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New to Audio have two questions?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Best Sound Quality Audio Format?

I've heard some people say FLAC, WAV etc. Which is the best in terms of sound quality?
 

Does Audio Frequency matter for audio files?

Songs etc. Does a higher Audio Frequency make it sound better or anything?
post #2 of 7

Audio formats:

There's uncompressed formats, such as WAV or AIFF,

lossless compression, such as FLAC and ALAC (same sound quality, but takes up less space),

and finally lossy compression, such as AAC, MP3, Vorbis ... (sound quality depends on the bitrate; takes up a lot less space; can be audibly transparent)

 

Sampling frequency:

CD audio = 44100 Hz, which means it can theoretically store frequencies up to 22050 Hz, in practice about 20 - 21 kHz. Most people cannot hear beyond 20 kHz and it's mostly noise up there anyway..


Edited by xnor - 12/12/12 at 3:51am
post #3 of 7

Adding to what xnor said...

 

Uncompressed formats like FLAC and WAV, Apple Lossless, also AIFF, have the ability to make an exact bit-for-bit copy of what's on the original CD, which makes them the most transparent.  Anything that reduces the amount of data in the file (mp3, AAC) has the potential of being less transparent.  It's a question of how much.  For example, theres no reliable way to tell a 320Kb AAC file from the original, but a 64Kb MP3 will be obvious to just about everyone.  Those are extremes, it gets pretty variable in the middle. 

 

The advantage FLAC and Apple Lossless have over WAV and AIFF is they re-pack the data so the file is smaller but still bit-perfect.

 

The sampling frequency of a CD is 44.1KHz.  The "bit depth", or number of bits per sample is 16.  High resolution audio files are now available that go above that both in sampling frequency and bit depth.  For example, 24bit, 96KHz (24/96).  Theoretically those should sound better, but the difference depend on the original source material, how the files were made, and the quality of playback. It gives people a warm/fuzzy to have those high rate files, but the jury is still out on them being audibly better all the time.  The best would be original material recorded at high rates and bit depths, but that means your favorite recordings from the 1990s won't be that, they'll be resampled, with questionable advantage.  Playing 24/96 files (or higher) requires something a little special, both in terms of hardware and software.  You won't play those on your iPod.

post #4 of 7
He asked which format "sounds best". With the right bitrate all formats sound the same. People worry WAY too much about what they can't hear. The best advice for a newbie is to worry about what you can hear, and don't sweat theoretical things you can't hear.
post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

He asked which format "sounds best". With the right bitrate all formats sound the same. People worry WAY too much about what they can't hear. The best advice for a newbie is to worry about what you can hear, and don't sweat theoretical things you can't hear.


Agree. Its good to demarcate the important aspects from non-important ones. Upgrading some parts will yield a greater return. 

You can worry about high bit rate/resolution audio when you've got nothing else to upgrade.

post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

He asked which format "sounds best". With the right bitrate all formats sound the same. People worry WAY too much about what they can't hear. The best advice for a newbie is to worry about what you can hear, and don't sweat theoretical things you can't hear.

 

Internet/Direct-selling price efficiency can be offset by the absence of an active community of audio hobbyists in the area can exacerbate this though - no dealers nor other people nearby with gear you can try to hear what you can and can't. An active community with some who buy deaf are essentially taking one for the team at least.

post #7 of 7
If people in forums like this engaged more in straight talk and not wild tangents into irrelevant theory, geographic isolation wouldn't matter.
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