That headline looks like clickbait, but it actually points to some real science.
In his book, This is Your Brain on Music, neuroscientist David Levitin speaks to how the brain reacts to pleasurable music by producing dopamine, the body’s feel-good hormone. Listening to a great song gives the body the same great jolt as a bump of cocaine or an orgasm, leading Levitin to point out that the brain really is wired for sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
The brain, however, is confused by MP3s. When it hears this kind of audio, it spends a few milliseconds trying to fill in the audio that the MP3 encoding algorithm strips out. Our ears may not notice that something is missing, but our brain can’t be fool. This millisecond delay results in a slight disruption in the production of dopamine. Therefore, the body doesn’t feel the same pleasure as it would listening to an analogue sound or even an uncompress .WAV file. This could also explain why so many people seem to prefer the sound of vinyl.
Now we have this from The Vinyl Factory:
Titled The Effects of MP3 Compression on Perceived Emotional Characteristics in Musical Instruments, the study compared compressed sounds over ten emotional categories at several bit rates.
The results showed that MP3 compression strengthened neutral and negative emotional characteristics (things like Shy, Scary, Sad) and weakened positive emotional ones (like Happy, Romantic, Calm). Interestingly, the characteristic Anger was relatively unaffected.
The study suggested that the background “growl” added by MP3 compression was the source behind the negative trend.
If you’ve had arguments about the sonic merits of MP3s, you can add this to your arsenal. You’re also perfectly justified in spending more money on vinyl and to hope that High-Res Audio catches on.