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How well can you distinguish AAC lossy from lossless music?

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

Having been bitten by the high-quality-audio bug, but still having more dollars than sense, I am trying to learn the ways to the best possible sound.

 

Since I was told to truly appreciate the improvement that a headphone amplifier can give to my newly-purchased Grado PS-500 headphones, that I need to get off of the Apple standard iTunes AAC lossy encoding (256 kB/sec variable bit rate) and use lossless encoding, (e.g., Apple Lossless), I have been trying to see if I can distinguish any difference between the same source material played either way.

 

I have been using the Ultimate Demonstration Disk of Chesky Records, ripped from a CD either via Apple Lossless or Apple AAC.  On my iPod, I can arrange it so the same tune via either encoding are next to each other, and I can "flicker" between the start of one vs. the start of the other, back and forth, for close comparison.

 

Again, using these high quality PS 500 headphones, I just might be able to hear a difference.  It takes two forms... a very tiny bit more overall clarity on small jazz groups (using the Sweet Georgy Brown recording on that disk), or a specific acoustic event, specifically the opening attack of vocal by Rebecca Pidgeon on Spanish Harlem.

 

But to hear it, I have to switch back and forth several times.  I think I hear a difference, but I suspect that in a blind test, I would fail to hear it about 50% of the time (i.e., I'd be 75% percent correct, rather than the random 50% correct but not anywhere near 100%).

 

And if it were not side-by-side, I don't think I would EVER hear a difference. 

 

So I fear I will be denied the sudden revelation of hooking up an amp and DAC and using my headphones and lossless source of suddenly being on the stage among the jazz musicians, rather than continually being aware that I am merely listening to a recording.

 

Can you reliably distinguish between Apple AAC and lossless encoding?  All the time, or just with certain source material or acoustic events? 

 

Or is there some other route I should be using (e.g., not iTunes but an audio-quality digital player of some type with lossless source?)

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 2
Quote:
Originally Posted by kayandjohn View Post

And if it were not side-by-side, I don't think I would EVER hear a difference. 

A lot of us would agree with you. The differences are often indistinguishable or else very minute. I encode all my music to high bit rate MP3s for my portable media player because I know that ten minutes after comparing the original to the MP3, even if I could manage to tell the difference to begin with, I probably couldn't tell you which one I was listening to.

If you want to experiment more, Foobar media player has a module you can install that, given two files, it will then run blind ABX tests on you to see if you can figure it out.
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