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Lossless streaming: Can you really hear a difference?

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laseralex
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laseralex Posted: Fri, Jan 25 2019 11:12 AM

When Deezer HiFi became available for my Beosound Moment I upgraded immediately.  And I couldn't hear any difference.

 

I was curious to know whether it is common to be able to tell the difference between lossless streaming and well-compressed audio.  I found a interesting web site which gives you a chance to test our own ears:

How Well Can You Hear Audio Quality?

The results for me were dismal.  Of the 6 samples I picked the lossless track as "best" only 2 time, exactly what you'd expect if picking randomly.  My listening setup was a pair of Beloab 8000s using the onboard DAC of my PC which is admittedly not the highest quality DAC available.  Still, it confirmed my experience with Deezer Hifi: my ears are not good enough to hear the difference between lossless and standard Deezer.

 

My score was 2/6.

Please post your results.

2x Beosound Moment
4x Beosound Essence Mk II
3x Beolab 8000
1x Beolab 6000
1x Beolab 3
3x Beolab 2
3x BeoPlay M5
1x BeoPlay A6
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Dante
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Dante replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 11:35 AM

There is no benefit to use a lossless streaming when the master file was created with the idea of being played in a lo-fi equipment...

Andrew
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Andrew replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 11:42 AM

I think it depends on the mixing and everything else that goes with it. Remastered for iTunes albums sound good. I bought some linn tracks and they were very good but a haslle to play. I use iTunes only for streaming and the quality varies. Too many variables, like the system you play it on, the room you play it in etc. etc. etc. 

Personally my preference is for Vinyl played through a Valve system which to me anyway sounds more musical - but even there it is dependant on how the album was mixed and produced. 

I guess lossless does sound better but depends on the album and what you are listening to it on.A poorly mixed album will sound bad on whatever medium you choose and a well mixed/produced album will sound great on a reasonable system. 

Having said that re-mastering seems to work at least with films. I watch a lot of old films from the 50's and 60's and the quality of the restored ones is excellent.

Dante
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Dante replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 12:08 PM

I just did 3 out of 6 using BL5.

I'll try again using my apple macbook and SPDIF connection to see how it goes...

Sandyb
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Sandyb replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 1:03 PM

Hi-res music needs a proper DAC - neither a PC nor the Moment have audiophile DAC's.

Whether you can be (or any of us) can bothered to go that route is a different question.

And whether the uplift in quality is worth the extra cost is subjective.

If you're unsatisfied with regular Deezer or Deezer Hifi on your current setup, that's the question I'd ask myself.

Recently I thought about going down the (more) audiophile streamer / DAC route, for 2 reasons.

1.My Moment / BL18's (plus BL19 on occasion) music listening setup is good, but I wouldn't describe it perfectly satisfying. (I end up Tidal streaming through USB on my MBP to very good headphones, for when I really want to get lost in some music). The Moment / BL18's setup is good enough for everything but a serious listen. I don't have space for 5s/50s.

2. The experience using the Moment / iPad app is unsatisfying....especially when it comes to discovery, browsing, creating playlists etc. It's fine, but something like Roon looks much much better. If I went down the audiophiles route, I'd pay the 100 euro per year for the Roon experience, it really does look fabulous. 

Anyway, if your question is more one of curiosity as opposed to serious consideration of "improving your experience", then a PC DAC won't expose the full benefits of lossless or hi-res.

I'd be interested for those forum members who introduced an Auralic streamer into their setup, what were their experiences. The Auralic is seen as a step up from Sonos, Bluesound streamers, but sill not what the audiophiles community would scribe as a top end solution.

 

 

Saint Beogrowler
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5 out of 6

This was interesting.

I played each of the Tom’s Diner versions at least 4 times and still couldn’t tell at all.

The Katy Perry and Jay-Z samples I had to listen to multiple times and I think I got lucky picking between the 320 and uncompressed, not really a difference I could tell with my setup.

The other 3 were much more obvious pretty quickly.

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Millemissen
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I did that test some time ago.

Don’t remember the exact results anymore - but it did not convince me to change to a lossless streaming service.

I am happy with my Spotify Premium account with my setups, my rooms and ears....

That shouldn’t keep me from trying out lossless streaming on a long term basis....some day.

Who knows, maybe the differences only become noticeable over time (or you get used to it sounding a bit different).

 

There have been made quite a few tests like this over time.

Check out this one, that Archimago did some years ago

http://archimago.blogspot.com/2013/02/high-bitrate-mp3-internet-blind-test.html

Here is a part of his conclusion:

‘Going into this endeavor, I expressed that my reason to do this test was to find out whether MP3 encoding resulted in significant deterioration in sound quality. From what I can tell with 151 responses from around the world, a majority did not find a significant deterioration, and surprisingly most thought it sounded superior!’

 

MM

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h1npw
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h1npw replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 1:37 PM

Very interesting thread.... For a long time I resisted the trend to stream as I was convinced (from what I had read) that sticking to CDs was guaranteeing me a better sound than iTunes or Spotify.

Then several years ago I went round to a friends house where he was streaming Spotify into his Sonos system. I haven’t bought a CD since...

And I can’t tell the difference when I switch between the different quality settings on Spotify either. All listened to through Beolab 9s

All probably due to me being 58 years old....

Cheers

Nigel

Sandyb
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Sandyb replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 1:45 PM

Many people prefer the vivid picture settings on TV's out of the box.

Doesn't mean there aren't better ways for some, when it comes to viewing or listening.

The only test that matters is whether an individual is satisfied with what they have, presumably regular streaming. There are ways to improve the experience, be that equipment or better sources - but I completely accept it can be a hassle, and for most probably not worth the effort / cost. 

Not everyone's ears and / or preferences are the same.

 

DMacri
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DMacri replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 2:35 PM
2 out of 6 using my H3 ANC on my iPhone 8. Sad I’m looking forward to trying this again on my living room system. I hope I do better. I was trying hard to hear obvious differences, but perhaps it was my chosen devices that were the limiting factor here.

Dom

2x BeoSystem 3, BeoSystem 5000, BeoSystem 6500, 2x BeoMaster 7000, 2 pair of BeoLab Penta mk2, AV 7000, Beolab 4000, BeoSound 4000, Playmaker, BeoLab 2500, S-45, S-45.2, RL-140, CX-50, C-75, 3x CX-100, 3x MCL2 link rooms, 3x Beolab 2000, M3, P2, Earset, A8 earphones, A3, 2x 4001 relay, H3, H3 ANC, H6, and ambio 

vikinger
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vikinger replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 11:00 PM

Another interesting exercise is to compare the various stream qualities available on web radio from a station such as Radio Paradise. I am convinced that a good DAC smooths out the MP3 type streams to the extent that you cannot hear any difference from listening to a so called lossless stream. 

Graham

Sandyb
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Sandyb replied on Fri, Jan 25 2019 11:26 PM

So I've been through this exercise a bit.

On my MacBook Pro, with a pretty high quality set of cans attached, if I switch between the various streaming qualities on Tidal there's a clear and incremental improvement.

The Tidal app on the laptop allows you to stream in Normal, High, Hifi (Lossless) and Master.

And the difference between Hifi (Lossless) and Master is very noticeable.

The Master tier, not available for that many albums, is I think their MQA stream, and they truly sound very very lovely indeed.

I can't see why running that experiment through a proper audiophile DAC and speakers won't illustrate similar results.

Now I don't have an audiophile main listening setup - a Moment, FLAC rips on a NAS, and a set of BL18s don't equate to an audiophile setup. And I'm fine with that, and I perfectly understand that it should be fine for most. 

But that doesn't mean that improving the source, transport and speakers can't produce audibly better results.

Indeed, in my example described above I've only improved the source, and the sound improves each time.

Again, Masters sounds superb.

 

jans
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jans replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 9:04 AM
Sandyb:

So I've been through this exercise a bit.

On my MacBook Pro, with a pretty high quality set of cans attached, if I switch between the various streaming qualities on Tidal there's a clear and incremental improvement.

The Tidal app on the laptop allows you to stream in Normal, High, Hifi (Lossless) and Master.

And the difference between Hifi (Lossless) and Master is very noticeable.

The Master tier, not available for that many albums, is I think their MQA stream, and they truly sound very very lovely indeed.

I can't see why running that experiment through a proper audiophile DAC and speakers won't illustrate similar results.

Now I don't have an audiophile main listening setup - a Moment, FLAC rips on a NAS, and a set of BL18s don't equate to an audiophile setup. And I'm fine with that, and I perfectly understand that it should be fine for most.

But that doesn't mean that improving the source, transport and speakers can't produce audibly better results.

Indeed, in my example described above I've only improved the source, and the sound improves each time.

Again, Masters sounds superb.

Hi SandyB

Same experience here streaming Tidal through a Bluesound Node to BeoLab 9’s! There is a noticeable difference!
Duels
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Duels replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 11:27 AM
vikinger:

Another interesting exercise is to compare the various stream qualities available on web radio from a station such as Radio Paradise. I am convinced that a good DAC smooths out the MP3 type streams to the extent that you cannot hear any difference from listening to a so called lossless stream.

Graham

Thanks for the comment Graham. Never listened to radio paradise before but I’ve now had it on all morning. What an awesome selection of music! I’m a convert.
Puncher
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Puncher replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 12:05 PM

9

Sandyb:

So I've been through this exercise a bit.

On my MacBook Pro, with a pretty high quality set of cans attached, if I switch between the various streaming qualities on Tidal there's a clear and incremental improvement.

The Tidal app on the laptop allows you to stream in Normal, High, Hifi (Lossless) and Master.

And the difference between Hifi (Lossless) and Master is very noticeable.

The Master tier, not available for that many albums, is I think their MQA stream, and they truly sound very very lovely indeed.

I can't see why running that experiment through a proper audiophile DAC and speakers won't illustrate similar results.

Now I don't have an audiophile main listening setup - a Moment, FLAC rips on a NAS, and a set of BL18s don't equate to an audiophile setup. And I'm fine with that, and I perfectly understand that it should be fine for most. 

But that doesn't mean that improving the source, transport and speakers can't produce audibly better results.

Indeed, in my example described above I've only improved the source, and the sound improves each time.

Again, Masters sounds superb.

 

From a conspiracy theorist - I would expect there to b an audible difference between each available quality level from any given supplier - How else could they justify the expense of their premium services! My question would be - are those differences deliberate?

As an example, years ago when I was a sky customer I used to have the cream coloured SD sky plus box. I then bought a new sky HD box from eBay to take advantage of the freeview HD channels. There was the expected quality leap between the SD  and HD channels as you'd expect - what i hadnt expected was how much worse the SD channels were compared to the sky plus box!! After a quick online search others had spotted it too - sky had presumably made the SD performance worse to exagerate the improvement given by HD.

As a trial you can record one of the highest quality tracks and then downsample it yourself to the stated quality of one of the lesser subscriptions and redo your listening test.

I would be very surprised if you heard the same reduction in quality apparent in the stream.

The other problem is pre-supposing each quality version of a particular track on offer originates from the same mix/master file - there's every chance that this is not the case. The above test should help eliminate this as a variable.

Ban boring signatures!

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Duels:

Never listened to radio paradise before but I’ve now had it on all morning. What an awesome selection of music! I’m a convert.

Certainly the radio station that get the most playtime in my home!

It’s commercial free - user support is welcome (and needed).

If you don’t already know it, there is an app for the ATV4, with gorgeous pictures along with the music.

There you can choose the different streaming options including FLAC lossless.

Even the web player is nice - if you want to dig into, what is playing.

MM

There is a tv - and there is a BV.

mbolo01
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mbolo01 replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 12:28 PM
Millemissen:

Certainly the radio station that get the most playtime in my home!

When i press my Essence remote in the morning, RP is always starting and I find difficult to stop it for another source as the selection is so good!

BS Moment, BS Core, BS Ouverture, BS1, BL18, BL19, BL8000 + RCV1, A6, M5, M3, A1, H5, TR1

Duels
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Duels replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 12:58 PM
Millemissen:

Certainly the radio station that get the most playtime in my home!

It’s commercial free - user support is welcome (and needed).

If you don’t already know it, there is an app for the ATV4, with gorgeous pictures along with the music.

There you can choose the different streaming options including FLAC lossless.

Even the web player is nice - if you want to dig into, what is playing.

MM

There is a tv - and there is a BV.

Thanks for the info MM. I’ve just bought an ATV4 a couple of weeks ago so I will check the app out.

I spotted that it was user funded. If I continue to listen (which I expect to) I will certainly make a contribution.
Duels
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Duels replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 12:58 PM
mbolo01:

When i press my Essence remote in the morning, RP is always starting and I find difficult to stop it for another source as the selection is so good! BS Moment, BS Core, BS 1, BL 18, BL 19, A6, M5, M3, A1, H5

Yes that’s just how I was thinking things would work!
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chucky replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 1:50 PM
Strange, I have a set of BL 4000 in the kitchen and it was so obvious that any Deezer track was sounding better than before. I am a strange guy I listen the most radio / deezer in the kitchen yet are it the one of the cheapest speakers I own.

I will test again and see if I missed something.

MM can you explain spotify through a core or essence this is simple airplay, it uses your ipad as source right?
Millemissen
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chucky:

MM can you explain spotify through a core or essence this is simple airplay, it uses your ipad as source right?

I am not quite sure how to understand your question!

But....using Spotify Connect with the Essence/Core has got nothing to do with AirPlay.

With the Connect version the stream is fetched by the audio device (in my case the Essence) and the iPad (= the app on the iPad) is just a remote.

Similar to how Chromecast works - but much better integrated with the Bang & Olufsen app and also distributable via NL (with some exceptions).

It is almost as well integrated as Deezer is - only you have to use the native Spotify app for choosing music, managing playlists...

The basic functions can be controlled - when joined on the BV’s - with a beoremote (stop/play, next etc).

Does that answer your question?

MM

There is a tv - and there is a BV.

vikinger
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vikinger replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 3:37 PM

Duels:
vikinger:

Another interesting exercise is to compare the various stream qualities available on web radio from a station such as Radio Paradise. I am convinced that a good DAC smooths out the MP3 type streams to the extent that you cannot hear any difference from listening to a so called lossless stream.

Graham

Thanks for the comment Graham. Never listened to radio paradise before but I’ve now had it on all morning. What an awesome selection of music! I’m a convert.

I've listened to RP for some years now, and send them the odd $10 when they have a funding appeal. This is a man and wife team... and Bill gave me some personal help when I lost the slides from the previous TV player. What the likes of the BBC and Virgin etc could learn from this station ... instead of employing grossly overpaid DJs talking over really poor music selections.

Graham

chucky
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chucky replied on Sat, Jan 26 2019 4:47 PM
Millemissen:

I am not quite sure how to understand your question!

But....using Spotify Connect with the Essence/Core has got nothing to do with AirPlay.

With the Connect version the stream is fetched by the audio device (in my case the Essence) and the iPad (= the app on the iPad) is just a remote.

Similar to how Chromecast works - but much better integrated with the Bang & Olufsen app and also distributable via NL (with some exceptions).

It is almost as well integrated as Deezer is - only you have to use the native Spotify app for choosing music, managing playlists...

The basic functions can be controlled - when joined on the BV’s - with a beoremote (stop/play, next etc).

Does that answer your question?

MM

There is a tv - and there is a BV.

Jup, I just bought a new beosystem 4 and the dealer explained it to me. Thanks!

Millemissen
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vikinger:

What the likes of the BBC and Virgin etc could learn from this station ... instead of employing grossly overpaid DJs talking over really poor music selections.

Graham

Totally agree!

 

Actually Radio Paradise is everywhere in my home.

Here is my A3 with the (old) RP app - it still runs on the ‘ancient’ iPad in there.

(The small puck is a bt remote - quite handy)

Radio Paradise is a must - lossless or not.


There is a tv - and there is a BV.

Duels
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Duels replied on Sun, Jan 27 2019 9:24 AM
vikinger:

What the likes of the BBC and Virgin etc could learn from this station ... instead of employing grossly overpaid DJs talking over really poor music selections.

Graham

Couldn’t agree more.
stampfki
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stampfki replied on Sun, Jan 27 2019 11:34 AM

How can I actually set the quality level of a stream e.g. Spotify or TineIn?

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stampfki:

How can I actually set the quality level of a stream e.g. Spotify or TineIn?

TuneIn this way.

The streaming quality depends on what option the stations offer.

As far as I know the built-in TuneIn of the B&O devices alway picks the highest available.

With Spotify you can’t see it - but Premium is 320 kbps Ogg Vorbis, if you trust them........or your ears.

MM

 


There is a tv - and there is a BV.

Ulrike
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Ulrike replied on Thu, Jan 31 2019 5:08 PM

Sandyb:

Hi-res music needs a proper DAC - neither a PC nor the Moment have audiophile DAC's.

Whether you can be (or any of us) can bothered to go that route is a different question.

And whether the uplift in quality is worth the extra cost is subjective.

If you're unsatisfied with regular Deezer or Deezer Hifi on your current setup, that's the question I'd ask myself.

Recently I thought about going down the (more) audiophile streamer / DAC route, for 2 reasons.

1.My Moment / BL18's (plus BL19 on occasion) music listening setup is good, but I wouldn't describe it perfectly satisfying. (I end up Tidal streaming through USB on my MBP to very good headphones, for when I really want to get lost in some music). The Moment / BL18's setup is good enough for everything but a serious listen. I don't have space for 5s/50s.

2. The experience using the Moment / iPad app is unsatisfying....especially when it comes to discovery, browsing, creating playlists etc. It's fine, but something like Roon looks much much better. If I went down the audiophiles route, I'd pay the 100 euro per year for the Roon experience, it really does look fabulous. 

Anyway, if your question is more one of curiosity as opposed to serious consideration of "improving your experience", then a PC DAC won't expose the full benefits of lossless or hi-res.

I'd be interested for those forum members who introduced an Auralic streamer into their setup, what were their experiences. The Auralic is seen as a step up from Sonos, Bluesound streamers, but sill not what the audiophiles community would scribe as a top end solution.

Sandy,

streaming the above test files and Qobuz Hi Res files through my Chord Qutest DAC ... I DO hear a difference.

And it's not just me. Others, I have been asking, hear a difference as well.

Streaming Hi Res files through my Beosound 2, even up to 24 Bit/ 192 kHz, which the BS2 is capable of ... I do NOT hear a difference  at all between Hi Res and CD quality.

Streaming Bridge is "Lindemann Limetree Bridge" connected to my DAC.

Ulrike

 

Sandyb
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Sandyb replied on Thu, Jan 31 2019 5:22 PM

Agreed, and that was kind of my point.

A good DAC and hi-res (or even lossless streaming) will sound better.

But it requires a good DAC, and the Chord is by all accounts a very good one.

I guess the OP's question was about regular streams (320 MP3's I guess) vs lossless streams (CD or near CD quality). Hi-res I guess is one step higher, and I don't have too much experience of QoBuzz Hi-res. I'm limited to Tidal Masters / MQA, which can sound really very impressive.

But I can't listen to Tidal Masters or Qobuz on my current B&O set up (only on headphones / MacBook Pro) - hence I am thinking of introducing a big end DAC / streamer into the mix, plus the ability to use Roon.

 

trackbeo
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trackbeo replied on Thu, Jan 31 2019 5:54 PM

Just in case, the literal answer to @stampfki's question ("How can I...") for Spotify is here: 

     https://support.spotify.com/us/using_spotify/system_settings/high-quality-streaming/

Yes, as @MM says you don't know absolutely positively what you're getting: For the iOS App, they vaguely say "These quality levels are **equivalent to approximately** 96/160/320K."  They say the desktop and iOS apps use Ogg Vorbis, and the web App uses AAC (128/256K).  Moreover, there is no guarantee that the app doesn't automatically adjust them to ameliorate temporary bandwidth/buffering mishaps, even though there is also an "Automatic" setting.

Ulrike
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Ulrike replied on Thu, Jan 31 2019 6:10 PM

Sandyb:

Agreed, and that was kind of my point.

A good DAC and hi-res (or even lossless streaming) will sound better.

But it requires a good DAC, and the Chord is by all accounts a very good one.

I guess the OP's question was about regular streams (320 MP3's I guess) vs lossless streams (CD or near CD quality). Hi-res I guess is one step higher, and I don't have too much experience of QoBuzz Hi-res. I'm limited to Tidal Masters / MQA, which can sound really very impressive.

But I can't listen to Tidal Masters or Qobuz on my current B&O set up (only on headphones / MacBook Pro) - hence I am thinking of introducing a big end DAC / streamer into the mix, plus the ability to use Roon.

Introducing those into your setup surely will give you great pleasure.

The Qutest DAC I can recommend, sounds great. And because of fpga you even can use it with chromecast without jitter.

Don't know where you're located - Qobuz sometimes gave a one month trial.

All the best,

Ulrike 

chucky
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chucky replied on Fri, Feb 1 2019 8:23 PM
Strange, I have a set of BL 4000 in the kitchen and it was so obvious that any Deezer track was sounding better than before. I am a strange guy I listen the most radio / deezer in the kitchen yet are it the one of the cheapest speakers I own.

I will test again and see if I missed something.

Quote, sorry the whole world is mad and I am an idiot the comparison is idiotec, deezer flac.....did the comparison again. At least get a normal installer...
DMacri
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DMacri replied on Sun, Feb 10 2019 10:31 PM
Oh no - my hearing is rubbish. I can’t tell the difference between 320kbs mp3 and uncompressed WAV! Even with my BeoSystem 3 in DPLII and 4 Beolab Pentas. Where do I submit my resignation as an audiophile? At least I could tell when it was 128kbs.

In all honesty, I found it difficult to tell the difference between many of the songs presented.

Dom

2x BeoSystem 3, BeoSystem 5000, BeoSystem 6500, 2x BeoMaster 7000, 2 pair of BeoLab Penta mk2, AV 7000, Beolab 4000, BeoSound 4000, Playmaker, BeoLab 2500, S-45, S-45.2, RL-140, CX-50, C-75, 3x CX-100, 3x MCL2 link rooms, 3x Beolab 2000, M3, P2, Earset, A8 earphones, A3, 2x 4001 relay, H3, H3 ANC, H6, and ambio 

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