Friday, February 22, 2008

Some girls

The recent photos of film star Lindsay Lohan with a piece of chiffon that were published in the magazine "NY" bring to mind the Smith's song "Some girls are bigger than others". I don't know why.

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Hi-fi or Lo-fi

In the 1980s, when vinyl records and the cassette tape were king, people were obsessed with hi-fidelity sound. Expensive turntables were paired with valve amplifiers and giant speakers with gold contacts to produce the perfect sound. When the CD came along, high quality uncompressed audio was available to take home with you. Some vinyl enthusiasts complained that CDs were colder and not as rich as good quality vinyl, but CDs soon won a huge market share. Only dance music's obsession with 12-inch vinyl prevented the complete death of the record, with cassette tapes were not so lucky. But now, are we turning our back on hi-fi? Do we value quantity and immediacy over quality?

iPods

In the 90s, after a brief flirtation with mini-discs, MP3s and more importantly, the iPod changed the landscape forever. iPods sacrificed sound quality for portability and convenience. The crappy in-ear headphones that come with the iPod are risibly poor. A nice hefty pair of Sennheisers soon sorts that out but most people put up with the tinny things that come with the device.
The difference between free headphones and £50 ones is remarkable. Anyone could tell the difference. And once you've listed to a nice pair of headphones, you won't go back.

Mobile Phones

Some young people have taken to putting their digital downloads on their mobile phones and instead of playing the music through their nasty earphones, they play it through the even nastier built-in loudspeaker as they walk down the street. The sound coming from these things is worse than a transistor radio.
Worse still, people are stupid enough to buy ringtones - tiny edited snippets of music. Most CDs one buys come with a leaflet advertising ringtone versions of each song which can be bought at extra cost. Ringtones are the devil's work.

Noise cancelling headphones

You can opt for a fancy pair of noise-cancelling headphones which reduce the rumble of a train carriage to near silence. They do, however, add a pretty significant hiss, reminiscent of a cassette without the Dolby.

HD


So where does that leave video? We were encouraged to replace our VHS collections with DVDs and now are being asked to opt for the Blu-Ray upgrade to improved picture quality still further. But is this out-of-step with the kids? People seem very happy to watch low-quality video on YouTube rather than super-high-fidelity HD pictures.

The music industry tried to produce an extra high-quality music format in the form of Super Audio CDand DVD-Audio which offered higher sampling rates and surround sound, but they haven't really taken off. Will the next generation of consumers, who are happy to listen to music being produced by the speaker on their mobile phone, really be discerning enough to bother with Blu-Ray?

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