Interesting Editorial in the new Crutchfield Catalog....
I just recieved the new Crutchfield catalog in the mail and Bill
Crutchfield, as usual, has a small piece he writes at the begginging. He
says "We're Putting the Focus Back On Sound" and goes on to say, "There's an
interesting paradox in the consumer electronics industry. For an increasing
number of music fans, the pursuit of high-fidelity sound has diminished as
technology has advanced".
It's interesting b/c he is pointing out something I have been saying for
many years. The pursuit of convience and features over the last 10 years
has seemed to replace the pursuit of ever better SQ in the car. NOTHING
exemplifies this better than the integration of the MP3 format in the car,
whether through CD's and DVD's that play MP3's or the integration of MP3
player (like the iPod), SD cards, USB ports, ect., the MP3 format is without
a doubt a step backwards when it comes to sound quality (now don't get me
wrong, I LOVE the MP3 format myself and use ONLY my 16 gig Sansa or Sirius
sat. radio anymore, I haven't put a disc in my Alpine, or played one, in at
least over a year).
But Mr. Crutchfield has identified an issue that I have long mused over. 10
years ago, right when we were in the process of introducing new formats like
the High Definition CD with multichannel sound to capture the subtle nuances
of a live performance. We were seeing the introduction of new CD formats
that used higher sampling rates so we were finally going to have music with
frequency responses higher than 20kHz, important b/c although it is said
that a human can not hear anything higher than 20kHz, this is simply not
true as subtle harmonic overtones are present in live music and it is these
subtle harmoics that although are not easily discernable, they are often the
subtle cues we use when determining whether we are listening to live music
or recorded music. The traditional 44kHz sampling rate used for CD's ever
since the CD's introduction in 1984 unfortunately often subtly muddies very
high frequencies when listening with VERY good speakers, amplifiers, DAC's.
ect. This is why audiophiles stuck to traditional albums and open-reel tape
decks all these years, because the simple fact is that if you had REALLY
good gear, a quality turntable truly did sound better than CD's. Of course
for most people, the opposite was true, the CD sounded much better than the
hissy cassette and the scratchy, popping vinyal LP.
But around the turn of the century several new technologies promissed disc's
capable of multichannel music reproduction and higher sampling rates that
FINALLY rivaled even the VERY FINEST turntables, MM cartridges, CD players,
DAC's, ect. Truly exiting times just around the corner. But at the same
time, enter the MP3 format, Napster, CD burners, the iPod and people fell in
love with the REMARKABLE convience of, say, putting an entire music
collection of tens of thousands of songs on one small device!!!!
The MP3 format was an immediate hit and all the other promising new
technologies like HD CD died. Folks ultimately preferred convience to sound
quality. You could see this aleady starting to happen in the car audio
arena in the late 90's with the death of IASCA (a competitive organization
that put SQ FIRST and FORMOST, NOT SPL like some of the other surviving
competitive car audio competitive organizations).
As I've said before, there are other reasons for the decline of aftermarket
high-end car audio products. One being the improvements car makers are
finally adding to stock stereo systems. The other being the integration of
stock systems to other car functions and the aesthetic as well as functional
problems with putting an aftermarket deck in some cars.
In any case, what we have seen over the years is a focus on FUNCTIONS (like
Blue-tooth, USB capability, DVD capability, SD drives, navigation systems,
portable MP3 player integration, ect.) rather than sound quality.
I think Mr. Crutchfield recognizes this (they now carry Focal K2 seperates,
$1699 for their best set), did we EVER think we would see a day when
Crutchfield would sell a $1700 dollar set of car audio speakers?
I think he realizes that we CAN have all our toys and convience YET, we can
turn our cars into rolling concert halls. I think many folks have
forgotten, or perhaps for a new generation they just don't know, that a
really, really good system can immerse you in your music in a way you can't
even imagine until you experience it. As I often tell people, even music I
tend not to like becomes engaging and enveloping when played on a REALLY
good system. You can lose yourself in your music. And in a car, with road
noise, engine and wind noise, even a 128 kps MP3 can sound AMAZING if played
on a truly great system. Of course, the higher the sampling rate, the
better the sound (all of my MP3's are recorded at LEAST 192).
I guess I point this out because I see this newsgroup dying a slow death. I
fear a new generation of kids are growing up in a world where features,
bandwidth, and convience are the most important things. The in-ear
headphone is considered "adequate" sound quality.
It's a different world today. Much more technology focused. My point (and
I believe Mr. Crutchfield's point) is that there is an incredible world
waiting for those who spend the time and money building VERY good quality
sound systems for both car, computer, and home theater. I STILL get a great
thrill listening to new songs in my car. Certainly listening to that same
song on a cheap headphone or crappy speakers doesn't come CLOSE to the
experience. Music can take you places other art forms can't but to fully
take advantage of that experience you MUST have a GREAT sound system.
Again, I have made that point over and over again through the years and like
I said it was interesting to open my Crutchfield catalog today and see Mr.
Crutchfield making the same point. Sure, he wants to sell ****, I know
that, I'm not that naive. But I do also believe he is making the point I
have long been making, and that is SQ seems to be of much less importance
and interest than it once was many years ago.
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