That meta-study is so full of disclaimers that it is practically worthless. Most of the studies they used were not music-related but involved test frequencies only. Several were bone-conduction tests and the rest are the subject of big disclaimers, like "this does not necessarily imply that high resolution audio is consciously, or even subconsciously, distinguished".
So you would never release anything on CD or put it on Soundcloud or Bandcamp or Spotify, even though you know as well as I do that 99.99% of people will be listening to it as streaming, compressed mp3 on shitty earbuds? When I master something for CD, it is exactly the way I want it to sound. EXACTLY. Not "good enough for 44.1/16" but EXACTLY the way I want it to sound. Just because someone with perfect hearing might, under controlled laboratory conditions, be able to hear a difference between that and the 24 bit master before I downsample it is of less than no consequence to me. OTOH, I would never be happy if anything of ours was released on vinyl because it is nothing more than catering to people who don't know any better and I wouldn't want to take advantage of them like that.As an artist/producer I don't want it to be 44.1k/16bits. If there's a chance someone could tell the difference (or take less enjoyment out of it even subconsciously).
But you said it yourself - "subtle and borderline unnoticeable". That means if you are listening to it in the car it is completely unnoticeable. If you listen to it on your multi-room Sonos set-up at home, completely unnoticeable. Listening to it on your favourite headphones on the bus or train, completely unnoticeable. And the real clincher is that only you know about it, nobody else has any point of comparison.And even if subtle and borderline unnoticeable I know it's there, while just as easily I could use a format of the same file that meets a higher standard of demonstrable quality. I want to produce at a resolution high enough at which it truly won't matter, and IMO, from what I've seen/read, 44.1k/16Bits is not high enough to meet that standard.
You're carrying on as though someone will sit, perfectly positioned, in an anechoic chamber with a $100,000 hi-fi, hear your CD and go "OMG, that sounds bloody awful!". Not going to happen. In fact, they aren't even going to say "it could be a bit crisper in the top end" because they won't have anything to reference it to.
You will. It is very obvious to me, even in my car, but only on my own stuff, not for anything else. That's because when I put on some music to listen to, I am not listening to it critically, but whenever I listen to my own stuff, I am being super-critical, so I notice stuff like that. And that's the thing - I don't want to make music for critics, I want to make music for normal people who enjoy what we do (although people who do enjoy our music tend not to be normal, almost be definition).Now, ask me if I personally can hear a difference between high quality mp3 and cd format.
(I guess I have to go test this now)