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AnkleDeep
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Primarily Lossy Setup?

Hi,

I just put together a very nice PC and would like the most satisfying sound I can get, given the limitations of lossy files.  Even with a decent DAC, I'm concerned that if I loosen the purse strings I'll get audio components that are, at best, way overqualified (my usual purchasing tendency) or at worst, expensive and reveal source file limitations with unsettling clarity.  I just looked at John Atkinson's MP3 vs AAC vs FLAC from March 8, 2008, and concur:  "There seems little point in spending large sums of money on superbly specified audio equipment if you are going to play sonically compromised, lossy-compressed music on it."  I would play CDs, but most music would arrive in the form of 128 kbps AAC, streamed using Adobe Flash Player.  Of course, that resolution may go up when the vendor chooses to do so.

So my main question seems to be, what is the highest level of equipment can I purchase and still be spending sensibly?

Equipment I've heard using (lossless) CDs:  Aon 2 and Tablette Anniversary, both paired with an Arcam FMJ A19.  These are almost certainly aiming way too high sonically and budgetarily.  I also consider Rega's Brio-r and Dynaudio Dynaudio Excite X12s or similar.  Non-Chinese manufacturing is a definite plus but, based on what I've read, NAD amps, Peachtree D4s, and PSBs might be really nice, too.

My logical side (and my wife) think something along the lines of a pair of Audioengine A5+s would do the trick. I love bass, so a subwoofer seems almost mandatory.  Thank you for helping me find the right equipment/purchase level.  Room size: medium.  Auditioning difficulty: 3 hour trip w/small kids.  Size preferred:  bookshelf or very small full-range.

Demondog
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Regarding lossy music files,

Regarding lossy music files, on the surface it does seem a waste to spend money on good quality gear for the playback of a bottom quality music format. I don't entirely agree with that view, because in my experience a low bit rate MP3 will still generally sound better on a higher quality system than on a more limited system. The improved bass response, smoother treble, larger soundstage and other benefits of a better system still apply to MP3's just as they do to a 24/192kHz format. The drawback is that you will not hear the full beauty of the music that your system is capable of delivering. But the capability will still be there when you want to, or are able to use it.

I kind of relate to this issue right now, because I've recently been listening to my music through much better, more resolving speakers, and while I have NO lossy music in my library, I do have a bunch of older rock, blues, and even older varieties of music that I would not call high fidelity. And while I am still forming an opinion, I'm not sure if some of this group sounds as enjoyable as it did on the lesser speakers. "The Animals Retrospective" from HDtracks (24/88kHz) seems to sound harsher than it did before, as one example. Fortunately I have many high quality recordings to listen to, but if I ask myself "Would I have gone for such a major speaker upgrade if all I had to listened to was "The Animals Retrospective?" Probably, but it wouldn' t be such a clear choice. 

As for specific equipment recommendations, much has been discussed recently in other threads that would fit your apparent budget and other requirements. 

btw- you could probably play a good MP3 for me without my knowledge, and I wouldn't know the difference.

AnkleDeep
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Experience is Good to Hear About

Thanks, Demondog.  I appreciate hearing that, in your experience, great speakers generally help poor audio be as good as it can be.  I understand there may be exceptions.  I plan to focus more on finding components well-matched to each other and my budget and worry less about how the equipment will render files. Part of the fun for me is owning decent equipment, regardless of use.  Good equipment is also a form of "future proofing" in case file resolution goes up.  I imagine that edgier-sounding speakers--I'm guessing this is what people mean by "forward"--could emphasize any algorithmic imperfections, but maybe it doesn't matter or isn't readily detectable to the ear.  Using cheap, borrowed speakers I've found that the AAC files I have in mind sound more natural to me than MP3s at the same bit rate.

JoeE SP9
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Lossy files

If you know and can hear the difference between lossy and non lossy files why continue to bother with lossy files other than the ones you already have? Why not acquire all future music purchases in the highest quality format you can find? You already want better gear why not make your listening worth the better gear?

Hard drive space is so cheap nowadays there is no real reason for using compression.

commsysman
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SYSTEM CHOICES

I suggest that you consider the Gallo Acoustics CL-2 speakers. They are quite amazing for their $800 price, and they give you a 60-day FREE home trial; free shipping both ways if you should return them.

The Creek and Arcam amplifiers are quite good-sounding as are Musical Fidelity and Vincent.

I have had mixed experiences with NAD amplifiers. The original 3020 was very good, and my C325BEE is good. The C356BEE, which I had for a while, really sucked.

The Harman-Kardon 3490 stereo receiver is amazingly good, and costs under $500.  

AnkleDeep
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Work Perk

You're right:  there's normally no reason to acquire lossy audio, especially with good equipment and hearing.  My lossy interest boils down to

1) The audio source is streamed.  I do not have ownership rights, but I do have free online access rights through work.

2) This online audio repository claims to have over 1.2 million tracks/84,000 discs--hard to resist if the quality is acceptable.  I'm just hoping the quantity/quality tradeoff will be less painful if I choose the right equipment.

AnkleDeep
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And I'll look into that equipment...

I appreciate the equipment recommendations:  this is where I have the least experience.  I have never heard of Gallo Acoustics, so will investigate them as well the amps you mention.  And it's nice to have you confirm that Arcam is good--the one I auditioned sounded good to me, but may not have been quite the right match for the ProAC Tablettes it was driving.

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