If you’re as firmly in the hi res camp as we are, then listening to MP3 quality sound is probably about as enjoyable to you as a concert of fingernails over a chalk board. Especially when compared to the hd tracks that normally vibrate over your home speaker system.
According to a study by the Audio Engineering Society AES called “The Effects of MP3 Compression on Perceived Emotional Characteristics in Musical Instruments”, that feeling actually might have a scientific basis.
It analyzed compressed and uncompressed music samples at different bitrates and looked into the timbral and emotional characteristics of the resulting audio.
One of the results was, that MP3 compression seems to give certain instruments strengthened emotional characteristics in categories like scary, or sad. Conversely emotional characteristics like romantic, happy, and calm were measurably weakened.
One of the most affected instruments seemed to be the trumpet. In contrast the horn was least affected.
The study also hinted at an interesting result in audio codec research. Here are the closing words of the study’s discussion:
“The current study also helps provide the basis for content-based refinements of audio codecs in the future. As an example, if we know that the trumpet is particularly changed in emotional characteristics by compression at 32 Kbps, if we have a piece by Miles Davis with a prominent trumpet throughout, we may decide to use a higher bit rate to encode it. Or, future research may indicate how the trumpet could
be compressed at 32 Kbps without substantially changing its emotional characteristics.”
If nothing else, it’s a good excuse for us to break out the hi res Miles David tracks and mellow in the smooth emotions that our sound systems can generate.