We can all agree that, to output high quality sound, you require a great sound system; however, starting from the premises that everyone gets the best price/quality rated products, what is there left to do in order to further improve sound quality?
The question itself is very relevant, as there are people willing to spend thousands on a professional audio system without being aware of the difference between a CD and an mp3 file.
Audio source quality
The best way to ensure a great sound is to use a high-quality sound signal. Basically, this means avoiding ripped audio files and playing music and movies in their original, uncompressed format. In other words, avoid mp3 files and listen to music from Audio CDs, while for movies it is best to avoid DVD7 units compressed in a 700mb file, or 40GB Blu-ray compressed to 4GB formats.
Using Audio CDs and Blu-ray doesn’t actually require using physical formats; the time of plastic cases set of metallic shelves is long past. Instead, it’s about the format, as mentioned above.
Digitally-wise, an Audio CD contains 2 audio channels encoded in pulse-code modulation (PCM) at a 1411 kbps bitrate. On the other hand, an mp3 file plays at maximum 320kbps without channel splitting.
However, today the era of discs has been overcome and anybody can easily access media content through internet. One reason for compressing multimedia files is the limited transfer rate for large dimensions. For example Apple encodes their streams to a variable bitrate of 256kbps. Google Music offers a better quality option at a 320kbps constant bitrate.
Concluding, get the best sound quality by limiting your sources to Audio CDs or rips that have been done lossless format. If that’s out of reach, at least aim for high bitrate files when it comes to mp3 or mkv encoded streams. There is a huge quality difference between a 128 kbps mp3 file and a 320 kbps one.
Each and every sound amplifier, 5.1 audio system, soundcard, even those wide known Realtek chipsets on your computer motherboard come with sound post-processing technology. Amongst the most popular, there’s the frequency distributing effect for 5.1 surround audio system.
Audio producers are happy to come ahead of consume expectations, thus applying stereo to 5.1 mixing technology in any audio device.
The issue is, once you’ve applied the distribution effect, all the work that has been put in mixing, leveling and recording a soundtrack has been lost instantly. The process of recording music is far more complex that the eye sees; the final result represents the work of an entire team, the mix and master guy taking a very important role.
It’s best to listen to music exactly the way it’s been recorded in the studio.
Avoiding any kind of post-processing features applied by software players or hardware amps will enhance sound quality. When playing music from a computer, use the equalizer offered by the sound card (if there is one). Even better, you may acquire a hardware equalizer that will process analog signals.
Sound quality is highly influenced by the space where audition takes place. Ideally, the room where your sound system is emplaced should be empty and feature soundproofed walls.
However, this isn’t possible for most folks out there. Even if you’re not ready to build an audition room, it is at least good know that a room must reflect sound waves as little as possible to avoid sound distortion.
Heavy, empty walls will reflect sound waves the most, considerably reducing listening experience no matter how high-end your audio speakers are. On the other hand, a room filled with furniture, textile materials and thick curtains will absorb a large portion of sound waves, muffling distorted sounds.