Most serious professionals in the music industry aren’t mathematicians, don’t understand digital audio and don’t have any interest in true blind tests (why would they? They’re busy making hits and money). Marry that to the human condition of “more = better” and you’ll get a lot of engineers working at high sample rates, convinced that it just sounds better.
For the record, I’m a professional and work with digital audio every day. My job includes production, mastering, composition, sound design and broadcasting.
Indeed Sammy, the more=better thing's relevant here, and it starts with the companies producing the hardware. They have to devise features that distinguish their wares from the pack and sample rates are the lowest-hanging fruit, given that pre and op amps have progressed far beyond the point of diminishing returns development and ROA-wise.
It stands to reason that the "pro's" therefore, working in swanky high-end studios that have the commensurate budgets, would expect to have such equipment at their disposal. I've heard Will say here many times that his peers use the high rates, but I'd expect no less given the factors I just outlined. If any of them reverted to lower rates he or she would incur a contraction of clientele numbers and / or a loss in hourly, chargeable revenue.
Seriously, if you haven't already, record a project at a higher sample rate and bit depth, close your eyes and listen to it vs a 44khz 16bit project.
Firstly, this is about rates, so I don't think it's fair to include the dropping of 8 bits, and besides, "everyone" uses 24 bit whilst recording and mixing.
Secondly, conducting this experiment using a single model of interface isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. Every interface has a sweet spot, a rate at which it performs best. The difference in sound "quality" between a given interface's best and worst-performing sample rates is huge in relative terms and would surely mask any perceptible SR-based differences, if indeed there are any to begin with.
Now it could be multiple other things, like the quality of my hardware converters, signal chain etc, maybe they don't work as well at lower sample rates. Or maybe they accentuate the difference at higher rates.
If it makes you feel any better, even Rupert Neve was sucked into believing the high-SR hype following a 3-rate test (44/48 - 88/96 - 192kHz) he participated in back in the '90s... using the same high-end interface.
As for Massenberg et al, these peeps have a barrow to push, one filled with moolah. As I suggested, for the time being at least, SR rates have been the low-hanging fruit. Might as well pick it whilst it's ripe in order to gain or maintain market share.