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MP3 vs. FLAC

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

Every once in a while, people are saying that MP3 formats are inferior to FLAC formats, which unlike MP3 files aren't compressed.  However, whenever I compare a 320kbps MP3 music file to the same song in FLAC format, I don't really notice a difference.  Sure, 128kbps and 256kbps audio files are missing some frequencies compared to FLAC files, but why should even 320kbps files be below FLAC formats if there isn't a difference in sound quality?

 

BTW, I use the Sennheiser IE800 which helps me hear every detail in clarity, so by listening to 320kbps formats and FLAC formats, should there really be a winner in music file sound quality?

post #2 of 27

I believe it comes down to nuance in sound.  Theres a lot of sound which is beyond the scope of requiring such detail that compressed, lossless, formats can provide.

 

What I'm saying is that I can't see sound quality surpassing the tools used to capture/compile the music.  If you find a record where the flac sounds better than the MP3 you will know it, and you will recognize it for that level of detail.  To claim that simple sounds require the span and depth of a lossless digital audio format is like saying you need oil paint to convey the color red.

post #3 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerosheet View Post
 

Every once in a while, people are saying that MP3 formats are inferior to FLAC formats, which unlike MP3 files aren't compressed.  However, whenever I compare a 320kbps MP3 music file to the same song in FLAC format, I don't really notice a difference.  Sure, 128kbps and 256kbps audio files are missing some frequencies compared to FLAC files, but why should even 320kbps files be below FLAC formats if there isn't a difference in sound quality?

 

BTW, I use the Sennheiser IE800 which helps me hear every detail in clarity, so by listening to 320kbps formats and FLAC formats, should there really be a winner in music file sound quality?

I'm of the opinion that most people do not own equipment good enough to show a difference between 320K and FLAC.

post #4 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

I'm of the opinion that most people do not own equipment good enough to show a difference between 320K and FLAC.

My experience was more or less in line with this. Like you, OP, I felt that it was a waste of time replacing my entire library of MP3s with their FLAC equivalents...but only while I was using the Hifiman HE-400 and HE-500. Couldn't hear a difference.

 

Fast forward to now, it's been a completely opposite experience with the HD800. You probably already know the usual testimonials of MP3 vs FLAC, but personally, I felt that the biggest change was in the lower frequencies.

post #5 of 27

I can distinguish 128 from 256. But I do not perceive that I can distinguish 256 from ALAC, AIFF, CD, DSD or flac.

post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RebelRising View Post

My experience was more or less in line with this. Like you, OP, I felt that it was a waste of time replacing my entire library of MP3s with their FLAC equivalents...but only while I was using the Hifiman HE-400 and HE-500. Couldn't hear a difference.

Fast forward to now, it's been a completely opposite experience with the HD800. You probably already know the usual testimonials of MP3 vs FLAC, but personally, I felt that the biggest change was in the lower frequencies.

So basically, FLAC contains every detail of the song directly from the studio? When I did a blind test between 320kbps MP3 and FLAC, they sounded pretty much the same to me.
post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerosheet View Post


So basically, FLAC contains every detail of the song directly from the studio? When I did a blind test between 320kbps MP3 and FLAC, they sounded pretty much the same to me.

I'm not entirely sure to what extent their "flawlessness" goes in regard to the studio recording, but my understanding of FLAC is it's just a way of compressing files from a CD in a lossless manner. It's more noticeable for some songs as well as at higher volumes. If you're not hearing the difference with your current set-up, I wouldn't worry about it. The HE-500 had a lusher, darker, more uniform (more mono, if you will) sound signature that made it difficult for me to pick apart the difference. Could do it more easily with the HD800 since it separates instruments and frequencies like its life depends on it.

post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
I have the Sennheiser IE800, and I was able to hear the difference in sound quality between 128kbps, 256kbps, and 320kbps. However, once I compared 320kbps and FLAC, it was extremely hard to hear a difference in the frequencies of the two audio formats.
post #9 of 27

That's fine as well. If it helps, it was easier to discern on certain songs over others, most notably in orchestral/instrumentals and acoustics.

post #10 of 27
Not sure what is the point of this post is. We know flac is a lossless format. MP3 is lossy, but tries to minimize the loss of "audible" information given the bits it has to work with. If you talk to mp3 developers, most would claim that 320k is a waste of space as highest quality Vbr is just as good. The existence of difference between flac and mp3 is unarguable. My point though is some people will hear a difference between flac and mp3 and some won't. If you can hear a difference, then it makes a difference and if you can't then it doesn't. More revealing equipment helps to hear difference. Type of music changes the equation. Lastly, but not the most minor, the listener's ability. In any case, use whatever format works for you. I would caution that if you are planning on improving your equipment and/or listen more critically and/or listen to more "dense" music, you might want to keep that music in flac vs.finding out you were wrong.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crashem View Post

I would caution that if you are planning on improving your equipment and/or listen more critically and/or listen to more "dense" music, you might want to keep that music in flac vs.finding out you were wrong.

That's exactly what I'm doing with my library so when I upgrade at least my files are on the same level. Good advice.
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crashem View Post

Not sure what is the point of this post is. We know flac is a lossless format. MP3 is lossy, but tries to minimize the loss of "audible" information given the bits it has to work with. If you talk to mp3 developers, most would claim that 320k is a waste of space as highest quality Vbr is just as good. The existence of difference between flac and mp3 is unarguable. My point though is some people will hear a difference between flac and mp3 and some won't. If you can hear a difference, then it makes a difference and if you can't then it doesn't. More revealing equipment helps to hear difference. Type of music changes the equation. Lastly, but not the most minor, the listener's ability. In any case, use whatever format works for you. I would caution that if you are planning on improving your equipment and/or listen more critically and/or listen to more "dense" music, you might want to keep that music in flac vs.finding out you were wrong.

soo spot on ! (I feel you saved me writing the same things)

 

need equipment that can resolve a difference

(is most headphones, if played with enough volume and user is sensitive for what to look for...)

 

 

genre dependant. Jack Johnson song may not have enough going on to hear a difference from 320k variable, but a large scale dynamic orchestra NEEDS flac (otherwise the 'lossy' part of the non lossless formats is doing its namesake quite noticably)

 

For example music that is going to be streamed from my phone via Bluetooth to a radio transmitter for car audio, heck gimme any variable bitrate format, I'm not going to hear a differnce (actually I will, but here compressing the music can help the sound output sound consistently loud).

 

music from a good quality dap into nice headphones for critical listening should be the best bitrate space allows. I opt for lossless and carry less music, I still get piles of CDs on a small device that fits in my pocket.

 

for anything that is critical, and complex genres; go lossless (even if your present equipment doesn't benefit, you have 'masters' for later.)

 

HDCD encoded tracks should be ripped as WAV or else 20bit sound is thrown away, no chance to recreate

 

for the record I wanted to make my 1200+ compact disc collection easy access and small enough to carry around so I bought a large had (640gb at the time) and ripped losslessly. Filled around 300GBs of space. In a world of terabyte drives there is no reason

to keep shoddy masters. I have the benefits of making a mix CD and the recreated sound is bit perfect.

 

EAC (PC software) made the job easy btw.

 

at the end of the day, lossy is lossy, how much you are willing to lose IS personal taste. VBR files via laptops and phones with non critical listening serve the masses well.

post #13 of 27

Here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/570621/flac-vs-320-mp3/180

I recommend you read bigshot and xnor posts, because they know what they're saying.



 

post #14 of 27

Yep sound science sub section is the best for this kind of information gathering. Most people who claimed to hear a difference and then went on to blind test then couldn't actually correctly tell you which was FLAC or not. This is the same with a lot of audiophile related technology and claims ~ although there are those that are adamant that the tests don't prove anything. Its up for you to decide for yourself anyway and you have seemed to decide for the non difference between mp3 and flac.

 

I'm objective for almost everything audio wise even though I own a size able number of mid to high end headphones.

post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crashem View Post

Not sure what is the point of this post is. We know flac is a lossless format. MP3 is lossy, but tries to minimize the loss of "audible" information given the bits it has to work with. If you talk to mp3 developers, most would claim that 320k is a waste of space as highest quality Vbr is just as good. The existence of difference between flac and mp3 is unarguable. My point though is some people will hear a difference between flac and mp3 and some won't. If you can hear a difference, then it makes a difference and if you can't then it doesn't. More revealing equipment helps to hear difference. Type of music changes the equation. Lastly, but not the most minor, the listener's ability. In any case, use whatever format works for you. I would caution that if you are planning on improving your equipment and/or listen more critically and/or listen to more "dense" music, you might want to keep that music in flac vs.finding out you were wrong.

Well, the thing is that, as far as I know, nobody who claims they can hear the difference between FLAC and 320k mp3 has been able to pass a blind test consistently. I am conducting a survey to see how many people can hear the differences between CD and AAC 256k VBR ( Please, have a look: http://goo.gl/Xin6xt ) No one has succeeded so far. Anyway, saving your music in FLAC or ALAC nowadays is not a bad strategy, as storage grows larger and cheaper.

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