Digital technology has irrevocably changed the music-listening experience—for the worse. As television and movies have become richer thanks to hi-def and 3-D advances, music has become, well, crappier, the New York Times points out. The crackly, thinner sounds of compressed formats like MP3s are objectively a step back from the quality offered by CDs or LPs, and the high-end-stereo-as-status-symbol is swiftly losing its place in popular culture.
The decrease in quality was a necessity at first: Apple's debut iTunes store, in 2003, could not have supported high-quality MP3s. “It would have been very difficult for the iTunes Store to launch with high-quality files if it took an hour to download a single song,” said one music exec. It can now—Apple just doubled its standard quality—but listeners expectations may already have changed. “My ears aren’t fine tuned,” said one 22-year-old reluctant to spend more on better headphones. “I don’t know if I could really tell the difference.”