Is Digital Music (MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC) Truly CD Quality?
(Originally Printed 11/12 In Our Free Newsletter.  Sign-Up Today!)

 

Digital MusicDigital music is everywhere today. It’s on our computers, iPods, in our cars, and even in our Home Entertainment Systems. It takes up a fraction of the space and makes it easy to catalog large collections. But is this digital music equal to the sound quality found on a CD?

The answer? It depends.

Digital music is available in many different formats including uncompressed WAV, as well as the more popular compressed formats: MP3, Apple’s AAC, Microsoft’s WMA, and FLAC. The positive side of compression is that it allows for more music to be stored on your hard drive, iPod, or other digital device. The downside of most compression is that in order to shrink the file size a great deal of the original recording is stripped away or lost. In fact, these file format are called “Lossy”.

Most times when you are either downloading or ripping these audio formats (MP3, AAC, and WMA) you will see a “bit rate” listed. These bit rates tell you the amount of data allowed per second due to compression. Typically, you will see bit rates like 96, 128, and 192 kbit/s. And while 192 might sound like a big number, the scary truth is that an uncompressed CD is encoded at 1,411.2 kbit/s. Even 192 kbit/s is but a fraction of CD quality.

But all is not lost for digital music. January 2001 saw the introduction of an open source audio format called Free Lossless Audio Codec, or FLAC. The FLAC format functions much like a zip file for data in that it compresses the size of the file without any loss of data. The difference with FLAC is that it can the information can be accessed without decompressing the file. With a lossless format like FLAC, you can achieve compression of 40 to 60% and retain identical audio quality to the original.

So can digital music be CD quality? Yes it can with a lossless format like FLAC. And even though they came ½ a decade later, Windows Media Audio Lossless (WMA Lossless) and Apple Lossless Audio Codec (.m4a) both offer true CD quality sound. So when making your digital music choices, remember to choose wisely.

JukeboxHow Do I Play My Digital Music Through My Home Entertainment System?

With Lossless Audio formats (FLAC, WMA Lossless, and Apple Lossless) you are able compress and store CD quality sound easily.  But how do you play it back through your Home Entertainment System?  The solutions are many!

Did you know that all of our new Pioneer Elite Receivers, as well as Denon’s AVR-3310CI, AVR-4310CI, and AVR-4810CI, have the capability to connect to an iPod, iPhone, or other usb storage device directly?  No dock required.  Plug in, browse through the on-screen display, and play!

But what if your music is stored on you home computer or a networked hard drive?  No problem with Denon’s new AVR-3310CI, AVR-4310CI, and AVR-4810CI.  Pioneer Elite’s SC-25 and SC-27 also have you covered.  Thanks to their built-in network port, they are able to stream music across your home network.

And if a new receiver isn’t in the cards, you can count on Universal’s ultimately user-friendly PSX-2 Personal Server with TV On-Screen Control.  There is no easier way to find and playback music from your iPod.  Think buttons like, “More of this Genre” and “More from this Artist”.  Brilliant!

Article written by Matt Barber © 2009 Premier Electronic Solutions