How Good Are Your Ears When it Comes to Audio Quality? Take This Test.

I’ve long lamented about people just don’t care about high-fidelity sound anymore. MP3s played through cheap earbuds are good enough for most people. Anyone who has kids has probably wonder how they can stand listening to music through crappy laptop speakers.

This is in stark contrast to the 70s and 80s when high-fidelity was EVERYTHING to music fans. Big amps. Big speakers. Understanding the terms RMS, signal-to-noise-ratio, wow and flutter and speaker efficiency. Fighting over which sounded better: east coast or west coast speakers. Debating over the merits of various types of speaker enclosures.

But does high-quality audio really matter? Can people actually tell the difference between a high-quality digital stream and one of lesser quality? Let’s find out with NPR. Click on the graphic to get started. Oh, and turn your volume up. WAY up. (Note: If you insist on taking this test using crappy laptop speakers, I can pretty much predict the outcome.)

NPR audio quality test
NPR Audio Quality Test


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38464 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “How Good Are Your Ears When it Comes to Audio Quality? Take This Test.

  • I got 3 out of 6 correct. Listened with my Klipsch speakers attached to my PC, and at no point did I select the 128 kbps MP3. Some of these were difficult to distinguish.

  • I got 2/6, had 3 but outsmarted myself on the classical piece at the last minute. Should have went with my correct guess instead of the 128. I picked the 128 on the Harvest track too, that’s pretty funny.
    I thought the Vega track was the most obvious for all 3 quality levels.

    Interesting to read the comment thread. Same old audiophile arguments. What I take from it is that I doubt many people could tell the difference if they weren’t fully and completely prepared to be tested.

    Oh- I took the test with my X-Mini pop-up speaker plugged into my Macbook.


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