There are several reasons for this; one could be that by selling music that has a poorer quality gives you an extra a reason to go to the artist's performance, another could be that because of cheap prices at online stores like iTunes it makes recording studios feels like they need to make files sizes smaller to make it more accessible to countries with slower internet speeds or the size of CD may be too small to fit a lot of uncompressed audio on.
Any one of these things could be the reason for a decreased audio quality but there are ways to make the audio of your favourite music or movie sound better on your PC or Mac.
Now if you have bought a computer with in the last decade or so it should have software running on it to manage your audio and there may be included; with this software, a virtual room effect and/or a virtual graphic equalizer (GEQ). By using a combination of both or one or the other you can make your music or movie sound better.
To see if you have an audio manager go to your computers control panel and look for the audio options. Look for an option that sounds like "audio manager" or "audio setting." Once you have opened the audio control options look for an "effects" tab. The room effects or GEQ should be their providing the audio manager supports these effects.
If you don't have one you may not have audio managing software installed or you just have windows default audio managing system. In this case go to your motherboards, audios cards or laptops manufactures website and install the latest drivers and audio manager providing they have any. If they don't you may be out of luck.
(Figure 1, my audio manager icon in the windows 8 Control Panel)
(Figure 2, the Realtek HD Audio Manager that came with my pc)
Now what is a room effect? A room effect is normally a physical effect machine that alters sound by changing how the audio appears to bounce around in a room. Basically someone goes into different types of rooms (rooms like padded rooms, large/small theaters, churches or places like parking lots or caves .etc) and measures how the sound bounces in those rooms and then using that data they create room effects to emulate the sound in those rooms. While normally the machine would be a $300+ peace of hardware your computer may have software one installed that emulates the effect.
When selecting a room effect you will should to pick one that gives a little reverberation but not so much that it makes the audio distorted or the sound echoes too much. However keep in mind that different effects will sound different in different places so experiment and see which one fits the mood and building or venue you are in. The room effects I normally like to use are called "Padded Cell or "Bath room" as it give the audio a nice warm sound.
A graphic equalizer or GEQ is a more complicated effects unit it allows you to increase or decrease individual parts of the sound. Each section of the sound (grouping of frequencies) is called a band and is controlled by a slider. Generally a GEQ will have upwards of 20 different sliders however software audio managers will generally only have 8 or 10 sliders.
The one on my pc only has 10 different bands but having only 10 or 8 bands should be more than enough to improve the audio.
One way to set the GEQ is to set it to a generalized setting. This sort of setting is generally used if you what one setting and don't want to change the GEQ settings for every piece of music or movie you play.
To set a GEQ, play a song or some music and move all the sliders so that they sit on the bottom. The audio will appear to be a lot softer or their will be no sound. (See figure 3)
Now start at the left hand side of the sliders and move the first one up all the way to the top. The sound will now sound distorted and you should now move it back down until it stops the distortion. Repeat for the rest of the sliders. Now play several other songs and make small changes until you are happy with the sound. It may take some practice to get the best results but after a while you should get better at it.
There is another way to set your GEQ and that is to decide on how you want you're audio to sound, for example setting it so that it has more bass, mids and highs or a combination of all three parts of the sound. On a smaller GEQ the sets of sliders can be broken up into 3 different parts. The first part is the set of sliders on the left these are the low sliders that control the lower sounding parts of the audio. The second set of sliders controls the mid sounding parts of the audio. The last set of sliders controls the high parts of the audio. To do use this method you need to decide on what you want the audio to sound like, play some music and set each slider until you have reached the desired effect.
The most recent series of settings I have set with this method I like to call the "M" series and they are set so that it gives a warm 90ies sound. They were set while listening to an 8 bit version of the "Duck Tales" theme and music track called "Covenant Dance". The settings below I like to call "m analog 2"
Once you have the GEQ set and are happy with the audio there should be an option to save the settings so you can have made. By saving each one you GEQ you have set will give you a library of different GEQ's to use at different events or places.
A room effect and a GEQ are just two ways to improve your audio sound and most PC should have some software which incorporates these effects. For more effects it's likely that you will need actual effects hardware or machines or full audio editing programs that support virtual effects.
Zach Radloff lives on the Gold Coast and is studying IT technology at university.
Zach Radloff's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/zach-radloff.html