There's an interesting story on the front page of today's New York Times about how the sound quality of music has taken a nose dive since the advent of digital music and the popularity of mobile devices like iPods. It's not exactly a new conversation, but it includes an interesting point at the end. Could music listeners today prefer low-quality mp3s over the sound on records and CDs?
In fact, among younger listeners, the lower-quality sound might actually be preferred. Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford, said he had conducted an informal study among his students and found that, over the roughly seven years of the study, an increasing number of them preferred the sound of files with less data over the high-fidelity recordings.
"I think our human ears are fickle. What's considered good or bad sound changes over time," Mr. Berger said. "Abnormality can become a feature."
I'll bite. This is the typewriter syndrome, right? More than not minding imperfections, people appreciate them. Actor/comedian Larry Miller said as much when he filled out the Reverb Questionnaire a few weeks ago:
I listen to almost all music either in the car or on my scratchy shaving radio I take in every morning while getting the kids' breakfast. Seriously, I like scratchy radios FAR better than great sound systems. Like everything else in life -- romance, work, drinking -- it's the scratches, the mistakes, which make it great. I don't like perfect sound, I like real sound.