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Have you ever regretted ABXing?, How has it changed your feelings about your stuff?
BearcatSandor
post Nov 3 2010, 21:30
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By "stuff" i mean equipment and music?

Have you ever ABXed something and found yourself not enjoying it as much as you did now that you know it's not all you thought it to be? Has the opposite ever happened to you?

I don't have the set up to ABX sound files yet (i'm a Linux user and both options seem to be dead). After participating in this forum for only a few days and reading of others experiences with 24-bit vs 16-bit music i'm now looking at my 24-bit collection of DVD-As, SACDs and 24-bit Studio Master downloads and thinking "..Damn it?" with a bit of confusion. I don't feel as secure with them anymore. I thought i had the 'best' sound i could get which is always a goal for folks like me.

Conversely, i might enjoy my redbook CDs more now as i won't be thinking "well they aren't 24-bit :"( " and i might not be hearing deficits that aren't really there.

I'm not sure how to feel about that.

I'm sure i'm not the only one here who's gone though this. Some of you started out as 'audiofools' too, right? How did you deal with this?

In a sense i'm kinda feeling "No, i don't want to look up ABX testing for loudspeakers. I waited 10 years for just the right pair to come to me and i really don't want to know that my $2.5k Anthony Gallo Acoustic Reference 3.1s are 'the same' as a pair of BestBuy specials." That's a bit of an exaggeration given how different speakers can be ...at least i think it is.

I'm uncertain. Honestly, i think i'm changing quickly and looking for support.

So how did you deal when the ABXing didn't work out how how you hoped it might?

Thanks

edit: Brought it back on-topic a bit.

This post has been edited by BearcatSandor: Nov 3 2010, 21:59


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db1989
post Nov 3 2010, 21:39
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QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 3 2010, 20:30) *
i'm now looking at my 24-bit collection of DVD-As, SACDs and 24-bit Studio Master downloads and thinking "..Damn it?" with a bit of confusion. I don't feel as secure with them anymore. I thought i had the 'best' sound i could get which is always a goal for folks like me. [Ö] I'm not sure how to feel about that.
[Ö]
In a sense i'm kinda feeling "No, i don't want to look up ABX testing for loudspeakers. I waited 10 years for just the right pair to come to me and i really don't want to know that my $2.5k Anthony Gallo Acoustic Reference 3.1s are 'the same' as a pair of BestBuy specials."
At the very least, be glad youíre considering this now, and not a few thousand dollars later! wink.gif
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BearcatSandor
post Nov 3 2010, 21:45
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QUOTE (dv1989 @ Nov 3 2010, 14:39) *
At the very least, be glad youíre considering this now, and not a few thousand dollars later! wink.gif

This is true! Thanks. Only "a few thousand"? I had a salesperson try to sell me $80k speakers with $10k per meter cables. I don't know how he kept a straight face.


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greynol
post Nov 3 2010, 21:48
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If it's any consolation, the most common advice around here is to spend the lion's share of your budget on speakers. I don't think you'll find many people expressing any regrets with doing this.

If you haven't already, I suggest you read Sean Olive's contributions to this forum as well as articles he's published on his website.

Regarding hi-res vs. redbook, it is not unusual for releases in each format to be sourced from different masters resulting in an apples and oranges comparison. It's quite possible for someone to prefer the hi-res version for reasons other than the fact that they are hi-res. The same goes with vinyl, though preference for vinyl can very easily be related to the distortions intrinsic to the format itself as well as different mastering; unlike with hi-res, where controlled double-blind testing doesn't exactly support the notion that the format provides any tangible benefit over redbook.

This post has been edited by greynol: Nov 3 2010, 21:58


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greynol
post Nov 3 2010, 22:04
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QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 3 2010, 13:45) *
I don't know how he kept a straight face.

He probably believes it makes a difference. I've had more than a few clueless salespeople try to tell me that they can tell the difference between X and Y, and I'm sure they can when their comparison is sighted.

I'm still waiting for one particular forum member to demonstrate he can distinguish a Squeezebox from a Transporter in a double-blind test. It's been a couple of years now and I'm not holding my breath.

This post has been edited by greynol: Nov 3 2010, 22:08


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db1989
post Nov 3 2010, 22:17
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QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 3 2010, 20:45) *
I had a salesperson try to sell me $80k speakers with $10k per meter cables. I don't know how he kept a straight face.

Iím quite sure most careers in sales mandate a well-honed ability to maintain a deadpan demeanour while insulting unwitting customers who naÔvely take the formerís uniforms as evidence of their words having a factual basis. Now taking bets on how often the absence of any such basis is just an innocent mistake!
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mixminus1
post Nov 3 2010, 22:20
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Oh, I don't think you should regret buying the Gallo's one bit - I can assure you that there is nothing at Best Buy that *looks* anything like them. wink.gif

Loudspeakers can be much more than just transducers - they can be fine furniture, or even art.

For instance, I'll never be able to even dream of affording them, and likewise I'll probably never see (and hear) them in person (I believe the only way to do that is to fly out to the factory in Maine), but I think the Rockport Technologies Arrakis loudspeakers look absolutely stunning, and that's just from seeing pictures of them on the Rockport website...of course, for around $150K, you'd hope they sound pretty good, too. wink.gif


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BearcatSandor
post Nov 3 2010, 22:32
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QUOTE (mixminus1 @ Nov 3 2010, 15:20) *
Oh, I don't think you should regret buying the Gallo's one bit - I can assure you that there is nothing at Best Buy that *looks* anything like them. wink.gif

*laughs* Ok, that was just mean tongue.gif

@ graynol: Thanks, that helps. I'll check out Sean Olive's posts.



This post has been edited by BearcatSandor: Nov 3 2010, 22:36


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Northpack
post Nov 3 2010, 22:39
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QUOTE (mixminus1 @ Nov 3 2010, 22:20) *
I'll probably never see (and hear) them in person (I believe the only way to do that is to fly out to the factory in Maine), but I think the Rockport Technologies Arrakis loudspeakers look absolutely stunning, and that's just from seeing pictures of them on the Rockport website...

Quote from the website: "the Arrakis transcends the boundary of believability"

laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif

I wish all audiophile companys would be that honest about their products....
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mixminus1
post Nov 3 2010, 22:48
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QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 3 2010, 14:32) *
QUOTE (mixminus1 @ Nov 3 2010, 15:20) *
Oh, I don't think you should regret buying the Gallo's one bit - I can assure you that there is nothing at Best Buy that *looks* anything like them. wink.gif

*laughs* Ok, that was just mean tongue.gif

Heh, I guess you could take that both ways...I really do think the References look tres cool, and I certainly wouldn't mind having them in my living room.

@Northpack: Ha, check out their "turntable" (the System III Sirius) in the Hall of Fame section...that's one of those products that I have to admire and respect simply for the incredible engineering that went into it...but WHY?! It's still just f**king vinyl!!


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greynol
post Nov 3 2010, 22:51
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That's funny, I was thinking the opposite: they'd have to sound really really good for me to put up with the way they look.

More to the point, in a sighted test I might actually rate their sound quality lower.

This post has been edited by greynol: Nov 3 2010, 22:54


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mixminus1
post Nov 3 2010, 23:14
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Oh, then you'd positively LOVE these. >:D

(Getting a bit OT, I know, but your mention of "putting up" with the appearance of a loudspeaker brought the mbl's immediately to mind, for some reason...)


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mixminus1
post Nov 3 2010, 23:45
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...and now attempting to at least get myself back on-topic:

QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 3 2010, 13:30) *
So how did you deal when the ABXing didn't work out how how you hoped it might?

I embraced my newfound freedom. smile.gif

In my case, it was a spectacularly unsuccessful ABX between MP3s that I had made with LAME 3.96.1 with a "tweaked" command line vs. just the good ol' "-V2 --vbr-new" (at the time), as well as not being able to ABX against the lossless originals with tracks that I *swore* had artifacts in the encoded versions (surprise, surprise, all those "artifacts" were present on the original CDs).

That really did free me to just enjoy the music and not worry that I was "missing" something. Since then, I've encoded several thousand tracks using LAME, and when listening to them - either via my iPod(s) and Sony MDR-V6s, or my Dynaudio Audience 52s - not once have I ever thought "Oh, I should be listening to the CD, because then it would sound more <insert audiophile buzzword here>".

In fact, I'm now streaming MP3s (and AACs) wirelessly to my Marantz receiver's optical input via an Apple Airport Express, and couldn't be happier with it.

So, I think you're definitely on the right track, even though it may be difficult at times to accept just how good "commodity" technologies (such as lossy compression and computer sound cards) can be. smile.gif


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Roseval
post Nov 4 2010, 00:22
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QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 3 2010, 22:30) *
After participating in this forum for only a few days and reading of others experiences with 24-bit vs 16-bit music i'm now looking at my 24-bit collection of DVD-As, SACDs and 24-bit Studio Master downloads and thinking "..Damn it?" with a bit of confusion. I don't feel as secure with them anymore. I thought i had the 'best' sound i could get which is always a goal for folks like me.
Conversely, i might enjoy my redbook CDs more now as i won't be thinking "well they aren't 24-bit :"( " and i might not be hearing deficits that aren't really there.

I'm not sure how to feel about that.


Love you're post.
One loves Music
One is quality minded
So only the best will do

In the end you are listening to file formats, gear, everything except to the music.
Good music nocks you of you're feet.
Might be on that Ferrari style > $200.000 system, might be on a transistor radio.

Forget the price tag,
Forget ABX,
Enjoy

This post has been edited by Roseval: Nov 4 2010, 00:23


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odigg
post Nov 4 2010, 01:29
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I think I had two simultaneous feelings after I started controlled tests on eqiupment. Mostly I felt a sense of relief because I realized that voice at the back of my head (the BS detector) was correct. I also learned I wasn't half-deaf since other people conducting ABX's had similar results. It was great to know that I didn't have to spend much money or time to get excellent eqiupment. I then proceeded to sell off a lot of stuff.

There was also a sense of loss through. I was disappointed to learn that so much of the audio hobby is nonsense. It's nice to fool around with eqiupment and hunt for that next shiny thing. It was sad to learn all that effort was pointless.

I don't regret it one bit though. It's easier to enjoy music now. I now know my $50 portable player plays music in a sonically transparent manner. I can also fit my music collection onto a device that fits into my palm. All this without worrying if I'm getting the best sound!

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Josh358
post Nov 4 2010, 19:23
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QUOTE (BearcatSandor @ Nov 3 2010, 15:30) *
Conversely, i might enjoy my redbook CDs more now as i won't be thinking "well they aren't 24-bit :"( " and i might not be hearing deficits that aren't really there.


Though as the authors of the comparison paper pointed out, high res CD's are frequently produced to a higher standard of quality. This is because the record companies know that they're selling mainly to audiophiles and don't have to accommodate Grandma's Philco with sonic compromises like excessive compression.

So I say trust your ears, just not excessively so! I've heard hi res recordings that really do sound sweet.

And don't forget that ABX testing has limitations. It's nice to see someone avoiding snake oil, but I've seen people go to the opposite extreme, and overlook statistical limitations in practical ABX tests and flaws in testing methodology.

An example of the latter would be the use of program material of inadequate dynamic range to "prove" that you can't hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits. On most program material, you can't. But it's established both as a matter of theory and experiment that on program material of very wide dynamic range, reproduced at natural levels in a quiet listening room, you can. Here's a wonderful paper, by Louis B. Fielder of Dolby Labs, on the issue:

http://www.zainea.com/Dynamic%20range.htm

Sure, not every recording is of a Mahler symphony, but bits are cheap, so why not choose a format that can accommodate even the most demanding program material?
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greynol
post Nov 4 2010, 20:54
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QUOTE (Josh358 @ Nov 4 2010, 11:23) *
An example of the latter would be the use of program material of inadequate dynamic range to "prove" that you can't hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits

People who actually understand ABX testing methodology would never make such a claim.

Perhaps you can provide some samples and ABX logs demonstrating how one derives an audibly perceptible benefit in using greater than 16 bits with real music?

This post has been edited by greynol: Nov 4 2010, 21:07


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hlloyge
post Nov 4 2010, 21:54
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Personally, my aac's are now around 160 kbit VBR, because I can't tell difference between 128 kbit and original. Considering I encoded my music mostly @something around 256 kbit, I saved a bit of space... smile.gif
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Josh358
post Nov 5 2010, 00:18
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QUOTE (greynol @ Nov 4 2010, 14:54) *
QUOTE (Josh358 @ Nov 4 2010, 11:23) *
An example of the latter would be the use of program material of inadequate dynamic range to "prove" that you can't hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits

People who actually understand ABX testing methodology would never make such a claim.

Perhaps you can provide some samples and ABX logs demonstrating how one derives an audibly perceptible benefit in using greater than 16 bits with real music?


I was referring to Meyer and Moran:

"We found that most of the SACD and DVD-A recordings produced what might be termed realistic playback (that is, the subjects heard the sources loudly and clearly, with natural timbres and appropriate scale but without discomfort) at a system gain such that a 1-kHz octave band of noise recorded at an average level of −16 dBFS produced an SPL at the listening position of 85 dB, unweighted." (Audibility of CD-standard A/D/A Loop, J. Audio Eng. Soc., Vol. 55, No. 9, 2007 September)

ABX comparisons conducted at a peak level of 101 dB SPL is unlikely to challenge a system with a dynamic range of 96 dB.

However,

"In one brief test with two subjects we added 14 dB of gain to the reference level quoted and tested the two sources with no input signal, to see whether the noise level of the CD audio channel would prove audible. Although one of the subjects was uncertain of his ability to hear the noise, both achieved results of 10/10 in detecting the CD loop. (We have not yet determined the threshold of this effect. With gain of more than 14 dB above reference, detection of the CD chain?s higher noise floor was easy, with no uncertainty. Tests with other subjects bore this out.)"

So the noise floor of the 16 bit system was apparently audible in an ABX test with the system calibrated to produce a peak full scale level of 115 dB SPL, which is within the measured maximum peak levels of live acoustical music as reported in the paper to which I referred in my post. That would seem to validate at least some of the conclusions reached by the author of the Dolby paper.


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greynol
post Nov 5 2010, 00:41
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While that may be, this forum requires different criteria from those who claim they can perceive an audible difference.

NB that I am not suggesting that you are making such claims.

Perhaps I missed it somewhere, but when you're talking about peak amplitudes, is this including the ambient noise of the listening area or not? It most certainly makes a difference!


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2Bdecided
post Nov 5 2010, 01:08
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QUOTE (Josh358 @ Nov 5 2010, 00:18) *
a system gain such that a 1-kHz octave band of noise recorded at an average level of −16 dBFS produced an SPL at the listening position of 85 dB, unweighted
That's only 2dB quieter than SMPTE RP200 (if the calibration was single channel).

No sane person wants to listen louder than SMPTE RP200. Not that many people want to listen at SMPTE RP200 loudness. I've ran tests where people have demanded 6 to 12dB less volume than this. Depends on the recording of course. On modern pop recordings you'd easily want to run 20dB quieter!

It's fantastically rare for people listening to recordings to re-create a sound pressure level that matches a loud live performance. Some instruments (e.g. brass) are just so loud that it's really hard to match it - and the recording sounds "too loud" at a far lower level than the real thing.

Cheers,
David.

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Josh358
post Nov 5 2010, 01:19
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QUOTE (greynol @ Nov 4 2010, 18:41) *
While that may be, this forum requires different criteria from those who claim they can perceive an audible difference.

NB that I am not suggesting that you are making such claims.

Perhaps I missed it somewhere, but when you're talking about peak amplitudes, is this including the ambient noise of the listening area or not? It most certainly makes a difference!


I hope I'm not violating the rules of the forum. I came directly to this thread after seeing a post on another forum and these are my first posts here. In any case, no, I'm not making any personal claims. I've never heard noise from a fully digital 16 bit recording played at natural levels, either at home or in the studio, though I'm intrigued enough that when I get my system set up again (it's in the attic while my listening room is renovated) I may try a calibrated experiment. I was just referring to the Meyer-Moran results.

Surprisingly, to me, anyway, Fielder found that the noise of a quiet home listening room was below the threshold of hearing, and that the noise in an average room wasn't far enough above it to mask noise in a recording:

"The level of typical listening-room noise is assessed by two further studies. The first of these, by this author, examines 10 home listening rooms to produce an average noise curve, while the second, by Cohen and Fielder, examines 27 home listening rooms and produces minimum, maximum, and average noise spectra. Since both studies produce similar averages for home listening-room noise, Fig. 6 shows the minimum, average, and maximum noise spectrum levels from only the second study.

"Fig. 6 shows that the average noise spectrum of the home listening rooms surveyed possesses noise levels above 400 Hz that are no higher than 10 dB above the hearing threshold criterion. This, combined with the fact that the listener is able to employ directional clues, means that generally the home listening-room noise has no effect on reducing the dynamic-range requirements. Examination of the minimum noise levels for each one- third-octave frequency point shows that the most quiet home playback conditions have extremely low noise levels in the frequency bands above 2 kHz, critical to the detection of white noise. In this frequency region the lowest room noise situations are at least 10 dB below the hearing acuity curve."

http://www.zainea.com/Dynamic%20range.htm

On the other hand, according to Meyer and Moran, "The background noise level in [the room used for the ABX comparisons] is lower than that in most urban listening rooms: Ė19 dBA."

http://www.bostonaudiosociety.org/explanation.htm

So strictly speaking, their result seems to be applicable only to the quietest listening rooms.
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Josh358
post Nov 5 2010, 01:46
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Nov 4 2010, 19:08) *
That's only 2dB quieter than SMPTE RP200 (if the calibration was single channel).

No sane person wants to listen louder than SMPTE RP200. Not that many people want to listen at SMPTE RP200 loudness. I've ran tests where people have demanded 6 to 12dB less volume than this. Depends on the recording of course. On modern pop recordings you'd easily want to run 20dB quieter!

It's fantastically rare for people listening to recordings to re-create a sound pressure level that matches a loud live performance. Some instruments (e.g. brass) are just so loud that it's really hard to match it - and the recording sounds "too loud" at a far lower level than the real thing.

Cheers,
David.


Interesting. It doesn't surprise me. I do know, online, a couple of people who listen at natural levels because they're familiar with and want to reproduce the 120 dB peaks of a grand piano at close quarters, but they appear to be the exception rather than the norm.

I'm not sure how much of this has to do with personal preferences and how much of it has to do with the limitations of consumer playback equipment and compression on acoustical recordings. I believe it's been demonstrated that listeners tend to gauge subjective loudness on the basis of distortion rather than SPL, meaning that people will listen at higher levels to a system with greater headroom. I've noticed that people typically listen at much higher levels in the studio than they do at home, and it seems to me that the ability of professional equipment to reproduce music cleanly at natural levels may have something to do with that.
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DigitalMan
post Nov 5 2010, 02:06
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Interesting OP
Did ABX after ripping to LAME 256kb/s and was humbled.

Then had transformation in attitude to high end audio, sold most of my high end gear (preamp, biwire speaker cables, etc.), settled in to 140kb/s and much more affordable gear and enjoy the heck out of the music a lot more ever since. I used to listen for the audiophile "characteristics" whenever I played music but now just enjoy the music.

The occasional, fleeting "my home stereo sounds better on these songs than my PC speakers" happens and then disappears. I still appreciate good sound quality, but can enjoy the music without it.

Although I archive in FLAC, I now don't really care if I hear the occasional artifact in the MP3 encode for my portables/car/streaming. The sound quality 99%+ of the time for me is transparent and the convenience enables me to enjoy so much more music than before that I've never looked back.

I don't look at it as lowering my standards, rather having a more mature perspective on the relative importance of sound quality.

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Canar
post Nov 5 2010, 02:20
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I have never regretted ABXing. Double-blind testing has given me a better grasp on my limitations as a human being. As at one point I thought I found 44.1/16 insufficient, like DigitalMan above me, I am now happier with my music than I had ever been. I'm entirely okay with even low-bitrate lossy. Sure, sometimes I can hear the loss, but hearing how good it sounds at such low bitrates makes me grin.

The truth has, indeed, set me free. I cannot fathom the worldview of a person to whom the truth would be objectionable.


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