Audio Quality Rankings
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Shike

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DVD-A
SACD
Vinyl (in good condition)
CD

Of course that's saying they're all of equal mastering. For example a well mastered CD should sound better than a poorly mastered DVD-A. A well mastered DVD-A should sound better than a CD regardless.

Vinyl must be in good condition for it to really be considered . . . there's times I'd take a well mastered CD over Vinyl simply due to convenience and the eventual clicks and pops that will come from wear.

Not going to bother including computer encoded formats . . . that's another can of worms.
 
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post-6376313
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khaos974

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BTW, FLAC can support a 24/192kHz stereo stream flawlessly, so the order should be:

- DSD or High-Def PCM (for the 1st and 2nd places, I don't know which is better or even if it's audibly better than a good CD)

- Standard CD quality (ie 16bit/44.1 kHz PCM, no matter it's CD, Wav, Flac, Alac, WMA Lossless... or any kind of lossless format which actually all sound the same)

- Lossy compression MP3, MPC, AAC, Vorbis, WMA (usually a 16bit/44.1 kHz stream encoded at a variable bitrate)

As for how lossy formats rank, there are tons of test on line, but with the different bit rates, the different encoders for the same codec (ie nero vs Apple vs open-source codec for AAC), and the different versions of the same encoder (ie Lame 3.97 vs 3.98). I don't want to go into this debate. Just stick to a high bitrate Mp3 for universality or a high bitrate AAC for peace of mind and we"ll call it even.

Edit: Vinyl should be somewhere but to me it's more about preference than absolute fidelity.
 
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post-6377044
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freakydrew

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I have never even heard of HDCD!
The reason I started this thread is I am just getting into vinyl, or back into, whatever.
I have noticed (snap, crackle, pops aside) that I really love the sound of a mint album. I just wanted to know on a sound science perspective how the different formats stacked up compared to vinyl.
can of worms indeed!
 
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post-6377133
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nick_charles

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Quote:

Originally Posted by freakydrew /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I have never even heard of HDCD!
The reason I started this thread is I am just getting into vinyl, or back into, whatever.
I have noticed (snap, crackle, pops aside) that I really love the sound of a mint album. I just wanted to know on a sound science perspective how the different formats stacked up compared to vinyl.
can of worms indeed!



In a purely objective sense vinyl stacks up pretty badly against competently implemented digital systems, this does not mean it cannot sound pleasing but in terms of actual fidelity (faithfulness/accuracy) it is inferior by most measurable criteria. But if you like vinyl anyway none of this will matter.
 
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chinesekiwi

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flawed poll is flawed as there's no indicator of size limitation / bitrate limitation etc...
 
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post-6381652
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khaos974

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Or maybe one should not focus on the intrinsically qualities and defaults of a format and consider that any recording that sounds "fake" is due to the incompetency of the mixing/mastering of the sound engineer.

This, I fear is the main differentiator between SQ perception, not the format in itself.
 
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post-6404932
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Sambones

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Quote:

Originally Posted by etiolate /img/forum/go_quote.gif
they're compressed, but the encoded only rid the file of useless bits that weren't conveying any musical information. thus, as far as information stored, flac=alac=wav=cd.


I know this wasn't the OP's question, but I want to correct this. Lossless codecs, such as FLAC and ALAC are exactly what they say they are: lossless. The only information discarded is done according to strictly reversible techniques to allow a 100% reproduction of the source, but in a smaller amount of data. These techniques are often very processing intensive, and don't have very good compression rates.

Here's a link to the Wikipedia article, which is very enlightening: Audio compression (data) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
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post-6407189
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grokit

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Vinyl is the only format with potential resolution so infinitely high it can't even be quantified, although individual results are sure to vary
 
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post-6407428
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wnmnkh

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That 'quantified' is highly misleading and wrong word, since it really does not exist in the first place.


This thread just shows that many people have little clue on digital which they hate. Wonder ignorance is hate? (not bliss? :p ) For instance, FLAC can support up to 32bit/655kHz, but there is few -probably none- studio devices to achieve such high rate to make sample, nor there isn't any playback devices to play it properly.

FLAC and other lossless formats DO NOT HAVE THEIR OWN SOUND. If you put DVD-A audio stream into FLAC, then it will be same as DVD-A. If you put mp3 file into FLAC, then it will be same as mp3. The 'sound' of these formats are 100% same as original source.


Now sample rate. Formats are really nothing more than 'container' unless we are talking about lossy format.

1. DVD-A is usually 24bit/96kHz, and SACD is usually regarded/distributed as 24bit/88.2kHz (and yes, DVD-A is technically better than SACD, but it does zero thing on end-user playback.....)

2. HDCD is just a cd with proper noise shaping and other processes. Really, nothing more than a well-made CD. So it is 16bit/44.1kHz (NO. IT IS NOT 20BIT. It is effectively 20bit, not actually 20bit. Thus you can play it on normal CD player.)

3. CD... see no.2 above.

4. Vinyl, various from LP to LP, but usually it is about 12bit/18kHz (brand new one can be go as high as 20~22kHz) . Add surface noise and fact that Vinyl degrades over the usage, you have rather underwhelming format. It is, in fact, the worst format if we are talking about sound quality.

5. Digital Lossless format (FLAC, ALAC, WMA-lossless, etc). Only actual difference between lossy format is that when transcode to other format, it does not lose any information unless it is transcoding to lossy format. Very convenient with computer and mobile devices. Files are usually big (and 5.1 24bit flac files are really, really big.) Usually you can find them as 16bit/44.1kHz to 24bit/192kHz with some files are multi-channel.

6. Digital lossy format (mp3, AAC, WMA, ogg, etc) While file size is much smaller, it loses information during transcoding, and it is irreversible. Very convenient with computer and mobile devices. Can be also multi-channel, but it is extremely rare. Usually 128~320 kbps/44.1kHz.




By simply going for highest rate, Lossless format with high rate and DVD-A/SACD are good choice, followed by CD and at last lossy. But as there is no person ever can distinguish higher than 16bit/44.1kHz in the first place, provided if both CD and DVD-A/SACD are mastered with same effort or lower bit one is directly coming from high bit. As someone said in Hydrogenaudio forum...

Quote:

We dont need it. It's just virtual useless number-games to give people the incentive to buy new equipment and then re-buy all our music. There are some *technical* arguments for using 48khz instead of 44khz.... but the actual benefit for normal endusers is zero.



My opinion.....


The one that people love Vinyl is a good indication that such high resolution is nothing more than playing with numbers. Why you need high numbers if you are satisfied with 12bit/18kHz in the first place?

In the end, it is all about convenience, quality issue only rises on Vinyl and lossy.




1. DVD-A/SACD : now with OK with hardware support, but still not spread out as CD. DVD-A ridden with DRM requiring a special software to rip it correctly (things get messy if it also uses watermark.) SACD is just not possible to rip at all. Terrible convenience that only can be played on standalone players.

2. CD (HDCD = CD) : perfect hardware support, since you can see every laptop and other small stuffs can play these discs. To be used with computer frequently, it needs to be ripped to digital format.. But it can be ripped without losing any information (lossless format) without hassle.

3. Vinyl : As hardware support it is worse than DVD-A/SACD since it requires dedicated LP table and phono stage to use it properly. Sound quality, in objective view, is worse than those small discs and difference can be heard easily. It is very hard to convert to digital format properly and usually need assistance from professionals to do so.

4. Lossless format : Quality is depend on the original source transcoded. Most if not all computers can handle them easily unless it is multi-channel file requiring multi-channel support. Many mobile players exception of cellphones support them (ALAC for ipod, WMA-lossless for Zune, FLAC for rest). And not many online stores sell in these formats.

5. Lossy format : Quality loss happnes during trandcoding, and it can be heard with various degrees. Pretty much every mobile devices support them. All major online stores' choices are these formats.

For best convenience, it's lossy format followed by CD/Lossless tied, DVD-A/SACD and then Vinyl.

For best sound quality, it's CD/DVD-A/SACD/lossless all tied, followed by lossy and then Vinyl (later two's positions can be changed depend on lossy format's encoder setting)


If you ask me what is the best format that both take care of convenience AND sound quality with best compromises, it's CD and Lossless format. Best sound quality, and second-only for convenience.
 
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post-6407580
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nick_charles

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Quote:

Originally Posted by wnmnkh /img/forum/go_quote.gif
4. Vinyl, various from LP to LP, but usually it is about 12bit/18kHz (brand new one can be go as high as 20~22kHz) . Add surface noise and fact that Vinyl degrades over the usage, you have rather underwhelming format. It is, in fact, the worst format if we are talking about sound quality.


3. Vinyl : As hardware support it is worse than DVD-A/SACD since it requires dedicated LP table and phono stage to use it properly. Sound quality, in objective view, is worse than those small discs and difference can be heard easily. It is very hard to convert to digital format properly and usually need assistance from professionals to do so.



I really hate having to defend vinyl but there are a few dubious statements in your analysis. 1. generally good vinyl is estimated at being about 13 bits i.e a dynamic range/SNR of 78 - 80 db. Noise is part of this calculation, without the noise the SNR would be greater and the bit-equivalence would increase. You want to count the noise twice tsk tsk

The 13 bit calculation is based on a bandwidth limited signal of ~20 - 20K. Quad Lps can eaily get into the 25 to 30khz range, for a while anyway, if you extend the bandwidth the information content would increase. In the outside groove higher frequencies are more viable than towards the label so where you measure is important !. Degradation is overegged by the digital camp, with a decent stylus and cleaning the wear is lessened, still finite but less marked, see Fantel, 1976 "pampered records can live to be 100", NY Times.
 
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wnmnkh

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Good CD, such as HDCD can have 'effective" 20bits with ~110db SNR. Well, it is also true that people have already having problems hearing 70db+ SNR in the first place; both vinyl and CD provide enough dynamic range for human being.

Quad, you mean CD-4? That's even more vulnerable to wear problem, and I am still uncertain about that modulation actually works or not (not to mention it really never made it to mainstream, even more fail than DVD-A/SACD)

As I said, it is not really sound quality problem since CD is already more than enough for human being. It is convenience and vinyl is far behind.
 
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nick_charles

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Quote:

Originally Posted by wnmnkh /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Good CD, such as HDCD can have 'effective" 20bits with ~110db SNR. Well, it is also true that people have already having problems hearing 70db+ SNR in the first place; both vinyl and CD provide enough dynamic range for human being.


For me the acid test is classical music with quiet passges, here the noise of vinyl is intrusive and on headphones, forget it...


Quote:

Quad, you mean CD-4? That's even more vulnerable to wear problem, and I am still uncertain about that modulation actually works or not (not to mention it really never made it to mainstream, even more fail than DVD-A/SACD)


I remember the buzz about Quadrophonic LPs in the 1970s, It did work, not well, but I never invested in it, there were technical issues such as poor front-back separation.

Quote:

As I said, it is not really sound quality problem since CD is already more than enough for human being. It is convenience and vinyl is far behind.


If I had felt that LP was better than CD I would have not gone digital in 1984 and would have lived with the rituals, the tiptoeing across the room and the constant getting up every 22.5 minutes to changes sides, but when you heard digital silence for the first time , wow ! that utter lack of background noise was a winner !
 
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wnmnkh

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Quote:

Originally Posted by nick_charles /img/forum/go_quote.gif
If I had felt that LP was better than CD I would have not gone digital in 1984 and would have lived with the rituals, the tiptoeing across the room and the constant getting up every 22.5 minutes to changes sides, but when you heard digital silence for the first time , wow ! that utter lack of background noise was a winner !


Unfortunately there are people spending five or even six digits on those gears based on pre-1984 technology, indeed.

And yes, I just cannot stand that surface noise. And with very detailed headphones it is nothing more than torture.
 
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grokit

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Quote:

Originally Posted by wnmnkh /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That 'quantified' is highly misleading and wrong word, since it really does not exist in the first place.

This thread just shows that many people have little clue on digital which they hate.

-snip, lol-

If you ask me what is the best format that both take care of convenience AND sound quality with best compromises, it's CD and Lossless format. Best sound quality, and second-only for convenience.



I will stick to my guns and go with "infinite" vs. "quantified" as it is more "poetic", and makes me appreciate my records that much more. Furthermore, measurements are for suckas, vinyl is the original Hi-Def format, and it's the best because it's un-quantifiable


But I do not hate digital by any means and totally agree that CDs and lossless formats have the best trade-off between sound quality and convenience. It is much more work to listen to LPs, but IMO it is more of a labor of love


Even so, I mostly listen to lossless rips. I guess that means I will have to be "re-quantified"
 
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Shark_Jump

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Quote:

Originally Posted by nick_charles /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I really hate having to defend vinyl but there are a few dubious statements in your analysis. 1. generally good vinyl is estimated at being about 13 bits i.e a dynamic range/SNR of 78 - 80 db. Noise is part of this calculation, without the noise the SNR would be greater and the bit-equivalence would increase. You want to count the noise twice tsk tsk

The 13 bit calculation is based on a bandwidth limited signal of ~20 - 20K. Quad Lps can eaily get into the 25 to 30khz range, for a while anyway, if you extend the bandwidth the information content would increase. In the outside groove higher frequencies are more viable than towards the label so where you measure is important !. Degradation is overegged by the digital camp, with a decent stylus and cleaning the wear is lessened, still finite but less marked, see Fantel, 1976 "pampered records can live to be 100", NY Times.



What would the equivalent bit depth/sampling rate of a 45RPM record be?

I guess the bandwidth goes up proportionate with speed
e.g. 45RPM/33RPM = 1.36
 
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