Play it again, Sam

When MP3 and other forms of lossy audio compression were starting to become popular 15 years ago, I carefully researched the scientific basis for psychoacoustics, and human hearing. It is heartening to read Dave Hamilton’s latest post on the Mac Observer, in which he tries (again) to bust the myth that (some) humans can hear audio frequencies which regular computer and CD audio cannot capture.

He is right, but has a whole luxury industry against him. And with that industry are an awful lot of people who have paid far over the odds for specialist audio equipment. Fifteen years ago I got embroiled in some quite vitriolic arguments on discussion sites, and even received hate mail. I hope that Dave is spared that.

Much in the way that London buses only come in groups of three or more, the science behind this goes back to the nineteenth century, including my polymath of the month Hermann von Helmholtz, of whom I will be writing more in the next couple of days, in the context of truth in painting. Well over a hundred years later, there are still many who find it impossible to accept the facts.

(Thanks to John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog for drawing attention to this.)