The research suggests that every year more and more students come to prefer MP3s to CD-quality audio. What does the finding have to with the last sentence?

The ideal sound quality varies a lot in step with technological and cultural changes. Consider, for instance, the development of new digital audio formats such as MP3 and AAC. Various media feed us daily with data-compressed audio, and some people rarely experience CD-quality (that is, technical quality) audio. This tendency could lead to a new generation of listeners with other sound quality preferences. Research by Stanford University professor Jonathan Berger adds fuel to this thesis. Berger tested first-year university students’ preferences for MP3s annually for ten years. He reports that each year more and more students come to prefer MP3s to CD-quality audio. These findings indicate that listeners gradually become accustomed to data-compressed formats and change their listening preferences accordingly. The point is that while technical improvements strive toward increased sound quality in a technical sense (e.g., higher resolution and greater bit rate), listeners’ expectations do not necessarily follow the same path. As a result, “improved” technical digital sound quality may in some cases lead to a decrease in the perceptual worth of the sound.

Making Sense of Recordings: How Cognitive Processing of Recorded Sound Works

2 Answers 2


The sentence is drawing attention to the irony of the situation. People are so used to compressed audio that they think it's better.

So the lower-quality product is worth more. And the higher-quality product is worth less.

(The previous sentence is an exact paraphrase of the last sentence from the excerpt.)

  • So, “improved” technical digital sound quality is related with CD, not with MP3? Thanks, Sawczak!
    – user138411
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 16:31
  • @user138411 Correct. That's why it's ironic that people prefer MP3 because of familiarity. Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 17:55

I agree that the last sentence is not very clear especially with respect to the preceding paragraph. As I understand it, it means to say that, as technological capabilities increase, it is easier and cheaper to produce sound. As this cheap, low quality sound becomes more widespread, people become accustomed to and prefer it to higher quality recordings (CD).

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