Monday, January 7, 2013

Max D Is Going to Change MP3s Forever

I was listening to the Audio Nowcast on the way to work and heard something that got me very interested. The link will take you to the episode, things start getting interesting about a half hour from the end. They had the developers of a new technology called Max-D on. Some pretty cool guys who have had their hands deep in the industry for decades. You should really just go check it all out for yourself but I'll give you the short version here quick. (Start with the company site, hear the demos, then check out the podcast to get a little deeper when you're done here.)

The 128k MP3 makes up 90% of the audio on the internet. That said it was time to do something to make things a little better. The process deals with phase issues, flat topping from over use of compression, and a few other things. You wind up with the same size file but it sounds a whole lot better. The claim is that with some (but obviously not all) material you could end up with a 128k MP3 with more dynamics and better sound than the 16/44.1 CD it came from.

The product is already baked into a couple Android apps and is coming to iOS soon. It's also applicable to broadcast of all types as you can see in some of the examples. It has the added benefit of not being an encode/decode process like Dolby was, you just apply it at the start and nobody has to wait around for equipped devices to come out. It's also said to retain the properties of the audio through multiple encodes which is good news for broadcast. By the time a program hits your set it can go through up to eight of those and with this process still maintain 95% of the original fidelity.

What's coming down the pike is what's really exciting. You'll have to dig into the podcast to get a load of it though. In short, the process will be available on the web. You upload your track. That can be anything from the single you're working on to your Beatles collection. You get a 90 second preview and all the time you want to twiddle the controls. Then it will be fifty cents a pop to process. It's a bit much if you're thinking about doing your whole iTunes library but six bucks is basically nothing to insure that the album you put your heart and soul into still has width and depth by the time it makes it out into iPod land. It's a clear cut case of shut up and take my money!

But don't take my word for it. Even on the low bitrate demos that are on the site you can hear the difference. Every time you hear a beep it's switching back and forth between original and processed. Even on cheap headphones I was able to hear the dynamic range and stereo field open up. The compression artifacts were still there but it's enough to give you an idea of what could be done with pristine original content.

Don't get too excited though. Your friends won't care because they still won't be able to tell the difference between a crappy MP3 and a CD. If this catches on though it's going to cross one thing off the list that audio people have to be sad about. So go check it out Brethren of the Knob and Fader. It's a brave new world.

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