Right, well that’s a nice ideal to throw around, because obviously that would be great, but unfortunately, nothing “translates good” to a “bad sound system” except of course in a relative sense, relative to other mixes. You can’t expect to reach the same level of sound quality for all listeners just by tweaking your EQ to match someone’s iPhone earbuds. There’s just too much diversity. Also, the low-bit garbling of cheap D/A converters isn’t really something you can “adapt to”, except maybe throw all your high frequencies out the window. In the end it’s like viewing fine art through dirty glasses, or trying to enjoy a nicely cooked meal that someone sprinkled sand on.
Even if your ultimate goal is only to have your mix sounding clearer than your competition for that specific listener group, in the end you will need to choose between a mix sounding either great in a great sound system, and garbled in a garbled sound system, or, which I really can’t recommend, sounding not so great in a great system, while on the upside slightly less garbled in a garbled system.
My post was really just a quick reminder that we for the most part live in different sonic universes, and that life would probably be better for everyone if common end-user audio interface standards were raised up a notch. As carriers of the sonic knowledge unknown to most of man kind, we should ideally enlighten our environment by communicating these simple facts as best and as often as we can.
I was already 25 years old (!) when a friend of mine told me I had to get a better sound card, or I wouldn’t be able to hear anything clearly. I was doubtful at first, thinking “that’s probably not necessary” but after appreciating the difference, there’s just no going back. People who say “I don’t care, I can’t really hear the difference and I’m fine with the way things are” are just in contemporary denial. Once they get it, they “get it”. It’s like when grandpa said “I’m fine with my 4:3 TV”. Twenty years later, full HD widescreen projector in his TV room, and he wouldn’t want a 4:3 even if he got it for free.
It’s kind of sad really when people these days unknowingly buy a really nice pair of headphones, plug them into their PC or smartphone, and enjoy listening to a top notch production, and it will still sound like crap compared to the real thing just because of sub-par D/A converters. And they will never know!