Music Technology Posts from March, 2007

Creating Clearer Sounds All Round

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Following on from yesterday’s posts on consumer audio fidelity, I came across this review of Creative’s Xmod Audio Enhancer on the O’Reilly digital media site. Judging from this, enhanced audio quality certainly seems to be a bit of a runner at the moment. Basically, the Xmod is a mouse-sized USB box that uses DSP to either enhance certain frequencies of an audio input, or generate a virtual nine-channel surround effect on either headphones or speakers.

The device itself looks quite tidy, with a large dial for volume/setting control, and it may be of particular interest to those who watch DVDs whilst wearing headphones (for example, on a laptop). The unit can also be adapted to provide sonic enhancements and surround sound in your car.

Fidelity or Convenience? What Music Consumers Want

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I notice that two contrasting views appeared in the Podcomplex news feeds today – one from Webwire which announces MXP4 Interactive Music’s new digital music technology, and the other from the Boston Globe which comments that listening to music in the modern age is more about portability and convenience rather than sound quality.

This is a trend that has been evident for quite some time – dating as far back as the advent of the original Walkman in 1979, allowing people to listen to music outside their own homes. In fact, most people are not very concerned with the quality of the sound they hear – simply because they are actually just listening to the music. Once the sound quality doesn’t draw attention to itself (by being very hissy, picking up interference or whatever) then people are happy to get on with the tunes. I wonder how many people could even tell the difference between a 128kbps mp3 and 320kbps?

Even professional musicians or sound engineers may be quite content to settle for less-than-optimal sound quality, if the trade-off means that you can listen to music wherever you happen to be. As noted at Fonely Mobile Music, if you are listening to your tunes on a crowded bus or train, the ambient noise is going to detract from your perceived audio fidelity anyway, such that you are not going to notice any background noise in the recording – even if you might find it insufferable if you were listening in a silent room.

Despite this lack of concern about audio quality from the public, the MPX4 technology claims to add extra dimensions to audio recording – actually capturing the depth of fidelity experienced at a live performance. They have also captured $6.5 million in funding.