It's raining so instead of gardening I'm inside playing on the computer and listening to music. Tough life, eh? In any case, the performance of my sound system prompted an observation I would like to share with my audience here:
If you frequent certain corners of the internet you will have noticed that there is a discussion ongoing about what "bitrate" is acceptable in music that is available for download. For the most part, it seems, any reluctance on the part of audiophiles in regards to music encoded with as few as 128 "kilobits per second" applies only to songs that they would have to pay for; the discussion seems to be a coded explanation of why they are not yet patronizing any of the various music download sites that have been set up by those companies who are actually attempting to carry on a legitimate traffic in musical recordings. As an unimpeachable source notes, at 192 kbits/second (well below the level demanded by the audiophiles), the flaws in quality "can be heard by only a few." We would all, naturally, like to be part of that auditorily gifted few.
In ages past, a similar discussion centered around the transition from records to compact discs. Certain musical enthusiasts presented the opinion that it was possible to hear the difference between the two media, and that records sounded better because, thanks to their analogue encoding, the music recorded on them sounded more alive. The digital cd sound, on the other hand, was cold and dead to them. I am happy to say that my computer speakers, a bargain at Radio Shack three or four years ago, replicate some of that "liveliness" we used to enjoy from our record players. Yes, rather than reproducing the sound coldly in pure digital perfection, they add a whole array of clicks, pops, and hisses that take you right back to the old days of huddling around the Victrola to hear the Fred Fisher's latest. Only now it's in stereo! That is, when one of the speakers doesn't stop working suddenly, leaving me feeling like one ear has been stricken with an unusually rapid wax build-up. Ah, the joys oh digital hi-fi: good thing I encoded at 256 kbit/sec!