What’s more important, audio quality or ease of access?

We live in a society of convenience. A convenient life is the life to live. But what about when it comes to audio quality of music? Does the warmth and naturalness of a vinyl outweigh the storage capacity and mobility of an MP3? Vinyl was overcome by the new technologies of cassette tapes. After that compact discs came along, and then of course the majestic MP3.

With each new form of technology released, two main things happened.

1. The amount of music able to be stored in a certain space drastically increased.


2. The audio quality of the music decreased.

I don’t want to spend a whole post comparing vinyls to CDs, not explicitly anyways. Rather, I want to dig into what holds more importance to listeners, audio quality, or ease of access?

First, the argument that older means of listening yields higher quality listening is often debated. Whether it be CDs versus MP3sor vinyls versus CDs, or the current argument of vinyls versus MP3s, there is not a lack of opinions on the matter.

In mass music promotion, there is an obvious advantage of packing as many songs as possible into a given device. The smaller the file, the easier it is to spread around the internet. That comes at the expense of sound quality, which is a complex topic involving data rates, but do people really care?

Quora hosted a discussion on the matter. The consensus seems to be something along the lines of, “We love listening to higher quality audio, but we would rather listen to lower quality music if it hosts a better selection or convenience.”

In his comment, fellow blogger Ethan Hein said,

“He (engineer Paul Geluso) prefers big fancy speakers when they’re an option, but like me, he cares more about the content of the music than its presentation.”

On an audiophile site a poll was hosted asking if people prefer quality or convenience.

This multiple choice poll, which sparked a discussion, was posted on a site about audiophiles, so the participants are more than likely audio quality aficionados. The interesting thing is that, despite their bias, the majority of votes were for a mixture of convenience and quality. If audiophiles aren’t full steam ahead for the best quality of music, what does that say of the general public?

According to Mashable, vinyls, the kings of sound quality, have increased their sales by 17.7% in the past 2 years. Is it a hipster trend or a renaissance of audio quality? At the same time, digital downloads are still increasing so it’s not a tipping of the scales, but a battle of sound.

These graphs are a portion of a larger graphic created by MusicBed. Once again, I’m not trying to compare vinyls and MP3s, but these graphs show that there is a demand for the convenience of an MP3 and the audio quality/hipness/nostalgia of vinyl.

The topic of the resurgence of vinyl is a post by itself. But is there a chance that the spike in vinyl sales doesn’t have to do with trendiness, and people just want to hear the bright, detailed sounds that are lost by more compressed MP3 files? By the discussions so far, it seems like high fidelity listening is preferred, but if low quality music is more easily accessible (both in terms of the amount of music and the availability of listening), then listeners will sacrifice that crispness for more convenient listening.

What do you guys think?

Thanks for reading.


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