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MP3 compression strengthens neutral and negative emotional characteristics in instrument sounds, and weakens positive ones, according to a study.

Hi-res audio not only sounds great, it could be better for your emotional wellbeing too.

According to a study by the Audio Engineering Library, MP3s and similar low-quality compression formats have a distinct effect on the timbral and emotional characteristics of the instruments involved - strengthening neutral and negative emotional characteristics, and weakening positive ones.

The study - called The Effects of MP3 Compression on Perceived Emotional Characteristics in Musical Instruments - analysed compressed and uncompressed music samples at several bitrates over 10 emotional categories. 

MORE: High-resolution audio: Everything you need to know

It found that MP3 compression strengthened emotional characteristics like mysterious, shy, scary and sad, but weakened positive ones like happy, heroic, romantic, comic and calm. So playing Pharell's Happy won't have quite the same uplifting effect at a lower bitrate.

Interestingly, the emotional characteristic of anger was relatively unaffected by MP3 compression. The Audio Engineering Library put this down to the background artefacts in such a low-quality compression which could sound like a growl.

The trumpet was the instrument most affected by the level of compression, the study said, while the horn was the least affected.

So there you have it - a great excuse to get into hi-res audio.

MORE: What are hi-res audio headphones and do they sound better?


Big Aura's picture

This feels a bit like

This feels a bit like something you'd read in the Daily Mail/Express.  or The Sun,  but you failed to refer to boffins...

Superaintit's picture

Mp3s of lower quality than 112 kbps...

The study says they chose 32 kb 56 kb and 112 birates as low middle and high quality because listeners could not reliably tell a difference above 112 kbps. Spotify premium is at 320 kbps. Enough said.

landzw's picture

That's a little cheap What

That's a little cheap What HiFi.

Over 20 years I still read your magazine and your web pages from time to time, but your quality is just going down the pan, so much copy and paste it's embarrassing.

steve_1979's picture

This sounds like a BS study.

This study sounds like a of load BS pseudoscience. Shame the web link provided doesn't work so we can check the source to see whether it has any genuine credibility or if the methodology is full of holes.

My guess is that this is just another lame excuse for WHF to push the old 'hi-res audio' rubbish on unsuspecting readers again.