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In my recent fit of audio-snobbery, I've decided to make a concerted effort to buy CDs again rather than download digital music.

Most iTunes and Amazon mp3s are 256 kbit/s. Some of the best mp3s are 320 kbit/s. CDs are 1411 kbit/s. it's foolish to think that the mp3s are going to be the audio equivalent.

And if you own the CD, you can make your own digital files in your choice of lossless formats. 
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At what level can humans detect a difference? 
Some "audiophiles" might argue they can hear all the way to to 45khz and can hear the drummer breathe heavily during a drum solo on a 180 gram vinyl pressing on their $50k turntable through their $60k monoblock tube amplifiers. That's great and I'm sure it sounds awesome, but it's surely one of those "diminishing returns" type of things.

Start by listening to a MP3 at 128k. Now listen to the same song at 320k. You should be able to hear the difference clearly. Even evaluation of the waveform shows that the 128k file clearly does not have the dynamic peaks of a 320k+ file.

Now listen to the CD. it Should sound a little better than the 320k. Starts to become a challenge by many to detect differences. Then listen to a DVD-audio or SACD version of the song and many (myself included) feel that is the next substantial jump.

Now listen to a live guitar playing beside you. That is the goal. To capture it all. I guess my perspective is, we often put good money into our sound systems and the goal is to enjoy music. The least we can do is start with the best (or at least practical best) source material possible.
The sound on a CD will be noticeably cleaner than a MP3, all things being equal and especially if the two are played through a good high fidelity stereo system.  Considering that now many people listen to their music through tiny speakers or phones on a mobile device or something similar, (not saying they can't sound enjoyable enough) they're not going to be able to even tell the difference.

As a photographer, I can certainly see the difference between a photo shot by a skilled photographer using quality equipment as opposed to something shot on a cell phone camera.   On the small screen of a cell phone the difference won't always be noticeable.  Try printing an 8"x10" from each and see the difference.  Same thing with the sound systems and the source material.
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