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In Reply To:
MSNBC Pans Sound Quality

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By Errorcles
May 9, 2003

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If you are going to make a fair comparison of the sound quality of the AAC files from the Apple store vs. CDs, I don't think burning a CD to play on your stereo is the best way to go about it.

When you upsample from AAC to CD, then play back the CD again, you are losing resolution.

I have found MP3s sound pretty good with high quality head phones and on a high quality stereo (quality separates, preamp, high current amp, etc.) but you need to get decent interconnects and run it to a good audio in.

The first time I tried it, I didn't expect much and I plugged in through the interconnects on the front of the TV (TV connected to stereo). Good grief that was horrible. I thought it was a complete waste of time even thinking about listening to MP3s through the stereo, even for the sake of convenience.

But just for the heck of it I went to the trouble of connecting directly to an auxiliary connection in the back of my preamp. Wow! Enormous difference in sound quality: Cleaner highs, smoother frequency response across full spectrum, tighter bass.

Over the last year I have been listening to more and more MP3s. I have a 30' RCA cable running under the rug so it magically pops up by the couch. I plug in my laptop and play MP3s. I have found that certain preamps will handle the long cable runs more gracefully than others.

Anyway, yes, I can still hear a difference between LPs, CDs, and MP3s. I can hear the difference between tubes and solid state, class A vs. AB, and the quality of the amplifiers at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown LA bug me when I go to hear live performances. Some people can't tell it's amplified, but it sticks out like a sore thumb to me. The point being that I can hear.

For best audio performance with iTunes, turn off 'sound check' and 'audio enhancer.' Both of those functions audibly muddy or unfocus the sound (especially the sound check). Use your preamp and amp to do the heavy lifting, not your iPod or your laptop; e.g. the dynamic range of the sound will noticeably flatten out when you get the volume much above 6 or 7 on a scale of 1-10. Keep the audio out from these devices low enough to not overdrive them and use your Amp to amplify and control the volume.

The comparison the reviewer should have made is an iPod (or laptop with good audio card) playing to the stereo vs. his original CD played through his CD player. I'll bet he'd still have heard a difference but I don't think it would have merited the pan he gave it.

Now, for the record (heh.), I'll still be buying most of my music in the form of used CDs because:
1) there is a difference in audio quality (when you use a really nice CD player and dedicated separates, and sometimes I do) and
2) permanent access to originals
3) liner notes and artwork
and
4) cheaper than the Apple Music Store.

But I'll buy some stuff from the AMS, especially if they begin integrating liner notes/artwork into the offerings and broaden the catalog of offerings. For my money, I really hope they focus on hard to find or older albums. If they start offering recordings that have fallen out of print/off the catalogs, it will be a major boon to music fans, especially ones who don't live in a major metropolis that has fantastic used record and CD shops.


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