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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

They say the future's beginning tonight . . .

I've been rather silent on the blog in regards to Radiohead's recent announcement about their seventh proper album, In Rainbows. To recap: if you want it in digital form, you name the price on how much you want to spend for it (and that includes $0). If you want it in double vinyl, you pay $81 after taxes and conversion fees and should receive it well before Christmas. If you want it in double-CD form, you'll have to wait until 2008.

As those who pre-ordered the album digitally await the e-mail that includes the album in a .zip file, an e-mail has circulated about the stats of the MP3 files themselves. They are DRM free, but there's a catch: they are at 160kbps, 32kbps below the standard, CD quality of 192. Now this makes things rather polarizing to me.

I think it's great how the band has given fans a lot of options. Servicing the ones who like the album in physical and digital formats, this plan beautifully bucks the way albums have been released. But the word about the 160kbps is a bit of a setback. And it's an annoying setback.

I know people who listen to a lot of music claim they can't tell the difference between 160 and 192, but I can. I've been aware ever since college as I took a listen to a CD-R combining Errortype: 11's Crank EP and Amplified to Rock. Comparing the sound on my CD-R with the CD I ripped the songs from, I noticed major fluttering/distortion when the band kicked into high gear. The guitar tone wavered more than usual, as did cymbal crashes. So, I've been a stickler for CD-quality MP3s ever since.

Yet there is the attitude that this is no big deal. Not a lot of people can tell the difference, so does this really matter? Well, it matters to me. Normally my stubbornness is based out of fear, but in this case, it's more about hearing an album the way the band wanted it to sound. What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

the secret knitter said...

It's great that Radiohead is shaking up the model, and I can't wait to download and listen. I plan on buying the CD whenever it's released, so I paid $0 for it. Essentially I view the download as try-it-until-you-can-buy-it. (The discbox looks great, but I have a hard time plunking down $81 for one album, even with the extras.)

I'm a little surprised that the sound quality is lower, especially since Radiohead seems like a band for audiophiles. Perhaps this is their way of not marginalizing future CD sales while getting the music out there to hardcore fans?