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Which Backing Track Format?

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MP3 is now a very popular and convenient digital format for music, especially music 'on the move' where disc changing and size of playback device would be problematic or cumbersome. MP3 recordings use a form of compression which greatly reduces the amount of data required to represent the audio recording. The idea is that the end result should still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio for most listeners.

Advantages: Widely available playback/recording devices. Playback devices have no moving parts. No blank media is required. Music can be downloaded directly from retailers, or transferred to/from PC's, Tablets, Mobile Phones and other digital devices easily. Quantity of tracks is only limited to the size of the storage device, enabling hundreds/thousands of tracks to be instantly available for playback.

Disadvantages: Standalone playback devices often have very small screens/buttons, this can make life a bit awkward in a live singing environment. Laptops are sometimes used, however these usually take up more space than a dedicated playback machine and have a greater potential for component/operating system failure, due to the vast amount of extra non-audio related components required to run the machine.

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Compact Disc - Standard CDs have a diameter of 120 millimetres (4.7 in) and can hold up to about 80 minutes of uncompressed audio.

Advantages: Widely available CD players for both playback and recording. Good long-term archive medium for holding original tracks which can be later transferred to a playback format of your choice. Quality of sound does not deteriorate when used regularly. Tracks cannot be accidentally erased. For music that is recorded without compression (e.g. audio directly recorded from source as a wave file) - the playback quality should be the exactly the same as the original.

Disadvantages: CDs are susceptible to damage and 'track skipping' due to handling (fingermarks etc.) and from environmental exposure. They are not very shockproof and rely on the playback machine to be quite stable to avoid misalignment of the laser when reading the disc. Track title reading is not a feature on all CD players. Quantity of tracks available to fit onto a disk is limited to the running time of the CD and the length of the individual tracks.

 

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Minidisc was the digital replacement for audio cassette and was the first truly recordable digital audio format for the home and on the move. The disc is 2.5 inches in diameter and held in an enclosed cartridge. Each disc can hold approximately 80 minutes of audio. It's an extremely durable format and has a six-second music buffer so should be shockprook in all but the most extreme environments.

Advantages: Large track/title display screen on most full size units. The shockproof nature of Minidisc make it ideal for use in a singing environment, and as it's an enclosed medium it does not become subject to 'track skip' due to handling or fingermarks. It has excellent editing capabilities as once a track has been recorded it can be moved into any desired position on the disc, enabling you to change the running order of tracks in seconds. An unwanted track can be erased if desired, and a new one added in its place (there is no need to find a spare blank section to add or move a track, as the minidisc automatically handles this). Track titles and the running order can easily be changed as often as required. Tracks can be erased, added, combined and moved as often as required.

Disadvantages: Blank minidiscs are now not as widely available as they were some years ago, and as a result they have become more expensive. Playback devices have been discontinued by many companies, and new units can be quite expensive from the higher-end audio manufacturers. Audio is recorded using a method of compression called ATRAC, which is not entirely CD quality, but better than the compression method used by MP3. Quantity of tracks available to fit onto a disk is limited to the running time of the MiniDisc and the length of the individual tracks.



 

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