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Consumer Reports testing reveals music from your phone can rival a CD

How do CDs, MP3s, and streaming music compare for in-car audio quality?

Published: July 09, 2014 12:00 PM


Music From Your Phone Can Rival a CD - Consumer Reports News



To evaluate various listening options, we gave two dedicated Consumer Reports audio engineers the keys to our Mercedes-Benz S550 test car. They brought along two 5th-generation iPod Touch digital music players loaded with specially selected test music and a reference CD for comparison. We chose the S550 because its quiet interior and high-quality Burmester audio system were likely to bring out fine differences in sound quality. If the trained ears of our audio specialists couldn’t detect a difference in the Benz, we reasoned that chances are most listeners wouldn’t notice a difference in their cars.


Each of the iPods contained the same six tracks, copied as digital audio files in AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) format at bit rates of 320, 256, 128, and 64 Kbps (kilobits per second)....


Bottom line

If the music stored on your phone or other digital media player is saved with a bit rate of 256 Kbps or higher, you won’t be giving up any sound quality by leaving your CD collection at home. Some listeners will probably be perfectly happy with 128 Kbps. The best bet is to do your own experimentation. Make your own compromises between space and sound quality based on the music you listen to, the car, and the audio system. When it comes to rockin’ the road trip, we think 256 Kbps is the sweet spot.


—Jim Travers

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Given the level of background noise in that car, I'm surprised they could hear any differences at all... ;-))

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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I think they really dropped the ball on this.


Perhaps, but I use 320mps MP3s in my Jeep, and would use 256AAC if the player supported it. Sounds far better than Sirius, FM, or even CDs - in the Jeep. At home with a stationary system, that isn't true for me, of course.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Pretty interesting. They state that one of the test conditions was with the car parked. Do we assume engine running or not?


IAC, the results are not surprising to me. I listen to mostly AAC 320 in the car (via Bluetooth) and when walking around outside, and it seems fine under those conditions. I wish CR would do essentially the same test, only outside (i.e., not while driving a car) with good-quality IEMs. My guess is that the results would be pretty much the same.



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The very strange thing is, while I agree with everything being said about the noisy environment of a car, a couple of years ago on vacation I was playing music with Audirvana through a cheap rental car radio auxiliary input, and I thought a song didn't sound as good as the last few that had played. I checked and the only thing I could find that was different was that it was an ALAC file while the rest were AIFF. I s**t you not.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

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I still own a 1957 VW Beetle , converted to a beach car and also can not hear the difference. Well the truth is I can not hear anything at 40 mph (top speed on our bad roads), but the engine (no muffler)!...


Roch's 1957 VW Beetle.jpg


The picture was when 'new', now is a 'little' rusty...


But, when I drive my new Maserati Quattroporte Ermenegildo Zegna Limited Edition... Well, dreaming only, my music hobby sucked all the money and I have to to stay with the Beetle.


BTW, Consumer Reports doesn't have nothing better to do than bother us, dedicated audiophiles?...


And Professor "la cagastes esta vez...!"



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