Hi. I've been away from home quite a lot recently, and to entertain myself while I'm away I have for the first time been buying downloads rather than CDs, and in addition ripping some CDs to my laptop, which is a rather basic HP Pavilion. The downloads are generally in WMA format, because after some experimentation I've found the Windows media player simplest to use, though I've also used FLAC and Apple lossless, and I've also ripped to lossless formats. The sound quality, played through the universally recommended B&W P7 headphones, initially struck me me as being quite excruciatingly bad, and I wondered if I was doing something wrong. I invested in an HRT Microstreamer, which does improve the sound quality somewhat, though it still falls way below what would seem to me to be a standard in which one can take any pleasure. I've noticed that if I play a CD on the laptop rather than play the ripped and supposedly lossless version the sound quality is perhaps fractionally better - there is a bit more depth and a slightly less brittle quality to the sound. Does anyone have any comments or suggestions? Is there anything else I can do?
Also, I notice that there is a very audible join - a sort of hiccough - between one track and another in all the lossless formats. This doesn't matter greatly between the movements of a symphony but is infuriating if you're listening say to Wagner. The microstreamer seems to mitigate the effect somewhat, but the join is still noticeable. Everyone warns you about the clicks that come with MP3s but the similar problem with downloads seems to pass by unacknowledged. Surely I am not the only person to be bothered by this? I can't see how anyone could choose a download in preference to a CD for opera! Again, I'd be interested in other users' experience.