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If you have a MAC, you don't need a DAC
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Thanks! I think I'll seriously consider the e17k.
On a related note, does my plan for Cd listening sound like an effective plan of action for getting into the minutia and details of sound and music? (as well as hunting down FLAC files)
What got me into audiophlie gear was listening to high quality SACD's off my old man's HiFi system, then ripping the same songs from youtube and listening to those, and comparing what I heard on the SACD with the low quality file from youtube.
If you want to simply enjoy finer quality audio, then sure! Listening to CD's and FLACs will be a great way to start.
But most audio-snobs like myself want to hear the difference between pieces of gear, and different standards of quality of audio. Basically, we want to know and hear the differences. Why? Because while one can tell which is better just by listening to it, he can't tell exactly how MUCH better. Hence the need for comparison. Try listening to a low quality song ripped from youtube. Then, load up your CD and play that same song (Do note that it has to be the same recording, otherwise you wont really be able to compare). Listen to the low quality song again, then your CD, again and again. This way, you will really be able to notice the minute differences and sonic enhancements that audiophile equipment can provide you.
Very helpful reply Jay. My issue is that my hearing has been damaged from a youth misspent during the late 60's and early 70's at rock concerts !! Couple that with the fact that although I do hear BASIC quality differences - "muddy or too much bass" vs "tinny or harsh" any further nuances escape me. I also have struggled with determining whether it was the method of recording/engineering of a song/piece was the culprit. I have always been in the camp of believers that recording/mastering/mixing/engineering made far more of a difference in sound quality than the format per se (FLAC/ALAC/AAC/ etc etc etc) in digital music reproduction.