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Is iTunes 256kbps good?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

I know it doesn't touch the sound of some other codecs like FLAC or WAV, but is it even good? I hear that is isn't that great, but can't find anything online about it? Can some experienced audiophiles help me answer this question? Can you hear a difference between 128 kbps and 256 kbps on good/ decent headphones? (I have Sennheiser 558s).

post #2 of 27

The question should be, is it good enough for you?

Have a listen and decide for yourself as for some it won't be and for others it might be fine.

Not sure if that is the answer you were looking for but it is the only one I have on the subject.

post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post

The question should be, is it good enough for you?

Have a listen and decide for yourself as for some it won't be and for others it might be fine.

Not sure if that is the answer you were looking for but it is the only one I have on the subject.



yeah i mean i think its good but i was just curious why other people didn't like it- i have a hard time telling FLAC from 320 kbps to be honest.

post #4 of 27

It all depends on the person and their gear. 

I don't bother with lossy codecs at all for my persona home music system.  Just flac but others are just fine with lossy media files.

post #5 of 27
I quite like iTunes 256kbps (aka iTunes Plus). It's a good compromise between size and sound quality. That said, it is noticeably worse than lossless formats. So much so that I have nearly finished re-ripping my entire collection to FLAC.

I wrote an extensive (but hopefully easy to read and understand) article about compressed audio here: http://passionforsound.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/understanding-mp3s-and-other-compressed-music/
post #6 of 27

Re-Ripping to FLAC, good choice. :)

post #7 of 27

Of course it's good. 

post #8 of 27
There's a very high probability that you couldn't distinguish a ~256kbps VBR AAC (iTunes Plus) from its lossless counterpart in a double blind test (ABX). So, yes, it's very good.
post #9 of 27

I personally can't tell the difference between lossless and 256kbps. Perhaps it's because of my setup but either way it sounds very good to me.smile.gif

post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by skamp View Post

There's a very high probability that you couldn't distinguish a ~256kbps VBR AAC (iTunes Plus) from its lossless counterpart in a double blind test (ABX). So, yes, it's very good.


 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Balmoral View Post

I personally can't tell the difference between lossless and 256kbps. Perhaps it's because of my setup but either way it sounds very good to me.smile.gif


That's true. It will depend on your system setup, but also what you're listening too. I did some double blind testing when I became interested in it and found a very definite difference that I could hear every time.

 

The specific difference is in the overall feel of the music. The first thing that compression removes is harmonics. You won't generally hear harmonics on their own, but they add to the overall presence of the music. I found lossless formats had more "magic". I know that's an undefinable term, but hopefully my blog post that I provided the link for earlier will help. In it I fully explain what's missing from compressed audio and how that effects your listening experience.

 

Here it is again if you're interested: http://passionforsound.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/understanding-mp3s-and-other-compressed-music/

 

post #11 of 27

The really good news is that you can actually test for yourself relatively easy.  All you need is a computer, foobar200 (media player) - with the abx plugin, and your headphones.  Grab a CD that you know really well - and rip it to lossless (FLAC, WAV, ALAC - format doesn't really matter as long as it's well ripped as lossless).  For ripping - I use EAC - free and accurate!  Now with your lossless file, encode a copy to aac256 (I use aac256 cbr) - use constant or variable / try different bitrates - it's all learning about what you can hear.

 

Once you have the two files, load them in foobar2000 and use the abx tool to blind test the two files (one lossless and one lossy).  Make sure you use the gain matching tool so that they are both the same volume level first!  Try about 15-20 tests per file - and see if you can tell the difference.  Because it's blind - there is no real danger of placebo.  If the results show you can't tell the difference - don't be despondent - it's actually good to know your real limits.

 

When I first joined Head-fi - until I found out about foobar200s abx feature, I used to use lossless (ALAC) on my iPod, and I honestly thought I could tell a difference between most lossy formats and lossless.  Turns out - through my own testing - that aac192 cbr is about my limit (I'm talking about properly ripped and encoded lossless and lossy files).  So now - for my portable listening, I happily listen to 256aac cbr on my iPhone / iPod - content in the knowledge that for me there is no loss of fidelity.  I went a step higher than I actually tested (256 vs 192) just for safety sake smile.gif.  Now a lot more of my library fits on my portable.  My Touch G4 is only 32Gb - but I currently have 240 full albums (3258 songs) on it with room for more.  That's more than enough for me!

 

For home storage and listening - all my music is lossless.  But that's just because I have plenty of disk space, and also because it gives me greater flexibility when re-encoding.  A big no-no is reconverting lossy to another lossy format.  Every time you convert, you lose a little bit of information in the compression.  So I rip (EAC) all my CDs to FLAC, then re-encode those files (a copy) to 256aac for my portable.  Best of both worlds.

 

The biggest thing is not to rely on what everyone else says.  True enlightenment is finding out if YOU can hear the difference.  I'd imagine if a lot more people on this forum actually tried true abx for themselves  - with properly ripped music - there would be a lot less 'noise' on the occasional "can you spot the difference between 320mp3 and flac" thread (there will be some who genuinely can).  It always amazes me the amount of posters who try the tests and then claim it is easy to spot the difference.  In reality - quite a few of them are kidding no-one but themselves wink.gif.

post #12 of 27
Quote:

Originally Posted by Brooko View Post

 

So now - for my portable listening, I happily listen to 256aac cbr on my iPhone / iPod - content in the knowledge that for me there is no loss of fidelity.  I went a step higher than I actually tested (256 vs 192) just for safety sake smile.gif.  Now a lot more of my library fits on my portable.  My Touch G4 is only 32Gb - but I currently have 240 full albums (3258 songs) on it with room for more.  That's more than enough for me!

 



Completely agree with this. Portable music is generally listened to in non-silent to noisy conditions and from imperfect setups (i.e. most of us don't carry super high quality balanced amps with us, etc.) You have to strike a balance between number of tracks, quality of tracks and size of player.

 

Also have to agree with Brooko about testing for yourself. It's the only way to be truly confident as to whether you are missing out on anything perceptible and/or at what compression level you actually notice a difference.

post #13 of 27

I noticed some itunes songs by the indie labels have even worse dynamic range compression than terribly compressed CDs.

post #14 of 27

I use Apple Lossless.  I have about 300 songs taking 8 Gigs on my iPhone.  Compressing to 256kbps puts it at 3 Gigs.  The space savings isn't worth it for me, so I stick with Apple Lossless.

post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by lasuther View Post

I use Apple Lossless.  I have about 300 songs taking 8 Gigs on my iPhone.  Compressing to 256kbps puts it at 3 Gigs.  The space savings isn't worth it for me, so I stick with Apple Lossless.


That was the decision I made too. If you can have lossless music why choose lossy music? smily_headphones1.gif
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