As for expensive sound systems, the whole concept is alien to me. I have a Sony micro system - i.e. CD player, radio and cassette player - which cost me about £250 a few years ago. This gives as good an approximation of concert hall sound (and I go to quite a few live concerts) as is possible in my small appartment, especially considering I have near neighbours. You say that poor systems are no longer listened to after a while. Evidently then mine, though cheap, isn't poor.
Well, Guillaume, as perception is everything, you are in a very happy position with your current system, so fair play to you. I guess the majority here are similarly content with their assess to music, which is great.
What constitutes an expensive system is relative though. I guess most believe it begins somewhere higher than they have currently spent. I feel that I have waited half a lifetime to hear music reproduced to the quality I now enjoy, and often wonder how it could be better (although I know of course that it could, if funds allowed).
The law of diminishing returns operates sharply in this field, but the gains are real and significant, enhancing the listening experience into subtle yet profound areas. The decay of a note on a cello, the interaction within a string section of the orchestra, the acoustics of a recording arena, the distortion-free delivery of extreme highs and lows at near concert hall volumes. I don't need them, but I certainly appreciate what they bring to the experience.
But it's all relative, so each to his/her own, I say.
Sorry Atonal and 33lp, I don't really agree with this. Apart from Apple, most other (all other?) download retailers have standardised their formats as mp3 and/or flac, and the other lossy/lossless formats have largely been forgotten. The fact that flac doesn't play on Windows Media player is because of Microsoft's policy and not because of the music industry. Media players like VLC media player are cross platform programs designed to play anything and bypass the antics of Apple and Microsoft. If you can clutter your machine with downloads then you can surely add another media player.
Yes most retailers may have standardized on MP3 but that is my very point. Unless I have grossly misunderstood the situation MP3 is a very low bit rate of 128, 192 or at best 320kbps, much inferior to CD and as such holds no interest for me. I have little knowledge of Windows policy but if that is the most common music player on all except Apple computers I would have thought that was the obvious way to go and I have little inclination to start messing about with more programs.
Yes most retailers may have standardized on MP3 but that is my very point. Unless I have grossly misunderstood the situation MP3 is a very low bit rate of 128, 192 or at best 320kbps, much inferior to CD and as such holds no interest for me.
Most classical mp3 retailers are only offering higher bit rate mp3s: 256 or 320kbps fixed bit rate or a high variable bit rate. With these it is unlikely, except in rare cases, that anyone would be able to detect any differences from the original CD. Such Mp3s are not tinny or muffled facsimiles of the original. Even if you don't yourself believe that this is true, it is a commonly held opinion from a reliable range of commentators, so you can hardly blame the retailers for choosing the high bit rate mp3 format, given how widespread the format has become.
In reply to an earlier post that mentioned this, it's good to note that some online shops are already charging the same price regardless of what format you choose - MP3, FLAC, etc. For example, Hyperion and eClassical.
Also, I must say that I've never had any problems finding and downloading music from Hyperion, which is one of my favourite sites. I'm sorry for your troubles, 33lp, but perhaps a different player is better suited. I'm no expert, but I was under the impression that Windows Media Player isn't particularly good.
Another plus for Hyperion, in my view, is the way they tag their files, most useful. That's another discussion altogether, though.
A very interesting article by Andrew Everard in this month's magazine about Apple Lossless and the classical field leading the drive to 24bit downloads. It reminded me of the protracted and often bitter exchanges on the subject in the "Buying and Dowloading Lossless Formats" thread way back in August. So much for the "it's-all-industry-hype-and-gullible-customers" brigade. I wonder if they are still claiming that 24bit sounds no better than their Tesco CD players?