David, a high-sample-rate MP3 is a paradox. If you sample at a high rate, you might just as well go uncompressed. The MP3 format is a lossy compression algorithm; its intended purpose is to be lossy and to compress, which is the way it's used 99.99999% of the time. I think that more and more folks (especially the younger ones) appreciate many things, but audio/video quality isn't one of them. Unfortunately, iTunes MP3 files from an iPod going into earbuds and streamed video on a 3" screen seem to be "good enough."
Yes, that's my point... the bar has been lowered. The standard for audio quality is sacrificed to portability and versatility.
Those at stations that play currents know that many songs no longer have a promo CD. They are released as downloadable MP3's, very often at 256 kbs. A few labels, Sony being one, will sometimes offer a short download window for a wav as well as a 320 kbs MP3. Most stations are going for the MP3, I'm told.
One person told me, in a shrewd observation, that the defining factor in audio quality is whether the song will fit as an attachment. With most mail systems barfing at over 10 mb, then 256 or 320 kbs MP3s are going to be the standard, not wav files.
In fact, in many parts of the world, where even in-home and at-work internet access is metered, size matters. I've produced one of those "weekly new releases and breakers" CDs for 18 years... today I get zero promo CDs. And few stations are shipped a real CD any more... they download. And they want 256 kbs... the best size vs. cost compromise for the stations who use it who are all in Latin America. I believe (and fear) that at some point the labels will set a standard, perhaps 256 kbs VBR, so that there are not a lot of versions at different rates running around.
And keep in mind that if you put songs on your iPad, iPod or iPhone (yeah, I have the trio and listen to nearly 100% of my music on one of them and enjoy it) iTunes wants to convert any higher sample rates into 128 kbs. On my first iPhone, one with 4 gb of memory, I said yes to the question. I got very used to it and accept it now, unless I start being a critic rather than an enjoyer of music.