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Answerman - Is It Safe To Replace My Discs With Streaming?


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Mr. sickVisionz



Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 2031
PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:53 am Reply with quote
Shiflan wrote:
One of the great ironies of modern technology, IMHO, is that while video quality has gotten much better over the years with newer tech like DVD and BD, audio has had the opposite problem. With few exceptions, everything since the invention of reel-to-reel tape has been a step down in quality in exchange for convenience.


Modern DAWs and audio interfaces are a micro invisible step down down for like a billion steps up in processing possibilities and sonic creativity on top of another trillion steps up in convenience. We're almost 40 years past like early 80s digital audio tech that legit sounded bad.
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Lord Oink



Joined: 06 Jul 2016
Posts: 876
PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:17 pm Reply with quote
Actar wrote:
Call me old-fashioned, but I cannot understand how people are okay with not actually owning the things that they buy. I will only say yes if services provide DRM-free direct downloads and the ability to watch whatever I want, whenever I want without the threat of losing anything.

Oh, yes. REGION BLOCKING.


Yeah.. simply buying a license rather than a disk to actually own a product just seems foolish. Crunchyroll recently did a purge of titles due to parting ways with Funimation, so I sure hope nobody wanted to watch all those, let alone destroyed their disks and rely exclusively on a streaming service. Streaming is inherently anti-consumer. Even torrenting a show means you own it more than streaming it does, since it's not like they can reach into your computer and delete the file. There's a reason rips from streaming site exist. And no, it's not just because people are cheap. You can watch everything on Crunchyroll for free aside from the most recent episode, but you never know when it will all vanish,
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Shiflan



Joined: 29 Jul 2015
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:27 pm Reply with quote
Mr. sickVisionz wrote:

Modern DAWs and audio interfaces are a micro invisible step down down for like a billion steps up in processing possibilities and sonic creativity on top of another trillion steps up in convenience. We're almost 40 years past like early 80s digital audio tech that legit sounded bad.


I'm not claiming that current digital audio tech "sounds bad", but it's certainly a step down from prior formats. And the step is not "micro". The dynamic range, resolution, and noise floor of reel-to-reel tape is superior to LP's, CD, and anything else, except exotic digital formats that are only used during production. With each step of reel-to-reel to LP, LP to cassette, cassette to CD, etc, we've given up quality for convenience.

I agree completely about the convenience being improved though. I wasn't complaining so much as pointing out an oddity. Our video has become more convenient and better quality. So why did we give up audio quality for convenience? It's interesting to think about, though I do think I have an answer:

These days not a lot of people actually sit down and listen to music as an exclusive activity. We listen on our phones while we're out running errands. We listen in cars. We listen while we're working or doing other things. When we have distractions, background noise in a car, poor fidelity from bluetooth speakers or the average headphones, etc, there really isn't a point in maintaining fidelity because the average listener can't really tell anyway. There's no point in having a high fidelity format if the playback equipment in common use and the listening environment makes that higher fidelity irrelevant.

As for "processing possibilities" and "sonic creativity": those are both fancy buzzwords for distortion. We don't need either. They are nothing more than lipstick on a pig.

The same sort of thing has happened to our food. Factory farmed meats and industrial produce are cheap, and it's very convenient that we can walk into a supermarket any time of year and buy whatever we want regardless of growing season. But likewise we gave up flavor in order to get to that point. Instead of buying a product that tastes like a given flavor because it actually contained that ingredient, now we have a bunch of artificial chemicals being used instead. Cheaper? Sure. Convenient? You bet. Better? No. Much worse. I don't care that I can buy a tomato in January if it tastes like a red water balloon instead of tomato. I don't care that I can buy a whole chicken for $5 when it has only a tiny % of the flavor of a properly raised chicken. (and then, of course, there are ethical concerns too, though those are off topic here).

The sad thing though is that many people aren't even aware of this. They have no idea what real music sounds like--they've only heard compressed AutoTune digital music played on cheapo earbuds or TV speakers. They have no idea what music sounds like when it's not been compressed, run through Autotune, dynamic range compression, and all sorts of other "processing", and played back using equipment actually meant for the task. Likewise many have no idea what a real chicken tastes like since they've only ever had factory farmed.

Imagine taking a gamer who has only ever played Atari 2600 and NES and sitting them down in front of a PS4 Pro on a nice HDTV. That's the sort of reaction I get when I sit someone down in front of my stereo and play one of their favorite songs they've only ever heard on their laptop or streaming through a phone speaker.
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TheAncientOne



Joined: 06 Oct 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:56 pm Reply with quote
Shiflan wrote:

With each step of reel-to-reel to LP, LP to cassette, cassette to CD, etc, we've given up quality for convenience.

Sorry, but at some point to B.S. becomes too deep to remain silent. I thought at one point even the most die-hard analogphile wouldn't make a claim that ridiculous, but I see I was wrong.

I'm old enough to have lived through all of those transitions (except reel-to-reel to LP, as the LP first came out in 1948), so I tend to have a different perspective than many who are younger and have a fascination with formats that are more rare these days.
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Alan45
Village ElderVillage Elder


Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:04 pm Reply with quote
I'm going to have to agree with The Ancient One here. I did live through all these transitions, my first records were 78 rpm.

To begin with, there was no transition from reel to reel to LP (33 1/3 records I assume) unless you are talking about studio machines. The actual transition was from 78 rpm records to a mix of 33 1/3 rpm for albums and 45 rpm records for singles. Reel to reel machines for the home market ran parallel to LPs for a number of years and were mostly limited to the audio geek. They were never a significant source of prerecorded music. You could find some reel to reel albums but they were available only at the largest record stores and only for very limited titles.

I will concede that cassette tapes were a step backwards in audio quality for portable convenience. I will not get into any discussion about analog vs. digital recordings but will simply state that in my experience CDs are just as good as unworn LPs.
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Shiflan



Joined: 29 Jul 2015
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:05 pm Reply with quote
TheAncientOne wrote:
Shiflan wrote:

With each step of reel-to-reel to LP, LP to cassette, cassette to CD, etc, we've given up quality for convenience.

Sorry, but at some point to B.S. becomes too deep to remain silent. I thought at one point even the most die-hard analogphile wouldn't make a claim that ridiculous, but I see I was wrong.

I'm old enough to have lived through all of those transitions (except reel-to-reel to LP, as the LP first came out in 1948), so I tend to have a different perspective than many who are younger and have a fascination with formats that are more rare these days.


I am old enough to have bought plenty of tapes. I hated them (and still do), mainly because of RW/FF hassles to cue up the track you want to play, and the tendency for players to "eat" tapes. If you ask me for my opinion of cassettes it is not a high one. I haven't owned a cassette since I was a teenager.

That said, it is a fact that the compact cassette is capable of better fidelity than a CD. Of course a lot of stars have to come into alignment to make that happen: it needed to be a relatively modern casette recorded with "Digalog", the tape needed to be undamaged, and you needed a tape deck which had not only the correct type of heads but also the tape type sensor to determine which to use (most lacked those features). Most cassettes are not of that quality, but the point is that the format is capable of it. If you want to learn more about it, "Techmoan" on YouTube has some excellent videos on the subject. I have no affiliation with that channel; I just found it very eductional. I had assumed, incorrectly, that cassettes had worse fidelity than a CD. It turns out that for many cassettes the opposite is true.

I love the convenience of digital music and I listen to it every day. I was not intending to put it down. Rather I was remarking that it's interesting how we have lost fidelity rather than gained it with various formats, which is rather the opposite of what has happened with digital video. And it has nothing to do with analog vs. digital either. It's a case of the later formats being (usually) lower fidelity regardless of being analog or digital. I.e. MP3 is typically inferior to CD despite both being digital; LP is inferior to reel-to-reel, even late-production reel-to-reel is worse than early, thanks to ever-decreasing tape speed of commercial releases.

Even when I listen to music on my fancy system I usually listen to CD. Analog is not always better, it merely has a chance to be. I own probably about 300 LPs. Only a handful are obviously superior to CD, the majority are about the same (but a lot more hassle).

Sorry if I came across as ranting about analog being superior to digital; that was not my point at all. I think digital is easily the superior medium. I'm just surprised that we have'nt used the technology for improvement the way we have with video.
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fanime99



Joined: 08 Mar 2010
Posts: 33
PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 12:03 am Reply with quote
Jonny Mendes wrote:
Even in Japan very few Japanese ever buy a DVD or a BD.
Only hardcore otaku collectors will spend money on them. Before streaming age, they would rent the anime if they want to see it again. and now streaming are taking the place of those renting stores. After all, the space on Japanese homes are not as big as the west and physical media is very low on the list of things to have at home.

Unless is for a matter of collectors (i, myself are one of those hardcore collectors), renting and streaming will take care of anime needs.
Of course there are the risk of license endings and streaming sites going down. But lets hope a streaming company will take the place of the other, and rescue the licenses.


The other reason why few Japanese buy the discs is that they are really expensive. Or maybe that's because they are rarely bought...
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TheAncientOne



Joined: 06 Oct 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:10 am Reply with quote
Shiflan wrote:

That said, it is a fact that the compact cassette is capable of better fidelity than a CD. Of course a lot of stars have to come into alignment to make that happen: it needed to be a relatively modern casette recorded with "Digalog", the tape needed to be undamaged, and you needed a tape deck which had not only the correct type of heads but also the tape type sensor to determine which to use (most lacked those features). Most cassettes are not of that quality, but the point is that the format is capable of it. If you want to learn more about it, "Techmoan" on YouTube has some excellent videos on the subject. I have no affiliation with that channel; I just found it very eductional. I had assumed, incorrectly, that cassettes had worse fidelity than a CD. It turns out that for many cassettes the opposite is true.

Even if I bought into that assertion (and I don't), the real key is "Of course a lot of stars have to come into alignment to make that happen". In the real world, that simply doesn't happen with any consistency. Also, analog media wears in normal use, and gets worse with time.

The simple fact is that even if one could have a cassette system that gave better fidelity than CD, CD isn't the pinnacle of digital audio. A lossless 24-bit 96 KHz recording from the same master would blow away any analog recording medium.
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Just Passing Through



Joined: 04 Apr 2011
Posts: 255
PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 6:41 am Reply with quote
If every tape deck was a Nakamichi, and if every audio cassette was a Type IV Metal manufactured like a high end TDK tape...

Alas in the real world, we had studios running off pre-recorded cassettes on Type I Ferric, of decent quality it must be said as they were perfectly fine for listening on a Walkman on the way to school. They were also fine to listen to on cheap to mid-range hi-fi equipment, although once you shelled out for a tape deck with Dolby, and the ability to switch tape types, they didn't sound as good. The problem was that they'd use the lowest bidder to manufacture them, with cheap, lightweight, bonded shells, and low quality mechanisms.

I'm middle-aged, which means I'm currently on a nostalgia kick, revisiting my adolescence, and this year, I pulled out my tape collection, to listen to the music that I never bothered double-dipping to CD, to see if it was worth doing. Now most of the pre-recorded tapes still played, but at least one in 20 had siezed up. The lubricant had dried out, the mechanisms were sticking, and the best I could get was distorted playback, at worst they just wouldn't play. Even those that did play fine mechanically, there was the odd tape where the medium had degraded to the point where the audio was just awful.

Then I got to my mixtapes, stuff I had taped off the radio, vinyl and CDs that I had 'backed up' for my walkman commutes. Some of this is on ferric, but most of it is type II chrome, and all of it on TDK tapes that I had paid a lot for. All of it still plays like new. Some of the stuff I'd taped off CD, you wouldn't be able to tell it was actually on tape unless you listened to the original CD directly after.

Incidentally, manufacturers were just as stingy with pre-recorded video tapes. Last year's midlife crisis had me revisit the last few VHS tapes I never bothered upgrading to DVD (Star Trek Voyager if you're wondering), and once again, around 1 in 10 of the tapes had either suffered tape degradation (audio drop-outs, image stability), or the mechanisms had lost lubrication. They either squeaked in the player loud enough to drown out the TV, or they seized up in the player. Voyager went in the bin. But if you have an old pre-recorded VHS anime that never got a DVD/BD release, you might want to make sure it's archived digitally. If necessary do a tape transplant, swapping the reels from the pre-recorded shell to a quality blank tape shell before backing up, lest one day you find that your Manga Video release of Junk Boy doesn't play any more.

As for CDs, they were the perfect audio format for the average consumer until the nineties, when the 'Volume Wars' started, and all that dynamic range and fidelity was just wasted on who could make their CD the loudest. There's a reason why collectors try to find the original release of an album over the later re-releases.
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Shiflan



Joined: 29 Jul 2015
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:21 am Reply with quote
TheAncientOne wrote:

Even if I bought into that assertion (and I don't), the real key is "Of course a lot of stars have to come into alignment to make that happen". In the real world, that simply doesn't happen with any consistency. Also, analog media wears in normal use, and gets worse with time.


If you doubt the assertion it's easy enough to look up the information. I did provide you with a very good source. As for the rest of it, I agree completely. Analog media certainly gets worse with time, which is one of the main reasons I prefer digital.

Quote:

The simple fact is that even if one could have a cassette system that gave better fidelity than CD, CD isn't the pinnacle of digital audio.

I agree. CD certainly insn't the best. I wasn't mentioning it because I thought it was the best format. I mentioned it because it's a hugely popular format, and because many later formats duplicated its fidelity.

Quote:
A lossless 24-bit 96 KHz recording from the same master would blow away any analog recording medium.

Absoloutely yes. That's the whole point of my frustration. Why aren't formats like that being used for consumer audio more often? Instead we get formats which are both lower bitrate AND are affected by lossy compression. We're certainly not getting 96 khz 24 bit uncompressed when we stream audio online, listen to our Mp3 players or smartphone playlists, etc.
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Mr. sickVisionz



Joined: 28 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:37 am Reply with quote
Shiflan wrote:

As for "processing possibilities" and "sonic creativity": those are both fancy buzzwords for distortion. We don't need either. They are nothing more than lipstick on a pig.


You have to explain this because it sounds like you're saying all digital effects are nothing but distortion and lipstick on a pig. That's such a fringe opinion that you never hear uttered from audio professionals: that all VST and VSTi and every digital effect or digital plugin in their DAW is nothing more than "distortion" and "lipstick on a pig"

I listen to podcasts with people who have won Grammys and Oscars for audio engineering and have been a part of billion dollar grossing movies... like none of them say this. They all work in DAWs. They all use plugins. That's just such a wild opinion. Please clarify. I must have misinterpreted it.
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Shiflan



Joined: 29 Jul 2015
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:38 am Reply with quote
Mr. sickVisionz wrote:
Shiflan wrote:

As for "processing possibilities" and "sonic creativity": those are both fancy buzzwords for distortion. We don't need either. They are nothing more than lipstick on a pig.


You have to explain this because it sounds like you're saying all digital effects are nothing but distortion and lipstick on a pig. That's such a fringe opinion that you never hear uttered from audio professionals: that all VST and VSTi and every digital effect or digital plugin in their DAW is nothing more than "distortion" and "lipstick on a pig"

I listen to podcasts with people who have won Grammys and Oscars for audio engineering and have been a part of billion dollar grossing movies... like none of them say this. They all work in DAWs. They all use plugins. That's just such a wild opinion. Please clarify. I must have misinterpreted it.


It's my fault for painting with a wide brush. While I am an engineer, I am not an audio engineer and I have zero experience with professional audio editing and workflow. (I assume DAW means digital audio workstation??) So I am sure there must be tools which are of great value. If nothing else, simply being able to copy-and-paste digital files is a huge upgrade from the days of splicing tape or dubbing to make edits.

But when I hear "digital audio processing" it brings to mind examples such as:
-different "sound modes" on my MP3 player, TV, or other device/program which purport to make it sound like you are in a concert hall, outdoor arena, a small club, etc. Others claim to optimize playback for the type of music you're playing and let you select "country music mode" vs "classical" vs "Rock and pop" and so on. These never sound good. They are the audio equivalent of those silly instagram filters that put bunny ears on your photos. Want to make the music sound like you're listening in a small club? Record it in one.
-various "bass enhancement" schemes which claim to produce good bass without a subwoofer (e.g. Sony's "D-bass" system which was included in many of their CD players and compact stereos) No, they don't work. Want good bass? Get a good subwoofer, or headphones with good low end response.
-SRS, which claims to produce "surround sound" without surround speakers and is found in many pieces of consumer gear from PC speakers to TVs.
-Autotune (though I admit it can be used for some interesting effects)
-I have no idea if this has a name, but there seems to be a tendency in the music industry to boost the bass and the treble of most popular music, as well as run it through a dynamic range compressor. I suspect the logic behind this is that the record companies know the average person will be listening in their car or on a mobile device, so they are preemptively trying to make the music sound better in those kinds of places. The trouble is that this processing has the exact opposite effect if you are listening with a good system in a noise-free background.

Those things tend to sound terrible, and those are what come to mind as a consumer when I hear "digital audio processing".

I will make a bit of an exception regarding autotune. I think it's main purpose--forcing an off-key singer to sound on-key--is the very definition of lipstick on a pig. It takes away the nuance. It's like comparing hand-painted Cel animation to the early days of digipaint or 3DCG. But I have heard it used for some interesting effects which have nothing to do with that purpose, and I can't complain about that. I see it a lot like early synthesizers: they didn't really sound like the instruments they supposedly copied. But they DID have a sound all their own, and all sorts of neat things one could do with them. But treat them like Pink Floyd did: use them to make music with their own sound rather than using them as a substitute for an extant instrument.
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Shiflan



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:57 am Reply with quote
Just Passing Through wrote:
If every tape deck was a Nakamichi, and if every audio cassette was a Type IV Metal manufactured like a high end TDK tape...


I don't think its fair to blame playback equipment for the faults (or lack thereof) of a format. That's even a problem with digital music. Take two idenitical digital files. Play one back on a device with a good DAC. Play the other on a generic PC with onboard audio or a smartphone. Big difference.

Quote:
Alas in the real world, we had studios running off pre-recorded cassettes on Type I Ferric, of decent quality it must be said as they were perfectly fine for listening on a Walkman on the way to school. They were also fine to listen to on cheap to mid-range hi-fi equipment, although once you shelled out for a tape deck with Dolby, and the ability to switch tape types, they didn't sound as good. The problem was that they'd use the lowest bidder to manufacture them, with cheap, lightweight, bonded shells, and low quality mechanisms.


And that's similar to the situation we have now. Modern digital audio COULD be incredible. We could have 96 khz 24 bit....or better. But instead we tend to use highly compressed formats which are nowhere near that, and are lossy to boot. A compressed MP3 is fine for listening on your way to school just like a cheapo walkman was back in the day, but it's no good if you want to listen to music on a good system, just as how a good Dolby deck would illustrate the weaknesses of a cheap tape back in the day. They are both cases of the more modern format trading away quality for convenience.

Quote:

But if you have an old pre-recorded VHS anime that never got a DVD/BD release, you might want to make sure it's archived digitally. If necessary do a tape transplant, swapping the reels from the pre-recorded shell to a quality blank tape shell before backing up, lest one day you find that your Manga Video release of Junk Boy doesn't play any more.


I am lucky that I never really invested much in VHS. I got into anime in the mid 90's, and at that time there were no DVDs so my friends and were mainly watching VHS. We rented them from a local comic book store and also had a friend who had a hookup for fansubs. I realized pretty quickly how terrible the quality often was, not to mention the constant hassles with tracking going off and having to fiddle with the player, etc. When the bug hit me hard and I started to buy anime I had just discovered LD. At the time there was very little anime on US shelves--not enough to satisfy my thirst--so I went straight to buying import LDs to get away from the hassles of the tape format, as well as those of domestic availability. Import LDs cost the same as import VHS, so it would be silly to import VHS tapes when the LD was twice the video resolution and didn't suffer any of the issues VHS had regarding durability and playback hassles. The only tapes I had ever owned were some homemade copies of Evangelion and the first 4 volumes of Maison Ikkoku I was gifted by a friend.

Quote:
As for CDs, they were the perfect audio format for the average consumer until the nineties, when the 'Volume Wars' started, and all that dynamic range and fidelity was just wasted on who could make their CD the loudest. There's a reason why collectors try to find the original release of an album over the later re-releases.


Yep, agreed. And that is another example you can throw in my post above where I was listing my frustrations with "digital processing". I don't think that LP is a superior format to CD, generally speaking, but in this case LPs avoid those shenanigans since they pre-date it.
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TheAncientOne



Joined: 06 Oct 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:20 pm Reply with quote
Shiflan wrote:

Absoloutely yes. That's the whole point of my frustration. Why aren't formats like that being used for consumer audio more often? Instead we get formats which are both lower bitrate AND are affected by lossy compression. We're certainly not getting 96 khz 24 bit uncompressed when we stream audio online, listen to our Mp3 players or smartphone playlists, etc.

Those formats are out there, but they are niche (just as vinyl now is). When you take into account where most people are listening to their music, higher quality music would be mostly wasted. Even in a luxury vehicle, the noise floor is going to be considerably higher than a quiet listening room, much less in a crowded subway car. That's also one reason why so much music has its dynamic range compressed. People can't hear the quiet parts in their typical listening environments, and don't want far louder passes blasting their eardrums because they've already increased the volume to overcome background noise.

At least Blu-ray discs have the option of high resolution lossless audio.
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Shiflan



Joined: 29 Jul 2015
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:46 pm Reply with quote
TheAncientOne wrote:

Those formats are out there, but they are niche (just as vinyl now is). When you take into account where most people are listening to their music, higher quality music would be mostly wasted. Even in a luxury vehicle, the noise floor is going to be considerably higher than a quiet listening room, much less in a crowded subway car. That's also one reason why so much music has its dynamic range compressed. People can't hear the quiet parts in their typical listening environments, and don't want far louder passes blasting their eardrums because they've already increased the volume to overcome background noise.


Right, and I understand the motivation for that. I described that same concept many posts ago in this very thread.

My gripe is that video doesn't seem to have suffered that same sort of setback. We can easily stream HD video on our phones, where I would argue that the high resolution is just as superflous as playing back high res audio in a noisy car or with crappy earbuds. Video has gotten better in terms of both resolution and convenience, while audio has only gained convenience. I find that puzzling. Sure, online video was of poor quality during the early days, but with widespeed broadband HD or even 4K streaming has become normal. Yet most streaming audio is still stuck in the past and has not evolved the same way.

Quote:
At least Blu-ray discs have the option of high resolution lossless audio.

Agreed. Now the only part of the equation is hoping that the engineers don't decide to doctor the signal the same way that they often do with audio.
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