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Article published on Thu, 29 Jun 2023 13:04:48 GMT

Written by Bart Nijbakker, edited by J. van Noppen

This is a personal story about my experience discovering the wonders of good music and audio quality. Enjoy.

I am an audiophile

There it is. I admit it: I truly appreciate good audio quality.

Wait, what is this about?

For some time, I have desired better audio equipment to enjoy music with. And this mission has indeed had success, I have acquired some very enjoyable things (read more about this below).

It did not happen in one day, though. This interest has slowly developed into a hobby.

How I started to appreciate good music

Around 2018, I managed to install Linux for the very first time. The distribution which I decided to try out was Ubuntu, which comes with the Rhythmbox music player pre-installed. As usual, while fiddling around with every little button I could find, the Radio menu appeared. At first, I thought I could listen to FM radio, similar to the way you could do this on old smartphones, using your headphones as antenna. However, I discovered Internet Radio this way. Rhythmbox included several options, such as university stations.

I did not really like the music on most of the stations there, but then I listened to one a bit longer, and my interest increased. The station I had discovered was Radio Paradise.

Radio Paradise is a relatively small (ad-free and listener-supported) radio station originally based out of Paradise, California, before the fire (which is where they get their name from). It is run mainly by William Goldsmith, who started the station with his wife in 2000. They play a well-crafted mix of rock, mellow, eclectic and world music. The way I see it, Radio Paradise is one of very few places where you can hear Beethoven, Queen, Pink Floyd and Talking Heads in a single hour. Best of all, it sounds incredible together! William does not play music because it is mainstream, culturally acceptable or commercially viable like other stations. He plays what he likes. And his taste and way of mixing is very good in my opinion.

Over the years following the discovery, I listened to Radio Paradise more and more. I discovered incredible artists like Bombino, The Black Keys, Moby, Depeche Mode, Porcupine Tree, Cake and Tool (just to name a few). I also learned to appreciate alternative music, because there is a lot of lesser-known music being played on Radio Paradise which deserves a listen.

Radio Paradise offers streams of different audio quality, including FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). FLAC provides the highest quality that digital audio can offer (better than CD and without the noise and imperfections of vinyl). Radio Paradise offering FLAC is incredible in my opinion, more so because they do not play any ads, news or other distractions, only music. You can start to see how my appreciation for music starts to develop.

In 2022, I went to buy a pair of studio-quality headphones at a music equipment store. They had a whole wall of them, so I decided to take my time and try them all to compare. Most models disappointed, but an expensive pair (Beyerdynamic, if I remember correctly) truly excelled. I decided to compare the others until I found a comparable pair - but at an acceptable price. This is when I discovered that Røde not only makes microphones, but headphones as well. These are design studio headphones with surprisingly good sound quality. As you may imagine, I played (and enjoyed) all the music I could think of at the time at loud volume, and indeed decided to buy the headphones. I've included some links below.

During that time I had considered to start a vinyl collection and pick a good vinyl player. This would have been very expensive and taken a long time to get going, and it would not have been as mobile and accessible as digital albums. So I decided I would go for a digital collection. In my opinion, digital is also better than vinyl in terms of audio quality, but this is a highly controversial and complicated topic.

I think the headphones are a good decision, and they sound good from a smartphone also (if you are lucky enough to have an audio jack, of course).

So here we are. My budding interest in music and good listening experiences have led me to the conclusion that indeed - I am an audiophile.

Now follows some information about my gear and how to get going with a digital audio collection.

What equipment do you use?

Here is a short list. The links are not affiliated and are cleaned of any tracking IDs.


Headphones are crucial for a good personal listening experience. I prefer studio headphones because they have an accurate, flat response and a high frequency range for optimal clarity. I discovered little details in recordings which do not show on low-end Bluetooth headphones with lossy codecs, the very rubbing of fingers on the snares is audible. In addition to details, instruments have a sharper and clearer sound, providing a balanced sound-stage. The whole experience of listening to music becomes much more intimate and enjoyable.

My pick:

USB Audio Interface

Once you have an acceptable pair of headphones, a next improvement could be the audio card. Preinstalled cards on modern devices are often acceptable, but they lack features such as high sample rates. USB audio interfaces, on the other hand, allow for an upgrade, are small and do not require a complicated setup. I chose the Focusrite Scarlett, which works out of the box and does not require any drivers*, which makes it a good choice in my opinion.

*: Focusrite wants you to install their software and surrender your personal information by holding part of their device's functionality hostage. Unfa explains this in detail, including a solution which I also use to bypass this ridiculous design flaw. See his video on Invidious or YouTube.

Where do you find digital music to buy?

I discovered that you can buy music straight from the record company. They often even provide a (FLAC) download. In order to buy music this way, find out if the record company with whom the artist released their album have an online store.

Another method is through web stores like They have a large supply of music from various artists, and it is easy to see which codec and quality you'll get.

If you cannot find any high quality download, you can always buy a CD (or vinyl record...) and rip it. Make sure to do this losslessly, because some programs may re-encode the audio in some exotic or non-free lossy format (iTunes does this, in my experience). Preferably use something that supports FLAC output, as this is lossless.

Caveat: storage

One downside of FLAC is that the files can be rather large. If you want a big library in a small space, for example on your phone, consider re-encoding the tracks to lower samplerates or to a high quality lossy codec (such as Opus) to save some space while retaining as much quality as possible.

I can also recommend to make backups of your music archive. You may get lucky and download it again from the store, but it's better not to risk losing your files.

My conclusion

Digital Hi-Fi does it for me.

I hope you liked this article. It is a bit different from what I usually write about, but audio quality can be a very technical topic and is certainly nice to cover it.

If you have strong opinions, feel free to share these with me in an email. In fact, other types of emails are welcome, too.

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