Just Shoot Me
Of course, it didn't hurt that my wife, sitting next to me, said, "We're going to own a pair of these speakers, aren't we?" That's simply proof that I'm a very lucky man.
But I digress, I was saying that I believed that choosing better sound was the natural reaction to being exposed to it. Not perzactly true, says "informal" research conducted by Jonathan Berger of Stanford University and the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.
For the last eight years, Berger has polled incoming students on their sound preferencesand I don't mean just asking them which format they preferred. He did demos. "Students were asked to judge the quality of a variety of compression methods randomly mixed with uncompressed 44.1 kHz audio. The music examples included both orchestral, jazz and rock music. When I first did this I was expecting to hear preferences for uncompressed audio and expecting to see MP3 (at 128kbps, 160kbps, and 192kbps bit rates) well below other methods (including a proprietary wavelet-based approach and AAC). To my surprise, in the rock examples the MP3 at 128kbps was preferred. I repeated the experiment over six years and found the preference for MP3 particularly in music with high energy (cymbal crashes, brass hits, etc) rising over time."
Another comforting illusion shattered.
Professor Berger says it's all in the "sizzle," by which I take it he means the sounds of dynamic compression and the (to me) annoying glaze of lossily compressed formats. Berger points out that it's what his students are used toand therefore expect.
This small survey really rocks my world. I've always defended the iPod because it allowed users to choose their poison, when it came to formats. I was willing to sacrifice capacity to maintain sound quality and, I assumed, so would any right-thinking person, once they had heard the differenceand make no mistake, the differences are audible.
Keep in mind that Berger's students aren't a random sampling of Stanford students, but rather are students in the Music and Acoustics departments (or so I gather). That means they are probably better at hearing differences than mostor are at least willing to acknowledge that differences exist. And still they choose MP3 over Red Book!
Somebody talk me downtell me that this is not one of the signs of the impending audio apocalypse.