Originally Posted by Gazoobee
Uh, ... What are you talking about?
It's not a Bose speaker system or a Bang & Olefsen stereo. Aside from cheap Asian knock-offs and the type of players you get in cereal boxes, pretty much any PMP you care to mention that's been released in the last ten years reproduces sound at a quality level above
that of the human ears ability to tell the difference.
Anyone who cites Bose as their standard for good speakers has more $$ than sense.
Bose is a marketing machine selling overpriced, underspecced audio equipment, pure and simple. Bose spends far more money on infommercials and late night ads than on actual engineering, and for their high end goods both they and B&O - whose products are more about furniture and design for the wealthy than about sound - operate "lifestyle" stores to prey on those who want "good stereos," but wouldn't know rotgut wine from a great vintage as long as both were served from a fancy bottle and were priced to match.
In the industry the saying is, "No highs, no lows, big price tag - it must be Bose."
As for sound quality, the human ear and our standards for recorded music, actually the sound quality in music we're living with and accepting as high-fidelity has been in a downward spiral for five decades in a series of trade-offs favoring convenience, compactness, ubiquity and reliability over pure sound quality. (Ironically, this followed five decades in which the drive had consistently been to improve fidelity from the Thomas Edison days, and the tipping point was made inevitable by the invention of the transistor and its morphing into the integrated circuit, clustering first a few and now jillions of transistors into ever-smaller spaces.
Bottom line, playing a virgin LP from the early '60's with a $200 cartridge on a good turntable over a McIntosh (correct spelling, and funny in retrospect) analog tube amplifier through massive floor speakers properly placed in the right-sized room still arguably beats the best digital sound available 50 years later in some respects. Note: the fact that lovingly-crafted limited edition LP's are still released and sold, as are low-volume real hi-fi systems is evidence of that.
Integrated circuit (IC) amps made (and some would say still make) many compromises over analog tubes. Then CD's, the first mass digital sound media, even though they initially went through several A/D and D/A conversions and re-conversions between the performance and the listen in early partly digital/partly analog sound ecosystems, arbitrarily cut the frequency spectrum off at 20K period, at a sampling rate which hasn't changed, and while the ear can't "hear" the overtones and harmonics above that range, for instruments like violins there's still a real difference in presence and nuance when hearing one live - where that information is still perceived at some level - vs. hearing it recorded and played back through speakers.
These things matter less in rock and rap where the source sound is coming from instruments playing though amps with the same limitations from the git-go (though you still perceive more live as sound propagates through a club or concert hall and bounces around), and pop music is where our culture is at. This is probably one reason, outside of the difficulty of migrating a huge installed base and the beginning of the download age, that SACD and DVD-audio never took off - despite being superior for the most discerning listeners.
mp3's and AAC's and WMA's took the quality down another huge step from CD's. Whether you can hear it or not in any way that matters, it's clear as day in looking at the wave forms of these "JPEG's for sound."
What has advanced is the quality of electronic amps, microphones, recording and mixing technology, D/A conversion software and getting more sound out of smaller speakers - which together can cleverly mask those limitations - and the multi-channel ambience of 5.1 and 7.1 stereo systems.
I'm no sound snob and am, yes, perfectly happy with the convenience of having 10,000 songs all pre-organized into clever playlists, and still enjoy some of the first cuts I ever ripped at a whopping 96kb on old RealPlayer software - listening on my middling home stereo from iTunes on my computer, and on my iPods on earbuds and factory car stereo cranked to the max with the bass and treble whomped up to create an illusion of real highs and lows. And my ears are older now, so living with AAC cuts ripped between the 192 to 320 settings (depending on how important the music is to me) works just fine.
But those are the facts about what are to "audiophiles" the defects in today's music delivery systems based on "audio files" from sources which "unnecessarily" discard parts of the sound at every stage of the process from capture to listening - in comparison to what we could have had if, say, SACD had come out and caught on a decade earlier, and, e.g., if mp3 and AAC didn't have such a huge base and could be replaced by more advanced compession codecs without a complete changeover in hardware and player software.