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AudioFiles: The Terror of Terabytes

High-resolution audio consumes a colossal amount of storage. Here’s how to manage it.

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Anyone old enough to remember Miles’ comeback is old enough to remember when the only sounds personal computers could play were the primitive bloops and bleeps of early video games. Thirty-seven years later, personal computers still aren’t really optimized for audio. Even the very latest laptops, fitted with relatively large hard drives, can’t hold a sizable collection of digital music unless the music is data-compressed (and sonically distorted) using MP3 or some other digital technology.

The growing popularity of high-resolution audio among audiophiles has only made the problem worse. For example, bassist/vocalist Casey Abrams’ version of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” from his album Put a Spell on You, clocks in at just three minutes, 34 seconds, but in its 24-bit/192-kilohertz high-resolution version, in the AIFF format, it occupies 243 megabytes of hard drive space. That’s 5.5 times the space required for the CD-quality,16-bit/44.1-kilohertz AIFF version of the tune. In its 24/192 AIFF form, the full album chews up 3.31 gigabytes of hard drive space. Fifty such albums could easily fill the hard drives on most laptops.

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