Category: Music Buisiness

Is It Time To Abandon 44.1kHz?

 

Ever since the release of compact disc in 1982, we’ve had 44.1kHz. Most of the music which has ever been released in a digital format has used this sample rate; millions of albums, both on CD and more recently as MP3 and AAC downloads. 44.1kHz has been with us for a long time but the question is, do we still need it in the modern world and why was it chosen as a sample rate in the first place?

44.1kHz Origins

During the development of CD, one of the requirements was that the format must be able to reproduce the entire audible frequency spectrum. This is generally quoted as being roughly 20Hz to 20kHz for human hearing. It was known from Nyquist’s Theorem that in order to reproduce any given audio frequency, the sample rate had to be at least double the highest frequency you wanted to reproduce. This meant that CD had to sample at a rate of 40kHz or higher in order to cover the audible frequency spectrum. In the early days of digital audio, storing the equivalent of a CD album worth of digital data on a hard drive wasn’t possible because the drives of the time simply didn’t have sufficient capacity. Video recorders were therefore re-purposed to store audio samples as black and white video signals. In the US, these video recorders ran at 30 frames per second and had 490 useable lines per frame (excluding blanking lines). It was decided that 3 audio samples should be stored per line of video.

3 samples per line X 490 lines X 30 frames per second. This gives us a total of 44,100.

In the UK, video recorders operated at a slightly different resolution and frame rate. Once again though, if you store 3 audio samples per line of video, the maths still works out:

3 samples per line X 588 lines X 25 frames per second. Again, we get 44,100.

As you can only store a whole number of samples per line (1,2,3,4,5 etc), 44.1kHz was the minimum sample rate possible in order to fulfil the nyquist requirement and also to allow for CD masters to be stored on video tapes.

The Two Families Of Sample Rates

By contrast, TV production and modern digital video workflows have always used 48kHz as their standard sample rate. Multiples of both 44.1kHz and 48kHz are also now fairly widely used. In certain workflows, higher sample rates can be of use. The two common sets of sample rates today are:

CD derived rates:

  • 44.1kHz
  • 88.2kHz
  • 176.4kHz

Video derived rates:

  • 48kHz
  • 96kHz
  • 192kHz

Why Do We Need So Many Sample Rates?

It’s evident that 44.1kHz was borne purely out of the technical constraints at the time of the development of CD. Its derivatives, 88.2 and 176.4kHz only exist because they’re mathematical multiples of it. As we move away from physical formats and into an era where most content is delivered electronically, is there really any reason to keep 44.1kHz? Obviously, we’ll need to retain the ability to work with legacy content at that sample rate and to be able to produce CD masters for as long as the format still exists, but shouldn’t we now just move to 48, 96 and (where required) 192kHz? I’m very interested to hear your viewpoints on this.

5 Lyrical Clichés That Can Ruin a Song

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Mac DeMarco’s “Salad Days” uses a cliché theme in a fresh way. (Photo by Coley Brown)

How do we define cheesy? What separates a lyrical motif from a cringe-worthy cliché? And is there any way that these songwriting taboos can actually work in your favor?

The answer to the latter question is simpler than defining the errors. If you’re aware of the tropes you’re tripping over, the work can be understood as satire, irony, or camp. Another option: pair familiar lyrical lines with an otherwise unconventional song. None of those suggestions are foolproof, and it’s not a guarantee that your use of cheesy or cliché wording will make your music unlistenable. Figuring out what works in any particular situation, as always, is ultimately up to you.

Here are some of the most commonly relied-upon songwriting clichés, and why they’re mistakes – plus instances in which they were successful.

Read more: 5 Lyrical Clichés That Can Ruin a Song

Approximately 73,985,000 Records Pressed Worldwide in 2014 So How Can 9.2 Million Sold Be Correct? (Updated 5/4/15)

 

After speaking to some industry insiders, as well as reading some comments here, it’s clear that these numbers are probably somewhat inflated. As a reader pointed out, these numbers probably include pressed, but not distributed defective records caught before they could be slipped into jackets and shipped. Also, given the number of multi-LP box sets reissued last year, when a pressing plant says it pressed “X” number of records, that includes things like Optimal’s pressing of The Beatles Mono Box Set, for instance, and double 45rpm reissues so, clearly the 73 million figure overstates the case. Nonetheless, even if you halve the number, more than 35 million records pressed is an impressive number! Another insider says Nielsen/Soundscan’s number is for America only. Still, I think it’s safe to say they are underreporting actual totals—ed.The graphic above is incorrect but based upon projections for 2014. Nielsen/Soundscan reported recently that 9.2 million vinyl records were sold in 2014—a whopping 54% increase over 2013.

How can that number be close to correct when my research says that in 2014 approximately 73,985,000 (yes SEVENTY THREE MILLION NINE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIVE THOUSAND) records were pressed?

How did I arrive at my numbers? For most of the world’s largest pressing plants I got confidential numbers directly from the pressing plants.

Three pressing plants alone pressed in 2014 approximately THIRTY FIVE MILLION RECORDS. And that doesn’t include United Record Pressing, Nashville, which refuses to respond to emails. While some companies responded that they’d rather not reveal numbers, United doesn’t respond at all.

Why? Because they are babies who can’t take criticism when they press bad records, and ignore the positive press given on this site when they press good ones. I added 9,360,000 records pressed by United based upon a 2014 Billboard story stating that URP presses 30,000-40,000 records a day, six days a week. I multiplied by 30K not 40K.

Some of the numbers I was given mix 7″ singles with LPs so based upon the mix of presses that I was able to research, I adjusted the numbers downward. Where I was able to only get approximate numbers (based upon an industry spread sheet that I was able to obtain that consistently underreported numbers where I was able to get actual numbers), I purposely decreased the numbers, preferring to understate rather than overstate the totals.

As I reported recently, Stoughton Press shipped Jack White’s Third Man Records 170,000 Lazaretto jackets, yet Soundscan/Nielsen insists only approximately 86,000 copies were sold in 2014. Does that mean Jack White is a “jacket hoarder”? I doubt it. Nor does the huge disparity in pressed and sold records mean that labels are “vinyl hoarders”.

Quite the opposite in fact! Labels aim to keep inventory low so order only what they think they can sell in a reasonable period of time. We know that every record pressed isn’t immediately or even within a year sold at retail.

Nonetheless, the gigantic disparity between the approximately 73,000,000 records pressed and the 9.2 million reported to have been sold by Nielsen/Soundscan needs to be examined, especially when three pressing plants alone claim to have pressed more records in 2014 than Nielsen/Soundscan reported were sold in 2014.

Even if you slice off a percentage for 7″ singles, the disparity is huge between pressed and reported sales. And one can argue 7″ singles should be counted because they are vinyl and played on turntables and in some ways the singles resurgence is even more unlikely than the album resurgence. After all, iTunes is made for convenience and singles purchases and 7″ singles are a genuine pain in the butt to play.

So even cutting the total in half means that approximately 37,000,000 records were pressed or more than four times the number S/N reported were sold last year.

Interestingly, the predicted totals this year from some of the pressing plants who supplied totals for 2013 were well in excess of those numbers and guess what? The numbers predicted for 2015 by the larger plants are greater yet!

By Michael Fremer • Posted: Apr 30, 2015