Why MP3's Suck

It's out there, people talk about it, listeners realize the MP3 format is inferior, but why?

The average uncompressed audio file contains approximately 35 megabits of data. Once converted to a standard 128kb MP3 format that same file is reduced to around 3.5 megabits of data. If someone gave you the choice of an envelope with $350.00 in it or an envelope with $35.00 in it, well you get the idea, you'll choose envelope with $350.00 in it.

Although they call the MP3 format compressed is really is not. The encoding process actually strips frequencies out of the recording.

When the internet was young and bandwidth was limited large files would take forever to download. In order to make it feasible someone needed to come up with a way to reduce the file size. And they did, early formats had several issues but after a few years of development a workable Mp3 solution was born.

Lets get into the specifics.

Utilizing psycho acoustic principles, understanding how we hear music, and how our brains process music, it was determined we can remove some of this content, make the file smaller with little objection to the music listener. They did get little resistance considering the loss in quality. In fact people loved the convenience of this smaller file format. The arrival of new smaller players, ear phones, made listening to your favorite music much easier and portable. This format is also responsible for the birth of the whole file sharing phenomenon.

However there are trade offs with this technology. What the conversion process does is splits the song up into segments. Then looks at each segment and identifiers the primary frequencies. It then stripes frequencies adjacent to them. The theory is the removed frequencies are masked by the primary ones and the listener never misses them.

What else does it do. The conversion process can add a little flutter as well as distortion. If the original content is a little too hot clipping can occur. So why do people put up with it. The convenience of these smaller files and smaller playback systems was much more desirable than the loss in sound quality.

If you compare a song in both MP3 and full frequency this is what you'll notice. The bottom will have a little less beef, the kick drum and bass will sound a little thin. The mid range will also sound a little dry and weak. A lot of the stereo information will be lost giving the music a more mono sound. The loss of reverb tail and other effects can leave the material flat sounding. The emotional feel of the song will diminish and you won't feel the same depth and fullness of the full frequency content.

Many professionals in the industry have been working, educating the public, and people started listening. With bandwidth more available people are trending back to full frequency content. They are replacing those ear buds with full size head phones and purchasing songs with a higher frequency content. And over the next few years you'll see more and more content provided as full frequency.

I tried a Mp3 player back when they first came out. The sound was horrible, I noticed the degradation immediately. I threw that thing down and never picked it up again. Conversion software is better than 10 years ago, but it still does not sound as good. Eventually the pendulum will swing back to the day when no one listened to the MP3 file format.