New iTunes Plus, any audible improvement?

I have not got round to testing the new iTunes Plus (no DRM) 256 Kbps AAC files available this week from iTunes music store for $1.39 as opposed to $0.99 in Canada (standard 128 Kbps AAC & still including DRM).

Some web based threaded discussions exist already. Many claim no audible difference with 128 Kbps standard iTunes AAC files or not enough difference to A/B blindly with any degree of reliability. So are 128 Kbps AAC files already good enough? Is it worth the extra price?

No DRM seems to be no major advantage as you can already convert the standard DRM protected iTunes files to Redbook CD at which point they lose their DRM restrictions. So sound quality is really what I am asking about.

Any comments?
7ac929ee be73 4853 8000 abc8d06023d4shadorne
You can do your own blind testing. The nicest way is to download a computer-based ABX comparator. I forget the exact URL, but Google that phrase and you'll get it.

I suspect that the audibility would depend on your playback equipment and listening environment. Wouldn't be surprised if it's hard to hear a difference when listening through standard IPOD earbuds while working out at the gym. But I suspect the difference would be apparent on at least some music if you were playing it back through an audiophile system in your listening room.

I've done similar comparisons myself with CDs I've ripped using I-tunes. 320 Kbs sounded a bit better than 128 to me on some music when using the IPOD with Shure E3 headphones. The difference was much more dramatic when played back through my living room system. Seems like much of what gets lost through the compression is the soundstaging and ambience -- things that don't come across that great in headphones anyway.
Actually, I ended up doing some testing last week. I ripped well-recorded CDs to my hard drive and then prepared cuts in 64K, 128K, 256K (all AAC) and apple lossless. I then burned a CD with the cuts and compared the sound when played back through my primary stereo system.

256kps AAC sounded WAY better than 128. Very close to lossless on some music.

So I'd say it's definitely worth it to spend the extra 40 cents if you're downloading from i-tunes.