Digital Audio Moves Beyond CD:
Once a month, I spend the weekend in Nevada City. While there, I often play music with a group of friends. In the mountains, and particularly in Nevada City, music is an integral part of the culture. Whether it is gathering around the campfire at night or relaxing under the Sierra Buttes, there is always a great moment for acoustic guitar and song.
Recently, I purchased a really handy device to record our musical play time in the Sierras. It’s a Zoom H4n. The “H4” stands for a 4-track recorder that fits in your hand. This unit is capable of recording 24-bit 96Khz resolutions on four separate tracks. It has a built-in set of microphones, along with two professional balanced mic inputs. The H4n saves recorded files onto a standard SD card that slides in and out of the H4n's card slot. If you have ever used a digital camera, you have likely seen an SD memory card.
The H4n ships with a 1gb SD card, which can record several hours of MP3 audio; but for serious high-resolution recordings, larger capacity cards are suggested. Fortunately, SD cards are inexpensive. I spent an additional $30 for a H4n "bundle" with an additional 16gb SD card and rechargeable batteries. The whole package was just over $300. While my son was attending a friend’s concert last night, I decided to roam around town and capture environmental sounds. Click me, and hear how much detail 24-bit H4n recordings provide.
The H4n captures amazing sounds. Yet, these aural experiences are simply ordered masses of digits, representing analog signals. The SD card is a small chip to temporarily store digital audio data. The SD card can then be transferred and slotted into a PC or Mac. The audio files are then uploaded for editing and distribution to all corners of the globe. This newsletter is a simplified example of modern media production, where I have used a convenient hand-held device to record high-quality recordings made accessible world-wide via email newsletter and web site.
The quality of digital recordings has grown steadily over the last decade. For example, CD audio has 16-Bits of information running at 41khz. Modern high-resolution recordings are now 24-Bits, running at 48khz, 96khz, and 192khz. Sound quality of modern recordings eclipses CD sound quality. As digital audio technology evolved, so has the distribution of music among the marketplace. Today, it is common for many people to upload music, rather than to purchase a CD or other “shiny disk.” Now, digital media is considered more as "data" than anything else. Pairing audio resolution improvements with internet-based distribution has transformed the music industry.
Today, a small group of musicians in a quaint hamlet could produce an album that is far superior in sound quality than many studio recordings from the 1990’s. The same group could produce an entire album on a limited budget within their own small private studio. If their home town happens to be Nevada City, they could reach a huge fan base in Paris, France. I hear Modern Blue Grass and Acoustic Alternative genres are becoming popular in Europe. Since music is now commonly distributed globally via the internet, there is no geographic limit to building a listenership. The only hurdle is to get one’s music heard. With a little determination, the internet provides a wealth of opportunity. Today is a great era for musicians to reach an ever-growing audience.
Linn, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality CD players and hi-fi products, has announced they will discontinue all CD player manufacturing. Since the release of the Linn DS, which is their highly successful Digital Streaming player, sales for their legacy CD players have dropped considerably. The DS system provides superior performance to their CD players. If one considers the processing resources necessary for a CD player to spin the disk, read the digital information via laser, adjust speed, and correct digital errors, the player is operating at a diminished capacity, compared to a Digital Streaming player that simply reads an incoming digital bit stream from a network or hard drive. Certainly, there is more to providing a musical experience than simply converting digital signals, but Linn has discovered a better means to achieve the highest digital audio experience ever.
This is a milestone for Linn, mostly due to the combined efforts with their online music store, Linn Records. This web site is a gigantic repository of downloadable music from all genres and geographical locations. If you want the absolute best in high resolution recordings, Linn records has something for you. You can set up an account and immediately start downloading 24-Bit recordings to your system. These recordings are mostly available in WAV, FLAC, And WMA file formats, all of which play on Linn's DS player. Other manufacturers have similar streaming players, but Linn has built the highest reputation on accurate music playback. Feel free to visit Linn's web site at www.linninc.com. Linn has a series of DS players designed to fit both performance and budget. You can view the Linn’s recent price list here. All DS players are listed on the first page.
The big question remains, “Is the CD dead?” Certainly, with the advent of the SD card, the internet, and external hard drives. We are no longer tied to a delicate round plastic disk to enjoy music. The flexibility and dynamic of modern technology has figuratively smashed the CD to bits. I think it’s a great evolutionary time for musicians all over the world.
If you would like to take a minute and listen to some of the projects I have been working on, feel free to visit my personal web site’s music page at:
Feel free to email back your thoughts.
We look forward to
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Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved, Sight And Sounds
Hand-Held High Resolution Audio?
The Zoom H4n is the "next step" in high-resolution audio recording. This small, battery-operated recorder has the ability to record four tracks at 24-Bit/96khz resolution. (click image to view product information)
Digital Recording Software
Programs like Sony's ACID Pro and AVID's Pro-Tools have become industry standards for many recording artists. (click image to hear 24-Bit WMA recording)
Linn's Digital Streaming Players
Linn has officially announced that they will no longer manufacture CD players. This is due mainly to the success of the DS. (click image to view Linn's DS Page)
IPods & High-Resolution Recordings
Linn and other DS players include IPod/Iphone control software, making Control4's IPod/Iphone Navigator a perfect solution for selecting and playing music files house wide. (click image to view product information)
Control4's 1.8 and 2.0 Software
Control4 introduced their latest 1.8 software at CEDIA in September. 1.8 includes the ability to play FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files. This is a great step forward in the providing high-resolution playback capabilities for existing Control4 systems. The upcoming 2.0 release is slated to include Flash technology with amazing graphics. (click image to view product information)
Hear 24-Bit Recordings
Click on the photograph to visit my personal site's music section. Here, you can listen to various 24-Bit recordings. (click image to visit web page)