Audio Quality falls on deaf ears

Well maybe not quite the right the title. Audio quality raised its ugly head the other day doing a show that involved students supplying their edited audio tracks to the SM to play for their performance pieces. The only problem was some of them were some of the worst quality audio tracks I had ever heard. Some sounded worse than a worn out cassette tape. First of all I thought I had problems with the cables in the PA system, but after checking them all out it boiled down to poor quality audio. A lot of the audio had been supplied on USB sticks and were in mp3 format. It seems that the sample rate was pretty low at around 96k. But not all were that bad in this range. It seems that the students had edited the audio, either with an online program or had converted to wave, played with the settings, adding more bottom end etc., and then trimmed the audio and re-converted back to mp3. It seems that the students had possibly downloaded the low quality version mp3’s or even copied the audio from You Tube videos. Some had taken care to get a high quality version but in most cases that was not apparent. It seems that audio quality is not a high priority for students wanting backing tracks to dance or sing to. They seem to be happy with the quality they hear from the dodgy ear buds they get with iPhones/ iPods and laptop speakers. Then when it is played on an expensive quality PA It sounds like crap, and they give you the look of death as they think it is the tech and venues fault that it sounds horrible. Then they ask if you can fix it up, but how do you turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse? There was not much you can do but try and find better quality versions and get it edited or make the audience suffer.
So the lesson here is to aim for the best quality audio, storage space is so cheap that small file sizes should not be the aim. If you are presenting a piece to an audience you should make sure it is the best quality possible, this then makes the task of the audio technician so much easier and your piece will sound a lot better.


One thought on “Audio Quality falls on deaf ears

  1. This is an interesting point you raise in this article in regards to the students expectations with audio quality, and how they view the default iPhone earphone quality…

    I don’t think it’s necessarily that they are HAPPY with that audio quality from iPhone earphones etc (although, they seem to be quite content with it) – I think the issue is they think that that is standard or even GOOD quality. I have a friend who, quoting exactly, said that she “loves the quality of apple earphones” . Sorry, what?

    I do believe it is from the lack of exposure to good quality equipment – even in the slightest – that students and younger people in general have come to consider technology such as Beats Pro by Dre “good quality”.

    Okay, so it’s definitely a huge step above apple earphones, but when you’re paying more for the label and the extra bass; you may as well but some BETTER audio technica ATH-m 50 from eBay and you’ll STILL get better value – and better sound.

    Sadly I think it is the lack of exposure in these circumstances that brings about these problems.
    I think all we can really do is spread the Good News of in $20 in-ear earphones that surprisingly bring better quality than Apple phones and hope for the best.

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