Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

I’m finding it less enjoyable listening to stuff on my mp3 player, and i’m not sure whether it’s my ears, the equipment, or what.

I have a nwz-a15 sony walkman, and decent headphones (sony mdr-1a). But find i’m enjoying stuff a lot less, in terms of finding the sound quality detracting. Now, most of the music on my player is in lossless formats, WAV or FLAC.

Yet i remember a lot of it sounding much better in days of yore, when i had a tape Walkman (especially music that i bought recently that i hadn’t listened to since those days like Deiseal’s ‘Long Long Note’). I don’t have a tape player to compare now, unfortunately.

Is this me, a kind of ‘nostalgia ain’t what it used to be’ ;) ? Or is it genuinely poorer equipment nowadays?

As a follow-up question, what mp3 player and headphones would you guys go with (within reason, say a maximum of £200-00 for each)?

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

I still listen to CDs or the radio. mp3s always sounded tinny to me. And didn’t I just read somewhere that even mp3s are beginning to be obsolete?

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

You’re not wrong. mp3 is an awful format. Mind you, it’s a ‘mp3 player’ in name only. As I said, it plays all uncompressed formats. And mp4 videos.

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

The problem is not MP3 per se. If an Mp3 is encoded at higher levels it’s extremely difficult to tell from a WAV. file—I’ve done lot’s of blind ABX tests on this. The earliest generation of mp3—from 20 years ago—definitely sounded different.

The problem IMHO is compression. Almost all modern music is grossly compressed so it has no dynamic range at all—the quiet parts are the same volume as the loud parts. In class I play the Katy Perry song "firework" to demonstrate this—when she is singing pensively it’s one volume, and then the song builds to the big pop chorus where she’s bellowing, and it’s exactly the volume as the pensive part. I also often play adele’s "hello" where the quiet part is only slightly quieter than the bellowing chorus, and compare it to virtually any Aretha Franklin record from the 60s, where she uses dynamics to goose the tune.

People who grew up on less compressed music or who like less processed genres find modern compressed music to be unsatisfying and IMHO it’s because it’s all flattened, and the subtle variations in volume that give music its life are gone.

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Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

Throw the mp3s away. Listen to one tune at a time and enjoy it.

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Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

FLAC is supposed to be the way to go but since I’ve downloaded about 35Gb’s of Irish groups/players/albums from YouTube in the last month and converted them to mp3, I’m stuck with that format. In general, anything downloaded from YouTube is a long way from good audio quality and even if it were FLAC it would probably still suck. That may not matter, between advanced youth and tinnitus, I really can’t discern the quality of some audio these days. Perhaps that’s a blessing although that still can’t make Justin Bieber tolerable. There are limits… Now, for what it’s worth (a lot of bucks…) there is a promising player called the Brennan B2 that does a host of things beyond being a mere mp3 player. Something to look into I guess.

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

TheHappyCamper - two possible problems, one is that you’ve been doing a lot of production work - once you get into the habit of critical listening it’s very difficult to go back to just listening to the music without concentrating on its shortcomings.

The other possibility is your headphones. Manufacturers don’t publish response curves for headphones (probably because they are always rubbish), but this review in What Hi-Fi :

"but it also draws your attention to a slight shortcoming with the midrange - vocals lack natural warmth and sound less substantial than when heard through the likes of the Philips M1MKIIs.
Another little niggle is that the headphones sound fat in the bass."

Makes it pretty clear that they have the typical ‘Ibeza smile’ of consumer products - lows and highs boosted and mids cut, to make dance music sound more intense. You could try manually fiddling with the EQ on the Walkman, or give up on consumer crap and use a pair of open-backed studio cans - Beyerdynamic DT990 Pros are well within your budget.

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

@Mark M. On the same player what are the implications of changing from the OP’s current 48 ohm impedance headphones to the 250 ohm Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro.

I am using different (but open) ‘consumer crap’.

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

If you used the 250 ohm DT990s on a Walkman without an external amp they would be very quiet. But they come in a choice of three impedences: 32, 250 or 600 ohm. If you use the 32 ohm version they will be louder than the Sonys.

That said, an external amp and 250R phones would be a much better solution if you don’t need to carry the Walkman about. Portable devices don’t really have enough power or big enough output capacitors to drive decent headphones to their full potential.

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

Thanks Mark. So it’s just a volume difference ?

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

With transistorized kit yes, higher impedance than the kit was designed for will just make it quieter - if the amp output is 1V p-p then it will produce 1/32 watts into 32R and 1/250 watts into 250R. Things are more complicated with valve gear and high quality kit that has transformer outputs, then impedance matching becomes much more important. There can also be a knock on effect in that speakers and ‘phones generally aren’t as accurate with very small signals as they are when they are being driven at the intended power level.

It’s going the other way that can causes: if an amp is designed to drive 1v p-p into 250R it only needs to produce 1/250 amps. If you connect a 30R load it would need to be able to produce 1/30amp. If it can’t produce that much current the output voltage drops and you get distortion. You’re also drawing more current than the output transistors were intended to carry, so if there is no protection circuitry the will get hot and might blow.

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

Thanks again. Having checked 32 would seem to suite most stuff I have around.

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

How does music sound with the same headphones from another source, such as your computer? It sounds like an equipment issue to me, either the Walkman or the headphones. It could also be the compression on the files you’re using, as well.

I had a similar experience with music I was listening to a couple times. One time I blew off a whole album that I just didn’t enjoy. It turns out, the streaming service I was using had reduced the quality way too much. When I listened to the same album (legally uploaded) on YouTube, I enjoyed it so much, I listened for three days straight.

That being said, everyone should get their hearing checked every 5 years or so. I’m due for my next hearing test and I’ll be going in the next few weeks.

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Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

Depends who you’re sitting next to when playing: battering snare drum, left-hand accordion basses, out-of-tune fiddle, whistle or someone who’s always at least half a beat ahead. Guess we’ve all been there. I can only hear in one ear, my right, so perhaps these people could kindly sit on my left-hand side, then I’d be oblivious to the above!

Re: Music doesn’t sound as good anymore!!! Is it my hearing or what?

Your hearing is fine. Music really just isn’t as good as it used to be. Entropy, y’know.