@richpell....I would say it has gone down, with qualifications....the average MP3 you find is a 128Kbps and you can hear the difference between that and higher rates, even on a very average system. Memory's got so cheap now there is no reason not to rip at 320Kbps, even for casual listening (eg in-car or on laptop or phone). Yeah, MP3s are not the best thing to use, but for the above they are easy and adequate.
"I would say [audio quality] has gone down, with qualifications....the average MP3 you find is a 128Kbps and you can hear the difference between that and higher rates, even on a very average system."
The average (non-streaming) MP3 today is higher than 128 kbps. As you note, storage today is cheap. If you download music files from Amazon or iTunes you're getting at least 256 kbps (I think Google Music is 320 kbps), which for most people will be audibly indistinguishable from CD quality. Personally I would like to see lossless files more widely available as an option, but in any case CDs are still available, so no one is being forced to use lossy compressed content if they choose not to.
It has not been shown that a higher (than CD) sampling rate would have any audible benefit. Still, there are higher-resolution recordings available for those that want them, with more apparently to come:
Hmm,a little over two..imagine that in your head! Digitilphiles always say "enough"
I have hearing that extends to 16khz(highest value the audiologist tests) and my ears say NOT good enough.
In the 1980s the hi-fi press had a mantra:if it tests good it IS good. Then Mr Tomlinson Holman came along nd showed them why thir pre-amp tests were worthless.
I'm not even going to mention how Cds are being dynamically compressed,when dynamic range was theselling point of the format. In the end we'll all listen to our format of choice,but digital is not good enough for my ears and won't be my choice!