Could high quality sound be good for your mental health? Ronald MoAndrew HornerChung Lee and Ga Lam Choi, scientists at Hong Kong University, have looked into the effect of MP3 compression on our emotions. Their study was published in November 2016 in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Library.

The study analysed the emotional responses of participants listening to eight different instruments in both compressed and high resolution file formats. The scientists leading the experiment used samples of music at several different bit-rates covering ten different categories of emotion.

Drawing comparisons between compressed and high resolution formats, the study concludes that MP3 compression tends to strengthen neutral and negative emotional responses, while weakening the positive emotions provoked by listening to certain sounds. Feelings of fear, timidity and sadness were reinforced by listening to low-quality files; more positive feelings of joy, humour, tranquility and romance were diminished.

study
The number of instruments that were significantly different from the original sound for each compression rate and emotional category.

The feeling of anger was unaffected by changes in format. The scientists behind the study suggest that this outcome can be explained by the increased volume of background noises, which can sound like growls, in compressed recordings. 

The study also established that the trumpet was the instrument most affected by compression, while horn instruments remained more or les undisturbed.

Another argument in the vinyl purist's arsenal...