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Can a 320 kbps mp3 file be "bad?"

post #1 of 65
Thread Starter 

I download a lot music admittedly from online mp3 sites. I always hunt around for the 320 kbps files, but now I'm starting to wonder if there is such a thing as "bad" 320kbps files. 

 

I know there's going to be a difference when you're using different encoders, especially ones that are older, but is that difference large? Can 320 kbps mp3 files be bad? 

 

I am planning to get higher end audio equipment in the near future, but I'm wondering if the quality of my equipment will outpace that of my music. 


Edited by Empire1 - 6/26/13 at 10:04pm
post #2 of 65

320 MP3 Frauenhoffer is pretty darn good. The biggest problems you'll have with downloads is probably going to be bad rips from beat up CD masters.

post #3 of 65

Anything that you don't encode yourself could be bad. Some people think that by adding DSP to their encoding chain make the music sounds better (usually to compensate to their poor laptop speaker).

post #4 of 65

There can be encoding issues with certain MP3s that won't be present with others. Older versions of the LAME encoder can sound really atrocious even at 320 kbps. It all depends. Not to mention the fact that the file you've downloaded could have been ripped to PCM, compressed to AAC, converted to WMA, then converted to 320 kbps for all you know.

 

It really is best to get your own CDs and rip them yourself with a program like EAC, then encode them yourself to whatever format you want. 

post #5 of 65
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laon View Post

Anything that you don't encode yourself could be bad. Some people think that by adding DSP to their encoding chain make the music sounds better (usually to compensate to their poor laptop speaker).

 

Could this "badness" noticeable on, say, a forgiving Bose QC15? What about something more revealing, like a HD600 or Denon D600? 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by takato14 View Post

There can be encoding issues with certain MP3s that won't be present with others. Older versions of the LAME encoder can sound really atrocious even at 320 kbps. It all depends. Not to mention the fact that the file you've downloaded could have been ripped to PCM, compressed to AAC, converted to WMA, then converted to 320 kbps for all you know.

 

It really is best to get your own CDs and rip them yourself with a program like EAC, then encode them yourself to whatever format you want. 

I usually try my best to rip from CDs, but buying several albums can get expensive pretty quick. I often try to be more frugal by buying specific songs I like from an album of iTunes. 

 

Is the 256 kbps AAC on iTunes of good quality?

post #6 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Empire1 View Post

Is the 256 kbps AAC on iTunes of good quality?

No, AAC is a VBR file and 256kbps is the max rate. It usually stays around 120-180. Very poor sounding.

post #7 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by takato14 View Post

No, AAC is a VBR file and 256kbps is the max rate. It usually stays around 120-180. Very poor sounding.

Actually, with AAC, as with MP3, VBR is optional, and can be turned on or off at will in iTunes.  The max AAC rate available in iTunes is 320kbps, which is indistinguishable from uncompressed.  

 

Even at 256k, the non-VBR AAC files are excellent.

post #8 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Empire1 View Post

 

Could this "badness" noticeable on, say, a forgiving Bose QC15? What about something more revealing, like a HD600 or Denon D600? 


Depend on many factor (how bad is the source or DSP before encoded, your own source gears), dunno about Bose QC15 or D600 but on HD600 "badness" should be easily apparent with good dac and amp.

post #9 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Empire1 View Post

I download a lot music admittedly from online mp3 sites. I always hunt around for the 320 kbps files, but now I'm starting to wonder if there is such a thing as "bad" 320kbps files. 

 

I know there's going to be a difference when you're using different encoders, especially ones that are older, but is that difference large? Can 320 kbps mp3 files be bad? 

 

I am planning to get higher end audio equipment in the near future, but I'm wondering if the quality of my equipment will outpace that of my music. 

Going back to your original post, in general, 320kbps files in either AAC or MP3 are quite excellent, if they were encoded from an original uncompressed source.  It's generally true that most people can't tell those files from the original.  Files obtained from legitimate sources have their roots in the original CD, so the likelihood of getting a "bad" one would be confined to corrupted files which usually have catastrophic defects.  I have had corrupt files from several sources, but most sellers will let you re-download before refunding your money if you run into a glitch.  The encoding process for these files is fairly controlled, unlike the illegitimate sources, which could be anything, encoded by anybody, possibly more than once.

post #10 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by takato14 View Post

No, AAC is a VBR file and 256kbps is the max rate. It usually stays around 120-180. Very poor sounding.

Actually, with AAC, as with MP3, VBR is optional, and can be turned on or off at will in iTunes.  The max AAC rate available in iTunes is 320kbps, which is indistinguishable from uncompressed.  

 

Even at 256k, the non-VBR AAC files are excellent.

Didn't know that VBR was optional, every AAC file I've gotten was variable. 

 

CBR 256kbps will be great for both MP3s and AAC. 

post #11 of 65
Below 320 there is no reason not to use VBR. It can't hurt, it can only help. Not much reason at 320 though.
post #12 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Empire1 View Post

I download a lot music admittedly from online mp3 sites. I always hunt around for the 320 kbps files, but now I'm starting to wonder if there is such a thing as "bad" 320kbps files. 

 

I know there's going to be a difference when you're using different encoders, especially ones that are older, but is that difference large? Can 320 kbps mp3 files be bad? 

 

I am planning to get higher end audio equipment in the near future, but I'm wondering if the quality of my equipment will outpace that of my music. 

 

Here bad would mean: not true 320 (transcodes) right? To check on that get a tool like Spek/Spectro for spectrum analyzing. One may not hear it but it will tell you what kind of quality you're dealing with. Around 16khz are bad ones I've understood.

 

Recently I've done some comparing between for example 320 LAME 3.92 and 3.99. Although the MP3 spectrum was a little different I could not hear a difference.

Also did some comparing between 320(3.99 encoded) and FLAC. Can't tell the difference either. Was quite surprised to be honest but your ears are yours so experiment a bit.

post #13 of 65

There can be plenty of issues. You don't know where that file has been.

 

If it's super quiet it's probably been transcoded a number of times. 

post #14 of 65

Also, it's possible to convert a 64 or 128 kbps file to 320.  So a non-legitimate source could even be that.

post #15 of 65
Quote:
Originally Posted by Empire1 View Post

I download a lot music admittedly from online mp3 sites. I always hunt around for the 320 kbps files, but now I'm starting to wonder if there is such a thing as "bad" 320kbps files. 

I know there's going to be a difference when you're using different encoders, especially ones that are older, but is that difference large? Can 320 kbps mp3 files be bad? 

I am planning to get higher end audio equipment in the near future, but I'm wondering if the quality of my equipment will outpace that of my music. 

Yes, 320 kbps can be bad, for several reasons:

Some pieces of music defeat all mp3 encoders. This was discussed and the discussion supported with abx tests by a couple of participants at trying-to-hear-the-difference-between-320-mp3-vs-flac-16-24-bit-44-1-88-2

Lame and Fraunhofer are probably the best mp3 encoders available but this sample will defeat them at any setting. It is an extract from real music, not some fiendish concoction designed to expose the weaknesses of the encoders (though it serves as a useful illustration of the most obvious of those weaknesses). It causes problems for Ogg Vorbis as well. It can be encoded much better by aac encoders such as Apple's or Fraunhofer's (found in Winamp or Android).

More generally, and as you state, there are several other mp3 encoders, some current and some historic, which are not as good as lame or fraunhofer. They were quite widely used, maybe still are in some applications. I knew someone who kept hundreds of GB of mp3 available via bittorrent and he had a huge share ratio over years. He personally encoded all his mp3s to 320 kbps whatever format they were already in, anything from retail CD to pirate CD to downloaded rips. It gets worse. He used the xing encoder for everything because he was convinced it was the best and he liked the sound. If you get your music any which way then you certainly have 320 kbps mp3s which were transcoded from lossy using low quality encoders and which sound crappy compared to the CD. Even if you buy lossless files from licensed vendors you will occasionally find yourself with flacs that originated from lossy (this has happened to me more than once). There's no real substitute for buying the CD and doing it yourself, or buying the files direct from the original record label instead of a third party vendor. Most labels do this now.

Storage is cheap, CDs have never been cheaper and high capacity players are available. If you have money to buy nice players, headphones, amps and other hardware then it makes no sense to be a miser with the single most important element - the music.
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