Those who share the feeling that at the technological level and beyond, the audio is the son of a lesser god than the video, will find in this post some food for reflection and deepening. In many houses there are now one or more mega screens, yet a widespread distribution of LCD and plasma panels does not correspond to an equally significant presence of systems for the correct reproduction of audio (Dolby or Dts 5.1 or stereo). Certainly we live in an image society, but is hearing a less decisive sense of sight for emotional involvement? A doubt that could also be fueled by another question: has technological research really invested in this sector less than in other fields of technology? Although limited for the sake of brevity only in the field of audiovisual entertainment, it is possible to exclude both things with relative tranquility.
1 First, many studies on perception make it clear that our emotional involvement in following a film depends more on the auditory component than on the visual one. Reviewing a big blockbuster at home is often much more disappointing due to the lack of sound than because of the size of the screen. Among the many reasons why this happens, we could highlight one of the most glaring and that is that sound is first of all a physical event and the physicality with which it invests us directly depends on the quality of what reproduces it. Each of us can verify empirically how sound is decisive in the enjoyment of a film by doing a little experiment: if we suddenly take away the audio, the magic of the film would break instantly. Conversely, if we tried to obscure the video leaving the sound, the effect would be much less brutal and for several seconds the emotion would survive intact.
2 Secondly, technology has made equally important advances in the field of audio as in other sectors: this has been possible both thanks to the use of materials for the construction of loudspeakers, which are increasingly refined, and to the creation of formats sound digitization systems performing better. Just days the news has come out that Sony will launch a new software and related hardware for the sale and reproduction of high resolution music, called Hi Resolution Audio. The fact that the launch of this new technology is not expected in Italy for now is yet another proof that in this sector too we represent a totally insignificant market. This further slap should make us think even more about the fact that the problem seems to be more cultural than economic: in Italy, in short, music counts for little.
It is also interesting to note that the rapid and widespread growth of technology in many areas of our lives corresponds almost inversely with a qualitative involution of our way of enjoying music and sound in general. Basically, a television from ten years ago is technologically inferior to a current screen, a VHS player (videocassette) cannot compete with a Dvd or Blu Ray player. In the case of audio systems the situation seems very different. If until the end of the nineties it was in fact necessary to have at least a compact Hi-Fi system to listen to music (we omit the vinyl that deserves a separate article), today’s market is full of strange and bizarre products at low cost.
A compact stereo was not and certainly is not the ideal solution, but it has the advantage of having at least the basic physical characteristics (dimensions in primis) for an acceptable rendering of the sound. The extreme miniaturization of the loudspeakers, often linked more to aesthetic than functional needs, as well as the indiscriminate use of audio formats that are often merciless (mp3, wma, etc), has translated into a drastic impoverishment of our way of enjoying music.
To our partial defense, we could say that today we all listen to music everywhere, except in the places where it was done in the past, our room, the living room etc. Moreover, if portable devices with headphones (whose extreme use has other disastrous effects on the hearing) are the masters, now the music is listened to in the car, from the desktop computer, from the laptop, from the TV, until you arrive at grotesque extremes like cell phone speakers. However, we must also admit that, being literally bombarded with “music” everywhere, anyway and at any time, we hardly find the desire to sit down and enjoy a good record like we would do with a glass of wine.