[X4U] MP3 in iTunes vs. LAME [off-topic]

B. Kuestner kuestner at macnews.de
Wed Jan 24 14:15:54 PST 2007

> The term 'HiFi' has degraded over the years. Modern 'HiFi' kit  
> wouldn't even be considered by audiophiles from the days when it  
> was actually difficult technically to get quality sound. A bottom  
> end cutoff of 60Hz is acceptable now. I remember systems where you  
> could feel the bass that was too low in pitch to hear. The speaker  
> current required would melt normal speaker cable now.

Nice thing to imagine. But the electric characteristics of modern  
speaker cables are _not_ worse than those of say 20 years ago. If  
anything, then it is more the opposite, at least if compared on an  
inflation-compensated per-price basis: So for 1 hour of work you will  
get better cables today than 20 years ago.

 From a physics point of view it is actually quite amazing to melt  
even a decent 3m x 2sqmm standard-grade oxygen-free copper speaker  
cable. Do you have a specific amp of old in mind that you expect  
would be able to melt this cable away? That must be an aweful current  
and I would expect to see the speakers or the amp break before the  
cable shows any stress symptoms.

And finding speakers in those days that go below 60 Hz was a very  
pricy thing. These days even moderate subwoofers will do the same  
thing and then, as you say, also go below the hearing level.

You can compare the specs of old equipment with those from today:
<http://www.hifi-wiki.de/index.php/Gerätedatenbank> (sorry, German only)
Pick some nice speakers and amps from the grand ole names of the 70s  
and 80s and compare them to the leaders today (in some occasions they  
are still the same) and the situation becomes clear.

You can also compare the specs of the old DIN 45500 Hifi-Norm against  
modern equipment. They are ridiculous by today's standard.
<http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIN_45500> (again, sorry, German only)

However, only few pieces actually go below 40 Hz. (Easy to check for  
instance with Amadeus II.) In music you have to listen to for  
instance selected organ pieces (and I really mean "selected", because  
such deep frequencies are not the norm even for organ music, although  
you find it more commonly there than with pop music including hip  
hop). It's no surprise that the rise of 5.1 systems brought sounds at  
low frequencies to new heights (pun intended). Soundtracks are a good  
place to find very low frequencies.

The English Wikipedia article summarizes the above quite nicely:
> There is relatively little music below 50 Hz, loud bass below 30 Hz  
> is rare, music below 16 Hz is almost non-existent, and music below  
> 5 Hz is probably non-existent. (Incidentally, the cannons in  
> Telarc's recording of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture are said to  
> go down to 5 Hz.) The equipment must also provide no noticeable  
> distortion of the signal or emphasis or de-emphasis of any  
> frequency in this frequency range. Except for spatial realism, good  
> modern equipment can easily satisfy all of these requirements at a  
> relatively moderate cost.

Anyway, nice story.


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