A generation of music lovers is getting ripped off.
That's the feeling among audiophiles who say that MP3 compression, which has made music portable, affordable, and packable on small devices, has ruined the music.
In some cases, it’s ruining your ears.
"There's been an overdose, in my opinion, of this altering of the original sound," says Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac.
For years, Fleetwood and other artists like Neil Young have decried the "dumbing down" of their master recordings through MP3. Some of them have been developing technologies to try to restore the original sound, or at least improve upon it. But often that restoration results in songs taking up a lot more memory. Suddenly, your digital player goes from being able to hold 20,000 songs to, like, 100.
Fleetwood has joined the advisory board of a company called Max Sound, which is releasing its new MAXD technology this weekend at the Grammys. In an exclusive interview with CNBC, Fleetwood joined Max Sound CEO John Blaisure in explaining how the technology works.
The company acquired the rights to software developed by Lloyd Trammell, a highly regarded sound engineer who created the first Surround Sound system. Trammell has come up with a process to restore the high and low ends of the sound wave which are cut off in the compression process, somehow managing to do this while keeping the entire music file the same size. "It (the software) sees all of the data still in there, it says 'I know what you are and I know where you belong,' and it literally reshapes that perfect wave sign within that file size," says Blaisure. "At the same time, it discards all of the trash caused by that compression."
The company gave me a demonstration, playing several songs, alternating between the MP3 version, and then streamed through MAXD software.
You really can tell the difference.
"It was gobstopping," says Fleetwood about the first time he heard it. He says even a child could recognize the difference, and the resulting music creates an emotional response. "I went, 'thank God' we can get out of this prison, this sonic prison that I consider that the whole world has been put into."
Max Sound will soon release a free Android app which will allow you to stream your MP3 songs through the software and have it restored in real time. Once that's up and running, they plan to launch their Apple app with future rollouts planned for Windows and Apple Desktop APPs. Eventually, the company hopes to make money by allowing you to convert your entire MP3 collection and store it on a device for much less money than buying the songs outright all over again, though it is also building its own music store in case you want to do that. One thing MAXD cannot do at the moment is convert songs you're listening to on streaming services like Pandora .
Blaisure says the company recently secured a $50 million equity line of credit which he's confident will get the company through, as it tries to convince people who've gotten used to the sound of MP3 that there really is a better way to listen to music.
"It's like bringing it back to life," says Fleetwood.
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