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Catherine
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We made a similar test at home, after investing in a nice DAC. We have a decent amp and nice vintage speakers. We used a range of music, but I think most of our test was conducted with a track of Sibellius (Finish classical composer) which has a nice dynamic range, and subtle wind and percussions which can be hard to render (and which we both happen to love). We are both amateur musicians, and love music, but we don't consider ourselves hardcore audiophiles. Here's what we found out, in a blind test: - Plugging in an iPod directly in the amp, through the audio jack, was awful. My husband's laptop, bought for the quality of its soundcard, was only marginally better. But in both cases, that setup was not only distinguishable, but annoying. Ok for party playing, but not for any serious listening. Unfortunately, that's how 99% of people listen to digital music, no? - There was a slight difference between MP3 and CD, both driven through the DAC. In all honestly, I could hear a slight difference, but I couldn't decide which one I prefered. But my husband systematically distinguished the MP3 and CD (he has better ears than I do, apparently). But we both agreed that for everyday listening, both were acceptable. But we kept the CDs. My point is that for most people, the quality of their audio system is so poor that trying to optimize the data source is a moot point. When we were shopping for an iPod dock for our baby's nursery (just a cheap little something to play lullabies), we were appalled at the quality of what's offered. Most of those sold in large electronic stores sounded only marginally better than my iPod's built-in speaker. It took quite a while before I could find something reasonably priced and suitably compact that I wouldn't cringe listening to. And this, along with car stereos and cheap earbuds, is what most of the population listens to.
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Jul 11, 2012