Digital sound quality will soon catch up with analogue says CD pioneer
Digital sound quality is capable of being as good as analogue recordings, says a pioneer of the CD format – but the speed of improvement depends on how soon Apple focus on enhancement.
Ken Ishiwata was an audio engineer at Marantz when the firm developed the compact disc platform before being bought by Philips.
And he admits the aim was never to equal the quality produced by vinyl – instead it was to make the format affordable.
Ishiwata tells the Telegraph: “We had great analogue sound, but our industry needs something new every 15-20 years. Back then they had cassette, but it reached a peak and they had to come up with something new.
“Sony and Philips came up with the CD in 1982. All-new quality was possible, but we decided to come up with reasonable technology for the price. We designed it to be affordable for $100.”
The result was a format which Ishiwata says has only recently become capable of giving vinyl a run for its money. And things have moved on again, to the digital platform, which has upset audiophiles further with its MP3 format.
“When the MP3 player first came out the memory was so expensive,” he explains. “But now there’s 32GB on your iPod. You don’t need to compress – the majority is still MP3 but your recording capacity is big enough to have non-compressed music.”
Market leaders Apple now offer a lossless digital format and recently began selling ‘Mastered for iTunes’ audio created from studio-quality masters.
But Ishiwata says: “I’m not sure improving quality is a benefit for Apple. Their product is not sold for quality. It’s sold for sexiness and convenience. For them it’s not the right time yet.”
So while we could all enjoy better sound now, it’s likely to be another five years before we actually have it on our mobile devices. “People always want something better, so it’s beginning to improve,” says the engineer, adding that online streaming services such as Spotify are “not bad – and in five years’ time they’ll be a lot better.”