Bob O. noted that a lossy stream of a given piece of music sounded better to him than the high res lossless flac. I respond: That makes sense, actually. Since lossy hides a lot of flaws within its own distortions and defects. Distortion masks other distortion. Lossy (to my ears) at low bit rate as in typical streaming 64 to 128 kbps, softens the sound. So if there was distortion or a crappy recording, the lossy playback could hide it better! But the lossless flac would reveal all the distortion in the crappy recording in all its ugly glory 🙁
Next, Bob O asked: “It just seems like most streamed music is pretty bad sounding. What can we do to encourage more engaging sounding recordings?”
I answer: It’s not just streamed music, it’s a large proportion of the entire collection of popular music is pretty bad sounding. I don’t know how we can encourage more engaging recordings, but I do know that by making loudness normalization universal in streaming, with similar targets, then there will be room for the more engaging recordings to survive and be played by all the listeners. That way they will be engaged by the more engaging recordings and may be catch on. So my answer is, loudness normalization is an enabler…. you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. But at least we can enable, lead the listener to the water, and I think that will help.