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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Data Compression Really Sounds Like

We've been using MP3 data compression since the late 90s and for many people its good enough when it comes to sound quality. If you're used to listening to high quality audio in the studio though, you know that the MP3 version leaves a lot to be desired.

So what does data compression actually do? Lossy data compression actually dynamically eliminates frequencies from the audio that the ear won't notice based on an algorithm. It's throwing away data that hoping that you won't miss in order to get the file size smaller.

How much data? Well it could be a lot and it could be a little, depending upon the algorithm and the data rate you select.

Here's a great real world example where you can actually hear the data that's been eliminated using Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner." First you'll see and hear the original music video, then just the data that's been eliminated. It was created by Ph.D. candidate Ryan Maguire at the University of Virginia for a project called The Ghost In The MP3.

As a bonus, you'll also see what the video codec does to the video as well.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

1 comment:

Mike Hillier said...

While fascinating, if you read the paper which details how this is made you'll realise that this contains far more than the missing details from an mp3 encode. He does a lot of work to make it sound like it does. He uses several passes with different settings of a custom encoding tool, combining the best sounding bits of each, then adds reverb to this, and blends in elements of the original.
Again, I think this is fascinating, and a beautiful work of art. My hat goes off to Ryan for his work. But it is not "what data compression really sounds like".


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