Lossless--Is it necessary? Why I say no
Jun 27, 2009 at 7:02 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 43


500+ Head-Fier
Feb 19, 2009
I'm sure this subject has come up before, but I guess I want to share my thoughts with you and get to know yours better.

It really boils down to practicality I think. First of all, I, like all of you, love music. Of course along with that, I'm broke all the time because I'm a student without a job, which means I can't afford to buy nice equipment without a lot of labor involved. Moreover, as I stated, I'm a student, and I have to have good mobility. So, you ask, "If you can't buy a turntable and a tube amp, why don't you just use lossless?"

Here's the thing. I think it's reasonable to get some high quality Mp3 or other higher-quality-smaller-sized formats. The problem is, at what point does something as simple and enjoyable as listening to music become an annoyance? For one thing, the variety of music I listen to most isn't readily available (to my knowledge) in lossless. This means Rammstein, Coldplay, and a lot of dance/trance/hardstyle. What's that you say? I can rip my CD's into lossless formats?

Sure, this is true. For the CD's I actually have physical copies for, I rip them into WMA Lossless. This comes at a price, though. They're large files. But this is only for CD's I have. Other music I listen to is made by independent, recreational musicians that share their music through means of free internet downloads, which are generally Mp3's. I still love the music, however.

By my definition, being an audiophile is caring a lot more than that guy on the bus using iBuds does about how well music is reproduced. Each headphone has its own sound signature, much as each symphony might have its own stylistically different or unique way of playing Beethoven's 5th. The truth in the matter, and perhaps l am alone, is that sometimes in being audiophiles we tend to remove our sense of enjoyment for the essence of music. Music isn't just organized sound. Music is the spiritual embodiment of human emotion, which is why we should listen to it for what it is, and not to over analyze it as we so often seem to do.

Aside from that, I suppose the point I was trying to make was that what I have in terms of formats is good enough for me. Headphones and a decent amp are what make it sound good on a concrete level, not what create the magic. The magic is only created when you feel the music and the powerful emotions and meanings it conveys.

I just thought you all might appreciate that.

Jun 27, 2009 at 7:10 AM Post #2 of 43
There are some good mixes that friends have given me - they are all 256 kbps. I can still get a lot of enjoyment out of them. When I'm on the go, I definitely care about the quality of my music, but like you, I am also a student, and my budget is limited. Frankly, I don't think my portable setup can get a lot better without stretching the definition of "portable".

Certainly, there are better portable rigs out there, but the money to happiness ratio just isn't good enough for me. I agree with you that music is much more about the emotion than the actual details. However, there are some people out there who can derive a lot of pleasure from knowing that they are hearing all of the details.

I still use lossless. It's nice to know you have a bit perfect encoding.
Jun 27, 2009 at 7:10 AM Post #3 of 43
I agree to a point, especially with portables, but lossless is a must for archiving purposes. Maybe someday your setup may expose a difference.

Btw, what do you mean by "the variety of music I listen to most isn't readily available in lossless"? Those bands don't release cds??
Jun 27, 2009 at 7:19 AM Post #4 of 43
clarinetman, far enough enjoy music in anyway you see fit. What you can do with your cd’s is change the bit rate import settings. As an exercise import one piece of music with several bit rate settings from say 96kbps, 112kbps, 128kbps, 160kbps, 192kbps, 224kbps, 256kbps and 320kbps. Decide on which one you’d be happy to live with.
Jun 27, 2009 at 7:31 AM Post #5 of 43
I have contacted independent artists to purchase CDs with the original WAV versions of their songs. They're more often than not happy to oblige for the cost of the CD and shipping.

Even if an indie artist is distributing MP3s, their original work will have been done in a lossless format.
Jun 27, 2009 at 7:36 AM Post #6 of 43
For me, lossless is necessary. The worst system I regularly use for listening is my car stereo, aftermarket, but nothing great (think I spent about $300, just to basically make it listenable). I can easily notice the degradation of MP3 (even LAME extreme) as compared to lossless. The harshness and unnatural sounding high end is a dead giveaway on almost any halfway decent audio system, once you know what to listen for.

So it goes almost without saying that even on my "lowliest" headphone system (KSC75+Sansa Clip) I use lossless. For me, there simply isn't enough reason not to. My main portable can hold about 100 albums, and my small portable about 10-12. I can still carry my entire music collection on one (terabyte) hard drive if I need to. All that, and I can simply copy directly from my library to my portables when I need to change up the files. No pain in the arse transcoding necessary.

To me, once you go past the level of stock/entry-level consumer junk, and start caring about sound quality, you should not listen to anything but lossless. Otherwise you are putting your entire audio system at a disadvantage before you ever start listening. With the size and price of storage media these days, there is really no excuse for not using lossless, if you are an audiophile.
Jun 27, 2009 at 7:44 AM Post #7 of 43
I think it's a worthy argument that Iron_Dreamer makes. Doesn't matter what kind of system you use. Garbage in, garbage out. As to the difference lossless actually makes, that's for another forum. However, it's not exactly hard to obtain lossless files.
Jun 27, 2009 at 7:49 AM Post #8 of 43

Originally Posted by saintalfonzo /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Btw, what do you mean by "the variety of music I listen to most isn't readily available in lossless"? Those bands don't release cds??

Like I said, for those that do make CDs, I rip them into WMA lossless. Many don't though, such as Angerfist. Only available through Mp3 downloads.
Jun 27, 2009 at 8:01 AM Post #9 of 43
Different preferences and needs!
For me lossless is a necessity, as my gear is quite transparent and to my ears there are an audible difference between lossy and lossless.
Jun 27, 2009 at 9:42 AM Post #10 of 43
As much as I've tried, I can't consistently tell the difference between a constant 320 mp3 and a flac file. It's possible my set-up is limiting me, but for now I'm more than happy with high bit-rate mp3's. I'll have to do some more testing once my D7000s get here.
Jun 27, 2009 at 10:39 AM Post #11 of 43
Well, if you have the choice between lossless and lossy I don´t see a good enough reason not to pick lossless. The difference in SQ is quite obvious in anything but the most basic setup and file size is not a very limiting issue, even on a low budget, at the current storage prices.

Now, if you do not have the choice, then mp3 it is.
Jun 27, 2009 at 11:11 AM Post #12 of 43
It's an interesting topic.

I have some music in mp3 from years ago that is hardly replaceable. And i still find enjoyable. Of course at least 256k CBR or 192k VBR with lame.

Now hard drive space costs pennies and there are much more sources for uncompressed, even highres music. So anything new is flac/wav for me.
But the OP has a point
Jun 27, 2009 at 11:12 AM Post #13 of 43

Originally Posted by WesMiaw /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Even if an indie artist is distributing MP3s, their original work will have been done in a lossless format.

Interesting. I know one that just released his first album on mp3 (bleh) and I'd like to buy uncompressed (even better if highres) tracks.
Jun 27, 2009 at 2:46 PM Post #14 of 43
I'm not convinced the untrained can hear the difference between 256kbps or above and lossless if they're listening to music instead of listening for digital artifacts. Can you train yourself to hear this stuff in the normal course of listening? Probably. Why would you? 10 years of listening almost exclusively to headphones left me incapable of overlooking the incoherence and distortiona caused by passive crossovers (not to mention a high sensitivity to room anomalies). It was annoying, inconvenient, and ultimately expensive. I would never do it on purpose.

Jun 27, 2009 at 4:45 PM Post #15 of 43
I think this argument would have had a lot more merit several years ago when storage space was more expensive and portable FLAC players were nearly non-existent. Now that hard drives sell in the ballpark of 10 cents a gigabyte and used rockbox-able players can be had online for minimal cost, I don't think maintaining a FLAC collection incurs any circumstantial cost difference. Admittedly, there is only a marginal improvement with my current equipment but I'm not going to be a student much longer and I expect to have this music collection for decades to come. My backup paranoia will see to that.

I would have to concede a degree of inconvenience, however, for those that use "mainstream" players like the iPod and Zune. I recently started replacing MP3s in my collection with FLAC where available but I still have to keep an MP3 copy on hand for my Zune.

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