Ken Rockwell knows nothing about audio


I don’t know as much about camera gear as he does, but when it comes to audio, he has as much clue as I do about cosmetics. He represents some of the greatest over-simplification of everything, and the biggest problem we have with the I-read-it-on-the-internet-and-now-I-know-everything attitude that’s so common these days.

Take this post for example.

“iPod and iTunes sound completely transparent (identical to the source CD) at the right bit rate.”

He goes on to suggest that 128k VBR is sufficient.

I’ve been in this industry long enough, and listened to enough systems to tell you that even through total blind tests, you can pick the difference between a 160k VBR and a CD (going through the same DAC) without having to so much as listen.

A number of years ago, my 74 year old mother came into our testing room one night. She had no idea the difference between a speaker and an amp let alone mp3 and CD. Her response when we switched mp3 over to CD was along the lines of “oh, that sounds much clearer”. Take into account that, this was a woman who casually walked into the room after a dinner, without knowing what we were testing or the fact that we were testing, without having being asked for her opinion, had poor hearing due to her age, had no interest in hifi or sound quality and had barely noticed that we had switched something over. She walked in to see what we were doing, listened to 30 seconds of music in passing, and mentioned this, in passing.

We certainly were using some of the highest quality gear around. The CD was ripped using EAC and lame.

I hate it when the ignorant over-simplify and assume things because they’ve read about it and deduced it from their 2 minutes of experience. There’s a reason why a great many still use vinyl over CD, and CD over mp3. The difference is not only measurable, it’s noticeable (if you’re not a crass fool, that is).

Ken Rockwell, in the spirit of this way of thinking, splashes words like “the greatest…in the world” and “the best…”. “The best” implies that you’ve sampled everything else. He hasn’t. Not by far.

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