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Audio quality with new high end system

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I knew this day would come eventually. I have a fairly large digital music library in itunes and synced with an old school iPod (actually still works great). I am purchasing a BMW with a high end Bang and Olufsen system and will definitely be able to hear the compression in much of my music library. I can already hear it on a Kenwood deck with powered Polk speakers.

So, the question is this... do I need to find a large storage device and start putting a lossless library together or is there any compression that will still sound good on a high end system? I love the convenience of grabbing music on iTunes, but can't get quality above 256k. I'm searching through my library now and there is a ton of content under 192k, so maybe I just need to start wiping that stuff out first and see what I miss!

Any thoughts would be appreciated!
post #2 of 5
Just make sure the file format you pick is supported by the car player. Not all car players decode all formats.
post #3 of 5
The environment within an auto is very noisy, even with a well insulated and sound-deadened car. Depending on what compression level you are currently using, you may or may not notice a difference.

I have a 2007 Infiniti G35 with a Bose (yeah, I know!) sound system. Their are multiple audio sources I have used in this vehicle.

XM Radio. I think the transmission is around 128 kbps, maybe less. Sound isn't great, but it gives me radio in the mountains.

Hard drive storage system in car. Stores at 128 kbps. (there is a lesser alternative, but I pick the higher quality one as default). In comparison to CD input, bass is thin, midrange muddy, highs meh. Fidelity not much better than XM. May actually be worse in some cases as XM should be equalized for satellite transmission.

iPoad input to line in via audio out/headphone jack on iPod. Most of my iPod files are 320 kbps AAC, so reasonable quality. Using the headphone out from iPhone/iPod means SQ can be very dependent on volume level of iPod. Too low and not enough signal to get good audio. Too loud and get distortion from amp in iPod clipping. At best, it can sound better and fuller than internal Music Box hard drive system. But switching songs while driving and volume can move which makes it unreliable.

iPod input to line in from a line in power source hooked into dock connector of iPod/iPhone. True line-in signal. With 320 kbps AAC files sourced from iPod/iPhone, sound can be very full and powerful. Distortion low enough that I am comfortable blasting at very high volume with no worries of clipping or damaging speakers. Next to CD input, best sound available.

CD from 6 disk changer in trunk/single disk in dash. Best sound of bunch, but only marginally better than line in from iPod with 320 kbps files. Bass is somewhat fuller and more powerful, but otherwise, hard to tell the difference head to head. Given engine and road noise, once ears are acclimatized, I enjoy either source equally.

The other thing to keep in ming with iPod/iPhone is to watch the EQ setting on the device. Using R&B or Rock can boost the bass and be a risk to speakers at high levels. I believe the dock connector bypasses EQ, but not entirely sure.

In my experience though, 320 kbps gets you 95% to optimal auto SQ and saves a lot of room on the hard drive. JMHO, YMMV!
post #4 of 5
Why get a storage device if you already have an ipod? I would hook that up first and play some of the low end stuff to get a sense of how it sounds before you start wiping your library out. If you do go for a separate device do what Pooper Scooper suggested and find out what format the audio system will handle, like wma mp3 wav. Knowing that will save you a lot of time if you have to re-rip music.
post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiltsy View Post

I knew this day would come eventually. I have a fairly large digital music library in itunes and synced with an old school iPod (actually still works great). I am purchasing a BMW with a high end Bang and Olufsen system and will definitely be able to hear the compression in much of my music library. I can already hear it on a Kenwood deck with powered Polk speakers.

So, the question is this... do I need to find a large storage device and start putting a lossless library together or is there any compression that will still sound good on a high end system? I love the convenience of grabbing music on iTunes, but can't get quality above 256k. I'm searching through my library now and there is a ton of content under 192k, so maybe I just need to start wiping that stuff out first and see what I miss!

Any thoughts would be appreciated!

Probably the worst thing you are doing to your music is playing it on that B&O car system. European car audio is often backward compared to even just a standard baseline audio system on a US-designed car.

If 256k-320k encoding significantly degrades sound quality you must be using old decoder software. Time to update!

Perhaps you aren't doing level matched, time synched, double blind listening tests and your perceptions are being influenced by all of the hysteria over lossy encoding. If your evaluations are sighted and casual, then you need to upgrade your listening tests.

Virtually every kind of streaming and broadcast audio and video media is lossy encoded these days including TV and DVDs, so if things were as bad as you seem to perceive, you shouldn't be able to stand to listen to much of anything other than CDs. And of course so many of the CD are clipped and/or hypercompressed so many of them sound pretty trashy as well.
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