High fidelity music’s significance overlooked


There will always be an unfortunate majority of students who simply do not care about the quality of their music.

You may think you look cool speeding down the parking garage with your music blasting, but it is not effective if every note sounds condensed and compressed. The same goes with the students who sit around and blare music through terrible headphones, such as Beats. Not only do you look like a conformist, but you show how hapless you are for owning a pair of $450 headphones that only cost about $14 to make.

With the skyrocketing prevalence of music streaming services like SpotifyGoogle Play, Apple Music, RhapsodyTidal and countless of others, listening to music on the go has never been more popular. However, a vast majority of these streaming services’ demographics are unaware of what they are actually listening to. Shelling out $10 a month on streaming services, you would expect to receive the highest quality of music when streaming on the go.

This begs the age-old question: is the quality of your music good? It is not the type of music worth critiquing, rather, the ultimate quality. The focus should be the actual fidelity of the songs themselves, not the genre.

Audio quality is defined in “bitrates”, and with higher bitrates, comes higher quality. Common bitrates for music are usually 128 kbps, 192 kbps, 256 kbps, and 320 kbps. These bitrates are usually compressed into MP3 files and are considered “lossy” because they are compressed from the original “lossless” format. A “lossless” audio file is ripped directly off of the CD with no compression whatsoever and is often saved as an FLAC file. However, without compression, the file comes with a huge size, making it only viable with a large storage capacity.

While an average MP3 music album will be around 100 MB, the average FLAC album will be around 700 MB. If the absolute pinnacle of audio fidelity is desired, a lossless format or FLAC album will be required.

Different music streaming services often deliver different bitrates of music and some even allow the user to change his or her bitrate to accommodate for data caps set by their internet providers.

Spotify, arguably the most popular streaming service at St. Thomas, delivers 96 kbps or 160 kbps for non-premium users, saving the 320 kbps of “extreme quality” for premium users.

Apple Music, the music service by the creator of the iPhone, streams at 256 kbps, a tier lower than the maximum quality at which Spotify outputs.

However, the kingpin of all music streaming services when it comes to stream quality, albeit not being the most popular, is Tidal. Created by Hip-Hop artist and entrepreneur Shawn “Jay Z” Carter to provide the highest fidelity of music, Tidal gives out the quality of FLAC, or around 1411 kbps. The $20 subscription may seem daunting for those of you who subscribe to Spotify Premium, but for those who want the absolute best, Tidal is out there.

Honestly, unless you are absolutely certain that you want the highest quality music, do not even bother with Tidal. It is nigh-impossible for the average ear to discern 320 kbps to 1411 kbps.

The ideal thing to look for in music is a middle ground of quality, and fast streaming. If you are happy with whatever you have right now, keep it at 320 kbps for the best of both words in both quality and efficiency.

Justin is a part-time senior at St. Thomas High School and a full-time Online Editor-in-Chief for The Eagle. He made the website that you are looking through right now, and designs the layouts for all the articles on it. Justin participates in Speech & Debate, the Eagle Broadcast Network, Eagle Ambassadors, Model UN, Student Council, Political Awareness Club, and Columbian Squires. Safe to say that he plays a huge role in your life in someway.