course, the quality of any given recording will vary tremendously, depending
on the quality of the original and the compression used when the file
is ripped. A bootleg of a 1 chord alternative band like the Flaming
Lips playing in somebody's basement iin the late eighties is
probably going to sound about as awful as you'd expect.
wait...this sounds really bad
Your easiest option if you're stuck with a poor quality recording is probably to fire up Napster again and do another search. There's a good chance that you'll be able to find a better sounding version of the song you're looking for without too much trouble. You may even find something you hadn't been expecting while you're at it - like a studio cut of the track or a rare live performance.
In the worst case scenario - gasp - you can always head over to the old ramshackle cd store and bite the bullet. Your consolation: at least now you can be pretty sure you'll have a fair sounding MP3 at the end of the day.
Quality by Genre
Going to your local electronics mart and trying to find cute little speakers that actually sound good probably isn't your best option. The saleperson you'll be talking to probably knows less about MP3 files and digital music in general than your grandma, chances good are they'll offer to sell you that sound 'much much much better'. Chances are it won't.
Just about anything you can find will do a better job. A inexpensive stereo system will do just fine when you're first starting out. A cheap boom box may even do the trick. In fact, just about anything will work as long as it has auxillary input jacks capable of taking standard RC cables.
Unless you're a software engineer with plenty of discretionary income left over from your last paycheck don't bother with high end stereo equipment, as long as you're playing MP3 files, chances are you won't be able to tell the difference between high end and low end sound.
If you want to save a few bucks and you're willing to wait - consider looking on a site like E-Bay for bargains. You will be amazed at how many people have old stereos and speakers lying around. Play the EBay game well and negotiate patiently and you may walk away with a real bargain. There is a chance, of course, somebody will try to play the old broken stereo trick on you, so be careful and spend your money wisely.
Once you get serious about your MP3s you may want to seriously consider investing in an amplifier. A good amplifier can often cover up the inherent weaknesses of a file by allowing you to adjust sound levels to suit your taste. No matter what your music freak friends tell you, this part isn't rocket science, it's a matter of making minor adjustments and letting your ear develop until you get it right.
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