MPEG-2 Audio Layer III stories

MPEG-1 and/or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III,[4] more commonly referred to as MP3, is an audio coding format for digital audio which uses a form of lossy data compression. It is a common audio format for consumer audio streaming or storage, as well as a de facto standard of digital audio compression for the transfer and playback of music on most digital audio players and computing devices. [Wikipedia]

One of the best things about the internet is the amount of entertainment available for people to consume at any time. With a quick search and a click of a button, your favorite artists’s latest song can be playing in your ears in seconds. Compressed music is one of my favorite things about the internet. Without the internet, my music library would be a thousand times smaller than what it is right now. There’d be so many bands and singers I would have missed out on because they don’t get any airplay on radio over here.

The most common method I use to discover new songs is by reading reviews of a song/album and looking at the ‘recommended if you like’ section. While it’s not accurate all the time, I usually I end up discovering a new artist I wouldn’t have considered listening to in the first place. I’m not sure how it works though – do I like a band because it was recommended to fans of a band? Or do I like it because I genuinely like their music (possibly because it’s in the same style as another band I like). I don’t know. Regardless, I appreciate all the links the internet gives me.

It’s like Wikipedia – you look up one subject only to end up on a completely (well, not completely) unrelated page half an hour later. And you think to yourself, huh – I sure am glad I looked that up! And not, it’s not just music. This happens to me when I’m looking up pretty much anything – movies, books, games, and porn. I guess that’s what the internet is really – a web of links taking you where you want to go.

I remember downloading MP3s on my 56 Kbps modem. I would start a song for download on Napster, go off to do something else and come back half an hour later to check if the download has been completed. A lot of times the downloads get interrupted and I have to start the process over again.

I also remember there was a point in time when people were combating music piracy by spreading fake versions of songs – repeated choruses, silence, songs with bleeps in between, and sometimes songs titled wrongly. When it took 30 minutes just to download a song, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. Sure, I should have bought the album of the artist instead of trying to pirate it – something I would have gladly done if they actually sold their albums here.

I used to have annual trips to Singapore with my friends just to buy CDs of bands I liked. Until now, we still have a shitty music selection in our music stores. If it’s not on radio, forget about finding it on the shelves of retail outlets. Oh, and if the artist has explicit lyrics, have fun finding uncensored versions of their albums.

Back then, the alternative to downloading was to buy CDs from Pasar Malams (for some reason they would have some of the bands I listened to) or to get friends with faster internet to burn you a CD. That lasted for quite a while until I got broadband.

I still remember discovering the wonderful world of torrenting. I was even part of a private tracker community (RIP Oink’s Pink Palace and emotorrents (heh)) and maintained a good seeding ratio.

These days it’s mostly just streaming music or downloading what I want from music blogs and the occasional bandcamp purchase for me. I believe I currently have more than enough music to last me a lifetime.

“Oldie” is a relative term. The other day, while I was listening to a song by Jimmy Eat World (a track off their 2007 album, Chase This Light) I was asked: “are you listening to an oldie?” In my head I was thinking, wtf? Why would anyone say that? I consider it one of Jimmy Eat World’s newer songs! Then I realized the person who asked me about it was 10 years younger than me, and when the song came out she was still in primary school. So she wasn’t wrong in calling the song and oldie, even though to me it was a ‘newish’ song. Is this how our parents feel when we call their music old? Also, she had no idea who Jimmy Eat World was and that made me sadder. Jimmy Eat World rules, go listen to them if you don’t.

Can you tell the difference between FLAC and CD Quality MP3 rips? The answer is no. Okay, maybe you can. But I sure as hell can’t. Sometime last year, Seng Yip came over to check out my new headphones and amplifier. The sound quality was noticeably with the amplifier when listening to music, so we decided to see if we could tell the difference between FLAC and high quality MP3s. We did some manual tests on our own and some online tests. Long story short, we couldn’t tell the difference. We would think some FLACs were MP3s and vice versa.

It was either due to my sound system being incapable of playing FLAC properly, us having shitty ears or there being no difference in the sound files at all (meaning the online tests tricked us, but I doubt that was the case). If it was the former – I would say FLAC wouldn’t matter to most people then because I’m sure a lot of people listening to music on their computers don’t have high-end sound systems and those who do probably listen to their music through vinyl or CDs.

In my opinion, there’s really no reason to download FLAC unless you want to do your own compression or reproduce CDs. Stick with 320 kbps or V0 (sometimes I even think 128 is passable, but nothing below that). Also, a lot of people listen to music on their mobile devices and having 200 MB songs isn’t a good way to make use of that limited storage.

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