I listen to a lot of music and at various points in my life have spent time in recording studios and on the radio, so I have at least a decent sense of the differences between quality and garbage audio. I’ve also read and heard a small but vocal number of people bitching about how horrible MP3s and streaming services sound. Maybe to those folks they do, but to be honest it’s never been one of those things I’ve been horribly picky about unless something sounds objectively awful, like back when storage space was far more limited than it is now and everyone ripped their music in such poor quality that it sounded like it was being performed under water. that drove me nuts. But no matter what anyone says or what anyone tries to market their streaming or download service as being, for general everyday use, a middle of the road to highish bitrate MP3 sounds just fine. In fact, I doubt most people can even tell the difference between compressed and uncompressed music, within reason. If you think you can, why not head over here and get humbled by this quiz.
For each song, listen to all three samples and choose the one that you think is the highest-quality audio.
Doing it through my external computer speakers, I got one out of six absolutely correct. But I only completely screwed up once, choosing the lowest quality on an acapella version of Tom’s Diner. Every other time I struggled with two of the three choices and ended up picking the 320 K MP3 over the uncompressed WAV. I’m not alone, as it looks like 80.6 percent of those who answered all of the questions failed right along with me.
Overall, the majority of users failed this quiz. 29.7 percent of users got two right, while 25.8 percent got three right. Only 1.6 percent of users correctly identified all six WAV files, and only 4.5 percent got five correct.
So what does this all mean? It is hard to make too many conclusions — this wasn’t the most scientific of tests — but it seems clear enough that most listeners have trouble discerning between lossless audio and a high-quality mp3. Regarding Tidal’s HiFi option or Neil Young’s PonoPlayer, our quiz results suggest that most people would not be able to hear the difference in the higher quality audio they offer.
So to summarize, anyone who bitches about the sound of your playlist is either lying, a pain in the ass you should perhaps reconsider hanging out with or Neil Young.
If you feel so inclined, do let me know how you did and how much I suck and don’t truly appreciate music because I’m lame and deaf or some shit.