As a longtime unreformed audiophile, I’ve long lamented how the general public doesn’t seem to care about audio quality anymore. MP3s sound bad enough, but for a growing majority of the public they are good enough. A disturbing number (well, to me, anyway) are perfectly okay listening to music on cheap earbuds or even using nothing more than the speakers from their laptop. This denies them the glory of a full-frequency audio recording that’s not compressed all to shit.
But all is not lost. Vinyl and turntable sales continue to rise. I’ve spoken to people who have played with Neil Young’s Pono player and say it sounds awesome. Deezer offers high-res streaming through Sonos. Maybe you’ve heard of Tidal. And on Tuesday, I’m going to get a demonstration of Sony’s new high-res digital audio system. There’s more out there, too.
But here’s the thing: will enough consumers care? And will the music industry support it? From the International Business Times:
Once upon a time, high-fidelity sound mattered to most people, and they were willing to pay for good stereo equipment to get it. But with the coming of digital music and MP3s, convenience in the form of compressed “loss-y” music trumped the quality of high-fidelity, high-resolution sound.
Instead of collecting vinyl or CDs, an increasing number of people bought individual songs for 99 cents on iTunes, and when Pandora and Spotify launched, they began to pay $10 for a monthly subscription fee for all of the ad-free music available in their extensive libraries.
New startups such as Neil Young’s Pono, a high-resolution portable digital music player that boasts better sound than a CD or MP3, and Tidal, a high-fidelity streaming music service that claims to provide four times better resolution than Spotify or Pandora, have launched this year and promise to reintroduce quality sound. But do consumers care enough about quality to pay the additional cost, and will the music industry get behind the companies that want to provide it?
Reaction is mixed. Three audiophiles — an audio journalist, a musician/sound engineer and a music industry analyst — told International Business Times whether they thought consumers care about sound quality and whether or that interest will translate to dollars.