The Audiophile Leopard.

6 06 2009

     There is more you could squeeze out of your audio if you know the right tools. MacosX has very minimal documentation on how to do this. Glance through this article and ill walk you through some of the settings you need to know about.

     Digital music is revolutionizing the way we hear and store music. MP3’s are main stream enough that music downloads are killing redbook CD sales. I download a lot of music, i also buy CD’s.. So which is better? it depends – if you download a 128kbps MP3 from Itunes you are definitely going to have more out of a redbook CD for the same album. CD’s are encoded in 44.1 kHz 16 bit streams. The weird 44.1 kHz count is vestigial from the olden days when audio used to be recorded with adapted video recorders.  

to break it down

    1Hz is one sample per second.

    1KHz is one thousand samples per second.

    44.1kHz is 44100 samples per second.

converting into bits, 44100 * 16 * 2(channels for stereo) = 1411kbps 

    that is almost 11 times more bits to contain information over the 128kbps that you download over itunes. 

    Is more bits better? the answer is yes and no. MP3 algorithms compress music based on a model called Psychoacoustics. The human brain has flaws when it understands sound – it picks up certain frequencies stronger than others, it masks certain frequencies and can even let some combination of frequencies pass by. Mp3 compression uses these basics and tries to exploit the non-linear brain response to audible frequencies to drop information that an average person could not hear.

    The less the sampling rate is the more the information that is lost. For instance a 128kbps stream would loose more compared to a 192kbps which is less compared to a 320kbps stream.

    If you note – i stated a term called the “average listener” – this is about 80 percent of the population, most people cannot tell differences between a 192kbps and 320kbps streams the liveliness the soundstage all of this dissapears in their brain interpretation. a 128kbps stream although most people can notice loss in certain notes..

    So more bits is not always great, its only great if you can tell the difference. 

Here are some leading providers of music and what they provid  – 128kbps – 320kbps  – 96kz which is twice what CD’s could store.

    There are various formats of music available for the most information to be stored there are formats which represent lossless compression. Apple lossless is a good format and so is flac. HDTracks provides flac files and if you are using itunes a good application to convert is MAX.

download it here – 

     To get the maximum of your audio files download flac files of CD or higher quality, its cheaper than buying CD’s. Most of this article from now on is for people who enjoy good recordings and want all the quality that your music files could provide. 


   Modern Macs, have a 96kHz 24bit Dac, which means if you get a 96kHz stream all of it is send out to the analog side. To set up your mac start with the Audio Midi Setup application in Applications/Utilities. 


    If you have an external Dac start with Digital output – lets say this is running to my internal speakers. So i start with Built in Output, max out the Format in both the Sampling Frequency and the bits. 


    The other important tool you should know if you are switching outputs between a digital and internal or headphones is sound source by


 Finally if you are using itunes make sure you would turn off sound enhancer and equalizer. After all these steps, this is the  most important to not let any other dsp processing to kick in.

Now sit back and listen to the difference.