We owe our senses an apology.
In the mad dash for digital convergence, we have made compromises that are cheating our ears and our eyes. We put up with "near" CD and DVD quality, just for the sake of snappy downloads or greater variety from compressed content. Now, quality hounds are about to lose another battle.
According to Flick's perpetually updated "camera finder" graph, the iPhone and Rebel XTi are neck-and-neck when it comes to populating the site with imagery.
The iPhone doesn't have a bad camera -- it's just not a very good one, relatively speaking. The new iPhone 3GS introduced autofocus and bumped up the megapixel count from two to three. However, there's no flash. There's no zoom. The quality pales when pitted against Canon's 10.1-megapixel workhorse.
The iPhone's camera may be good enough, but that doesn't mean that it's good.
Regression to compression
We settle for the sake of immediacy and ad-supported freebies. Social networking sites will take your treasured photographs and put the squeeze on their quality for bandwidth's sake. Don't even get me started on the grainy mobile uploads!
We haven't been any kinder to moving pictures. "Instant watching titles are available in multiple levels of video quality," explains Netflix's
It's hard to look a gift stream in the mouth, because Netflix offers digital playback at no additional cost to subscribers of its unlimited DVD plans. However, sometimes you pay and still have to settle for less than the original.
Oh my bleeding earbuds
Audiophiles are suffering, too. Sirius XM Radio
"The upgrading of this service allows for customers to listen at near CD-quality sound (128k) for a better listening experience," reads the site's FAQ.
It's definitely better than the original streams, but will folks really pay between $3 and $13 a month for "near" CD quality?
Then again, the sonic quality of satellite radio itself has long come under fire. "Don't get me wrong, I love Sirius' programming, but I hate the sound," wrote Steve Guttenberg in CNET's The Audiophiliac column last year. "It's grungy, harsh, with no actual high frequencies and muddy bass. The music's dynamics are squashed flat as Kansas so it sounds like a low bit MP3. Digital smigital, Sirius sounds awful, way worse than FM radio."
I'm not hating on satellite radio, because I too can't get enough of Sirius. I've been a subscriber for five years. However, championing quality on satellite radio is often a losing battle. Subscribers want more programming, yet broadening the channel list comes at the expense of crummier compression.
Sure, bitrates have improved over the past year. Microsoft's
The younger generation may not care. They've grown up jamming on their muddled iPods and watching grainy YouTube videos. They will never know the joys of vinyl wax, clean air, and Crystal Pepsi.
Consumers chose quantity over quality. Until a tech company can deliver both, I say the digital revolution is a failure.
What do you think of the digital revolution's quality sacrifices? Let us know in the comment box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a subscriber to both Sirius and XM. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story, except for Netflix. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool's disclosure policy walked to school uphill in the snow, both ways -- and liked it!