Even thought I finally fall into the camp of listening to music more on my computer or through the advent of an MP3 player (iPod being my ‘weapon of choice’), for some reason it still seems to me as though ‘CDs sound better’ than digital music files. My favorite way to listen to a new CD is still on my trusty old walkman. It just seems like I hear a lot more of the nuances that way, even though I use the same headphones when listening to my iPod (earbuds aren’t part of the equation as they never fit my ears comfortably).
I have heard many different schools of thought on this. One is that, since the files are taken directly from the CD, there should be no real difference in the sound quality (i.e. it’s all in my head). Another is that files are usually condensed when you put them on an MP3 player or play them through iTunes and this usually results in a loss of sound quality. Yet another is that the overall sound quality of CDs is being reduced as artist and producers are now catering to the fact that most people are now listening to music through their computer speakers or on inferior earbuds. I remember reading an article last year which stated this typically takes the form of everything being ‘louder’ and there being less variety in volume levels in the mix; the basic logic is that, on smaller/inferior speakers, ‘louder is better.’ This would explain why the new Killers album sounds much better coming through one speaker of my ‘factory issue’ car stereo than it does when I’m listening to it on headphones (where the production sounds like an overly busy mess). And then there are those who still insist that vinyl has the superior sound quality…
I recall reading an interview with Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood where he said a lot of the bemoaning the decline in sound quality was simply the result of aging hipsters desperately wishing that they could get music to sound as good to them as it did when they were teenagers.
Any thoughts on this?
Follow up: Just for kicks, I bought the new U2 album on Vinyl and, honestly, I don’t hear any superiority in sound quality... granted, probably don’t have the best of turntable seeing as mine is over 20 years old… but, for the time, it was a really good turntable
[And my question is this: my headphones break all the time, and I have gotten the the habit of picking up cheap ones over and over -- is it worth it to spend the money on large, expensive headphones that cover the ear?]