It seems obvious, but the first thing to watch out for is the support you are listening to. Since most of the music you listen to daily probably comes from a “virtual” medium – ie internet streaming like Spotify or YouTube, or digital download -, know that the highest quality of audio you can get is already limited to ‘origin.
Usually a digital download of iTunes is an AAC file (Advanced Audio Coding, an audio compression format similar to MP3 and generally considered better) at 256 kbps. YouTube uses 128 kbps AAC for videos in standard quality up to 480p. AAC and MP3 are called “lossy” because compression eliminates part of the information contained in music (based on “perceptual” algorithms): the low bitrate allows us to download content very quickly, but at the cost of depleting the audio quality ( for example, the nuances are lost and the sounds seem more “flat” and with less dynamics).
So improve your digital files! MP3 or AAC at 320 kpbs are an excellent compromise (for example, set the “iTunes import settings” customized: choose the AAC encoding at 320 kbps). Otherwise, if you can choose “lossless” formats, such as FLAC (very popular open-source format, also used by Bandcamp and many other services, you can read with VLC), WAV or Apple Lossless, which maintain the original quality of the music unchanged.
To listen to the best music, if you mainly use the laptop consider purchasing an external sound card, since the quality of the DAC converters (digital-to-analog converter, necessary to transform the digital file into an electrical signal reproducible from the speakers) it’s not always good – to the point of “undoing” the advantages of a WAV file over an AAC / MP3.
For similar reasons, if you use headphones, also consider buying a small gadget that will make the difference: DAC and USB headphone amplifier. would risk not making the best use of them. By the way, if you want to buy a pair and don’t know what to choose, remember that low impedance headphones (16 – 32 ohm) with a minimum sensitivity of 100 dB / mW are the ones that go best with battery-powered devices such as iPods and laptops.