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320kbps Vs. ALAC

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by twilight dawn, Jun 24, 2012.
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  1. Twilight Dawn
    Hey guys,
    I got a few CD's which I encoded with iTunes into Apple Lossless File.
    I only listen to music on my iPhone 3GS (with Bowers & Wilkins P5 and Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air) and on my Macbook Pro.
    The problem I have is that I don't have much room on my iPhone anymore... 16 GB is almost fully used.
    So I was wondering if there is a big difference between ALAC and 320kbps for me ? Then I would encode the CD's into 320kbps :wink:
    I hope you can help me !!! :D
  2. wberghofer
    I suggest to rip to ALAC and use this high quality, lossless file format for playback from your MacBook Pro. A while ago Apple introduced the option to downsample higher bitrate songs while syncing music to a mobile device.
    The moment your iPhone is connected, visit the “Summary” page in iTunes and scroll down to the section titled “Options”. Look for the checkbox “Convert higher bit rate songs to” and select 128, 192 or 256 kbps AAC from the popup menu. The original lossless audio files on your MacBook Pro remain unchanged, but the songs on the mobile device will be downsampled on the fly according to your settings while they are copied to your iPhone.
    320 kbps MP3 isn’t available as format choice, but 256 kbps AAC should be sufficient for mobile playback.
    Kind regards,
  3. bigshot
    I did line level matched A/B comparisons and AAC256 was identical to lossless.
  4. wberghofer
    I did this too, and I could tell a difference. Maybe it’s dependent on the kind of music or on the playback equipment. With hard disk space getting cheaper every year, I see no reasonable justification to use a lossy file format for ripping audio.
  5. bigshot
    Did you use AAC or MP3? Two very different things. Line level matching is important too, because compressed audio is often slightly quieter. You need to balance the levels with a preamp on each. Once you balance the volumes, the ifference disappears. The other problem is if you encoded hotmastered music that is right on the edge of clipping, changing file format might push it over the line. That's the same for lossless as it is for lossy.

    I see a lot of anecdotal comments from people who claim to hear a night and day difference. But those opinions are usually based on VERY casual comparisons. As soon as they set up preamps to match levels and a switchbox to compare side by side, that ability to tell the difference dissolves. DBT backs this up.

    In any case, if the difference between AAC 256 and lossless was easy to detect, you did something wrong. They are very very very close. I tried to hear a difference on good Sennheiser cans and my full speaker system and it was indistinguishable. I used a dozen different CDs ranging from classical to opera to jazz, even some DSD recordings. 192 was sufficient to encode everything Transparently except one Sammy Davis Jr album that had a very complex massed string tone. It artifacted at 192 ever so slightly. At 256, it was perfect.

    Compressed audio extends battery life on portable devices, caches better to avoid skipping and can save a tremendous amount of space in very large itunes libraries (my library has over 500 days of music). The only reason to maintain a lossless copy is as a backup if you don't own the CD you are ripping.

    MPEG-4 lossless is completely transparent. There is no reason other than OCD not to use it. It's becoming the standard for both audio and video.
  6. wberghofer
    1. I used 256 kbps AAC; I thought this already was stated clearly in my first reply to you.
    2. Hot mastered music is rarely to be found in my library.
    3. I don’t use portable devices to listen to music, I don’t multitask, I don’t use music as lifestyle soundtrack. When I listen to music, most of the time I do nothing else at the same time.
    4. My library currently contains 10,216 tracks (780 albums), the total playing time is 31.5 days. I prefer to have a well-selected collection of complete albums I really listen to. All my lossless files are ripped from CDs I purchased.
    5. The hard disks I use are sufficiently large.
    So why should I use a lossy file format?
  7. Modo
    That is nice, but it only tells us something about your system and your ears. Expectation bias works both ways, you know.
  8. Twilight Dawn
    Oh goodness, my head is going to explode :p
    So maybe it's a good idea to downgrade them to 256 kbps files... all of them ,, is there going to be a huge sound loss from going from 320 to 256 ?? :s and 90% are mp3 files , the other files a few AAC files, a few Apple lossless files and a few wma files :wink: 
    Are you going to hear the difference when playing them on the B&W Zeppelin Air & P5-headphone ? :s 
    thanks for the help :D
  9. bigshot
    I used my amp to switch between a well regarded ($900) Philips SACD player playing the original CD and my iPod playing AIFF, AAC and MP3 digital files through line out, level balanced using a preamp. I monitored using my Sennheiser HD590 headphones and my custom made speaker setup. I started with AIFF files on the iPod and could't detect any difference. I worked my way up from 128 AAC and MP3 using a variety of different music until every artifact was gone. MP3s were pretty close to transparent at 320 LAME, and AAC files became totally transparent at 256. I decided to add VBR to that to go just one step further. My library is all encoded at AAC 256 VBR and I've never encountered any artifacting at all.

    The CD was a direct patch. The AAC file was through a preamp and an iPod. I probably should have used two identical preamps and a computer for playback, but I didn't see the need when I couldn't hear a difference when all the limiting factors were on the side of the digital file.

    My ears are fine. I am a very critical listener. I work in the entertainment business. I've supervised recording sessions and sound mixes for CD and TV. I listen to all kinds of music from modern classical recordings to 1920s Jazz to classic country, rock and roll, Latin, opera. My speakers do two channel, 2:1 and 5:1 and totally kick ass. They sound better than anything I've ever heard in any theater, audiophile's home or stereo store. My goal is for my system to sound as good as the recording studios I've worked in. If I'm not there yet, I'm pretty darn close.
  10. Twilight Dawn
    Seriously... I only understand half you guys say :p ! haha 
    I'm a total audio noob 
  11. bigshot
    It's OK to be a newbie, just try to focus onte things that you can tell for yourself that count. Take your favorite CD and encode it using a few different settings and compare them. See what you think.
  12. Brooko Contributor
    From my experience, both Werner and Bigshot are correct ......
    Some people can discern 320 mp3 / 256aac from lossless - but my experience so far is that there are the ones that say they can, and the ones that prove it by showing dbt results (eg Foobar dbt summaries).  I know a couple of people who are trained listeners and have shown that they can - but even they admit that it's often very difficult, and generally not the "night and day" that is often suggested (particularly by people who have not formally conducted tests).  If Werner can tell the difference - I have no reason to doubt him - especially if he's tested himself.  Some can.  Most can't (assuming the tracks are both ripped properly from same source, and encoded properly).  There is no stigma if you can't.
    FTR - I tested extensively, and I can't tell the difference between 256aac and flac.  For me - that's actually a positive - more room on my portable.
    OP - if you follow Werner's post (immediately following your initial post) it'll save you a lot of space.  I would recommend ripping to lossless (for archiving / desktop playback), and converting for portable.  The reason is simple - if you rip to lossless, you can then transcode to any bitrate you wnat, and you will nto have to re-rip your CD.  EG - I rip to flac for my desktop (I have the space, so no reason not to), I transcode to 256aac for my iP Touch 4 / iPhone 4, and for my two kids (they have smaller players) - I convert from lossless to 192 vbr.
    If you want to test yourself (PC) - set-up audio player software called Foobar2000.  Install the comparator plugin.  Rip a CD you know really well into FLAC, 256 aac, 320 mp3, 192 aac.  You can then double blind test yourself.  It's worth doing - simply for the fact that you'll remove any doubts you have now.
    But to your original question - for portable - 256aac should be pretty much indistinguishable, and will save you a lot of space :)
  13. bigshot
    Transcoding isn't really an issue. AAC 256 is fine as a master. As proof I offer this... An AAC 256 file that has been encoded and reencoded ten times. It should sound like mush, right? Ten times!
  14. Brooko Contributor
    It may be fine for you as a master = great for you.
    For me, everything I read says that lossy to lossy transcodes are not ideal + I have the space + I would rather have an exact copy of the original.  So I'll stick with my lossless archived copy.  Just saves me having to rip again.
  15. BlindInOneEar
    Are there quality differences between various encoders?   Are the encoders that come with Foobar decent quality?  My Foobar shows MP3 (LAME) and AAC (Nero), among others.  Would these be satisfactory or would I need to look for something else?
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