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FLAC vs. 320 Mp3

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by icedup, Sep 7, 2011.
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  1. Iamnothim
    I see that you have 9,360 posts and that you are in Hollywood. So it's entirely possibly that you have been close to audio for a very long time and I give deference to you.  I am quite certain you know more about audio technology than I.  Formats, sources, mastering, algorithms... 
    However, ....It's still your ears and "peoples" ears... A/B Xing music and expressing an "opinion". That's as subjective as it gets.
    Steak vs chops. Coke v Pepsi. Ride quality of a Lexus. Sennheiser HD650 vs. HiFiman HE 500
    The whole discussion is 70 parts subjectivity and 30 parts serendipity. Has anything authoritative been published?  It's subjectivity, not science?
    My opinion, I believe I can hear a difference, and if I wasn't absolutly blown away by HD Tracks I wouldn't pay more, wait for 100Mb files to download, transfer music file to my server import them using Amarra, use an outboard DAC and connect it to a tube amp.
    I also  believe I can see the difference between a print from a 500K jpeg image and one from 12MB RAW file. Why? There's more to see. That's why books are printed Hi-Res. Web site images are edited HiRes and converted to Low-Res for speed and portability. Quality vs Practicality. Still, it's subjective. Eyes to brain... Ear to brain.
    You brought up a good point with adjusted line levels. I noticed a significant difference in the volume between albums on HD Tracks. Jr.Wells might be soft and Cat Stevens loud. That makes sense to me. Different engineers, different setup, different source levels. Yet for me iTunes recordings almost never require volume adjustments between albums.. why not iTunes?  Is this my imagination?  Could be.
    Perhaps iTunes music has been sanitized for my protection. Is Apple pouring Welches grape juice into a Bordeaux and selling it in little boxes?  Still a subjective statement.
    A big By The Way. Straight from HD Tracks web site FAQ:
    320kbps MP3's are compatible with most players on the market, including iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp, Media Monkey, and Songbird. We recommend that you use this format if you are not sure what to choose, or you do not have a lot of space on your hard drive. 320kbps MP3's are compatible with most players on the market, including iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp, Media Monkey, and Songbird. We recommend that you use this format if you are not sure what to choose, or you do not have a lot of space on your hard drive.
  2. Iamnothim
    I just had the impression that flac was a dirty word and that anyone that used it didn't know what they were doing.
    256... portable, make perfect sense.
  3. Brooko Contributor
    I just read your reply to BigShot.  I still think you may be missing one small piece of info when you compare.
    We are saying that you won't be able to tell the difference if using the same mastered source - then transcoded to either FLAC (lossless) or aac256 (lossy).
    So far you have been comparing HDTracks Flac with iTunes 256aac.  Chances are that they are completely different mastering.  There is your audible difference.  The two tracks aren't the same.
    So take your 24/96 HD Tracks file, and transcode that exact same file to 256aac - and compare the two .....
  4. Iamnothim
    But why?
    Where's the value?
    What practice should I follow?
    I think it's when ripping a CD to my library I should choose Mp3.
    No debate there.  In fact as a result of this thread I made sure how to do configure iTunes.  But I haven't been buying CD's....
    Should I re-rip?  I haven't done this yet.
    As I said no new CD's until now...  HD Tracks has a limited selection.
    Friday I get my cans.  As a starter kit I ended up with Lyr, Bifrost, HD650 and a handful of old Amprex ECC88's
    I'll be buying CD's again.
    HD Tracks I purchase and download flac then  Amarra to convert the flac to aiff so iTunes can manage it.
    I can't wait for Friday.
  5. bigshot
    The reason to do controlled comparisons is so you know what matters and what doesn't.

    This is a general observation, but... It's been my experience that some people go about getting great sound with the "more is better" theory. They assume that bigger file sizes and fancy numbers on a spec sheet and high price tags will guarantee them good sound. I haven't found that to be the case at all.

    I find that understanding how stuff works, identifying and addressing specific problems, not sweating stuff you can't hear and focusing on what matters gets you a lot further than blindly trusting numbers.

    The two most important parts of the chain are the beginning and the end. How well music is recorded in the first place matters a lot. At the other end, the headphones or speakers you use to create the sound make a huge difference. Inbetween those two is fairly straightforward if you understand how it works.
  6. chewy4
    Peace of mind, really.
    Sure you might not notice a difference, with the way MP3 works I most certainly wont because if I understand it correctly it shaves off frequencies that I can't hear. But it's nice to know there's definitely not anything missing.
    Also makes it safe for burning and re-ripping without losing valuable data while the files remain the same size. According to bigshot he's re-encoded an AAC file several times and it was fine, but I'm not sure if this would be the case for MP3.
  7. Iamnothim
    Since it's all about the beginning of the chain I submit the following documentation of The Stones "Let it Bleed" recordings on HD Tracks
    Many years of research went into locating the original mono and stereo analog tapes that would be used in ABKCO's Rolling Stones Remastered Series. That research revealed a treasure trove of first generation tapes - true stereo masters from The Stones' 1964 Chess Studios sessions including the unedited version of "2120 South Michigan Avenue," Beggar's Banquet at its correct speed and Let It Bleed with splicing that indicates that the original intention was to leave little spacing between each cut.

    For the analog to digital transfers, vintage reel-to-reel tape machines were utilized - a modified Ampex 351 with original tube electronics (full track mono and two track stereo) and an Ampex ATR-102 modified with Aria Discrete Class-A Electronics (full track mono and two track stereo). A Sonoma DSD digital audio workstation was the chosen high resolution format and Meitner Design ADC8 and DAC8 MKlV converters were used for the conversion process. Cables used were the cryogenically frozen type supplied to us by Gus Skinas of Super Audio Center. Gus also provided much guidance to Jody Klein, Steve Rosenthal and myself for our first time use of DSD technology. For this HD Tracks release, the Bob Ludwig mastered DSD files were converted to both 176.4kHz and 88.2kHz high resolution PCM with Weiss Saracon conversion software."

    This is diligent attention to detail.
    This is what I am paying for.
    This speaks to your post on source quality making a difference in sound.
    I am not seeing this information on iTunes.
  8. Iamnothim
    I'm with you.
    Nice to know nothing is missing. 
    Why do I need to re-encode?  I've got every bit the ADC picked up from the master.  Painstaking detail was taken to feed the ADC with clean information.  Tell me what sonic improvement are made by having a compression algorithm process it?  What's the upside? It doesn't cost more to ADC to flac rather than to 256 ACC.  
    Answer: I suspect the masses do not care.  They're not reading Head-Fi posts.  Hence, give them small portable files.
    There will be a curve of human hearing ability, probably bell shaped.  Why ignore the right half of the curve?
    The data is valuable indeed.  
  9. chewy4
    You generally wouldn't re-encode. But if you're burning a CD as a medium to bring the songs elsewhere to rip them there, you are then compressing a 320kbps song as if it was lossless. So you're losing more data than if the CD was burned lossless in the first place. This can generally be avoided though, as there are better ways to transport your songs But I've had to burn and re-rip some stuff before to get rid of DRM. 
    AAC works differently from MP3 though I believe. It doesn't shave off frequencies, but it can result in artifacts. 

  10. PinoyPogiman
    you can hear quite a difference in sound, and it can be quite appealing actually.
    comparing differences with Crappy bootleg Lossy Youtube Video>to>Audio Download vs CD Ripped 320kbps music.
    and with a decent pair of headphones (grado sr80i)
    you can quite clearly hear a difference in sound.
    in this case listening to a few Daft Punk songs and other CD rips from my collection.
    i can hear the Decay to be present, more open sound, etc.
  11. bigshot

    That is referring to the remasters that were released on SACD. Those were a mixed bag. Some were very good, but with others they went back to the multitrack masters and completely renixed. I grew up with the song "Street Fighting Man". I can't tell you how many times I've heard it over the years. The sound of the narrow band EQ on Jaggers' vocals, the wire reverbs, the balances of the instruments are ingrained in me. The remaster of that particular song sounds cleaner to be sure, but it doesn't have the raw guts of the original mix. It sounds more like a tired modern re-record. It isn't the same song.

    The best thing about the Beatles remasters is that with the exception of Rubber Soul and Let It Be, they didn't attempt to remix. They just cleaned up the mixes approved and finalized on original release. The Stones and especially Led Zeppelin haven't been so lucky.

    Like I said... The head end matters. Mastering is the big difference, not format.
  12. bigshot

    At higher bitrates, neither format shaves frequencies. It's all about artifacts. At a certain point, there's enough bitrate to render the file cleanly and the sound becomes transparent- no artifacts. You just have to find that point.
  13. bigshot

    Audibly transparent is audibly transparent. It isn't a matter of some people not being able to hear. It's about presenting sound as human beings hear it.
  14. Iamnothim
    I have some HD Tracks that I'm not in love with and what you're saying makes sense.  A bad bottle of wine.  I love Let it Bleed (Obviously)  but Pet Sounds, not so much.
    I love the guttural characteristics of old Hound Dog Taylor, Howlin' Wolf, and Buddy Guy.  Raw, climbing out of the speakers.  I've never heard that before.
    The Beatles are a perfect example of what I can't buy on HD Tracks.  I'm going to re-rip CD to MP3.  As an aficionado, what is your opinion of Beatles ONE?
  15. Iamnothim
    You are an amazing wordsmith.
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