Young listeners deaf to iPod’s limitations

Fascinating piece in The Times about the impact that MP3 compression has had on music fans.

Research has shown, however, that today’s iPod generation prefers the tinnier and flatter sound of digital music, just as previous generations preferred the grainier sounds of vinyl. Computers have made music so easy to obtain that the young no longer appreciate high fidelity, it seems.

The theory has been developed by Jonathan Berger, Professor of Music at Stanford University, California. For the past eight years his students have taken part in an experiment in which they listen to songs in a variety of different forms, including MP3s, a standard format for digital music. “I found not only that MP3s were not thought of as low quality, but over time there was a rise in preference for MP3s,” Professor Berger said.

He suggests that iPods may have changed our perception of music, and that as young people become increasingly familiar with the sound of digital tracks the more they grow to like it.

He compared the phenomenon to the continued preference of some people for music from vinyl records heard through a gramophone. “Some people prefer that needle noise — the noise of little dust particles that create noise in the grooves,” he said. “I think there’s a sense of warmth and comfort in that.”

Music producers complain that the “compression” of some digital music means that the sound quality is poorer than with CDs and other types of recording. Professor Berger says that the digitising process leaves music with a “sizzle” or a metallic sound…

Worth reading in full.