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What's the best quality audio file? - Page 5

post #61 of 87

use compare feature, to compare bitperfect data of both formats. if you still claim to hear a difference.........

post #62 of 87

Forget about file quality for now. A well-recorded file in 128 kbps mp3 will still sound better than a poorly-recorded file in flac.

 

edit: alright alright, 128 then


Edited by rymd - 5/1/11 at 10:20pm
post #63 of 87

hmm, i think your example is too extreme, but i take your meaning and agree. 64kbs will always sound like crap and dodgy digital artifacts sound far worse than your average analogue overdrive imo

post #64 of 87

The question of using a lossless file, WAV or AIFF is a basic question and one that is very difficult to get ones head around. I think a forum like this should exist to help people in need of understanding this issue. And I don't think most responses are informed enough. So even though someone will say, "lossless is indeed lossless", it doesn't explain that much. Whoever posts a question like this should be skeptical of all our answers until they have enough proof for themselves. So even though threads like this pop up quite a bit, we must keep posting responses that are easily understandable, non-patronizing, and as helpful as possible. So now it is my turn to take a shot at it. Since I was in the same position a few weeks ago, there were a couple of things that convinced me one way or the other. So let me start off by saying, yes, Apple Lossless is equal to WAV and AIFF. Apple Lossless sounds like just a marketing term but it is a lossless file. I will try to explain it from a beginners perspective, which I am myself. All the information on a CD can be compressed into a file. I know what you're thinking; compression equals compromised sound quality. But hear me out. Once that compressed file is ready to be played, it becomes uncompressed during playback. The original AIFF or WAV file is retained. Here is an example:

WAV or AIFF file-
8888888444455577777333333

The same file using Apple Lossless-
885442551773334 or 88(5)44(2)55(1)77(3)33(4)

Notice how the Apple Lossless file is smaller than the WAV or AIFF file. How Apple Lossless saves space on the file can be seen by the number following the first two numbers in the sequence. For instance, after the first two 8's, the following number is (5). That (5) represents five more 8's that follow the first two 8's. There are seven 8's in the original WAV or AIFF file and there are a total of seven 8's in the Apple file. Apple Lossless only stores that information on your hard drive using this algorithm. When that file is ready to be used, Apple Lossless unzips this compressed file and and all seven 8's are used in playback. The same goes for all the rest of the numbers in the sequence. Apple Lossless unzips back into the original AIFF or WAV file. Of course, you could be thinking that there could be errors in the algorithms that Apple Lossless uses, or just by the nature of any kind of change from the original file, that sound quality could be lessened, however small. Well, what I said is from a beginners perspective. The proof will be in the actual measurements comparing these files. Hence, the next part of my reply. For an expert opinion and a fascinating article, click on the link by John Atkinson from Stereophile magazine. I hope this helps:

Stereophile: MP3 vs AAC vs FLAC vs CD

I had recently emailed John Atkinson about the issue of the lossless algorithm and whether or not it has an effect
on sound quality-

Me:
One of the other things I was wondering about reading your article is I was thinking that a CD ripped into AIFF or WAV is only one generation removed from the source. Whereas Apple Lossless or ALAC or any other lossless file is two generations removed from the source. This does not have any effect on sound quality? Could there be errors in the lossless algorithms?

John Atkinson:
No errors. But there is a processing overhead playing back a lossless-compressed file compared with an AIFF or WAV and some have conjectured that this does affect the sound. Personally, I don't believe so. But if you have enough hard-drive space, then rip as uncompressed format.

post #65 of 87

As far as the best sound files? I would have to say a multi track master. These could come from a hard disk digital copy or magnetic recording reel to reel. The issue here is that later in the digital age you also had many treatments done to the two track like normalization and even digital finalization which brought about volume and eq type end effects. There is only one multi track tape for a song on big reel to reels per take so they would be out of the question. Even there you have sound changes. There is magnetic bleed where the magnetic information transfers between layers. Robert Plants' voice in Whole Lot Of Love, Led Zeppelin 2 has a pre echo of sorts that was unexpected but added to the song. These tapes do not last forever and can suffer from hiss. Each tape requires a complete treatment like the Dolby{ which came in many flavors} that was used to record it being used on the play back. These tapes were on different speeds too, so it gets complex even if you had a handful of masters. Each couple of years it seemed they made changes and added more channels. Like any mechanical way of reproducing music the original gets degraded over use and time. Records have lasted far longer and in far better shape than people would have guessed. The fact that you can get a 78rpm record from the 1930s or a Capital Living Stereo record from the 60s and play it like the day it was made is nothing short of a amazing! The records are as close to a master two channel mix down played on the right reproduction device as we are going to get in our lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

A really cool experiment is to grab a hand full of records from different times and play them and listen to how audio engineers did the sound of the times. In the eighties you have records from bands like the Eurythmics where they somehow made the music very high detailed in only the upper register. With the Eurythmics you almost had records trying to sound like cds. That heavy bass from the past was the out sound and we were only hearing information in a small {New Wave} eq curve. The music sounded new and bright, it sold and few cared. Take a New Wave record from the times and play it against the times a few years before or even a few years later and you can hear the style of the engineers. The funny stuff now is that they are going back to the digital muli track masters from the mid eighties and some are really hard to play back to make a digital remaster for reproduction. A big part of the problem is having the correct play back equipment for the masters. There are some digital files which have been found to be just missing! In this case records can be the best left over copy. Yes, even records are now some of our best documents left over from the mid eighties when the “new” digital technology has failed us. Huge holdings of digital recordings are found to be lost{ these are the masters} from even twenty years ago! After the mix down was made they just filed away the reel to reel digital tape and forgot about it and how to reproduce it in the future. Red book audio is today’s standard and at 16bit and 44.1 we are able to tune our playback devices to get the most out of the sound. Sadly this is a chosen form of compression which still leaves out some information. I myself seem to hear this in the lower frequency area of the recordings. At the time Cd's came out they were touted as “Perfect Sound Forever”. The sound had a cool digital edge which was enhanced by the music of the times. Large horn cuts with digital echo made all of us think we were in a new audiophile age. It seems at times we are looking for a new sound just to have a change. The sound may not be better but the change makes everything sound anew. We were tired of record warp, scratches, pops and the huge size. Now records are getting a new life in some circles due to the fact that turntables have in some ways become perfected. The crazy part is we never would have dreamed in the early 90s that turntables and phono preamps would have continued to be slowly improved upon. Somehow there was a group of people who loved records and the media was in large amounts so reproduction equipment continued to be made and improved. Records lived when almost everything changed.

 

 

 

 

 

We now have many choices for saving our downloads or CD digital copies. It seems people needed an easier way than just to take a CD out of its case and pop it in a player. The truth is every form of lossey compression has a different sound. If it is from a different place it almost has to have a different sound. Wikipedia has some great reads on the various forms of compression out there. With storage costing less and less the last thing you want to do is rip your library to a format that you hear problems with in the future. I have purchased a conversion program called Ashampoo 3 which lets me do conversions into http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorbis mp3 Flac or wave. Most times I do not hear a huge difference but I tend to think it has to do with what device your playing the files on. I am not sure of the quality of my program in relation to others like EAC, but it works for me and sounds great. The crazy part of this hobby is as you go along and your reference system changes you are more apt to hear the imperfections both in your choice of compression and the engineers choices in recording the music. You would think it would be the other way around, in that the better equipment you have the better it sounds. It may always sound better but after you hear something really recorded well you search for more recordings at that level and it makes the substandard recordings vermin. VERMIN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we go along into the future improvements in hardware and digital file manipulation we will most likely be able to hear our collection for what it truly is. Go and get seven different bottles of water from different manufactures. Get a bottle in glass, some in plastic, some imported. With your eyes closed have a friend help you taste the different types of water. There are very small microscopic aspects, micro chemical, and even qualities which we do not have tests for at this present time, making changes to the taste. This is where we are with sound files. Our ears as our eyes have the ability to differentiate between very small aspects just at the edge of perception. From these trace forms of feeling, life and all the magic of music exist. At some future date {as what has just been discovered with the break-in of AKG headphones} we will arrive at a time when more aspects of our hobby can be tested. Until that time we are gifted with the most sensitive testing devices on earth to do our evaluations. If it sounds bad and tests bad it is bad, if it sounds good and we can not test for it, our testing needs improvement and understanding.


Edited by Redcarmoose - 4/30/11 at 11:21pm
post #66 of 87
Quote:

Originally Posted by davidhunternyc View Post

 

John Atkinson:
No errors. But there is a processing overhead playing back a lossless-compressed file compared with an AIFF or WAV and some have conjectured that this does affect the sound. Personally, I don't believe so. But if you have enough hard-drive space, then rip as uncompressed format.

 

As insane as that sounds, why does that not surprise me?  Maybe it's time to upgrade that 80286 processor?
 

 

post #67 of 87



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaBomb77766 View Post





I must say, after being in China for awhile, the placebo effect is put to great use here. :P  Since it seems that everyone believes fully that things like sea cucumbers and fungus worms are supremely good for their health and well-being, which I honestly kind of doubt.


Oh! I'm not sure what's the difference between APE and FLAC, but I do have an aswer for you because I know lots of that. If you are super healthy, things like sea cucumbers and fungus worms do not work at all; but if you are old or you overuse your body then your organ cannot catch up with your body, those "strange things" like sea cucumbers could stimulate your organs producing more than usual to balance your body system. Chinese economy boomed, we are using our body too much, so it works for lots of people. Yeah, to some it is a placebo, to those "weak organs", it really works. I'm not a Chinese medicine expert but I'm firm on this one.

 

I've been to the United State for one year. I tried my best to come up with some "American placebo" but I failed. Come on, give me one, buddy.

 

post #68 of 87

Great posts, guys, quite informative.  But honestly, those huge walls of text are more imposing than any sentence-long explanation will ever be. :P

 

And kobegibson, homeopathy.  It's not "american," per se, but it's "western."  Some people believe in it, but it's nothing but unprovable pseudoscience.  Look it up if you want to know more.

post #69 of 87

Homeopathy can be tested, and has been tested. Double-blind trials show it does no better than placebo. Music files can be tested in the same way. Install Foobar2000 ABX comparator, see if you can reliably tell the difference between two files of your choosing (e.g. a FLAC and a LAME encoded mp3, or a FLAC and an APE). I always thought FLAC sounded way better than anything else, and that I could hear a huge difference between lossless and any lossy format. Then I put it to the test, and found that I couldn't tell the difference between lossless files and mp3 encoded in LAME once the average bitrate hits about 192. (There are occasional glitches in mp3, which are errors in the encoding, and these can make it really easy to tell. But you're not telling in that case on the basis of the sound quality.)

 

It's really easy to do, just get the ABX plugin, choose the two files (if you're being really tech about it you should normalise them, as louder files can be perceived as sounding better) and foobar will do the rest. You just highlight the two files, right-click, and choose 'ABX two tracks' under utilities. Your two tracks are listed as A and B, and one of them is chosen as X. X stays the same all the way through, and A and B get switched at random. You can listen to each as many times as you like, then on each trial you decide which is X. It's much, much harder than you would think.

post #70 of 87

I'm pretty good at picking up sound quality differences up until better than 192kb mp3s, after that it all sounds the same - 256/320kb, FLAC, WAV, a CD (in a decent system) - one's as good as the next to me. But I will qualify that by saying I can really only pick up differences in music that I already know. New files could be anything and I'd have trouble picking it. 


Edited by phntmsmshr - 5/1/11 at 8:22am
post #71 of 87
Thread Starter 

All these walls of texts are confusing

So converting an mp3 file to flac won't work?

post #72 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by UserFriendly View Post

All these walls of texts are confusing

So converting an mp3 file to flac won't work?


Nope. Lossy to lossless is stuck at whatever your lossless quality was. The opposite is perfectly fine though.

If going portable, high bit rate MP3 or other lossy files are perfectly fine, but when you first rip them or download them to your hard drive, you should probably try to get lossless (FLAC, ALAC, WAV, APE, etc.)
post #73 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by sml1226 View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by UserFriendly View Post

All these walls of texts are confusing

So converting an mp3 file to flac won't work?




Nope. Lossy to lossless is stuck at whatever your lossless quality was. The opposite is perfectly fine though.

If going portable, high bit rate MP3 or other lossy files are perfectly fine, but when you first rip them or download them to your hard drive, you should probably try to get lossless (FLAC, ALAC, WAV, APE, etc.)


With that said, an MP3 file encoded to FLAC would be a perfect lossless copy of the mp3 file. :P

post #74 of 87
Thread Starter 

How do I encode mp3 to flac?

post #75 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by UserFriendly View Post

How do I encode mp3 to flac?


 

Sorry if you misunderstood what I said, I basically just meant that the FLAC file will sound absolutely identical to the MP3 file.  Never under any circumstances should you convert a lossy file to a lossless file (well I guess you could if you're in a situation where a program/device only accepts, say, WAV files, but I'm sure those instances are far and few between.).

 

If you really, really wanted to though, most file conversion programs can do it if they support FLAC.  I just highly recommend that you don't - there's nothing you can do to make an MP3 file sound better, the lost information is gone forever.

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