For some people – most people, in fact – the importance of audio quality when it comes to their music is negligible. But for those with a slightly more sensitive ear or pickier tastes – or those who create music – getting as much quality as possible is essential. Here’s how you can boost your listening experience!
CD vs vinyl
There’s a popular idea among many music nerds that vinyl is better than CD. CD is treated as this degenerate thing that only those who know nothing about real music quality are interested in. But it really depends what you mean when it comes to “quality”. If we’re talking about the actual, aural quality and amount of clarity and detail available, then don’t fall for the myths: CDs are far superior.
The myth of vinyl quality comes (largely) from the fact that it directly encodes audio waves, whereas CDs sample them at various points. This doesn’t mean vinyl gives you a better replication of the original recorded sound. What all this really boils down to is aesthetic. Vinyl actually distorts the sound of the original recording, introducing a bunch of flaws – and it’s these small flaws that people really like. (That, and the para-musical aspects; many like the ‘cool’ factor and the large artwork.) In the end, you just need to listen to both to see which format you prefer!
The right headphones and speakers
Of course, you’re going to have a hard time really telling the difference if you’re not listening to your music with a decent output device. Most people seem to be content with the cheapest headphone (or earphones) they can get their hands on; many seem to use whatever ‘phones come with their phone or MP3 device.
But if you really want to hear all the clarity of a CD or the distinct pop and fuzz of vinyl, you’re better off paying in the three figures for decent speakers. If you’re truly interested in improving your musical experience, then you’re going to end up spending big bucks – but it will be worth it. The right players and amplifiers are also incredibly important. Outlets like Vinyl Vintage can provide top-rated outputs.
A lot of so-called audiophiles would gag at the idea of music streaming, due to the increasing digitization of music supposedly increasing how ‘throwaway’ music can be. (There is a little bit of truth in that, to be fair.) They tend to tar all streaming services with the same brush. But from a quality standpoint, they’re not all the same.
Tidal provides much stronger audio quality that its rivals. Not only is the regular streaming package provided at 320kbps (the top quality for MP3, and something Spotify and Apple don’t provide), but it also includes a subscription to a hi-fi service which provides lossless digital audio. If you want to sign up for a streaming service, you may as well go for the one that provides real quality!
I could write something really long here, but the answer to this is too simple: if you want to best portable music player in terms of quality potential, storage space, and user interface, then find yourself a 6th generation iPod Classic. They’ve never been bettered. Don’t bother with any iPods that came afterwards!