So what do you use to listen to ”music” ? Any music-player with its supplied earbuds, right.. in which you play your 192 kbps mp3s.
Let’s take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
First.. dump mp3s. Period.
FLAC, ALAC (if you are too closely tied to iPod + iTunes), WMA Lossless (ditto for Zune). These are all lossless audio codecs - no loss in information. Lets just forget your 101 Guide to Mp3 (“…it discards just the frequencies that humans cant perceive… ”) for a while shall we.
Now, the good thing about these codecs is that they can be inter-converted without any loss of information. So, if you have your CDs ripped in the lossless format your player plays, then you are golden. However, like me if you are anal retentive about vendor lock-in, then I suppose you’ll want FLAC. To play FLAC, you’ll need some of the Taiwanese players like Cowon, iAudio or Chinese ones like Teclast, Meizu. Or you could just buy a refurbished Sansa E200R/Ipod Nano First Gen and flash Rockbox 3.0 on it. And, you can thank me later ( No seriously, the range of audio tuning options possible with Rockbox .. AND with FLAC on it) .
How about the earphones? Stock iPod/Zune earbuds? no… then…
My preferences - Shure SE 530 (triple driver), Ultimate Ears UE-10 (double driver) for top end. Other people have reviewed preferences better. Coming back to el-cheapo - the latest rage is the 18$ (yes.. eighteen) SoundMagic PL-30 that has the audiosphere buzzing. and if you have a really bad audio player - then you should get the 10$ (yes.. sigh.. ten) FIIO amps.
So for 20 + 10 + 50 (refurbished ipod/sansa player), you have a decent audiophile setup.