any format i can get my hands on, and then transfer it to whatever i need. easy.
i've heard so many folks phrase that statement as though every wave sounded better than every mp3 and it's simply not so. it depends.