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Young People Prefer "Sizzle Sounds" of MP3 Format 743

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the get-off-my-lawn dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford, tests his incoming students each year by having them listen to a variety of recordings which use different formats from MP3 to ones of much higher quality, and he reports that each year the preference for music in MP3 format rises. Berger says that young people seemed to prefer 'sizzle sounds' that MP3s bring to music because it is a sound they are familiar with. '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 128, 160 and 192 bit rates) well below other methods (including a proprietary wavelet-based approach and AAC),' writes Berger. 'To my surprise, in the rock examples the MP3 at 128 was preferred. I repeated the experiment over 6 years and found the preference for MP3 — particularly in music with high energy (cymbal crashes, brass hits, etc) rising over time.' Dale Dougherty writes that the context of the music changes our perception of the sound, particularly when it's so obviously and immediately shared by others. 'All that sizzle is a cultural artifact and a tie that binds us. It's mostly invisible to us but it is something future generations looking back might find curious because these preferences won't be obvious to them.'"
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Young People Prefer "Sizzle Sounds" of MP3 Format

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  • by suso (153703) * on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:42AM (#27151369) Homepage Journal

    This is probably no different than older people who prefer the sound of a phonograph over modern high quality digital recorded mediums like the CD. Warmness of sound on phonographs may be the equivilent to the mp3 sizzle that he talks about. People are used to hearing music over lower quality mediums like FM radio, streaming internet connections and real player. Its good that he is doing this research though because its time dependent and you won't be able to do it later.

    • by Dishevel (1105119) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:44AM (#27151395)
      I think that it really just points more to the fact that most people can't tell the difference between what they like and what they are used to.
      • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:56AM (#27151645) Journal

        that is an odd statement at best.

        Most people like what they are used to and don't like what they aren't used to. Saying that can't tell what they like from what they are used to shows an in-depth lack of understanding of other individuals.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:18AM (#27152097)

          He could have phrased it better: People don't know why they like what they like, particularly they can't tell if they like something because they're used to it or because it has other likable qualities.

          This is an important realization for requirements engineering: Don't ask people what they want. To want is to have an anticipation of liking. As people can't tell if they like something because they're used to it, they will often tell you they want something but later don't like what they wanted because, since it's new, they're not familiar with it. So either you give them something familiar with small tweaks or you have to use another way to find what people "really" want.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cayenne8 (626475)
            Maybe it is more...if you grow up listening to nothing but crap (low audio quality or low quality music ON low quality audio), then that is all you know, and generally will pick it over something that quality-wise is superior.

            Kinda like food...if you grow up eating spam or fast food all your life, a fine meal at a high end restaurant might now be what you think is any good.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by spud603 (832173)

        I think that it really just points more to the fact that most people can't tell the difference between what they like and what they are used to.

        Wait, that makes no sense. If somebody voices a preference for the "sizzle" of mp3, then isn't precisely because they like it?
        Or is there an objective preference function somewhere deep in each of our souls that we need to learn to access?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:11AM (#27151949)

          What Dishevel is trying to say is that you plebs have no right to have an opinion about music unless you hear it, from uncompressed studio masters in 188kHz form, on his $45k audio equipment with gold wires, sound-dampened walls, perfectly tuned speakers, and cleanroom-like air filtering so that the very DUST ITSELF cannot disrupt the purity of the music (make sure to wear your protective suit as you walk into the studio!). Only then will you truly know what you "like", only if you agree with Dishevel.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Personally, I find nothing captures the authenticity of perfomance, the essential "you are there" je ne sais quoi-ness of musical experience, quite as well as the Edison Wax Cylinder.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by bennomatic (691188)
            Forget air filtering... I only listen to my music in a perfect vacuum, so that the air itself can not color the sound.

            oh, wait.

            No, no, I've got it. I listen to it in a room full of pure helium, so that everything sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:15AM (#27152037)

        That's funny...I'm an audio engineer and I have been using both the WAV and MP3 formats for the past ten years. I used to listen to CDs but for the past 8 or so years I have been using Winamp to play MP3 and more recently the iPod.

        Nowadays, when I finish a track, the wav doesn't sound right until I encode it to mp3. The mp3 sounds better to me. It's not due to a lack of knowledge of the distinctions between the two...I'm familiar with all the boring technical differences...it's due to ear training. You consistently hear your reference material (other well recorded and or well written songs on an iPod or some other device) in the mp3 format, and so you end up coming to prefer the mp3 format.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I'm not buying it. I too listen to a lot MP3-128s on my ipod, but I definitely prefer the uncompressed FLAC or CD sound. There are nuances to the music, especially in the high frequencies, that can not be heard on MP3-128 encodings. I prefer more sound, not less.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stewbacca (1033764)
          There's also the notion that, while one format may be technically superior, there are other aspects of sound other than just 1s and 0s. CDs sound shrill and harsh compared to LPs (or so they say). That's because they have a higher dynamic range (or so they say), but that's NOT to say that the human ear finds the higher range to be pleasant. The same thing goes for mp3s versus CDs (so they say). I'm just going to go with what I say, instead of what they say, and say I generally can't tell the difference b
      • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @12:00PM (#27153023)

        That's one possibility, another is that there's a huge incidence of hearing damage in young people. Mostly from playing music too loud or listening through ill fitting iPod earbuds. Or listening to music that's too loud and through ill fitting earbuds.

        A couple years back I tried listening to some of my oldest MP3 files and they sounded terrible, at 128. These days I listen pretty much just using the typical Lame preset. I think that comes out at a bit rate of 192kbps variable and basically identical to the original for most purposes.

        The other possibility is that people listen through crap equipment which really can't properly convey the encoding. I know when I moved up to my Shure e2c and Sennheiser HD 477 that suddenly higher compression rate files were unbearable to listen to. I'd guess with really good equipment like Grados that it would be even more pronounced.

    • by kheldan (1460303) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:49AM (#27151511) Journal
      I think what it really points out, is that people don't or won't differentiate between what they're used to hearing and what really qualifies as "high quality". It's like an older person who has been drinking Sanka [wikimedia.org] all their lives not liking more expensive coffee brewed using a method like french press; the latter is acknowledged as infinitely better, but if it's not what you're used to then "different" is likely to be considered "bad", at least at first.
      • by Tikkun (992269) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:01AM (#27151743) Homepage
        French press coffee tastes horrible. The coffee at Denny's tastes better.

        Also, get off my lawn.
      • by spud603 (832173) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:03AM (#27151789)

        french press ... is acknowledged as infinitely better

        ... by those that prefer french press. Those that prefer Sanka clearly do no acknowledge french press as infinitely better.
        Your argument is totally circular: You should prefer french press because if you prefer french press then you'll find that you prefer french press.
        (not to mention the hints of elitism).

      • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:21AM (#27152169)
        Since there are no real standards that define one taste as being better than another, such remarks are an attempt to justify that the one making them is somehow superior to others. I prefer to use the words 'I prefer this food over that one' rather than 'This food tastes better'. I would rather offer my personal opinion about something that is purely subjective, than act like an oaf and state as factual something that isn't.

        Wine and cigar aficionados have certain standards they use, but it is only within that circle they are true standards. Outside that circle they are irrelevant. Saying one has to be 'educated' to appreciate it is also elitist. I smoke plenty of cigars, and use the ratings as a guide to try new things, not as 'oh ... I must really like that one' and then pretend to enjoy it.

        I love high-end tequila and bourbon, but that doesn't stop me from having a shot of Sauza or Wild Turkey sometime. There is something about their bite that I love. Given the choice between Red Breast or Wild Turkey it would be unlikely for me to choose Wild Turkey. But that doesn't mean it doesn't taste good to me.

        What I have found is people assign 'fine' standards to items that are expensive, rare, or seem to be liked by a few people. Lobster used to be used as fertilizer because it was deemed 'trash food' and apprentice contracts were written that forbid having to eat it more than a few times a week. Now it's a 'delicacy' to some. As someone who lived in Maine for 20 years, I think it tastes like crap except in a lobster roll with plenty of mayo.

        I can enjoy an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich on white bread with store brand yellow mustard as well as I can a fine steak served with a blue cheese butter. Neither taste is better than the other, they are tastes and I am perfectly capable of finding something good in both of them.

        Maybe those that don't like the bologna sandwich just don't have as refined a palate as I do to appreciate the subtle flavors and textures.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          Plus there is not enough information.

          An mp3 on a crappy set of iPod earbuds for from a car stereo sounds far better than the same audio source played over a high end amp and high end speakers in a listening room.

          it's amazing how a real set of speakers will bring out the "omg that is crap" even in a 192K encoded mp3 file.

          Whereas a HD audio recording that is a full 24 bits per channel recorded at 48Khz and a crazy high bitrate sounds no different than a crap mp3 in earbuds but sounds spooky clear in a decent

        • by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @12:24PM (#27153547)

          Gourmet or some such magazine had an article recently about bourbon. The article's main point is that bourbon quality is counter intuitive. The mass produced stuff is often better than the boutique stuff and the cheap brands compare well to the expensive ones. Their thought is that small batches just can't replicate some of the conditions of mass production that give it good flavor.

          On a related note, I had a tequila expert/snob tell me to never ever ever use good tequila in a margarita. A waste of money.

          As you said, it's a preference thing that shouldn't be justified by some metric such as price.

      • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:39AM (#27152581)

        ...if it's not what you're used to then "different" is likely to be considered "bad"

        That explains the continued success of Coors and Busweiser.

      • by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:59AM (#27153011)

        It's freedom press, you insensitive, unpatriotic, red clod!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        French press preparation is actually one of the least expensive and least time-consuming brewing methods. Compare the cost of a French press to a pump-driven espresso machine or even quality drip-coffee.

        For French press, all you need is the plunger pot itself ($20-30), plus a good blade grinder (~$50). You can use a burr grinder to get somewhat more consistent results, but it's not really necessary at all, especially if your blade grinder has a timer.

        Now for espresso, the absolute cheapest cost of entry i

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigstrat2003 (1058574) *
      Personally, I have no idea what he's talking about in the first place. Unless it's an abysmally low-quality rip, MP3 sounds just like any other format. No sizzle, nothing.
      • by Spazztastic (814296) <spazztastic@ g m a il.com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:57AM (#27151651)

        Personally, I have no idea what he's talking about in the first place. Unless it's an abysmally low-quality rip, MP3 sounds just like any other format. No sizzle, nothing.

        Play that decent-quality song over a set of high end speakers, then play something in FLAC and you will hear the difference.

        • by svendsen (1029716) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:11AM (#27151947)
          Except most people are playing their music through basic headphones while going to work, school, gym ,etc. and all the background noises associated with the activities. They are not sitting in a sound proof room with the best speakers, amps, etc. to notice a difference.

          For those that might notice the difference I bet you the marginal benefit of getting to the next level does not out weight the marginal cost so people don't care.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mdarksbane (587589)

            I couldn't hear the difference for years listening on my computer speakers and earbuds.

            Then I bought a decent $70 set of headphones (Grado Labs, in case anyone cares) to listen with at work and my whole mp3 collection sounds like crap.

            At least the few CD's I own sound amazing, though :(

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by svendsen (1029716)
              So your marginal cost of listening to music went up (buying the better headphones) but your overall marginal benefit went negative (mp3 collections sounds like crap).

              I believe the value (benefit - cost) an average user would get out of replacing all their digital mp3s with a better format and getting the better speakers will not be greater then the value of staying put because the cost will still be greater then the benefit.

              The exception to my rule of course will be the people who do care about the be
      • by greg1104 (461138)

        The preference was for a 128Kbps MP3 rip, which is abysmally low quality and sizzles like bacon.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        I used to think that. Then someone gave me a £70 sound card, and I bought spent £300 on an external amplifier and a couple of decent speakers.
        Switching between the on-board sound and the decent sound card makes a massive difference, the on-board sound is really flat.
        I can tell the difference between a normal (128, 192) MP3 and FLAC. It's even more noticable to compare FLAC with something from YouTube.

        People don't all care as much about their music though -- my flatmate was pleased wi

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Thelasko (1196535)

        Personally, I have no idea what he's talking about in the first place. Unless it's an abysmally low-quality rip, MP3 sounds just like any other format. No sizzle, nothing.

        Most people don't notice it consciously. That's why MP3s are such a great invention. However, certain sounds, most notably cymbals, sound distinctly different on an MP3.

        I first noticed this back in the Napster days when I would accidentally download multiple copies of the same song at different bit rates. I would say the difference between 96 kbit/s to 128 kbit/s is more noticeable than 128 kbit/s to 192 kbit/s. However, a 320 kbit/s file sounds far superior to a 128 kbit/s file. In other words, the

    • by flitty (981864)
      I also wonder how much the Input matters. A highly digitized version of a bass drum sound that replaces the dynamic analog version probably doesn't sound as bad compressed, along with cymbals and all other digitized, manipulated current recordings. IIRC, a compression of digital information is cleaner/less noticable than the compression of an analog signal. The 128 Mp3 preference probably comes from a simpler signal that is easier for your ears to process, in such noise-heavy music as Rock.
      • by Mprx (82435)
        All mp3 compression is digital. Whether the audio was originally analog or not is unrelated to hard it will be to compress. The 128kbps mp3s were preferred in the case of music with a lot of high frequency content, which is hard to compress. Because of this it is more distorted, and this "sizzle" distortion if what some people prefer.
    • Could it also be the difference between cheap ear-buds and good quality speakers?

    • by Deag (250823)

      It is a pity though. This makes music fit into the frequency range that is compressing it. It could kill any music that uses a lot of symbol sounds, as they sound like crap in a highly compressed format.

    • by ProppaT (557551) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:06AM (#27151845) Homepage

      Actually, that's a whole different ball of wax (bad pun intended).

      Records provide analog sound which does sound more more natural and warm if the original recording was also analog (using good equipment). This is an extremely hi fidelity medium.

      And 128 mp3's are an extremely lo fidelity medium. I can't stand listening to them because it actually cuts out audible portions of the music that I can hear if listening to the cd or a high quality rip.

      I think a part of this equation that is being left out is the volume at which the listeners were playing the music. Also, with some of these kids doing nothing but listening to their ipods 24/7, I'm wondering if their earing isn't temporarily damaged.

      I would be curious to see what these kids would think about the different samples if they went a month without listening to any music. They like the hiss because they're not used to hearing anything without it (on crappy headphones none-the-less). I wanna know what happens when they "reboot" their ears. This isn't just a matter of some people prefer sennheiser headphones and some people prefer grado headphones, this is a matter of some people liking how things actually sound vs. some people liking distorted music with hiss laid over it. That's kind of unsettling to me.

    • If the older generation actually preferred the sound of records then why did they rapidly adopt CD technology? Records would still be king!

    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      People are used to hearing music over lower quality mediums like FM radio...

      Not to mention that fact that many FM radio stations store their music in compressed formats these days. Also, many syndicated radio shows, and even entire programing for some stations, is produced somewhere else and streamed to local stations over the internet.

      Thanks Clear Channel for degrading the quality of our FM radio even more.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AttillaTheNun (618721)
      It's familiarity and nothing more.

      A perfect example is the making of the Beatles Anthology last decade where producer George Martin insisted on remixing the 5.1 soundtrack using a vintage mixing desk of the late 60's period because it was part of "the Beatle sound".

      You could argue that a modern/neutral desk would more accurately reveal the source material, but it wouldn't sound the same to the target audience who grew up on the original issues.

      A counter-example is the Beatles Let It Be...Naked release,

    • by OldSoldier (168889) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @12:01PM (#27153029)

      So the question is why is music this way and, say hi-def video NOT this way?

      I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the reason is that music is not audio. I'd expect if the question was centered around, say more generic audio quality, say listening to recorded conversations, or bird sounds or whatever the higher quality may be preferred, in a manner that's analogous to preferring higher quality video.

      In other words it may be the difference between Content and Delivery. Higher quality DELIVERY is almost always preferred, but when aspects of that delivery work their way into the CONTENT then the content preference will win.

      No one ever talks about the warm feeling of low-def TV, but you may find lots of folks who prefer hand drawn cartoons vs "higher quality" computer generated cartoons.

      In my case regarding music I do know that I have a preference for recordings of live music vs studio recordings. It evokes in me a sense of a shared experience (even though I know this is a fantasy), it's like I'm there in a concert with others. A studio recording, on the other hand seems more like a solo experience. I suppose I'd prefer higher quality live recordings over lower quality ones, but I also suppose I'd prefer lower quality live recordings over higher quality studio recordings.

  • by One Brave Prune (1470115) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:44AM (#27151399)

    I think the Jonas Brothers already proved this.

  • Digital Artifacts.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695)

    Annoy the hell out of me personally. Both audio and video.

    Bring back analog, the real thing.

  • Deaf? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:46AM (#27151429) Homepage

    this sounds like a peference for high treble... probably related to hearing loss.

    • Re:Deaf? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:07AM (#27151861) Journal
      I agree. WAY too many people are listening to iPods turned up to 11 on earbuds. I cannot imagine this is "good for them".

      high freq is the first to go, so a distorted high end combined with a loss of any real soundstage (which is compounded by turning the LA2A compressors up to max to pump the sound even more at mastering) feeds the material effect of the sound for the sociological issues described in TFA.

      In 30 years, when the oil's gone and hordes of cannibalistic zombies wander the ruins of Western Civilisation, these young punks will be easy pickins. Deaf as posts, obese, incapable of complex or convoluted thought, lazy, self absorbed, crybabies with a massive bolt of self-entitlement. Yep. They won't be able to feed themselves and will either join the zombie hordes or be eaten by them.

      All thanks to the iPod and the Xbox.

      Yep yep, I tell ya. Things just haven't been right since the Coolidge Administration. Zombie hordes back then? Fuck - we'd hear 'em from MILES away...

      ghmgnghnhgmghhngmhngmhnmghng...

      The sound of zombies. Heck - we'd just sit on our porch with a shovel and beat the fucking crap out of them. None of this "Oh, I'm sorry, did that hurt?"" No way. It's more like "I'M (smack!) GIVING (smack!) YOU (smack!) THE (smack!) BEATING (smack!) YOUR (smack!) MOMMY (smack!) AND (smack!) DADDY (smack!) NEVER (smack!) GAVE (smack!) YOU, (smack!)YOU (smack!) STUPID (smack!) FAT (smack!) FUCK! (smack!)(smack!)(smack!)

      Yep. THAT would teach them fat zombie fucks a thing or two.

      S, if you wanna do something for the future that's REALLY worth doing, do this to your kids:

      1. DON'T be their friend. Be their PARENT. And sometimes the parent has to be the avatar of the kid's bad karma. Punishment is good when doled out judiciously and without mercy.
      2. Take away the iPod. They want to listen to music? They listen over speakers and at a reasonable volume, because they have to live with others.
      3. Get rid of your TV set.
      4. Read books, and have your kids read books.
      5. Teach them how to grow food gardens.
      6. Teach them how to play an acoustic instrument.
      7. Teach them to be as good as their word and to not lie. Ever. Their word must be their bond and they must be held accountable. No excuses.

      That's a start.

      The beatings will continue until morale improves.

      RS

  • Not Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:48AM (#27151475)
    This is not surprising at all. Talk with anyone who grew up listening to records and you'll hear a tale of music with character and soul. That "character" and "soul" is the pop and crack of dust, scratches, and whatnot that the record needle picked up - all the imperfections in the record player and record that we could hear. It's a comforting and familiar noise in the sound. The digital generation has its own pop and crackle and it should come as a surprise to nobody that their reaction to it is the same as the record generation's reaction to the sound of a record playing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Wahesh (1492161)
      This also seems to happen a lot with older movies. If a person grew up watching older films, they have no problems watching and appreciating classics. I've noticed this while watching Hitchcock films. The people who grew up with older films are on the edge of their seat with suspense, while the MTV generation folks are bored out of their mind.
    • Another example are tube amps (that would be valve amps to our British cousins). They impose a filter effect that audiophiles love - or at least used to love. Audiophiles complained bitterly about how harsh sounding even high resolution digital recording sounded when they first come out.

      I recall something about tubes effecting odd and even harmonics differently and imparting an effect described as "warmer" on the music. Tubes have a non trivial variance in performance so don't get an audiophiles starte

    • Re:Not Surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Pope (17780) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:32AM (#27152443)

      Screw that. I grew up listening to LPs and the scratches, pops and skips were like murder to the music. That's not 'soul' or 'character', it's shit.

      Now, throwing the imperfections of the medium aside, the thing that's been killing music for the last 20 years is over compresssion. Kills the dynamic range, sounds like hell on digital formats, and just plain tires out the ears after a while.

      I'm always amused when modern bands record and entire album on analog tape and mixing gear to get a 'vintage' sounds, and then the final mix is compressed to death; makes the whole exercise pointless!

  • by spykemail (983593) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:48AM (#27151477) Homepage

    Dick Cavett said "As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it." Little did he know that if all people know is crap they actually begin to prefer it.

    • by andrewd18 (989408) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:53AM (#27151595)

      Little did he know that if all people know is crap they actually begin to prefer it.

      And that's why 2009 will not be the year of Linux on the Desktop.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by svendsen (1029716)
        More likely it is because the Marginal benefit does not out weigh the marginal cost of the perceived "Value" of the next step up.

        How much benefit do I really gain from switching over my digital collection (and the devices)so I can have a better perceived "Value" of sound?

        What is the cost of this? First need to replace all Mp3s with a higher quality format. So this costs time and money. More then likely most people are listening to said music through crappy headphones or speaker systems. What wi
  • by rbanzai (596355) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:50AM (#27151525)

    People have really weird internal processes that shape their preferences. Preferring shitty, hissy sounding music is just one of those odd results. I would not equate it with the perceived "warmth" of vinyl when compared to CDs. The warmth is not the snaps and crackles, but a different quality that I can't imagine anyone would think as a loss of quality. Just a change of tone.

    The hissy music on the other hand is primarily as a result of poor or excessive compression that reflects a lost of information, not just a change in tone. And it just so happens that like in every other arena of human opinion most people prefer crap. :)

    P.S. I am not an audiophile but I love clear, full range sound when it comes to music. I prefer digital over vinyl because I can't stand all the defects that come with vinyl, even though I grew up with them.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      but a different quality that I can't imagine anyone would think as a loss of quality. Just a change of tone.

      It's still a distortion from the original, not easily correctable. Overall, it's still a loss in information, just different than MP3

      And it just so happens that like in every other arena of human opinion most people prefer crap.

      People tend to prefer what they're used to. Witness building trends down in Florida. You get people building/buying cheap reproductions* of Northeastern style houses down there because that's what they prefer - despite that being a lousy way to build a house in Florida. As would the inverse of building a house suited for Florida in the North.

      *IE missing the insulation, amo

  • Unfortunately, digital music formats are driven by the market and not by quality (mp3 would've fallen by the wayside years ago given that it was already inferior almost a decade ago).

    Since people are willing to accept that (young and old), they're just going to adapt to it and enjoy what they have. Hopefully someday we'll see the market push better formats but, for now, I'm not counting on much to improve amongst music players.

    (Full disclosure: After getting a 1TB hard drive, I go lossless or I don't
  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7 AT kc DOT rr DOT com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:52AM (#27151569) Homepage

    Every generation has their favorite audio artifacts. Vinyl lovers like the warm sound despite the hiss and pops, im sure back in the day someone thought that wax phonograph cylinders sounded better than those new fangled gramaphone disks. Each generation gets accustomed to the sound they are most familiar with. I remember as a kid arguing with my dad who thought 8-track was much better than casette tapes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mcgrew (92797)

      I remember as a kid arguing with my dad who thought 8-track was much better than casette tapes.

      In theory they should have been better - they had double the transport speed, and should have had nearly double the frequency response. In practice, however, they weren't. The reason was that they were illogically fated for cars and their bad acoustics (worse than today's cars) and the labels didn't bother with fidelity.

      The thing I hated about eight tracks was they would interrupt a song in the middle of the tape

  • Similar (Score:4, Funny)

    by NineNine (235196) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:52AM (#27151573)

    I encountered the same feeling when I walked into a Best Buy the other day. I don't generally go into places like that, so when I did and I saw all of the flat-scren TV's, my GF and I couldn't get over how BAD we thought they all looked. The looked too sharp and too bright. I need another TV but I'm having trouble finding anyone that sells good CRT's any more!

    • Re:Similar (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sandman1971 (516283) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:08AM (#27151893) Homepage Journal
      That has nothing to do with nor does it reflect the quality of flatscreens. Box stores are known to mess up the sharpness, brightness and contrast of their TVs on the showroom floor to make it 'pop' (heck, some TVs even have a demo or showroom setting that does it at the push of 1 button). I too personally think it looks like crap at those settings.

      Its best to do your homework online, then when at the store ask the salesperson if you can adjust the settings to something that you find more acceptable. I've never been turned down when I've asked this. It gives you a better representation of the quality (but not a full representation, as the lighting at your house will be different).

      Generally, flatscreens are better than CRTs when calibrated properly. I know you couldn't pry my DLP out of my cold, dead hands (though DLPs are not true flatscreens). For true flatscreen, you can't go wrong with a properly calibrated Sharp Aquos.
  • Listening to electronic mediated music - amplified, broadcasted, analog or digitally recorded always loses something. I try to listen to live performance whenever I can.
  • Hisss of the 80's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by binaryspiral (784263) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:57AM (#27151655)

    Pops of the 70's phonograph
    Hiss of the 80's magnetic tape
    Sizzle of the 00's MP3s.

    Sounds like we had a perfect format in the optical disc - now we just need audio engineers that don't fuck up the mastering with everything cranked to 11.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:57AM (#27151671)
    This is probably why the previous generation preferred tube amps to transistor ones - and gave you all kinds of arguments just why one was "better" than the other one, most of which were meaningless.
  • be behind the preference of some people for LPs over CDs?

  • by Yewbert (708667) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:12AM (#27151975)

    No time to RTFA, but were any of the kids polled members of high school bands, or musicians on their own? As a drummer for 25+ years, I know the first thing I noticed about poorly encoded MP3s was how crappy the cymbals sounded. And I knew that primarily on account of knowing exactly how a real, live cymbal really sounds, in person, with the naked ear. Having been in a high school band, I know that the experience changed my own understanding of how all the instruments should really sound, as contrasted starkly against how they sound on many recordings, even pre-MP3 era.

  • by owlnation (858981) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:14AM (#27152021)
    I can't help thinking that this isn't representative of "young people". Though it probably is typical of the average "young person".

    Were the to pool the opinions of students of Julliard rather than Stamford he'd likely get a completely different result.

    If the young person in question is fond of mass produced music -- as most are I guess -- then the sound quality probably isn't important to them, just as tonal nuances wasn't important to the original musicians. For kids that are musicians themselves, and especially jazz or classical musicians, the sound quality matters a great deal.

    Basically this is just a badly designed study, skewed in favor of the modal average.
  • Audiophile? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jshackney (99735) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:37AM (#27152539) Homepage

    My brother-in-law is a bit of an audiophile. He's not totally neurotic about it, but he's much more obsessive than me. We're talkin' low-middlish-end B&W speakers (I would've bought a car for that kind of money, personally), DVD players to play CDs, NAD amp, shielded, expensive cabling, and those pointy things that you put under your speakers to poke through the carpeting to get to the hard floor below.

    I sat in his "listening environment" at a preselected place (he actually had his speakers placed according to a formula to derive the best location for listening) and listened to a CD he put on. Closed my eyes, and I have to say if I didn't know I was sitting in his apartment, I would've sworn I was sitting in a club, six feet from the singer sitting on the piano serenading me. It was stunning how much difference there was between my Pioneer multi-disc Best Buy special and his equipment. I was blown away.

    I think the folks in this study just haven't heard stunningly good music and have no idea that it could/should be better.

  • by sampson7 (536545) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @11:49AM (#27152811)
    The public radio show Radio Lab did an amazing show on similar issues, looking for a neurological explanation to why people react strangely to new and unexpected sounds: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2006/04/21 [wnyc.org].

    One of the most interesting segments of the show recounted the near-riot that occurred when Stravinsky debuted his "Rites of Spring" in 1913. The music was so discordant to Parisian audiences, that they reacted -- in some cases violently -- to the oddness of the new music.

    Check it out -- the entire show is awesome. Entirely consistent with the professor's findings here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The Stravinsky segment of the show is nonsense. When "The Rite of Spring" (not "Rites") debuted, there was a riot. That is true. However, there is a lot of evidence that this riot had less to do with the music than with all sorts of other factors -- there was a group of people (somewhat politically motivated) who already planned to stage a riot, the choreography was perceived as complete nonsense, and besides, most accounts say that people had already started shouting so much when the curtain went up tha
  • by doom (14564) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @01:47PM (#27155013) Homepage Journal

    Here's my Skullflower anecdote about MP3s:

    Back in the days when I was working for an incarnation of eMusic (several buy-outs ago), I noticed that they had a release from Skullflower in the collection, and I listened to it at work. Skullflower has a pretty seriously noisy sound, but sometimes I like serious noise, and the Skullflower mp3s sounded pretty good to me. That seemed a little funny, because I was pretty sure I'd listened to the CD before down in KZSU's library (I was a DJ at KZSU in those days), and the CD hadn't grabbed me.

    But the next time I was on the air, I pulled the Sullflower CD out of the library on impulse, and tried playing a track. It struck me as horribly annoying. Hm, must've picked a bad track. I played around with fading the CD down, fading something else up, and skipping to another Skullflower track. I did that several times, and found them all horribly annoying.

    My conclusion: this particular "music" is full of screeching high-frequencies that drive me up the wall, and the mp3 format's compression does a good job of screening them out.

    In general I prefer CDs to mp3s, but then, myself I preferred the sound of vinyl to CDs... There's been a trend in the CD era toward a very clean and bright sound that I don't think very much of. Myself, I prefer a sense of "warmth" and "depth", but for that you need some fairly serious speakers, and along with CDs came a fad for minaturization, and people don't listen to music on those major sound systems much any more.

    My conclusion: it's impossible to talk about the merits of different sound formats in isolation, because music production practices change as the characteristics of the formats and audio equipment change. If you expect people to be listening on wimpy speakers via a lossy compression format, then you're going to things like lean on the highs to punch through those barriers. And then if someone takes barriers away, you're going to be blasted by the highs.

  • by smchris (464899) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @02:29PM (#27155641)

    Weird how that principle works out again. I always tell people I don't mind mp3s because I remember when AM was the norm, particularly in cars. More than that, 196 kbps and above is better than table top FM and many of the stereos I've listened to in my life. So, no worries.

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