The Rest of JA's RMAF System

As well as the excellent-sounding Avalon NP2 speakers, the system I used to play back 24-bit AIF files from my laptop consisted of (from top to bottom): Metric Halo ULN-2 to convert the Firewire output of my Apple PowerBook to AES/EBU; Bel Canto DAC 3 (which I enthusiastically review in the forthcoming November issue), sitting on cylindrical wooden footers from a new company Waipuna Sound and connected to the Metric Halo box via a DH Labs AES/EBU link; Conrad-Johnson CT5 preamp and ET250S hybrid power amplifier; and Nordost Thor AC conditioner. Nordost Valhalla interconnects and speaker cables were used throughout. Equipment rack was the attractive and effective Stillpoints, which suspends the acrylic shelves from four steel cables.

I allowed listeners to compare the 24-bit, 88.2kHz-sampled master files for some of my Stereophile recordings with Red Book (CD) versions and MP3s encoded at either 128kbps or 64kbps. Despite what you might have thought from having read in the New York Times and other mainstream media, where MP3s are proclaimed as being of "CD quality," no-one had a problem hearing differences between the different versions of my recordings. And I was well pleased with the sound the system produced from my high-rez masters, even in the bare-walled room.

Bert Cattoor's picture

I'm actually astonished at how the general public is increasingly accepting the "CD Quality" marketingtalk as a given. I somewhat naievely always thought everybody KNEW MP3 is not really CD-quality but was simply willing to accept the trade-off in quality for better convenience. But no, the general impression among the hoi polloi is that CDs can sound WORSE than MP3. Sigh, I usually don't even bother to explain how good the vinyl I still listen to actually sounds (makes me look like a dinosaur). The worst to me personally however is how record companies nowadays master their CDs, with compression and what have you, to actually adapt to lossy compression's limitations. That alone to me is a good reason to start buying vinyl again. But hey, looks like I'm going to end up giving in anyway and look into Wadia's new iTransport (using lossless needless to say).