In the the Times Business section today there’s an article about the hard road faced by the HD radio business. The idea of HD radio has always struck me as…wait, it’s never actually struck me at all. I used to be an audiophile, but most of the radio I listen to now comes exclusively from the passenger side door of my car – it’s just a sound that makes its way over from somewhere off to my right. I can usually make out the intentions behind it. My expectations for sonic fidelity in radio are low, in other words. And I actually care about sound, or I used to. What about everyone else, people raised increasingly on mp3s? The vast majority of digital music is an offense against decent sound-mixing, but it was especially poignant to read this story this week, after I’d been struggling for several days to listen to the wonderful Fleet Floxes album – which I’d recently downloaded from Amazon – on my iPod. While a lot of the mix is sort of muddy, the lead guitar on every song is a glassy jangle. It is literally painful to hear through headphones. This is an extreme case, but it is emblematic of the overall crap we’ve become accustomed to as consumers of music that was either not mixed for digital format or crudely, crassly mixed, according to the needs of digital playback through plastic earbuds. So where’s the untapped market for HD radio? It’s people who are listening to song files that have had the definition compressed out of them, songs that were engineered with this mutilation in mind from the start. As I write this, I recall that I really was struck by something when I first heard the term ““HD Radio,” an association with that other genius invention, “Internet TV.”
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