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View Full Version : File formats? Speakers? Some non-audiophile A-B test results



vdonovan
2007-08-08, 23:39
My wife is out of town so I can mess up the living room as much as I want. I decided to do some A-B tests to settle a few questions for myself about how best to use my Squeezebox.

I call these non-audiophile tests because I'm not concerned with getting the best possible sound, just the best with what I've got. As much as I love music, I love money much more. I'm never going to dump thousands on gear.

My setup is:
Wireless Squeezebox 3 with no modifications. Sonic Impact Super T amp (about $150). Klipsch RB-51 speakers (about $300/pair) in a 10'x15' room. I added a source switch to help with A/B testing.

Test music:
Again, no audiophile "reference" Cds. I just used stuff I listen to regularly and am familiar with:
Aretha Franklin - I never loved a man the way I loved you
Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson - Silver Collection
Diana Krall - Live in Paris
The Beatles - Rubber Soul
Joe Walsh - So What (believe it or not a very well-engineered album)

Question 1: What's better, the original CDs or the same songs encoded as FLAC and played over the SB3? For this I used my old Denon DCM-450 CD player.

Flicking back and forth between the CD player and the SB3 I could hear no difference at all. In a few cases I thought the SB3 even sounded a little more transparent than the CD player, maybe.

Question 2: What's better, the original CD or the same song played over the SB3 streamed from Rhapsody? This was an interesting question for me because I listen to Rhapsody a lot.

Here I thought there were some differences, but I had to really concentrate to hear them. If I was blindfolded I probably couldn't pick one from the other. Aretha Franklin was maybe a touch more dynamic on CD. On the jazz records (Stan Getz and Diana Krall) there was maybe a little brightness missing in the piano on Rhapsody, but there was plenty of detail.

Question 3: What's better, FLAC or MP3?
I converted the FLAC songs to MP3 using the 254K bit rate. This wasn't a true A/B test because I had to start one song in one format, listen for a while, then stop it and listen to the other format.

I could hear no difference between FLAC and MP3. Lots of detail and transparency, good dynamics, good bass.

Question 4: What's better, the original CD or the same song in MP3 format streamed from MP3Tunes Music Locker?

To my ears and on my gear they were the same.

Bonus question: What sounds better with the SB3, the Sonic Impact Super-T amp with the Klipsch RB-51 speakers or Harmon Kardon Soundsticks II ($130)?
Here I wanted to test what I think are two excellent budget setups for the Squeezebox. I like my Klipsch speakers but I got the Soundsticks in my office and they sound great and I love the way they look.

The Soundsticks were actually competitive with the Klipschs for jazz. Lots of detail and clarity. For Joe Walsh and The Beatles, the Sticks started to sound a little compressed and shrill compared to the Klipsch/Super T setup. The effect was more noticeable as the volume went up. They still sounded great and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them for a budget setup.

So those are my results. Obviously someone with better ears or audiophile gear will hear things differently, but hopefully this is useful to folks doing a basic setup.

SuperQ
2007-08-09, 09:07
So those are my results. Obviously someone with better ears or audiophile gear will hear things differently, but hopefully this is useful to folks doing a basic setup.

yep, speakers have much more affect on sound than file formats :)