I do believe that the quality of sound in relation to the majority of the general public is lost when it comes down to the brand and functionality of the device they choose to use, as the quality does not always correspond to the ""quality"" of the product.....
I worked as a recording engineer from 1965 to 1980, the last 12 years of that period at Columbia Records studios in Manhattan. I worked on pop, jazz, rock, blues, R&B and classical music, with artists as diverse as Barbra Streisand, Bill Evans, Edgar Winter, Junior Wells, J.J. Jackson, and the Budapest String Quartet. I never once gave a rat's you-know-what about speaker specs. Here was the test I used - I placed a high-quality condenser mic, a Neumann or Schoepps, a few feet away from an open grand piano, put my head near the mic and had somebody competent play the piano. I would then walk into the control room, open the fader for that mic, get the volume up to about what I had heard in the studio. If the piano sounded different, the speakers failed. If it sounded really close, the speakers passed. This is all without equalization - not on the mic channel and definitely not in the monitor system. The only speaker that ever passed that test - unequalized and in different control rooms - was the original Electro-Voice Sentry II. I started using them at independent studios and then had Columbia buy a couple of pairs when I worked there. I still own a pair. They are simple, classically-designed two-way bass-reflex speakers, with a stiff 15-inch woofer, a small-throat horn tweeter crossed over pretty high and a cabinet with the resonance of a wet brick.
Shame on loudspeaker engineers using pink noise to measure frequency response "to avoid troublesome resonances". Unfortunately, music consists of sustained frequencies which tend to excite every resonance in your transducers, enclosures and room. If you measure loudspeaker response with sine-waves, you get a very wild response curve indeed. That is in fact your real world response curve, but it's bad news for marketing.
There's a lot of resonating going on. You have the mass of the cone and its spring. The Q of the enclosure resonances are commonly over 20!
Don't forget the resonances of the room.
The solution? Make your room dimensions a multiple of the cube root of 2 to spread the resonances evenly and use an open back full range electrostatic speaker. Nirvana!
Sigfried Linkwitz (of Linkwitz-Reilly crossover fame) has a web site where he not only sells speaker systems, plans and kits, but also discusses all of the parts of the audio reproduction chain. This includes a discussion of what live, unamplified music in a good venue sounds like and how most listeners are accustomed to badly recorded, close-miked, over-produced recordings played back by systems designed for these inferior recordings. He makes some compelling arguments. I'll pass judgment when I complete my Pluto speakers. See LinkwitzLab (dot) com.
Around the 1940's a group (Bell Labs?) did a study to find out what kind of sound the public actually likes. They compared in a blind test really good sound systems against really bad sources, like the telephones and table-model radios of the day - the five-tube AC/DC things. Turns out the most popular source was also the most restricted - the little AC/DC radios with the three-inch speakers! You wonder why they like MP3 and think cell phones sound okay?
I wouldn't worry too much about the public at large - they never did like good sound!
My Tannoy DL2000s have an annoying response 'bump' at 50Hz (an original feature) which I have always intended to iron out with acoustic treatment. Hasn't happened yet - (a) I'm an electronic engineer so in true style my hifi is only ever half-finished and (b) the room keeps getting remodelled by the C-in-C :-)
So by being flexible and easily repeated, audio analysis and pre-compensation can keep pace with changes in a room. This research should benefit the effectiveness of that DSP acoustic code in receivers.
Really good speakers and amplifiers make a BIG difference.
In Taipei, there was a restaurant run by an audiophile who had set aside part of his establishment as a kind of studio which could be seen by patrons. Also, huge vacuum tube amplifiers and a massive speaker stack was visible at the front. They had to be capable of several hundred watts per channel at a minimum.
This guy would play very high quality recordings over that system at a volume level that was quite low compared to what it could be. The sound that came out of that set up was glorious and was really appreciated by all. So much so that it was the quietest Chinese restaurant I had even been in. :-)
WKetel has a good point, and if I may amplify (pun intended) it a bit.....
Audio professionals and audiophiles alike bemoan the fact that the vast majority of the sound buying public has no clue as to what good sound really sounds like. (Do you think I got the word sound in there enough? )
Now the market is flooded with so much MP3 material that the younger generation thinks this is what it should sound like. Couple that with so many other types of audio codecs (MP3Pro, OggVorbis, AAC, FLAC, to name a few), the digital audio world is more like alphabet soup than audio and are hard to distinguish between.
I was fortunate enough to work in a group with people who did know high quality and how to get it on the amplifier side of the equation. And they listened to this on really good speakers.
What would spell doom for good music would be when the sound recording engineers that mastering the recordings to take advantage of MP3. UGH!
As for me, I won't stick earbuds in my ears. There is no faster way to ruin your ears than earbuds and an MP3 player. Well maybe being in a performing Rock band is faster....
What is unfortunate is that for a large portion of our citizens it will not matter in a few years. The practice of playing sounds that I will not call music at very high levels has been demonstrated to cause permanent hearing damage, to the point where it will not matter what the phase relationship is for the sound reproduction system.,The very non-linear frequency and amplitude response of the hearing of these individuals will assure that nothing that they hear will be undistorted or sound good. Truly a tragedy, but truer a reality.
It's interesting how little emphasis it is about what sounds natural and good to the ear. Too many people are into technical mumbo jumbo and the results are too many products doing room correction sounding real bad. I investigated this during the 2000s and wrote about it in AudioXpress 2004 issue august, september and october. Basically, I found the the room messes up the direct sound, meaning that the only thing that can be corrected sounding good in the mid and high frequency domains is the sound coming from the loudspeaker. A corrected loudspeaker sounds great and very realistic, the same goes for a phase linear loudspeaker! The low end can sound great by removing offending peak resonances in a room. Any parameteric eq can do this. Ask any live sound engineer. Easy.