SQ: it stands for sound quality

June 22, 2009

It is amazing what we take for granted sometimes. Hearing is something that most of us are capable of but not all of us appreciate fully. I am not talking about musical taste because that is very individual, but rather the perception of sound quality and accurate sound reproduction. Being the elitist sound whore that I like to pretend to be, I like to think that I have a certain affinity to good quality music. I have no idea how I managed to “cultivate” this obsession, because I had never been a huge follower of music and SQ until recently.

When I listen to mp3s I can actually hear distortion and what I call sound artifacts, where certain parts of a song are muffled or where the instruments aren’t clear or are harsher than they are meant to be. I don’t know how I know that but I just have a feeling that it doesn’t sound right. Mp3s go through a process of compression, that is how mp3s are so much smaller than CD tracks. Through the compression there is a loss of audio quality because that is how the encoding process is. CD quality is as close to live music as you can get without going to a performance these days. And of course, you will need the quality equipment to listen to all this.

Your music is only as good as the equipment you listen with. You can have the best recording ever but if you listen to it through the earphones supplied with your ipod it will sound like absolute shit. I can tell you now, the best earphones will never match up to even a midrange decent sound system. Also sound processing is important when you want accurate playback, of which i find ipods are somewhat notorious for. The sound processing on those things are horrendous! I can listen to my 6 year old iriver and it sounds better than an ipod made today, with the exact same headphones! The difference to the average ear is probably not too noticeable, and to tell the truth I would have to listen to songs I am familiar with before I can distinguish the difference, but for what you are paying for it is just not right.

But when you listen to music through commercialised audio goods and then go to a specialist retailer you can just hear the difference. It becomes night and day and you wonder how the hell you ever listened to music through your old speakers/earphones. When I went shopping for my car speakers my ears were opened to the possibilities, after driving 15 minutes in the car with old speakers, then walking into a room full of high quality car speakers I will never turn back.

Do your ears a favour, buy some better earphones or speakers. When it comes to AV, when you haven’t heard of a brand then it is good. Koss and sennheiser are good for earphones as well as shure, these you might be able to find at a local electronic retailer. Speakers you will be very hard pressed to find good ones at your local harvies or JB, because that area is dominated by more mainstream audio which is at a fraction of the price. You would probably not be able to justify its cost against the perceived benefit. Decent speaker sets cost upwards of $900, for 1 pair. This would be more a floor standing unit with high and mid drivers plus a woofer, or a really good pair of bookshelfs. They say to spend twice as much on audio as you would on a TV, but in audio they say to spend as much as you would on speakers as you would the sub!

So being an self proclaimed audiophile does have its drawbacks… which is that it is a very very expensive hobby!

PS. on a completely unrelated note, here is an image I stumbled upon at work. Don’t blame me if you piss your pants laughing cos that is almost what happened to me at work today if I were a man with lesser bowel control. Image.

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