Your Questions: Is It OK To Play Large Venues With iTunes Downloads?

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Last updated 11 April, 2018

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Armin Van Buuren has stated before that as far as he’s concerned, 192kbps MP3s are good enough to DJ with, but there’s a wide debate about whether DJs should use MP3s or AACs at all, as we discuss in today’s question.

Digital DJ Tips member, GJ Fukit (“GJ” stands for “guitar DJ”, by the way), writes: “From research, it looks like Apple iTunes downloads are at 256k AAC (which is supposed to be comparable to 320 MP3) but some swear by lossless WAV files. I know that on headphones or small stereo system it would be hard to distinguish the two (I think there was even a study a few years back by some of you guys?) but have any of you played large venues, hell even a festival, using iTunes downloads that were at 256k AAC? Was it fine or was there a difference?

“Also, if I happen to make a re-edit from the iTunes downloaded song (such as recommended in the Digital DJ Tips Make Your Own DJ Edits online course), would the results still be good enough to use in a large venue? While I am not at that stage (yet!), I’d like to be prepared and plan ahead on having a set system both for listening, purchasing, editing and playing. Thanks in advance!”

Digital DJ Tips says;

Some swear by WAV files, others (Armin Van Buuren being a notable superstar DJ) say anything over 192kbps MP3 is going to sound fine on any system. The general consensus is that 256kbps AACs (which as you say are equivalent to 320kbps MP3s) are going to sound fine on pretty much any system, including large club PAs. Frankly, other things like compression (see the Loudness Wars), quality of mastering and competence of producer in the first place are likely to play a far bigger part in the sound quality of a song than the difference between 320 MP3, 256 AAC and WAVs.

In a hallowed, perfect listening environment, maybe a few people could spot small things, but clubs aren’t that, and as DJ Vintage over on the Digital DJ Tips forum points out about clubs: “The sensitivity of our ears to finer details diminishes exponentially with the increase of loudness. Prolonged time spent in a high loudness environment causes listening fatigue which further diminishes our ability to hear finer details. Finally, consuming alcohol has an impact on it…”

Our other forum moderator, Terry, has this to add: “I have played to approximately 5.000 people in an open air arena with 256k AACs from iTunes and they all were dancing, not one tech said anything, and soundcheck was approved by the festival management. So, is WAV better: Yes? Will anyone over a very loud PA notice? No. Will you notice at home? Probably no. Will an audiophile person with an audiophile sound system notice? Perhaps yes. (Why “perhaps?” Because I know several “audiophiles” and only one of them has actual good hearing that he has trained and can hear a squirrel fart over two miles’ distance. The others probably wouldn’t be able to tell any difference either.)”

MP3s, AAcs or WAVs for re-editinmg?

On the subject of editing, though, it us always best to edit from WAVs, as they are genuinely lossless, unlike lossy MP3s and AACs. DAW software converts lossy formats into WAV anyway before you can start and editing, and then if you save the result (export it, in other words) as an MP3 or AAC, it’s all unnecessary audio processing, so starting with WAV ought to give you the best results.

What’s your experience with the different file formats for both playing and re-editing? got anything you’d like to add to this? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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