Radiohead Guitarist Argues MP3s Good Enough For Everyone

Except For Guys Who Lurk In Hi Fi Shops Discussing Cables      04/09/09
Radiohead Guitarist Argues MP3s Good Enough For Everyone

Are MP3s good enough quality for music?

According to soundtrack composer and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, MP3s are good enough for everybody but "thirty-something men who lurk in hi-fi shops, discussing signal purity and oxygen-free cables and FLACs".

He made the comment in a New Yorker interview, as part of their series on the "sound of sound", Dithering.

Greenwood argues that MP3s are fine for most music:

They sound fine to me. They can even put a helpful crunchiness onto some recordings. We listened to a lot of nineties hip-hop during our last album, all as MP3s, all via AirTunes. They sounded great, even with all that technology in the way. MP3s might not compare that well to a CD recording of, say, string quartets, but then, that’s not really their point.

Greenwood suggests that the sound quality of MP3s is less a concern than the way they encourage people to "horde" music:

People are encouraged to own far more music than they can ever give their full attention to. People will have MP3s of every Miles Davis’ record, but never think of hearing any of them twice in a row—there’s just too much to get through. You’re thinking, “I’ve got ‘Sketches of Spain and ‘Bitches Brew’—let’s zip through those while I’m finishing that e-mail.” That abundance can push any music into background music, furniture music.

Sadly, I think I probably fall into the middle-aged cable-talker category!

What do you think? Are MP3s good enough for everybody but middle-aged audio geeks?

Image: Public Domain


James Lewin
Twitter @podcasting_news


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12 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
DJ Sean Sax    Said...

Co-sign. Although the reference to "30 something" being old is hurtful :-)

04-Sep-09 04:46 PM

Lui Pina    Said...

If Mp3s are good enough, then we we can stop tracking and mixing at 24/96, stop buying overpriced gear, bloated recording studios can go away and we can all pull our cassette portastudios out again... Sounds good to me! (We made better music with the old gear anyways...)

04-Sep-09 06:38 PM

Andrew V    Said...

I'm 52 and I agree with you. I'm cool with MP3. I have 3 teenagers and there in d'load heaven. Go with the times you other oldies and let go of the bigger is better.


05-Sep-09 12:26 AM

fight mp3    Said...

well, read my avatar name.

But unfortunataly he´s right.

Music is produced and mastered in so bad manners these days that mp3 just cannot destroy any hifidelity, because ist wasn´t there at the first place - esp. if your into pop music.

And if you are only into Pop, spending more than $2000 on a HiFi setup is futile, believe me I have done intense testing.

Problem is I DON`T hear pop anymore. So MP3 is out for me.

People telling that mp3 is fine either never had a top range HiFi setup or never listen to anything else than Pop.

These two characteristics I found nearly always combined for the people telling me mp3 is fine.

and besides that I co-sign with Lui Pina.


Pop as definition of Billboard Chart-Like music incl. but not limited to Pop, Rock, Metal, HipHop, Rap.

05-Sep-09 08:54 AM

CR78    Said...

No problem, but I'm still loving buying 7"/12"/LP vinyl......tactile.

05-Sep-09 11:42 AM

31st middle aged audio geek    Said...

some music survives mp3 compression, some other doesn't. Almost nothing survives bitrate 128k or less. Mp3 kills reverbs and sound attack

05-Sep-09 02:12 PM

Velocipede    Said...

I think he is basically correct. The key elements of music are still conveyed by mp3s. Rhythm, melody, harmony, lyrics, and even dynamics if they were there before file-size compression.

This does not mean that audiophiles are wrong for wanting something better and being able to enjoy higher-quality recordings.

05-Sep-09 03:39 PM

T-nut    Said...

MP3 sucks. Apple lossless, FLAC or .WAV, FTW. Besides, the guy is a guitarist so his hearing is crap.

05-Sep-09 09:20 PM

Spooge    Said...

You've gotta be kidding. Mp3's sound like crap. The loss of sound you get compared to a wav file is disheartening to say the least. Mp3's are only good for background listening and portable devices.

06-Sep-09 12:50 AM

Union Of V    Said...

Even just moving down from 128kbps to 98kbps made my music sound completely different, and I don't exactly fit into that description...

But I completely agree with MP3's destroying the album, I hate finding a brilliant little-known artist on someone else's iPod only to find they only have one or two songs of theirs. Listening to an album straight through is anexperience in itself.

06-Sep-09 02:22 PM

madmax    Said...

Mp3's are only good for background listening and portable devices.

But isn't that how most people listen to music nowadays?

07-Sep-09 12:22 AM

Brian from USA    Said...

I'm OK with mp3s for free music, but I won't PAY for reduced fidelity media.

With terabyte drives becoming commonplace, the need for file compression will disappear in a few more years. Roughly 1900 hours of stereo CD audio per TB...that's a lot of music.

10-Sep-09 06:47 AM

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