iPods and Young People Have Utterly Destroyed Music

Illustration for article titled iPods and Young People Have Utterly Destroyed Music

You know how most people are perfectly happy with Apple standard-issue earbuds, white plastic molded around a crappy audio experience? A Stanford professor's informal annual study shows that youngins like the "sizzle sounds" of MP3s.


Each year, Stanford Professor of Music Jonathan Berger does an informal test of his students by playing a bunch of different music in a bunch of different formats. Over email, here's how he told me performs the informal study:

Students were asked to judge the quality of a variety of compression methods randomly mixed with uncompressed 44.1 KHz audio. The music examples included both orchestral, jazz and rock music. When I first did this I was expecting to hear preferences for uncompressed audio and expecting to see MP3 (at 128, 160 and 192 bit rates) well below other methods (including a proprietary wavelet-based approach and AAC). To my surprise, in the rock examples the MP3 at 128 was preferred. I repeated the experiment over 6 years and found the preference for MP3 - particularly in music with high energy (cymbal crashes, brass hits, etc) rising over time.

In other words, younger people haven't just grown more tolerant of thin, soulless MP3 renditions of their favorite music, they actually like them. Shitty MP3s, even. O'Relly Radar quotes Professor Berger as saying that it's the "sizzle sounds" that people are loving because it's what they're comfortable with. So, yes Virginia, iPods really have killed music. People aren't just ignorant of high quality audio, they actually hate it. Gee, thanks for contributing to the downfall of civilization, Apple. Music is dead, everyone, carry on. [O'Reilly Radar, Image:Beard Papa/Flickr]


A preference for compressed sound is everywhere, even at the mixing decks, for certain kinds of music.

Has it occurred to you that perhaps, rock does sound "better" in a sense, at least to modern ears, when it is heavily compressed? All the mixing engineers in the world (and I know because I personally have interviewed dozens of them) will tell you, sometimes with lament, sure, that this is the modern trend. Even "uncompressed" WAV in your CDs have been heavily comp'd at the mixing deck.

That doesn't mean that the younger generation have rotten ears. Did they all feel the same way about jazz and classical music? Were the MP3 versions preferred for those genres?

Didn't think so. Like someone above said; drama much?