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Best sound out of your iPod/iPad? - AAC, FLAC, WAV, MP3

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

After spending some time on searching what would be the best

quality sound file to convert my CD collection to (over 800 CDs) 

I came to a point where I got a bit confused.  Here is what I did.

Using the Easy CDDA Extractor software I converted one good

WAV recording of a jazz track into several different file format

like AAC 160kbt/s, FLAC, MP3 VBR 260kbt/s and compared them.

 

The original (WAV) file is 35.7Mb.

 

FLAC file            25.3Mb

 

MP3 VBR 260     6.58Mb

 

AAC 160              4.05Mb

 

Compared to the WAV the AAC size compression is almost 1:9

 

I transferred the files to an iPad3 (to an OPlayer HD app that plays

FLAC and other files)  Connected an Etymotic ER-4 Pro monitor

ear phones and compared the files. 

I did the comparison of all four files including the WAV original

but couldn't determine which one I was playing (cause I played

random and tried to guess the file type.) 

Now the next step is to repeat the test with an International amp

connected to the amp via a LOD to 1/8 and LOD to mini USB and

hear if that will make a difference in sound quality on a Audeze

LCD2 connected to the amp via a balanced cable. 

 

Will report soon. 

 

My goal is simple - to rip my complete CD collection to a HD

(probably WAV format) and then convert it to a file format to

transfer all my favorite tracks to an iPod Classic (160Gb) and

be able to listen a best possible sound quality via the International

amp to balanced LCD2s... 

Let me add that is important to me to have a good file type

not just for the best quality sound but to be able to group

files in playlists etc.  Looking for an iPad player for FLAC, AAC

files that can do all that.
 

Any suggestions on file compression, player...?  Please share... 

 

Thnx...
 


Edited by Linea - 2/8/13 at 5:08pm
post #2 of 36

What answers on compression do you want? You seem to have found your own very efficiently. You could make flacs of everything then find a script that you could run that would make mp3/aac copies of all your music in one go, at whatever file rate you specify. Google audio file batch converter freeware

 

Re. players - I think there's a JetAudio app? I'd try that one first for the flexibility and quality of the extra features like BBE, etc.

post #3 of 36
Thread Starter 

File conversion is not a problem.  Easy CDDA does all the conversions.  

I was wondering if others did a similar test.. what is their experience.

Confusion came from the fact that a 36Mb WAV file sounded

identical to the 4Mb AAC which I was not very familiar with.

Guess I was listening MP3s for too long. 


Will check out those apps...  thnx...

post #4 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linea View Post

File conversion is not a problem.  Easy CDDA does all the conversions.  

I was wondering if others did a similar test.. what is their experience.

Confusion came from the fact that a 36Mb WAV file sounded

identical to the 4Mb AAC which I was not very familiar with.

Guess I was listening MP3s for too long. 


Will check out those apps...  thnx...

 

Most people can't tell the difference between reasonable bitrate mp3s and flac, so this isn't too surprising - you're just unusual in having had the intelligence to do an experiment for yourself.

post #5 of 36
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the kind words...Even though I did the

file comparison I would like to hear some more 

different kind of recordings in a similar comparison

using the International amp and the LCD2s to

hear if I can notice details like stage, dynamics, etc. 

What interests me is the fine stuff I might not getting with the 

Etymotic ER-4 Pro although they are very

accurate and responsive. As an ex sound engineer

( over a decade working in studios and field recording)

my ears are pretty sharp to hear minute details

so I am very curious.  One thing is sure ... when I

get all my answers I'll share them .. they might

help others.  Then I will rip all my music CDs

to HD (FLAC) and convert them to the best

available file type to save the most space on my

iPod Classic (and store some favorites on iPad3.


Edited by Linea - 2/10/13 at 2:30am
post #6 of 36

Re. the best format: do you need to stay with in the limited range of formats available with itunes? A non itunes player like jet will usually give attractive extra choices like ogg - and if you want a small player that will play almost anything, there's then Sansa Clip+ - cheap and notoriously high quality  - especially with Rockbox loaded.

 

Oh - if you're willing to give up itunes, you can probably Rockbox your ipod and gain more file formats, playback control (you get adjustable crossfeed for example).

 

Another thing about format is that there seems to be no definite winner! Tests show format quality ranking results seem to depend on the exact bitrate used for the test. In practice, it shouldn't matter much, I think - they all do a good job. But -

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorbis#Quality:_Codec_comparisons


Edited by scuttle - 2/10/13 at 3:14am
post #7 of 36

You're definitely going the right way about it - and as Scuttle suggested, it's more about what you can hear - rather than what everyone else can.

 

I use an iPod Touch G4 and an iPhone4 (both excellent as DAPs), and was confronted by same issues in the past.  I did what you were doing (rip a well mastered CD, then transcode to various containers and abx).  What I found really surprised me.  All this talk about having to go lossless ....... well not for me - not with my hearing anyway.

 

I have permanent low-level tinnitus, I'm 46 and my current hearing plateaus at ~ 15Khz.

 

Using my DT880 I compared FLAC with different aac compression.  I used aac rather than mp3 as I found that for me aac remains transparent at lower compression than mp3 (latest lame).  Anyway - I tested at 256aac, then at 192aac.  Both to me were transparent - using mp3 at 192 I was picking up occasional compression artifacts - but truth is that I would have been reasonably happy even at 192 mp3.  So I ended up using aac ~200 kbps vbr for my portable.  I have safety margin inbuilt - and it gives me plenty of room (~300 full albums on a 32Gb device and still room to go).

 

Find what your threshold is - then bump your end container up a notch.  Once you know for sure, you won't be second guessing yourself, and it's a lot easier to simply enjoy the music.  My only suggestion is that if you are going Apple - then use aac.  IME it's simply a better codec.

 

BTW - I do use FLAC on my main system  I archive the CDs as lossless, and space isn't an issue anyway ......

post #8 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooko View Post

 

Find what your threshold is - then bump your end container up a notch.  Once you know for sure, you won't be second guessing yourself, and it's a lot easier to simply enjoy the music.  My only suggestion is that if you are going Apple - then use aac.  IME it's simply a better codec.

 

It was at one time - but advances in the LAME mp3 encoder seem to have caught up (or maybe more) and you're less restricted in playback devices. I'd definitely suggest using this instead of the default mp3 encoder:

 

http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=LAME

 

The other thing you could consider to be the coolest kid in school is LossyFLAC/LossyWAV:

 

http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=LossyWAV

 

- In this scheme a tool creates an intermediate with all the detail removed beneath a certain threshold and then a flac (or other lossless file) is made. Reasons to use it are said to be:

 

 

 

Quote:
  • high quality
  • extremely low chance of audible artifacts
  • reasonable bitrates
  • usable with unmodified, established lossless formats.

 

 

..The low chance of artifacts is probably the biggest reason to use it. If you're going to test several codecs, I'd definitely include this one. It might help to study up on encoding artifacts so you can select the most useful test piece - the one that bothers me is pre-echo for sharp sounds - usually percussive ones, castanets being an extreme example.

post #9 of 36
Thread Starter 

Well,

I have to admit that the more I read the more I got to

the point that I had to draw a line and decide what

to do about getting the best sound out things I want

to use and listen.  I do not want to turn into a audiphyl

junky, to collect hifi equipment and headphones.

My goal is clear and i think I got to the point when

I narrowed down my selection of things. 

 

As I mentioned on the beginning I have lots of good

music on CDs so my goal is to rip that into FLAC and

store it on a large HD (with backup) 

A Sansa Clip+ player with 64Gb a mini SD card will

store most of the music in AAC 160 format and play

via a JDS O2 portable amp  connected via a short

cable.  All that good stuff will be pumped  into an

Audeze LCD2 headphone.

 

I think the JDS O2 + Sansa Clip+  and LCD2 is

a solid gear to enjoy good music on the road.

 

Any other suggestions?... improvement to this

but to keep it simple?...

 

(no rockboxing of the Clip+)

 


PS... I would like to thank all with their suggestions

helping me continue my adventure in sound..... 


Edited by Linea - 2/11/13 at 9:09pm
post #10 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by scuttle View Post

 

It was at one time - but advances in the LAME mp3 encoder seem to have caught up (or maybe more) and you're less restricted in playback devices. I'd definitely suggest using this instead of the default mp3 encoder:

 

http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=LAME

 

The other thing you could consider to be the coolest kid in school is LossyFLAC/LossyWAV:

 

http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=LossyWAV

 

- In this scheme a tool creates an intermediate with all the detail removed beneath a certain threshold and then a flac (or other lossless file) is made. Reasons to use it are said to be:

 

 

 

 

..The low chance of artifacts is probably the biggest reason to use it. If you're going to test several codecs, I'd definitely include this one. It might help to study up on encoding artifacts so you can select the most useful test piece - the one that bothers me is pre-echo for sharp sounds - usually percussive ones, castanets being an extreme example.

Just a couple of comments here.  First AAC isn't an "Apple" format.  In fact, Apple had nothing to do with developing it, they just chose it to be their preferred standard because it performs better than MPEG2 Layer 3 (.mp3).  Apple devices are not the only ones supporting it, though support for AAC is more limited than .mp3.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Audio_Coding

 

Most on-line opinions and test seem to support AAC as being superior.  There are so many links...  here's just one.  This guy seems to have done his homework:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2168530

 

You should google for more.  It's a fairly widely held opinion that AAC wins, especially at high bit rates.

 

The LAME .mp3 encoder did improve on the original .mp3 encoder, but the only claim the LAME developers make is that it's the best .mp3 encoder for mid bit-rates and VBR.  They don't put it head to head with high-rate AAC.  

http://lame.sourceforge.net

 

For the most universally playable files, .mp3 encoded with LAME would be the best choice, but not if you want the best quality for a given bit rate.

 

If you don't like artifacts and pre-echo, AAC would be the best lossy choice, or your favorite flavor of lossless.  Apple Lossless and FLAC perform identically, both being lossless. 

post #11 of 36

Jaddie -

 

Thanks for the correction!

 

Pre-echo is probably the most bothersome artifact, so less of it is good. Thoughts:

 

- Isn't it the case with lossy formats that we are really looking at is a pretty marginal difference in the size needed to get a perfect copy? So accepting say 20% larger files for mp3 to get a wider player choice may make sense.. Or then again, maybe not given that Rockbox supports AAC, and the future is probably Android based with a choice of players

 

- Lossy FLAC still looks interesting.

 

I think what I need to do is to find some music that is a good test case and do some experiments.

post #12 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by scuttle View Post

 

I think what I need to do is to find some music that is a good test case and do some experiments.

 

 Of course this has already been done to death, here and on other forums, but it's always best to convince yourself with your own tests. If you can use ABX software, so much the better.

post #13 of 36

I see you encode mp3 in VBR, but do you do this with AAC too?

I know nothing about Easy CDDA, but if it as iTunes do not support true VBR AAC encoding, you should find a program that does.

 

I've found AAC at 195kbps nominal to work very well, but I've never done a proper listening test with it, and I suspect I could go even lower.


Edited by limpidglitch - 2/12/13 at 11:27pm
post #14 of 36
Thread Starter 

Easy CDDA has a lot of options for AAC... and at 160 kbt/s

I could not hear a difference from the source file. 

I read this once from a guy, he was a sound engineer

before he turned to photography...  and did that as a project.

 

Here at the end of this post is a link to a file where he mentioned

that somebody converted their CD collection to AAC 160

so I went with that option. Soon I will do another test passing

signals thtough a better amp and headphones ... I might hear more

details so we will see... I will report..

 

Anyway no matter how that report sounds now, I did my comparison

with WAV and FLAC files to AAC and found that it works for me.

Will see...

 

AAC 160 

 

-
 

post #15 of 36

Again, iTunes do not do true VBR, what Ken is referring to is in reality ABR or constricted VBR. Many do not realize that iTunes and others limit their encoders in this way.

So do you encode in true VBR? I'm not trying to dissuade you from using the bit rate you choose, it's just that CBR and ABR is less effective than VBR.

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