Everything Old…

We were at the grocery store today and I saw something interesting.  On a display near the checkout were some one-use cameras that promised HD or High Definition photos.  I looked at the package and figured it out.  The photos are HD because they are film.  Oh they will probably give you a CD with high quality jpegs, but the camera uses film.

I am reminded of how stuff is marketed to us and how we assume that new and modern is better.  Back in the day, in the 1970’s, if you wanted to buy a pair of quality headphones, they would have demo models on display that you could listen to.  Often you could even choose the music to sample, rock, classical, jazz, whatever.  You bought the phones that sounded the best to you.  The appearance was important, but not as important as the sound.  Now, when you buy headphones they are in a sealed package.  Because they are made by Dr. Dre, we are supposed to trust that they sound good.  Not to say that they don’t, but why can’t I compare?

In the 90’s when CD burners for computers became popular a lot of people fell for an interesting scam.  On you computer you can basically make two types of CD’S, a music CD or a data CD.  Back in the day, before mp3’s were popular, music CD’s had their own format (actually, they still do).  And of course a data CD would contain pictures, Wordprocessing files, installers for programs, and, yes, mp3’s.  You get the idea.

So you walk into K-Mart to buy some blank CDs.  There are two types on the shelves there.  CDs for storing data and for a dollar or two more, CDs for recording music.  So what was the difference between the two.  The truth?  The only difference was the label on the package.  CDs are digital storage media. Little pits in the surface represent the 1’s and 0’s of digital information.  That’s it.  The only real difference in blank disc quality might be how well it records the digital information (no errors caused by missing data) or how long they lasted.  I would buy the cheaper CDs to record music or to store data.  The music was fine.

What I found interesting is that I have had more than one person tell me that music CDs actually sounded better.  Really?

Also, back in the 90’s, when mp3 players were gaining popularity, there was another scam that I think is still around today. You would walk into Walmart or somewhere and you could buy digital headphones.  The idea was they were designed to work with digital music devices.  What confused my young curmudgeonly mind was…they had the same kind of plug or connector as non-digital headphones.  What gives?  Well, there are those that say that they just work better with digital devices.

Sorry.

The digital part of a CD player or mp3 player is in how the audio data is stored.  The music is converted to 1’s and 0’s and stored electronically.  On playback, the 1’s and 0’s are converted to analog audio, the old fashion stuff that came out of tape players and record players.  Why?  Because our ears are analog.  So no matter what the source, mp3, CD, website, whatever, by the time the sound gets to the headphone jack or the speakers, it is analog.  So the digital headphones with standard plugs…are a scam.

I have a nice pair of Sony headphones that my wife gave me a few years ago.  They sound great no matter what I plug them into.

My old “analog” sound studio circa 1979. How I miss it!

A Facebook friend of mine posted a picture of his young nephew trying to figure out what a cassette tape was.  We reminisced about reel to reel  and 8-track tapes and our old record players.  And I got a number of them to agree that the old audio tapes and records sounded better than modern mp3s.

Convenience does not always equal quality.  But that is a curmudge for another time.

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