There’s a lot of debate online about whether people can really tell the difference between the various audio formats — AAC, MP3, you name it. Does it really make a difference?
Recently I saw a blog post suggesting that the methodology for many so-called studies on the phenomenon was flawed. If you’re going to test this sort of thing, listeners shouldn’t be aware of the format they’re listening to. And they shouldn’t be asked to compare two versions of a song, they should simply rate how good each particular recording sounds. According to this post, few studies take the time to be rigorous about testing. (Unfortunately, I can’t find the post now — if you wrote it, or if you know who did, please let me know in the comments and I’ll link to it from here.)
Anyway, even on a Casual Friday, I think we can do a little better. I created three different versions of two song clips — 64, 128, and 256 kbps MP3 format. Then I re-encoded all of them at 256 kbps so the files are all the same size. Can you identify which recording sounds better? Is there a difference between the listening skills of “audiophiles” and ordinary listeners? Now we’ll find out.
The study asks you to listen to six 30-second music clips, using either your headphones or computer speakers. Then there are a few questions about your musical / audiophile experience, and that’s it. Should take about 10 minutes, tops.
Since next week is Thanksgiving, I won’t be able to report on the results until Friday, November 30. But that also means we’ll have an extra week to collect data — you can participate until the morning of Thursday the 29th.