How’s your hearing? Can you tell the difference between a high-quality audio recording and another that isn’t as good? More to the point, do you even care? If you’re a typical music fan, the answer to both those questions appears to be “no.” This is from RAIN:
In this set-up, participants listened to audio clips from Tidal, Spotify, and Apple Music on the network’s Genelec speakers. Tidal represented hi-fi audio, while Spotify streams at 320 kbps and Apple has 256 kbps streamed with more efficient compression. From a total of 48 songs, the hi-fi one was correctly identified 16 times, the same rate as you’d theoretically get from random guessing. In at least four instances, the listener said they couldn’t hear any difference and didn’t try to ID the hi-fi recording.
Interesting. Could it be that people aren’t being trained to listen the way we used to during the Golden Age of Stereos? When powerful amps and big speakers ruled, flaws were easier to hear. But when so many people grew up listening on cheap earbuds…