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I have a bunch of old CDs from 1990 and 2000 that I want to rip as MP3s to my computer. I am not an audio buff, so perhaps this question is a bit irrelevant to my personal quality preferences, but has the production quality of music vastly improved over the past few decades where CDs are concerned? In other words, would I get the same audio quality if I ripped an CD produced in the 90's at 320 kbps as an MP3 I purchase off some online music store at the same bitrate? Yes, I know it depends on the source medium used by the online store, so I am only assuming that they use a high-quality source.

And, no, by "old CD", I do not mean scratched or scuffed. I am merely talking about whether or not standards of production quality have improved enough to warrant purchasing the same music today as opposed to ripping older CDs.

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1 Answer 1

You'll actually get arguably better quality from your CD.

At best those MP3s will be encoded from the same masters as the CDs, except lossily compressed to MP3, while your CDs are uncompressed PCM audio. Any improvements to the production process - and AFAIK there haven't been any major improvements in quality at the professional level (take that with a pinch of salt, I'm mostly a video guy) since the 1990s - will therefore not affect the quality of the music.

If you rip them to FLAC (or another lossless format), or even a better-than-MP3 lossy audio codec (Ogg Vorbis, AAC/M4A, Opus), then you will get better quality-per-bitrate than the MP3.

That said, the MP3s you can buy online will pretty much all be 320kb/s, which is almost certainly indistinguishable from your CD. But it certainly won't be any better.

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For a while, remasters were improving on those early CD releases. But recent remasters seem to be all about just compressing things to remove dynamic range and make the music "louder". –  neilfein Feb 2 '13 at 20:06
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