I feel I've got to put a quick review of Potamus together because it is superb.
Potamus uses libmad to play mp3s. Here's a quick explanation of what this does:
Because MAD provides full 24-bit PCM output, applications using MAD are able to produce high quality audio. Even when the output device supports only 16-bit PCM, applications can use the extra resolution to increase the audible dynamic range through the use of dithering or noise shaping.
When I first read this I immediately thought of snake oil. Converting 16 bit audio to 24 bit to make things sound better - I sincerely doubted this would be of benefit. Anyway, I read the following:
This is a great plugin not because it increases bitdepth, but because it DECODES in a higher bitdepth. In other words, the MP3s are decoded with a higher level of precision. So, even if you have to use 16-bit output (or even a mere 8-bit) then it should come out in better quality.
I felt there was only one way to try this out, so I took some albums which I have only ever heard on CD, converted them to 320Kbps VBR mp3s, and I then listened to see if I could hear any differences.
Logic says the lossless audio from a CD should sound better than a lossy mp3 file.
The first album I tried was ABC's "Lexicon of Love." I bought it many years ago and I still play it on a regular basis. Methinks I'm getting old
Anyway, I listened to the album and it was a revelation. The album has lots of orchestra in it, and the mp3 playback revealed numerous instruments which I had never previously heard when playing the CD. I was impressed.
I then played Depeche Mode's "Violator." This is pure synth with a bit of guitar thrown in for good measure, and the detail that emerged from the mp3s was unbelievable. It sounded like a tarpaulin had been removed from the speakers and I could finally hear clear audio. The top end was crystal clear, the midrange was highly detailed, and the bass was defined and punchy. I can not believe how much of this album I've missed even though the CD has been played to death.
I finally gave my all time #1 favorite album a try - The Enemy's "It's Automatic." If you've never heard this album (and I suspect you haven't as it's an indie release) I can't recommend it highly enough - don't let the name of the group put you off, the album is not political, it's just absolutely brilliant.
Unfortunately there is an almighty flaw with this album, namely it was mastered by muppets who have wholehearted subscribed to the loudness wars. If you've never heard of this watch this brief video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UjQc0dM4H4
. Excessive volume effectively trashes the audio, and this drives me nuts. What is going on in their heads?
Anyway, here's what one person said of libmad:
So did it make any difference to the playback of "It's Automatic"? You bet it did. I always found the CD hard to listen to, I guess my brain was being fried trying to work out what instruments were what because of the excessive audio levels. When I listened to the mp3s on Potamus the album was easy to listen to, and the detail that jumped out was amazing. The drums even had some punch.
If you're looking for good sound Potamus delivers in spades. It is advertised as a high quality audio player and it ain't kidding - it's the dogs doofers when it comes to mp3 playback. Please give it a try, especially if you've got a good pair of speakers.
I won't be listening to a CD again.