A great article, Mark, but you’ve made the point several times throughout — most people neither notice nor care about audio quality. Given that music is more often background, rather than focus, to whatever they’re doing, many people have neither the interest nor the physical ability to differentiate between instrument and instrument (or note and note, in some cases) and just don’t care.
The argument for Blue Ray over standard DVD made me laugh. Sharper! More interactive! the advertising screamed. (Small print: if you have also upgraded your television). And for what? The larger the screen, the further you have to be from it for your eyes to function to maximum efficiency. No one wanted high quality images — they just wanted a home theatre. The quality of image and sound on a big screen in a theatre makes a mockery of this insistence on ‘high definition’ and quality. Our brains are very much designed to fill in the gaps with possible extrapolations in what we see and hear — it’s called imagination and people have no idea how much it fills in what might be missing. It’s a high level marketing point and that’s all.
For real audiophiles and musicians, it makes a huge difference in listening pleasure and most will suck up the cost required and provide themselves with vast libraries on multiple formats to gain that pleasure. For the general masses — what they want is cheap, instant and temporarily satisfying :)