I have, for decades now, been listening to music through earbuds. I listen to music when I write (and I write a lot), so that's been god knows how many tens of thousands of hours of often loud-volume earbud usage. But latterly I've started worrying about the longer-term health of my hearing. Now much of my writing happens in coffee shops, where earbuds are still a necessity; but when I'm in my study, doing writerly stuff at home, I changed my habits. I put a CD in the CD player and listen to it as a sound-surround-y experience. I must say: I like it.
And CDs are everywhere, available to buy from charity shops and eBay for trivial sums of money, as people clear out their obsolete collections of thousands of the buggers they accumulated in the 90s and adjust to the glorious MP3 future where all out music lives inside our phones, or whatever. The other day I went to my local public library and they were having one of their periodic clear-out sales: I bought dozens of CDs, mostly classical, for 50p a go. Now I listen to them. It's great. It's less immediate, of course, aurally speaking; but it has a depth and richness to the experience that I hadn't realise I'd missed.
Then today I read this, which struck me with a force of belated revelation: Nick Messitte's 'How Earbuds Have Changed The Sound And Business of Pop'.
"This ... accounts for some of the sonic hallmarks of today’s pop music–that which audiences either love or flock to criticize: the aggression of today’s material, the piercing qualities of its vocalists, its unrelenting loudness, its synthetically undynamic nature. All of these features can be traced, in part, to the ways producers must represent certain frequencies for your earbuds. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t sell."Bingo!