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Help with music file format decision

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone.  I recently became very interested in high end audio equipment and I am looking to get new high end headphones with an amp and dac.  I understand that if you want to make the most out of your music you should use lossless files such as FLAC, ALAC etc. However, I have a huge itunes library of AAC and MP3 files downloaded from iTunes.  It will cost too much for me to download music from websites that have FLAC/ ALAC files because I would be downloading around 5000 songs and those websites are expensive.  These websites also don't have all the songs and artists I want.  I am aware that converting mp3 to alac will just make the file bigger and won't improve sq but will changing the quality of mp3 improve sq. will i hear a difference between mp3 and lossless

 

thanks

post #2 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by SO74 View Post
 

Hello everyone.  I recently became very interested in high end audio equipment and I am looking to get new high end headphones with an amp and dac.  I understand that if you want to make the most out of your music you should use lossless files such as FLAC, ALAC etc. However, I have a huge itunes library of AAC and MP3 files downloaded from iTunes.  It will cost too much for me to download music from websites that have FLAC/ ALAC files because I would be downloading around 5000 songs and those websites are expensive.  These websites also don't have all the songs and artists I want.  I am aware that converting mp3 to alac will just make the file bigger and won't improve sq but will changing the quality of mp3 improve sq. will i hear a difference between mp3 and lossless

 

thanks

 

In general most of the time for most people with most music a good (VBR 0 or CBR 320Kbps)  MP3 will sound no different from the lossless equivalent. If you think you may be able to tell the difference you can test this by taking a source lossless track and making an MP3 copy and then try Abxing them using FooBar. Of course there is MP3 and MP3 and higher quality MP3 is more likely to be "transparent" (indistinguishable from lossless) you can always experiment with a source file encoded at differing quality settings until you cannot tell it apart from the lossless version. Few people can reliably tell good MP3 from lossless consistently.

 

Anyone who says they can always tell the difference and they don't need any stinking ABX to prove it should be ignored or asked to provide more compelling evidence such as DBTs.  On the other hand hotly recorded source files can give MP3 encoders problems leading to clipping so some modern pop music can be hard to encode transparently. 

 

Suck it and see !

post #3 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by SO74 View Post
 

Hello everyone.  I recently became very interested in high end audio equipment and I am looking to get new high end headphones with an amp and dac.  I understand that if you want to make the most out of your music you should use lossless files such as FLAC, ALAC etc. However, I have a huge itunes library of AAC and MP3 files downloaded from iTunes.  It will cost too much for me to download music from websites that have FLAC/ ALAC files because I would be downloading around 5000 songs and those websites are expensive.  These websites also don't have all the songs and artists I want.  I am aware that converting mp3 to alac will just make the file bigger and won't improve sq but will changing the quality of mp3 improve sq. will i hear a difference between mp3 and lossless

 

thanks

I would say start with a **lot** of in-house auditioning, and bring your own tracks, MP3 and CD. If you've been using computer desktop speakers, earbuds, cheaper earphones, etc., you're going to get a lot more bang for the buck on the front end improving your playback equipment, than by purchasing different file formats. Even doing just 20% of your song collection could come to $2000. You can buy some **awfully** nice headphones/amps/speakers with that kind of cash.

 

If you hear a big difference in the stores on high-end equipment between your MP3s and higher-resolution formats you'd rather have, then one thing you can do are start with used CD's--see what's online, in stores, eBay, etc.  Prioritize by what you want most, and what truly needs CD to sound its best.

post #4 of 10
iTunes uses AAC 256 VBR and Amazon uses MP3 LAME 256 VBR. There is absolutely no reason that lossless would sound better. Both of those settings are well into the range of full transparency.
post #5 of 10

I buy a lot of used CDs on Amazon.  They are cheaper than downloads, you can have your bit-perfect ALAC files, AAC VBR, MP3, whatever, obsess all you want, and you get the disc to keep for a backup, and you even get the booklet, which you don't get with downloads at all. The sacrifice you make is it's not instant, you have to wait for shipping.  Usually, I can wait.  I've bought a lot of used CDs in fine condition for under $6 including shipping.

post #6 of 10

The problem with Amazon is that they recently upped shipping of a single CD to $4. That adds a lot to the price of used CDs.

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

The problem with Amazon is that they recently upped shipping of a single CD to $4. That adds a lot to the price of used CDs.

 

That stinks!  Didn't know that happened.  Sounds like Amazon is trying to out eBay eBay.  Well, that takes the average price of a used CD up near the price of a download, but I still think a better deal. 

post #8 of 10
On ebay at least you get a discount on shipping if you order a batch.
post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by SO74 View Post
 

Hello everyone.  I recently became very interested in high end audio equipment and I am looking to get new high end headphones with an amp and dac.  I understand that if you want to make the most out of your music you should use lossless files such as FLAC, ALAC etc. However, I have a huge itunes library of AAC and MP3 files downloaded from iTunes.  It will cost too much for me to download music from websites that have FLAC/ ALAC files because I would be downloading around 5000 songs and those websites are expensive.  These websites also don't have all the songs and artists I want.  I am aware that converting mp3 to alac will just make the file bigger and won't improve sq but will changing the quality of mp3 improve sq. will i hear a difference between mp3 and lossless

 

thanks

 

Between MP3 and lossless, depends on the bit rate.  I can tell the difference from 128k every time.  When you start getting up around 192 or more, it's a lot harder to differentiate.  I would suggest converting your MP3 to AAC.  AAC is supposed to be more efficient (takes up less space and I've heard produces better sound quality at the same bit rate compared to MP3).  Use either 192 or 256.

 

Otherwise from now on, I'd go out and buy the CD or find a good vinyl rip and keep it as Apple Lossless (because you're using iTunes).  Then if you ever decide to stop using iDevices, you can just expand the lossless into AIFF and convert it to another format that your equipment works with.

 

 

I'd suggest using lossless though.  You likely won't hear the difference from high bit rate lossy encoding, but for backup, you want a 1:1 copy and lossless gives you that.


Edited by hogger129 - 9/8/13 at 6:04am
post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by hogger129 View Post
 

Then if you ever decide to stop using iDevices, you can just expand the lossless into AIFF and convert it to another format that your equipment works with.

Or skip the AIFF step and convert directly to something else in iTunes.

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