The Impending 24-bit Audio Con

Note: The original post linked to my Gizmodo article now retitled to "Why 24-bit Audio Will Be Bad for Users"

There's been some heavy discussions between engineers on twitter about the reports that consumers will be sold 24-bit audio. While on one hand we should be applauding any steps towards better quality music markets, it seems the consensus is that we want regular 16-bit, 44.1khz (or, CD quality) audio on iTunes. 24-bit, while with significant benefits in a studio, do not present a notable benefit to the end listener. This is certainly debatable, but considering the market who can tell the difference will be so small, it feels like dirty work at play.

Call me a cynic, but the 24-bit concept is being pushed around by the makers of the Dr Dre Beats headphones, where Dre is business partners with the CEO of Interscope. On the surface, it looks like consumers can expect an industry-wide duping that they need HD audio, and to buy the MP3 players that can support it and the headphones or speakers that can reproduce it.

Part of me thinks I'm being hasty. I want people to appreciate good quality audio, and it's a step in the right direction from the industry. But a more important issue is the loudness culture.

I wish there was an industry-wide move that suggesting branding well-mixed, dynamic music as HDR Audio. The average consumer doesn't need to know what it means to see that there's something HD about the music, and it adds genuine value to the listening experience. We'll have to see if the message will get out on Dynamic Range Day.

Anyway. To get to the point, you can see my organised tirade on the matter on Gizmodo.

Update: In response to Gizmodo commenters, when I say “[Dr. Dre] has offered his Beats headphones to audiophiles for some years,” I don’t mean to qualify them as audiophile-worthy headphones, just that they are marketed as such. I’ve never heard his headphones.

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