Producer T Bone Burnett talked passionately about sound quality, or lack thereof on a radio program, Soundcheck, from WNYC on Monday. Burnett produced Robert Plant and Allison Krauss' awesome Raising Sand CD; the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack; as well as records by Bob Dylan, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, and Counting Crows.
Turns out Burnett's no fan of CDs or downloads, stating that CD's inadequate sampling rate loses too much of the sound he heard while making and mixing records. He put it this way, "We've been fighting digital sound since it came out twenty years ago...music's gotten to a place that's harder to listen to."
Wow, the guy sounds like an audiophile to me, and he goes on about the degradation of sound from what he heard in the studio, "It's stepped down from tape to digital to compressed digital, so people are now listening to a Xerox of a Polaroid of a photograph of a painting." Tell it brother, but it's interesting Burnett never brought up vinyl or analog, though he did mention that it's only in the last few years that digital's gotten really good. I agree.
Digital losses have all taken their toll on the way people relate to music, so it's mostly background to other activities instead of the primary focus. Digitized sound is diluted to the point is ceases to connect with people on a visceral level. It's just there, a ghostly shadow of its original intent.
To fix the problem Burnett wants his future projects, like the new John Mellencamp album he produced that's due in July, to come out on DVD-Audio, with a bevy of formats including 24 bit/96 kHz WAV files, uncompressed 16bit/44.1kHz files, AAC, and MP3, so you can pick the level of fidelity that works for you. Burnett claims you'll finally get to hear the music as he intended when he made the record in the first place. "It's all part of what makes music feel good."
You can listen to the complete T-Bone Burnett interview here.