Audiophiles are often fiddling with their system to wring out the very best sound possible. I know the drill. And it can be frustrating. But let us not forget why we have all this expensive hardware. It is for the software – I mean the music. There are days when you just want to sit back and enjoy the music without any fuss. (I will always clean my vinyl and dust the stylus.) Let us call it casual listening.
Can casual listening be enjoyable? Yes! Can such listening compete with high-definition sound? Well, not quite. But I have found that it can come very close to the point that I can imagine myself at a live concern if I turnoff the super critical OCD mindset. Yes, casual listening can be fun. And it can reproduce realistic sound with a little experimentation. (There goes that OCD again.)
I finally upgraded my audio system. I bought a used MacBook Pro laptop at a very good price from my local computer store. What a beauty as you can see. I still like to use a mouse though. (Old habits are hard to break.)
I love iTunes. It is easy to use. I love Apple Music even more. It is now easier to navigate after some recent tweaking by Apple. I subscribe. It is a great way to discover new music or get re-acquainted with some old classics. I have been able to locate some wonderful classic recordings.
What Apple has done is significantly improve the sound of iTunes. Yes, it is compressed. If, however, the original master tapes or digital recordings are carefully transferred, the sound can be quite good. Apple has done that with its “Mastered for iTunes” program. In fact, Apple has asked that all music producers submit their recordings in a high resolution format. This has enabled Apple to improve the sound on many recordings, whether labeled as “Mastered for iTunes” or not.
Now here is where the fun comes in. I just upgraded my audio system for the unheard of price of ten dollars. (Well, I did spend $650 on the used MacBook Pro. I already had an Apple Airport Express which connects to the AudioEngine speakers. This is needed to establish a home network so that one can airplay directly from a laptop.) Remembering that we are still talking about casual listening, I have discovered the joy of having great music at my finger tips for an unheard of price.
With a Mac laptop, using the latest operating system, one can airplay his or her music to the great AudioEngine A2+’s. This could be done from an iPad or iPhone, but the laptop provides more flexibility and the use of additional software.
The audio playback can sound wonderful, even from iTunes. But first a little tweaking is necessary. (Always the tweaking!) The bits need to be cleaned up. This is where a $10 program comes in. Download the BitPerfect app from the Mac App Store. The beautiful part of this app is that it is compatible with airplay (after a little fiddling) and that it just sits in the background without changing the iTunes user interface in any way. But what is does do is to, somehow, play any type of files whether high-resolution or not. The amazing thing is that it greatly improves Apple’s AAC files as well.
Just using it plug and play, one will discover a significant improvement in the sound. There is a little digital glare so to speak. However, this can almost be eliminated with a little playing around with app’s preferences. Here are the settings I arrived at for my particular system for music recorded in ACC at 256 kbits/s:
I did not do this scientifically. Do not ask me why I chose certain settings. It was all done by ear. I encourage you to do the same. Your settings might be different.
What about the sound with this app in the system? Bass is more solid, resolution seems to be improved, and the high-end is sweeter. Coloration? Maybe, but a significant improvement to my listening experience.
I reviewed this app along with several others. See iTunes Audiophile Software Comparisons. The Amarra HiFi was a bit better at a cost of $50 (no pun intended). Nevertheless, what we are talking about here is casual listening. The Amarra app is not as easy to use and it does not play as well with iTunes. Not only that, but the latest version of BitPerfect has been significantly improved from the version I reviewed previously. It just sits in the system in the background and stays out-of-the-way, while it busily cleans up all those little bits. It is nearly bit perfect.
It will work with high res. downloads, but the beauty is that it will greatly improve the sound of iTunes and Apple Music. Try this for a test. Download or stream:
I know what a live cello concert sounds like. Emmanuelle Bertrand plays beautifully and, on my AudioEngines’s, she is right in the room. If you love the sound of the cello and you love great playing, get this album. The wonder is that this music is reproduced in ACC at 256 kbits/s.
Good luck with your own experimentation. You only have ten dollars to lose. Let me know in the comments what you think. I encourage your sharing of info and insights.