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How good are your ears? (Telling FLAC from FLAC)

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

This is just a random question that popped into my head around two minutes before I made this thread.

 

The other day, my grandpa lent me his copy of Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours (it was a CD remaster, making it 16/44.1), which I ripped to FLAC just today. Curious about people's claims that LPs sound better than CDs, I trawled through the net and came across a vinyl FLAC rip (also in 16 bit/44.1 kHz). I nicked a copy of the last track, "This Love of Mine", and used foobar2000 to ABX them.

 

Considering the fact that they were both FLAC rips (same compression level too) and had the same bit depth and sampling rate, I expected to find no difference whatsoever. To my surprise, there was an audible difference between the two; the vinyl rip sounded much more organic and had a nicer soundstage, while Sinatra's voice was tinnier and *sorry to any Sinatra fans who might happen across this* weaker in the CD file. 

 

Curious, I looked at the bit rate and found that the vinyl FLAC file ran at 738 kbps, while the CD file ran at 414 kbps. It could just be the mastering was better on the vinyl version, but I was surprised all the same for the differences to have been so distinct. 

 

For the record, I'm listening to the files straight out of my notebook's 3.5mm jack (my sister's trying out my amp right now), and I'm using a pair of AKG K242 HDs; hardly hi-fi, but decent cans all the same.

 

So, have any of the you guys ever had similar experiences? 

post #2 of 25

Did you do the Foobar ABX test? And get results? Just saying you did Foobar ABx doesn't mean much

 

Getting at least 30-40 trials in the foobar ABX and then posting your results is what matters.

 

This belongs in the "Sound science" section by the way

post #3 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowei006 View Post

Did you do the Foobar ABX test? And get results? Just saying you did Foobar ABx doesn't mean much

Getting at least 30-40 trials in the foobar ABX and then posting your results is what matters.

This belongs in the "Sound science" section by the way

Not really.
These were two different versions. One vinyl rip, and one CD rip.

Vinyl inherently suffers from a huge frequency response error. This is corrected for by using RIAA equalization, but they are not perfect. Therefore a frequency response difference between vinyl and CD is still expected, especially on the less pricey vinyl rigs.
Furthermore, vinyl always has a higher background noise and MUCH higher harmonic distortion.

This gives the recording warmth. And yes, it also changes the soundstage, sometimes by a large amount.

On top of that, the two will also be differently mastered. So that will cause differences too.


Some people like vinyl recordings better than CD's, but that's just preference. Technically speaking vinyl is vastly inferior to CD.
post #4 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tilpo View Post


Not really.
These were two different versions. One vinyl rip, and one CD rip.
Vinyl inherently suffers from a huge frequency response error. This is corrected for by using RIAA equalization, but they are not perfect. Therefore a frequency response difference between vinyl and CD is still expected, especially on the less pricey vinyl rigs.
Furthermore, vinyl always has a higher background noise and MUCH higher harmonic distortion.
This gives the recording warmth. And yes, it also changes the soundstage, sometimes by a large amount.
On top of that, the two will also be differently mastered. So that will cause differences too.
Some people like vinyl recordings better than CD's, but that's just preference. Technically speaking vinyl is vastly inferior to CD.

Sound Science is where all the FLAC vs whatever and Vinyl discussions take place.

 

I personally prefer Digital CD's. 

post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowei006 View Post

Sound Science is where all the FLAC vs whatever and Vinyl discussions take place.

 

I personally prefer Digital CD's. 

 

Sorry about that; how do I move this thread?

 

Anyway, I agree that it was probably just the remastering that made a difference. As far as I can tell (since my experience with vinyl is minimal, to say the least), the vinyl rip just happened to be exceptionally mastered, while the CD was a run-of-the-mill 16/44.1 copy. Rather than my preferring the sound of the CD remaster, however, I much preferred the sound of the vinyl rip. The difference isn't so huge that I would have noticed it if I hadn't been listening closely, though.

post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowei006 View Post

Did you do the Foobar ABX test? And get results? Just saying you did Foobar ABx doesn't mean much

 

Getting at least 30-40 trials in the foobar ABX and then posting your results is what matters.

 

This belongs in the "Sound science" section by the way

 

I realize that. I neglected to record the results, so I'm going to try re-doing it when I have the time. So I should aim for roughly 40 trials, yes? Thank you for the advice :)

post #7 of 25
Quote:

Originally Posted by ZetsuBozu0012 View Post

 

Curious, I looked at the bit rate and found that the vinyl FLAC file ran at 738 kbps, while the CD file ran at 414 kbps.

 

Vinyl has higher noise than CD, and FLAC cannot compress noise (it is mathematically impossible to losslessly compress ideal white noise). Adding a noise floor of -70 dB will already increase the bit rate by hundreds of kbps.

post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

Vinyl has higher noise than CD, and FLAC cannot compress noise (it is mathematically impossible to losslessly compress ideal white noise). Adding a noise floor of -70 dB will already increase the bit rate by hundreds of kbps.

 

Thanks for clearing that up! So basically, the higher bitrate just means that there's additional noise in the recording? Still, isn't it possible that the human ear can perceive the higher noise floor (and by higher, I mean that the floor is higher in value, not higher in quality :D) as adding to the "organic" feel of vinyl? Honestly, I've yet to listen to vinyl out of a proper rig, the closest I've ever gotten being 96/24 FLAC rips. 

 

Going off on a tangent, how is it possible that vinyls are more organic than CDs when they are generally inferior in quality, being an older technology? Thanks for the clarification.

post #9 of 25

Sadly vinyl has much more care taken in production than regular cd. Given 2 of the same song mastered on CD and vinyl equally, I would pick CD anytime. Unfortunately such cases are few and I have not encountered such a situation. High bit rate songs receive the same care as vinyl back in the day, they would sound the same on a competent dac even when downsampled though.

post #10 of 25

My favorite digital recordings to listen to are vinyl rips off a high-end system. I think some of it has to do with dynamic compression in modern CDs. 

post #11 of 25
"I think" doesnt cut it. There is a reason it is debated. Because of indoctrination of information what probably sounds better.
post #12 of 25

Well it is no secret that vinyls usually have more dynamic range than their CD counterparts simply because of mastering differences, even though ironically CDs can in theory can allow more of it.

post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TMRaven View Post

Well it is no secret that vinyls usually have more dynamic range than their CD counterparts simply because of mastering differences, even though ironically CDs can in theory can allow more of it.

Loudness War, huh?

 

Anyway, does that mean that vinyls sound worse than well-mastered SACDs?

post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZetsuBozu0012 View Post

Loudness War, huh?

 

Anyway, does that mean that vinyls sound worse than well-mastered SACDs?

 

Well, different and lower fidelity (compared to the master).  That probably means it sounds worse, to most people at least, but you never know.

 

Same goes for a comparison with just normal CDs.

post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZetsuBozu0012 View Post

Loudness War, huh?

 

Anyway, does that mean that vinyls sound worse than well-mastered SACDs?

Yup and a also worse than a well mastered CD. Vinyl still has pops and cackles unless you take very very good care of it.

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