This kills me...

So, I get all into with this new singer / songwriter fellow and download a couple of mp3's from his website and spend a couple of weeks playing them entirely too much at work every day on the old office computer. Obsession ensues. Finally, I manage to order a copy of the CD from him (one of those small-time, not-in-stores deals), get it home to the trusty hi-fi, and go straight to the favorite track. Lo and behold, they had gone and snuck in a whole drum section and a relatively complex baseline that the mp3 and office speakers just plain weren’t up for. It was fine, sure, maybe even better, but not the track I had fallen for (so I became obsessed with a couple I didn’t have at work, no problem). How do you like that, though, betrayed by the resolution and fidelity of my own system. Sure, it was a prime example of the "I've never heard that before" syndrome that we all enjoy so, but I was actually disappointed. Just goes to show, the magic (when and if magic) is all about the software, not the hardware. Sobering, really. Am I alone on this one?
I also have experienced this phenomenon, often after enjoying something on a factory car stereo, for example. However, Mezmo, I don't know if this is sufficient evidence for your conclusion "the magic.. is all about the software, not hardware". One could interpret this experience in the exact oppoiste manner as well. If it were not for the hardware differences, you might have liked or disliked a different set of songs on that disc. Were it not for higher resolution at home, you had liked a song with 20% (or whatever) of the music completely missing. Add that 20% back in, and you don't like it as much. Hmmm... that would lead me to conlcude that a high res system is the only way to really see if you like something, because now you are hearing everything the artist wanted you to hear - good or bad. Conversely, I have a lot of music that I can only enjoy on my big rig. For example, a lot of my favorite classical music is not even close to enjoyable for me, on a computer system or car. Take out the 20% of the insturments (or whatever), and I lose the connection with the composer/conductor that I have with that last 20% in place. Anyway, just my thoughts on how this experience could be viewed in a different light....
This happens in my car all the time, it has a very nice Bose sond system with TONs of toe tappin bass, and when I get to my hifi SOME things just don't sound as pleasing. But what are you going to do? I try to produce music myself and I use my Hifi system as monitors and I get the excact sound I want, listen to it on a few different systems and adjust my recordings. I wish producers would put as much care into recording as they could, I don't have anything close to a recording studio(except my stereo ;) ) and I can master tracks that sound good on regular systems and in cars, but on my hifi system the music sounds...awsome.
I listen to my clock radio when I go to sleep and sometimes I'll hear something and think, damn that sounds pretty good. So I'll try to remeber the song so I can hear it later. 9 times out of 10 it sounds like complete garbage on the good system. Maybe the inaccuracies of the cheap radio hide the shortcomings of the poor music?! Doesn't make sense.
That's pretty ironic. It's sorta the online version of a disappointment I've faced frequently since I started buying music. It always sucks when I see/hear a great band live and buy their CD based on the performance. Then I listen to it and think "Who the hell is this? It doesn't sound like the band I saw." I've good quite a few of those in my collection. They're sorta like a blurry picture I have of my deceased Grandma--it helps remind me of, but I can really tell what she looked like any more.
Eldon, I think the experience you relate is also largely due to the removal of the visual cues you enjoyed while seeing the music performed live. With all that lighting and stage production going on, to say nothing of the performers' theatrics, it's easy to get sucked into the visuals, while you fail to notice that the sound is fairly crappy.