Originally Posted by RevAmped
First, a 320kbps cd/wav/flac is just an mp3 file which has been converted. CD/WAV/FLAC files are generally ~1000kbps+, and you will get much more data to the headphones. In a 192kbps mp3, a fifth of the data is being lost, and when compressing audio soundstage is one of the first parts of the music to go.
Your post is full of inaccurate information - literally every sentence contains false or misleading information.
1 - There's no such thing as 320 kb/s CD/WAV/FLAC to begin with. CD Quality Audio (aka Red Book) is defined as 44.1 kHz, 16-bit, stereo PCM. Red Book CDs do not contain "files" either. There's also no way for a CD to have anything less than 44.1 kHz / 16-bit resolution, and 320 kb/s WAV or FLAC is an insult to both formats when they're both capable of much higher. 320 kb/s might be the maximum upper limit for MP3, but that's barely anything for either WAV or FLAC, which can both extend to ~1,411 kb/s (or higher, in the case of 96 kHz 24-bit audio).
2 - Typically CD, WAV, or FLAC (which are all lossless forms of audio data) are used to transcode to a lossy MP3 file. Not the other way around. Going the other way (MP3 to WAV or FLAC) will result in unrecoverable loss of audio data. And no one masters to MP3 either. Audio engineers master to uncompressed audio formats first and then transcode to MP3 if desired. Absolutely no one goes the other way.
3 - WAV is the uncompressed form of the PCM data encoded on a Red Book CD, in a file container format specific to Windows (or other Microsoft operating systems), typically at a constant bit rate of ~1,411 kb/s (or higher depending on the sampling rate & bit depth). Although WAV can have lower bit rates due to either a lower sampling rate, or smaller bit depth, or just being mono-channel, or a mix of all three (to save on filesize), in this context it refers to the data from a Red Book audio CD.
4 - FLAC is a lossless compressed form of WAV that contains more header data than WAV (effectively allowing it to be tagged) and has an inherently variable bit rate according to the input stream from WAV. There's no "general" bit rate for FLAC. (Because if there were, every 5-minute FLAC file would have the exact same filesize.) Its bitrate can go as high as 100% of the input or as low as 0 (to encode silence).
5 - Your implication that data is "lost" at any kind of rate from transcoding to MP3 is wrong. MP3 does not discard data at a mathematical rate. MP3 is a form of downsampling from WAV and also provides the user option to completely discard audio below or above a certain specified frequency. Second, while it's true that MP3 is lossy, and does lose some data, it's completely false to say that it "loses" that data at any kind of mathematical rate. If that were true, every 1-minute 192 kb/s MP3 file would have the exact same filesize. Except that's never the case. The amount of MP3 compression depends on other factors (i.e., its algorithm), not a fixed rate.
6 - Apparently you didn't even check your own math either. 192 kb/s MP3 achieves a compression ratio of ~7:1 with respect to WAV.
7 - Soundstage is uncorrelated to MP3 audio compression. Any soundstage in the audio is pre-defined within the recording by whoever mixed & mastered it. It will either be in the recording, or not, and the sampling rate does not affect it.
If I had to make a point here, it's that FLAC and MP3 aren't flat-rate compressors. It seems that a lot of people think that about FLAC and MP3. They're algorithms that will compress a WAV file based on certain factors from the signal. And FLAC is straight lossless (sort of like a ZIP format for audio) while MP3 is lossy (it discards parts of the signal - notably those outside of human hearing range, while downsampling at the same time).
Edited by Asr - 3/4/13 at 10:27pm