Bad sound quality is destroying the music business.
The quality of sound delivered through typical ear bud headphones devalues the music according to Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, who as a solution have created a line of high end headphones called Beats. In this article in the Financial Times, Iovine describes how he is trying to raise the bar in sound quality. “The people we work with spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year getting the sound exactly right.” But then, says Iovine, his emotions rising, much of what has been so carefully captured in the studio recording process has to be “dumbed down” or compressed by 20-25 per cent to be copied on to a CD, before being further compressed into an MP3 file format for playing on a computer or mobile phone with a sound processor likely to have cost just 50 cents. Sound quality is lost at every step of the process. “That’s like taking the Beatles master [recording] and playing it through a portable television,” he says with revulsion. Ramping up the similes, he points out that 80 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds listen to music at home through computers whose speakers, typically, “make the helicopters in Apocalypse Now sound like mosquitoes”.
“This is only the beginning of something huge,” Dr Dre claims. Iovine concurs: “Beats is a headphone now but it’s [also] an idea to fix the ecosystem of music.” Together, they intend to develop music’s answer to the Blu-ray disc or 3D movie, a premium technology that helps a business hurt by illegal downloading.