Mp3 vs AIF Battle!

Well, there’s some new music on my site – but I’ve not posted about it. They are “Almost in F”, “Fluidscape”, “Klockworx”, and “Wish Background” if you want to go hunting for them.
I’m running into some tech difficulties right now, as my main MIDI controller (an M-Audio Axiom 61) is broken. I woke up, and 41 of the 61 keys did nothing. I have another one coming in the mail, so I should be back up soon.
In the meanwhile, I’m going to talk a little bit about my use of the mp3 file format.
I get a fair number of requests for “uncompressed” music (wave or aiff format) – just something that is straight PCM, with no file compression.
I don’t do this for a couple of reasons. First off the files are huge. I did a couple this week that weigh in at more than 450 meg each. Sorry, but bandwidth is not yet unlimited – and it isn’t free. I know many of you have no problem downloading such a giant file, but I’m dishing out hundreds of thousands of mp3s a month… and I just can’t afford the server space and bandwidth for straight PCM.
So does the music suffer from being compressed? In theory; yes. In practice; no.
Here are some files you can test for yourself. (68 meg) (10 meg)
(please note that they’re in a temp directory… so I’m not going to guarantee their continued availability)
I picked this one, because of the highs and lows that mp3 has a harder time with.
If you can hear a difference – any difference at all, please let me know… because I can’t.
Why, then, does so much music in mp3 format suck? Bitrate. It is the measure of how much data is lost, or how small the files can be.
Here’s a quick chart (in kilobits per second):

48 kbps: Useful for voice-only podcasts.
Music sounds awful at this rate, but it is okay for hearing someone talk.
128 kbps: The former “standard” that music was encoded at… when hard drives were small
and bandwidth was limited by your modem. Music still sounds very bad at this rate.
196 kbps: This is ‘ok’ for music being listened to in a loud or crappy environment, like in
your car, or on bad “PC” speakers. I can’t personally deal with it very well.
256 kbps: Most music will sound good at this rate. The files are twice as large as
the old “standard” of 128, but the quality is usually very good.
320 kbps: This is what I use (and very few others). It retains the very high frequencies
well, and offers no audio “artifacts”… those wonky-sounding chirps and phasing
effects you get with lower rates.

So, what’s the bitrate of AIF? It depends on your sample rates and resolution. Most of what I work with between 2116 and 2822.
Argh! What is all this technical stuff!!!??
Download the files I linked. If you can’t hear a difference (feel free to use meters!) then just know that everything on my site is good…. not “good enough”, but “good”.
I understand why people request AIF. It is because you’re guaranteed that it will sound perfect – and most mp3s are terrible.
The other reason to use mp3, is compatibility. Every editing suite in the world (that I know of) can open mp3 files.