MP3s Are My Vinyl

June 4, 2015

Take a listen to NPR’s high quality audio quiz. Go on, take the test. I’ll wait.

All done? How well did you do?

Me? I got 2 out of 6. A 33% hit rate. That’s pretty dismal.

I love listening to high-quality audio recording, especially the fantastic Mastered for iTunes collection. I buy uncompressed ALAC files from on occasion. I listen to them through my headphones and DAC.

(For the record, I’m using a pair of pretty good headphones: the PSB M4U 1, connected to a pretty good DAC: an Audioquest DragonFly 1.2.)

MP3s Sound Better to Me

In 3 of the 4 cases I got wrong, I chose the 320 KB/sec version instead of the uncompressed WAV. I can hear the difference between the uncompressed and compressed versions, but I preferred the compressed versions.

Twenty years of listening to MP3s—both crappy and great—have deeply altered my perception of what a “good” recording sounds like. Like the generation that preferred the warbly, noisy rendition of vinyl rather than the pristine accuracy of CDs, I prefer the rounded, artifact-sprinkled sound of MP3s.

That’s life, I guess. I’ll continue to listen to lossless audio, and who knows? Maybe in another 20 years I’d actually prefer it to MP3s.