by rbsjrx - 12/14/08 11:33 AM
In Reply to: Sansa m280 by morbius--2008
"come on guys. real music requires a hi fi with monstrous speakers."
Generally, yes, but there are other factors...
If you want to listen to your private playlist at work or you want to listen to music while exercising, then a portable MP3 player may be what you need. If you're interested in serious, critical listening, then a stationary system is a better choice.
However, there are other issues that are germane...
Well-designed headphones can provide all the fidelity of a good system. What headphones can't provide is the spacial experience of even a good stereo system, much less a multi-channel system. The typical earbuds are anathema for any serious music listening, but are OK for background music - which is, after all, what portable MP3 players provide.
This leads tangentially to a discussion of small speaker systems of the sort that Bose sells. Speaker designers know of a principle called Hoffman's Iron Law, which says that three factors in speaker design are all interrelated - efficiency, size, and bass extension. To improve any of the three means giving up something with the other two. IOW, if you want highly efficient (sensitivity of 90dB/W/m or better) speakers with bass extension down to 30Hz or below, they will necessarily be huge. If you want a small speaker with good bass extension, then you'd better have a high-powered amp since it will be very inefficient. If you want small and efficient, don't expect much bass. For more on this, visit the Loudspeaker Designer's Selection Guide (LDSG) at http://ldsg.snippets.org/appdx-a.php. So how do Bose and other small system designers do it? Quite simply they design systems with resonant bass sections. This leads to a quality derided by many as "one-note bass". However, psychoacoustics being as they are, as you go below 100Hz, people's ability to pick out individual notes diminishes, so they perceive extended bass with the desired amount of "punch". Since the system is resonant, it can be made efficient using small drivers. It's also worth noting that although it's not part of Hoffman's Iron Law, distortion is a factor. If you keep everything else equal and increase the allowable distortion, the speaker will play louder. Even better from a marketing perspective, distorted sounds is perceived as louder than undistorted sound, given identical dB levels.
The source material is also important. MP3 is an inherently lossy format and will never sound quite as good as primary media (CD or vinyl). The Red Book CD standard (16-bit encoding, 44.1kHz sample rate) is marginal for some people with particularly good hearing. For those people, SACD is a better format. Vinyl is also making a resurgence, but the digital vs. analog debate is highly religious so I won't address it. Suffice it to say that really good vinyl reproduction requires a much more significant investment in money and user effort. Whether the investment is worth it is a judgment call.
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