When I first started mastering nearly 25 years ago, listening to music could only be done on physical formats. Remember the CD? At the end of each day, I ventured to the post office to send off production masters from the day’s approved projects. Now, of course, everything is done online including the consumption of music and the delivery of masters. Streaming platforms are now the most popular listening format by far. Deliverables and formats are constantly changing which brings me to the subject of this email. Lossless audio.
Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz now all offer lossless streaming. Spotify has also announced a ‘HiFI’ service ‘coming in 2021’. This is great news for artists, listeners and mastering engineers. Finally, we can stream music with no loss in quality.
Why does it matter?
Streaming platforms use various forms of data compression to reduce the file size. Their algorithms strip details from the sound which it thinks the average listener won’t miss. Unfortunately, the end result can end up sounding pretty nasty. Especially at lower bit rates. “Lossless” streaming means the listener is hearing an identical copy of the final master. Exactly as the artist and mastering engineer intended.
Most digital distributors now accept higher resolution files with a notable exception of CDBaby. With this in mind, I have will now be delivering a selection of formats as standard.
- High Resolution (24bit / 44.1 to 96kHz) – Suitable for most streaming platforms and digital distributers.
- Standard Resolution (16bit / 44.1k) – Accepted by all digital distributors including CDBaby. Also, the same format required for CD.
- MP3 (320kbps lossy) – smaller file size suitable for email attachments, press kits etc. Not to be used for any digital distribution.
I’ll still be offering other formats for physical media if required. Such as CD (DDP), vinyl and cassette.
Don’t forget that I am an Apple Digital Masters (previously Mastered for iTunes) certified engineer.