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Technology is Grand

met-opera-radio.gifThe Metropolitan Opera in New York City and Sirius Satellite Radio have collaborated to launch Metropolitan Opera Radio, which replaces Sirius’ former Classical Voices channel. This is very neat. At this very moment I am listening to Mozart’s Idomeneo, which is being performed on stage at the Met right now. The broadcast is live, and indeed there are live operas broadcast at least four evenings of the week.

Satellite radio, despite what you may have heard, does not come close to approaching CD-quality. (Although it far exceeds that of FM radio.) The technology has the capacity to transmit high-quality audio, but the amount of bandwidth given the two satellite radio companies mandates that they compress their audio to fit as many channels as they’d like to have. And I am listening to this broadcast on critical equipment—a Sirius receiver into a Cambridge Audio Azur amplifier, through its dedicated headphone op-amp into a pair of Sennheiser HD595 headphones. The bitstream sounds like 112kbps or so—about on par with what you’d download from the Apple iTunes store. Which is to say, not very good.

That said, this is a digital broadcast, so the sound is uninterrupted by any static or silences. And of course Sirius is using the Met’s house microphone system, so the sonic image is consistent and sensical. I can ignore the sound quality issues, because this is just very fun—I can hear Levine’s orchestra as crystal, Dorothea Roschmann as the pretty little singer she is, and the New York audience; what it likes and what it doesn’t like.

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