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FLAC vs. 320 Mp3

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by icedup, Sep 7, 2011.
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  1. Dillan
    Good stuff Brooko. That's the only reason I keep such an open mind on this topic. Because at this point in time, no side can be proven really. I will keep archiving and listening to my FLAC for sure, with the piece of mind, the ability to re-encode later on if need be, with a lossless collection.. just too appealing to me. Thanks so much for all of your input on this topic. And thanks for putting up with all of my text, I know a lot of people don't agree with me, but I try to stay reasonable and informative on my reasoning behind the things that I do.

    By the way, this is my 100th post.
  2. Achmedisdead
    From what I have seen, you are succeeding in doing so. [​IMG]
  3. Ghaunty22
    I just wanted to add my observations & see if you agree or not?
    with HD600 MP3 with amp & EQ in equlizer pro app. The MP3 sounds worse, more hissing, harsh highs & wears my ears out more. the vocals have more clear detail with flac & the track sounds sharper & louder. The MP3 just seems to have distortion & fatige my ears with eq & amp.
    Although I really have to listen to hear the differences, which I do for intense listening sessions. my belief is in the long run flac is better on your ears & causes less fatiging.
    But considering some music falls under the loudness wars & with so much stuff going on in a track with all the bass, & huge amounts of sound I wonder if flac makes much difference?
  4. Brooko Contributor
    Try this link.  All you need is a PC with an optical drive, an internet connection, a CD you know well, and some time.  Follow the instructions - set up a proper abx, then see if your opinions change.
  5. chewy4
    MP3's have less treble content than FLAC. That's the first thing the algorithm attacks since there's an awful lot of data up there. No additional hissing or distortion should be added, although they can be an effect of transcoding several times.
    You say the track sounds louder - turn it down [​IMG]
  6. julian67

    The most famous ones are eig_essence, trumpets,castanets. You can get some of them from http://web.archive.org/web/20070702152301/http://www.pcabx.com/training/index.htm I don't know where I picked up eig_essence but I remember it was linked to on hydrogen audio. Those are publicly available samples from real music that make some aspects of codec comparison/assessment very easy.

    In my own collection i.e. stuff from CDs I encoded, I've most often run into clipping as being the main artefact problem (because some CDs are mastered close to 0dB and compression raises the level again), but occasionally also the kind of hissing you can easily get in the famous trumpets sample. Another issue I noticed sometimes was degradation of the illusion of width/soundstage.

    I can offer some examples. I don't have an exhaustive list because I no longer have a need to abx stuff but some experiences stick in the mind quite well.

    The most easily demonstrated clipping I encountered in lossy is in EMI CD 7243 8 26525 2 6 "Frühe Englische Orgelmusik" track 3. Parts are very close to 0dB and most lossy encoders take it over the edge, but not all. Vorbis did, opus did, lame did until the most recent versions of lame. I didn't use Quicktime or Apple but the frauenhofer aac doesn't clip it but attenuates, whether on encode or decode I don't recall. This track can induce plainly heard and very ugly clicking noises. Other people (lossy developers or proponents) have told me in one case that they can barely hear the clicks and doubt their existence, and in another case that I should have attenuated the level before encoding. Ho hum.

    I came across a horrible hising sound in lossy encoding of Respighi's Violin Concerto in A Major on Naxos 8.572332. Off the top of my head I don't recall which track but it is probably track 3, the second part of the main work, which ends on a very long sustained high violin note which falls and rises quickly a couple of times. There is also some ambient noise from the orchestra (probably sheet music being turned over, breath being drawn and so on). Lossy encoding introduces some unfortunate hissing and makes a kind of mess of the ambient noise. This was with Fraunhofer aac and I don't remember if I tried other codecs.

    One sample I noticed was on Jimi Hendrix's Bleedeing Heart from the Japanese Polydor issue of War Heroes, disc P20P22010. The first few seconds has a studio made effect. I guess the sound started off as cymbal splash and the groovy long haired peaceniks in the mastering studio transformed it into a very nice kind of whooshing sound which starts on the far left, moves left to right in an arc (the sound appears to travel up as well as across) and fades out to the extreme right. I was actually abxing the track for completely different reasons: I just thought it didn't sound as good as it used to (I'm middle aged so I feel that way about most things) so I decided to try to abx it. My subjective impression in normal listening was that the bass tones were less substantial or weighty and that was what I would be able to distinguish in an abx comparison. I couldn't, but while failing to do so I gradually noticed a difference in the "whoosh": the far left was less distant and the far right also. The arc of "travel" was less well defined. I did abx that and then my brain felt it might cave in on itself with the stress.

    I found this really interesting because it showed me how hard it ican be to know exactly why something doesn't sound like it ought to. There was no gross artefact, intrusive sound, nothing announcing itself. The differences identifiable in abx were small and it was actually difficult and somewhat exhausting to do the abx. The single thing I could abx was something I hadn't even considered, yet in normal listening I had realised that I wasn't hearing what I ought to be hearing without going to any special effort beyond wanting to enjoy the music.

    If that hadn't been a track I had heard many many times over the years then I probably would never have noticed the difference. It also still sounded like its bass quality wasn't right in normal listening, even after I had abx'd it and not been able to identify a difference in bass. That may be a problem of my echoic memory, poor interpretation of sound on my part, not having adequate terminology/expertise/experience to make a better diagnosis. It may be that subconscious bias is so powerful that it trumps knowledge, experience and practise even while subconscious bias is being consciously considered, I'm not sure. But that conundrum was solved entirely by listening to the flac instead.
    Brooko likes this.
  7. julian67

    You repeatedly reply to me to tell me that you're neither reading nor replying to me. Curiouser and curiouser.
  8. Brooko Contributor
    Julian - just let it go.  The better man will always walk away.  You made your point - the rest is just baiting.
    Thanks for the sample references BTW - I'll start to make my way through some of them over the weekend.  I do suspect the subtleties mentioned will be lost on me though - the low level tinnitus pretty much kills really fine sonic differences sadly.  Hopefully others will also take time to test themselves though.  I'd love to hear some other feedback on them.
  9. sonitus mirus
    If you discover something, I would love to test for myself.  Age has most likely impaired my critical listening skills, but I'd love to have something as a reference that I could use that definitively includes an issue at a specific time in a track or during a certain passage.
  10. ForShure
    Before anyone else posts there's only been two arguments going down the whole time.
    User says flac sounds better than mp3-
    "Nah bro, flac is the exact as mp3 since new encoding is entirely transparent. Do an abx test and see for yourself."
    User says mp3 and flac sound the same-
    "Oh yeah mp3 saves you so much disk space. I love mp3's so much and I'm very glad you do too. Lets go prove these flac fanboys wrong and make fun of them for using unnecessary disk space and then try to convert them to using lossy compression."
  11. julian67

    Those are just three samples that I can most easily remember. I used to keep notes and samples from my own collection and a few tracks from other peoples and try different codecs and different settings, all this right up to the day I thought "****** this" and decided to just listen to my lossless files instead. I now keep a handful of really nasty killer samples (eig, trumpets, castanets and similar) so I can play with new stuff occasionally (opus for example). I expect you'll find they work well with some codecs and not with others. The first one was a real killer for lame in older versions but seems fine at very high quality (for example -V 1 or -V 2) in 3.99. It made opus clip a couple of months ago but latest libopus decoder successfully attenuates it to prevent clipping.

    If you look up guruboolez listening tests at hydrogen audio or doom9 they give an insight into the state of lossy compression when disk space cost a lot and choosing lossy could save big money on disks. At the time there was no shortage of people claiming that lame or mpc or vorbis or were transparent. If I had ripped my collection to anything other than lossless then I would by now be absolutely sick of doing it again and again.

    If you want a good supply of samples of real music from people's collections you can find lots at Hydrogenaudio Forum Uploads

    I don't think there's anything special about my music collection except for the way it reflects my innate good taste (joke). Any sizeable collection of lossy music is almost certain to have tracks which are not transparent. I suspect that my experience is far from unique and there may also be tracks in most collections which sound different from source but which are very hard indeed to identify with abx and which can pass unnoticed unless the listener is extremely familiar with the source. I easily noticed in normal listening on unremarkable playback hardware a change which I found extremely difficult but not impossible to abx. I'm unconvinced that is only about bias or predisposition. abx testing can be really hard. Identifying a or b as x is already harder than simple listening even when you think you know what to expect. When you're trying to pick out a difference in what might be a complex assortment of different tones and different levels it is a truly demanding challenge (which is why the task is often reduced to tiny edits). When there is no single gross artefact to identify, but perhaps an aggregation of individually marginal differences, it gets harder again. Aside from picking out the most obvious kinds of artefacts I find it very challenging to abx differently sounding tracks unless the music is tonally simple or of very short duration, or maybe both. But I don't listen to lots of short simple samples. So I started to have some sympathy with people whose criticism of abx is that it too easily produces a null result despite a difference being present. They may be right or they may be mistaken but even if they are wrong a null result is still only a null result. Null results have somehow been co-opted in some people's minds to take the place of proof positive, and that presentation of null as though it is evidence is regularly used, including in this thread, as though it supports claims of perfection or transparency. I used to unthinkingly accept this but later realised it's not the case. A null result in the context of a subjective individual comparison is indeed only a null result. It's empty. It contains nothing, says nothing, shows nothing and proves nothing.
  12. xnor
    That's a claim that needs to be supported by evidence, like ABX logs including all details.
    That's the null hypothesis, the default position, which can only be disproven, again for example with ABX logs.
    Even if you can hear differences at a given bitrate, you're still free to choose whatever you prefer.
  13. sonitus mirus
    I don't think anyone is trying to poke fun at another.  I take minor issue with those insinuating that I am sacrificing sound quality for convenience.  I was all lossless all the time before, and while everyone's situation may be different, my options were limited.  It was only after discovering that lossy could be transparent to my ears that I eventually skipped archiving to lossless and went with a format that opened up a wide range of inexpensive means for me to maintain an otherwise unattainable music library practically everywhere I go.
    Can I be absolutely certain I am not missing something with the sound quality?  No, but I've reached the point where I'm extremely confident that I am safe, and if there is some proof of this later, it would have to be something significant to make me go back to my old ways.  If I have to scour the world over to find 2 songs with a complex horn section that was mastered at the bleeding edge of clipping to find a small, barely perceptible anomaly for 2-3 seconds in a 10-minute orchestral piece, I'm probably going to shrug and move on with my life.
  14. logicPwn
    I can agree with that but not fully, on my laptop I use archive quality FLAC and then convert everything to mobile quality AAC for use on my iPhone 5 because of small storage size issues (16GB), once I get a nice dedicated mobile music player I will use some form of lossless though.
  15. waynes world
    At the moment (subject to change lol!), this is how I am also feeling. The highlighted bit is very important to me right now. I don't like spending time choosing which songs/albums I am going to listen to on my portable devices, and then spending the time getting them onto the portables. I would prefer to get as much as I can onto them (preferably everything), and the only way I can come remotely close to doing so is with mp3's. And if high quality mp3's are pretty much indistinguishable from lossless files to me, then high quality mp3's will work for me at this point in time.
    I have enjoyed the debate though, and I can see that it is very much dependent on each person's needs and desires - there is no right or wrong answer.
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