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Is it worth getting really high-end headphones if your source is 320kbps audio files?

post #1 of 257
Thread Starter 

They say the quality can only ever be as good as the source. 99.9% of my music is downloaded at 320kbps - given this - is it even worth investing in high-end headphones such as the HE-6's or LCD-2's or HD800's of this world?

 

Similarly, is it worth buying the amps required to drive these behemoths?

post #2 of 257

The truth is, very little is lost in 320 files. What is lost is mostly color and dynamics, but the essence of the music is still there. It's like the difference between a $40 steak, and a $200 steak. The $40 tastes really good, it's a very nice cut, and it's prepared well. The $200 steak is not in any way, really, worth 5 of the other, but it's just that little bit of extra goodness and preparation that puts it over the top.

 

Really nice cans with with 320kbps are still going to sound better than anything else. Most of the guys in this forum won't just elect to talk about it, but many of them are listening to under-par sources at times with their cans. It still sounds great. That's the thing with cans. Their performance is absolutely scalable with whatever is going into them, but good cans will always sound good. Bad will always sound bad.

post #3 of 257

Yes. That's all. Yes. Evening plugging in my Senn HD580s to a cell phone or computer for taking/making phone calls, listening to radio/streaming broadcast, MP3 audio all sounds A LOT BETTER than the built in speakers or Bluetooth headset. Then when you feed music through a good DAC and amplifier, things get even better.

post #4 of 257

It seems even the people who can reliably identify 320kbps MP3 from lossless do so based on some very specific audible cues that they've essentially trained themselves to pick out. Unless you want to relentlessly focus on finding these differences and develop a nifty parlor trick... it's pretty safe to say you won't really be missing anything with your MP3s. 320 is really quite good.

post #5 of 257

Yes

post #6 of 257

Absolutely.  320k is more than sufficient to resolve the differences between different cans and amps.  it may or may not be sufficient to get "the most" out of them... but its definitely good enough to hear differences.  When you consider how night and day different some headphones sound.

 

Listening to lossy www streams on my iPhone 5c, I can clearly hear the sonic differences between my HD650, K701, RS1, HF1, KSC75...etc


Edited by kramer5150 - 3/12/14 at 12:22pm
post #7 of 257

Unquestionably.  I once did a personal test using Foobar 2000 to calibrate myself about the differences from hi-res vs 44.1/16 and vs perceptual encoding.

 

The test plug in had an ABX blind tester, but I first wanted to try it unblinded to train myself.


The test started with a classical 88.2/24 file (I listen to nearly all classical/ambient and go to live concerts with reasonable frequency), resample to 44.1/16 then perceptually compress, I think either 320kbps MP3 or 256 kbps VBR AAC.  Then convert everything back to 88.2/24 and feed back to the DAC. The reason for the second upconverting is that DAC's can be different at different sampling rates because of their internal design, and that should be eliminated.

 

The result was that through my DAC/AMP and headphones (HD580/D5000) even sighted I couldn't convince myself I heard any substantial difference between any of them if I was just listening to music normally. I didn't bother with the ABX test or distinguishing 88.2/24 from 44.1/16

 

Perhaps if I had concentrated on a tiny segment of music, probably one with lots of non-overtone high frequencies (e.g. percussion/cymbals) which is difficult to compress, then maybe there could be a difference.  The sound quality differences between different recordings (say in MOG listen to 10 different recordings of the same classical piece) is enormous. 

 

I decided to not worry about perceptual coding at 256kbps and up, any change was well, well below my threshold for caring.  Not coincidentally this bit rate (or below it even) is where scientific perceptual research shows that almost all people stop being able to distinguish uncompressed from compressed in blinded tests.

 

128kbps constant-bit-rate MP3 is noticably worse and 'flatter'---not in the frequency response sense but the depth sense.

post #8 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by kramer5150 View Post
 

Absolutely.  320k is more than sufficient to resolve the differences between different cans and amps.  it may or may not be sufficient to get "the most" out of them... but its definitely good enough to hear differences.  When you consider how night and day different some headphones sound.

 

Listening to lossy www streams on my iPhone 5c, I can clearly hear the sonic differences between my HD650, K701, RS1, HF1, KSC75...etc

 

What stream are you using?  Are you paying for it?  If you're going free, the best stream you can get is 128 kbps which is crappy quality at best.  If you're paying for it, iTunes Radio and Spotify up you to 256 and 320 respectively. 

post #9 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by bassophile View Post
 

They say the quality can only ever be as good as the source. 99.9% of my music is downloaded at 320kbps - given this - is it even worth investing in high-end headphones such as the HE-6's or LCD-2's or HD800's of this world?

 

Similarly, is it worth buying the amps required to drive these behemoths?

Where can I download 320kbps music?

post #10 of 257

You know, this compressed/uncompressed debate has already been exhausted with Minidisc. By about 1997 (with Atrac 4) it was clear that even hardened reviewers were hard put to pick the original from a minidisc copy, and some even preferred the copy (there's a good technical reason for this). Yet here we are still wondering: is 320kps somehow depriving us of the full joy of our favourite recordings?

 

Just glad to see that posters to this thread are a little more enlightened than in some other threads.

post #11 of 257

The $7.99 per month I pay for my Google Play Music All Access service with 320kbps mp3 streams is the bargain of a lifetime for this music lover.  I can't tell any difference between lossless and 320kbps in the ABX tests I've done.  I realize some of you can, but it does not seem easy to determine for most songs unless it's something along the lines of an impossibly complex movement from Shostakovich.  There are plenty of great resources available in the Sound Science forum where anyone with an interest can set up tests of their own.  They are your ears, and nobody else can tell you what you're hearing.  

 

I'm coming from a perspective where I want to have access to as much music as I can get at the highest quality available within the very limited resources I'm able to use on this hobby.  


Edited by sonitus mirus - 3/12/14 at 5:28pm
post #12 of 257
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your input, people... The only thing is, I do like bass response. Really deep and accurate. Does the 320kbps cut out the low frequencies noticeably?

post #13 of 257

It doesn't do anything 'noticeably'.

post #14 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post
 

It doesn't do anything 'noticeably'.

True true :)

 

I download most of my music from amazon and they are 256 VBR format - My HD800 lets me hear any quality issues with formatted recordings and I find these mp3 to be fine. With 320 mp3 anything you hear that subjectively sounds detrimental will be from the actual recording.

 

If the original recording is good, it will sound good whether it be 320 mp3 or FLAC. And if anyone thinks they can hear a noticeable difference then they are either fooling themselves or they have quite literally 'super human' hearing.  

post #15 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by sonitus mirus View Post
 

The $7.99 per month I pay for my Google Play Music All Access service with 320kbps mp3 streams is the bargain of a lifetime for this music lover.

How did you get it for 7.99/mo?

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