When most people think about quality Hi Fi they think more about component parts of the system, the Amp, CD player and Speakers. There are indeed many very high end manufacturers with components costing thousands of pounds and these will reproduce music in the most amazing way. But…if you play a poor source into one of these systems the results could be very disappointing!
For me quality sound begins with the source ie. Vinyl, CD, MP3 etc. I actually feel sorry for young people these days that think MP3 is the pinnacle of musical quality. Ok, it’s a great medium for portable music, they have it stored on their phones and iPods for out and about listening, but at home they place the phone / iPod in some kind of dock and that is their Hi Fi system! Don’t get me wrong, there are some top end Hi Fi manufacturers supplying iPod docks but it’s the MP3 file that lets everything down.
An MP3 file carries only a small proportion of the original recording, this is handy for storage as you can fit thousands of tunes on an iPod or similar MP3 player, but imagine how much of the music is being missed out on. Being a compressed file the music will have none of the highs and lows, or the headroom and soundstage engineered into the original recording, not good then if you’re looking for high quality reproduction!
There are larger media files available for music storage, such as FLAC, this is supposedly a ‘lossless’ file, or in other words containing all the original recording, but as most FLACs are ripped from a CD that kind of negates the lossless claim. Most of my music is stored in this way and of all the file types available this is probably the best. Stored on a hard drive and played through a good quality DAC / Amp combination the result is better than most high end CD and Amp combinations…and of course the hard drive is much smaller than a large CD collection. More details about this kind of system here.
The trouble with digital music storage ( including CD ) is that it has a sample rate, or in other words it samples portions of the original music and uses these sample points to build the digital file. So, it’s a just a digital interpretation of the original music.
So how do we get unsampled, uncompressed music? Vinyl may be the answer! With a good quality Turntable / Amp combination and some well looked after records the music is transformed, with a much bigger soundstage, more headroom and a richness no digital source could come close to. With vinyl you get music the way it was originally recorded, no missing content and no compression.
A Turntable is actually a major feat of engineering, probably why they can sometimes cost many thousands of pounds, however, unless you’re Richard Branson, something costing Two or three hundred pounds from a manufacturer such as Rega or Project can easily surpass the sound quality of a CD player…and at this point it’s not even worth mentioning MP3!
So in my opinion all this new technology that supposedly improves our listening is actually robbing us of the music we love. It’s a shame that a young person can so easily download an album from their favourite artist, straight to their phone and actually believe that this is how music should sound.