Over time, as I have listened closer and closer to music, I have gradually had to give in to the fact that mp3s are flawed. I started out letting Itunes do its thing, then I changed the ripping settings and used higher mp3s ripping settings. And higher. And higher. I know there’s tons of research out there that says that the difference above 192kbps can’t be heard, but I think I have to differ. I don’t think it’s something that stands out and screams, but it’s there. I have often bought a CD, listened to it on a drive, then ripped it and re-listened to it via my Ipod at the same volume. And something’s missing. Via headphones, I can’t say I notice a huge difference, and that’s one of the problems with headphones, but in even a flawed environment like my truck, with road noise, I am able to pick up on something that is missing. So I ripped some CDs at 320kbps, the highest mp3 setting available, and let my ears do the judging. Obviously, this is a very flawed test – it’s not blind, I know what I’m listening to is technically better, but I’m also fairly honest with myself. I want the lower quality stuff to be better – I can put a lot more stuff on my Ipod, and save myself a lot of work re-ripping CDs. But that’s not how it worked out. The 320kbps files simply had the tiny extra spark of life that I was missing, the thing that made them seem real and left space around all the instruments. And I hate it. Now I can’t go back. I won’t go so far as to say that I instantly notice that lower quality files sound inferior – they don’t. There’s just something missing. It’s like looking at a poster of fine art or a lithograph. The poster is technically fine for most situations, and most of the time, say when glancing at it, you won’t notice anything missing, but for really close study, the lithograph is what you want – it’s as close to the real thing as you can get, realistically (because I’m simply not going to fill my Ipod with huge lossless files.)
But that brings me to being obsessive-compulsive. I’m anything if this. Once I get my mind made up, it’s hard to change it. So now I’m looking at all of my favorite music and re-ripping anything that is an old Apple file, first off, because those are the biggest offender (seriously, these things really do sound like crap. Very flat and lifeless.) And I have a lot of them. Of some 41,000 files, currently 7650 are AAC. And that’s after a couple hours spent re-ripping – I shaved off about 120 files already. I’m trying to be realistic. Many of these are long-dormant albums or even entire artists. Those are going to be ignored. The others are being prioritized as best I can – what I listen to a lot sat right next to me this afternoon and got re-ripped. I got part-way through the pile. The pile will grow again as I find more. This is what it is to be obsessive. The compulsive part is not being able to stop. For the moment, I stop. But I will come back. That’s part of it, too.