the difference engine

As noted in an earlier post, I listen to a lot of radio, and am generally not satisfied with the sound quality from either net radio or satellite radio.

Of course it depends on your choice of weapons. SiriusXM is fine on a small table or car radio, and net radio is pretty much fine as well. It is empty, ‘phase-y’ and otherwise awful put through even a semi-serious stereo.

Also assumed – that the listener is listening at no more than moderate levels. Small radios, conventional and otherwise, almost never sound good when you turn em’ up.

So here’s a small puzzle: I can’t listen to mp3s, even high quality ones, (or their equivalent aac or vorbis files) for long without getting tired ears. I can listen to radio of all sorts without the same thing happening, even though there is compression involved with both.

Maybe it’s the sameness of the compression on a given album, that I’m hearing music which sounds like it has a hand on it, pressing down uncomfortably for an hour. Maybe the variety on radio (even though the station’s compression presumably doesn’t change) counters the compression.

Or maybe we just bring different expectations to radio – delighted when it’s not a second class citizen sonically, but with no real expectations in that direction, Magnum Dynalabs and McIntoshs and such excepted.

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