As more and more of us leave our CDs to collect dust, opting for the convenience of MP3s, there's got to be a way to make the inferior digital files sound better. There are a couple of different options.
The first are software based products that usually interface with iTunes. These programs reach into iTunes and take over the playback, changing the sample rate to match that of the original file. Of course, if the file is only 128 to begin with it's not going to help much.
Stereophile named one such program, Amarra, one of their products of the year, Stereophile's Products of 2011 COMPUTER AUDIO PRODUCT OF THE YEAR. Be prepared though, this software isn't cheap. The top of the line product runs $695.
There's a couple of other software based solutions such as Channel D's Pure Music which runs $129 and Stephen Booth's Decibel at $33. The big drawback for me and many others is that all of these only run on McIntosh computers.
The better choice in my opinion is an outboard, good old-fashioned audio component. I like these better since they'll upgrade streaming music as well as MP3 files. They're called DACs or digital to analog converters. You install them between the output of your PC soundcard and your stereo amplifier. There are numerous DACs like M-Audio's Audiophile 2496 which actually is installed into an empty slot on your PC. More traditionally there's Cambridge Sound's DacMagic.
I'm not going to say these devices will make your MP3s sound as good as a CD but it's a step in the right direction. And if you're hooked on the simplicity and convenience of your music being a click away it's an investment worth making.
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