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Poll: Audible Difference between FLAC and 320kbps MP3?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by el_doug, Aug 10, 2009.
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  1. neptius
    When you own headphones like HD 800, T1, D-7000, with excellent amp and other accessories, then the FLAC is right format for you, because these headphones are very detailed, with perfect dynamics ... so lost of quality will show you more concretely as lower models or other devices, so I notorially do FLACs from CDs.
     
  2. n3rdling
    D7000 isn't detailed at all [​IMG]

    I have tried doing an ABX test between a 320 kbs MP3 and FLAC and couldn't tell the difference. I'll try again, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if I don't hear a difference.
     
  3. Cru321
    It's really hard to tell the difference... It's probably because of my "less than audiophile" equipment. Unamped ADDIEM from Powerbook G4... Sounds good enough for my needs though.
     
  4. AtomikPi
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by danroche /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    What was really interesting here was that ALL of the artifacts above, say, 200kpbs were VERY ACUTE and subtle. There was nothing broad and aesthetic along the lines of "oh, the soundstage was damaged" or "there was less shimmer in the highs" - it was very temporal around certain moments of the music where a load of stuff was going on all at once.



    I'm glad you're saying this as I think one of the most important things to recognize is that even in the small percentage of high bitrate mp3's aren't audibly transparent, any issues are generally very subtle and have no impact on timbre, transparency (meaning clarity rather than indistinguishable from lossless), soundstage, and so on. Of course, at lower bitrates, this doesn't hold true.
     
  5. danroche
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AtomikPi /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    I'm glad you're saying this as I think one of the most important things to recognize is that even in the small percentage of high bitrate mp3's aren't audibly transparent, any issues are generally very subtle and have no impact on timbre, transparency (meaning clarity rather than indistinguishable from lossless), soundstage, and so on. Of course, at lower bitrates, this doesn't hold true.



    AtomokPi,

    Amen, brother. If I may get a little bolder here, I tend to think suspect that anyone dismissing higher-bitrate MP3s or other lossy compression schemes using broad, aesthetic terms are speaking from expectation bias more than anything else. LAME and the various AAC coders out there are very, very, very good at their jobs, and I think there likely doesn't exist a song in which every frame and second will trigger artifacts resulting in such clear, across-the-board degredation or loss of transparency.

    When it comes to low-bitrate encoding, it really is amazing how far the science has come since I first got into this game back in 2001-ish. Anyone who has iTunes owes it to themselves to try ripping one of their favorite discs using the new AAC-HE settings in I think iTunes 9.2. ~80-90kbps file sizes, and VERY surprisingly high quality songs. While I don't expect people to start archiving their libraries in this format (some clear artifacting IS there) it might make them start reconsidering if something like 192-256kbps AAC is in fact good enough for their listening needs.
     
  6. Young Spade
    I think it has mostly to do with how detailed your equipment is. You're probably not going to be able to discern the difference with an iPod to some... I dunno.... UE Super.Fi 5. But if you're using a s:flo2 with an amp and Triple.Fi 10s you're probably going to hear it.

    Meh I could hear it with a 5G iPod // LoD // iBassoT4 // PFE 112s. Barely and only when it was perfectly quiet but I could hear it.
     
  7. PiSkyHiFi
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by danroche /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    AtomokPi,

    Amen, brother. If I may get a little bolder here, I tend to think suspect that anyone dismissing higher-bitrate MP3s or other lossy compression schemes using broad, aesthetic terms are speaking from expectation bias more than anything else. LAME and the various AAC coders out there are very, very, very good at their jobs, and I think there likely doesn't exist a song in which every frame and second will trigger artifacts resulting in such clear, across-the-board degredation or loss of transparency.

    When it comes to low-bitrate encoding, it really is amazing how far the science has come since I first got into this game back in 2001-ish. Anyone who has iTunes owes it to themselves to try ripping one of their favorite discs using the new AAC-HE settings in I think iTunes 9.2. ~80-90kbps file sizes, and VERY surprisingly high quality songs. While I don't expect people to start archiving their libraries in this format (some clear artifacting IS there) it might make them start reconsidering if something like 192-256kbps AAC is in fact good enough for their listening needs.




    I have just returned to head-fi after getting too personally involved with trying to argue with the man with the golden ears. I'm a supporter of what your saying here, I started encoding back in 1999, I moved around a lot, and despite what people say about size of file not being an issue, back then for me, it was.

    A lot of my collection is in 192Kbps MP3 format, I have since reacquired some particularly good recordings in FLAC and I have done experiments and found pretty much the same as you, only very particular recordings for specific reason can I tell the difference over 192KBps - and there is sooo much in those MP3s where bad reproduction equipment would completely overshadow any high bitrate encoding artefacts. The effects are different, but a bad amp just annoys me more than an encoding I can't fault with my ears.

    I use LAME's extreme MP3 setting by default now, it works well for all my devices, and I can't pick it at all even on my best gear.

    I just wanted you to know that I really appreciated reading your posts - I have been enjoying my music so much, I didn't want to return here in a hurry to only find glory seekers.

    I find it hard to forgive people who overstate their abilities, even if we should give them the benefit of the doubt since everyone's ears are their own. It still gets on my nerves.

    I can't test anyone online by providing samples and asking them to pick them, since a visual aid will spot the difference easily. Please see the linked image for a comparison I did of a sample from Joe Jackson's "You can't get what you want, 'til you know what you want" - one of my best recordings.

    http://corley.kinnane.net/sample_FFT...AC_Compare.png

    You can see from this, time is down the y-axis and just the highest frequencies between 18000 and 22050 Hz reveal the structured decoding of the 320 Kbps AAC compared to the almost random dithering near the limits of what linear PCM can achieve. I'm certain I can't consciously hear anything this high myself - although I can still hear the oscillator on a PAL CRT - that's around 15Khz I believe.
     
  8. aristos_achaion Contributor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Skylab /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    AMEN - more people need to understand that! With disc space so cheap, it's crazy not to rip lossless. You can always transcode to lossy later for portable use.



    To add to this--

    320 is pretty big. Not as big as FLAC, but it takes a fair amount of disc space.

    Now, disc space is cheap: you can get 1TB hard drives for ~$100, and that's going down fast. However, portable players are still pretty tiny, especially with the widespread move to flash...64GB players are a bit of a rarity, and 32GB SD cards probably run more than the player.

    Thus, you probably have several orders of magnitude more space on your computer than on your portable. Also, if you're using your portable portably (travelling, commuting, &c), you're probably willing to accept a lower quality encoding than you would in the controlled environment of your home or office.

    Thus, my opinion is that you can use your portable space more efficiently by storing your music in FLAC on your computer (which will probably run no more than 200- to 300GB, unless you're one hell of a pirate), and transcoding that to your lowest acceptable bitrate for portable use (which for me is 192kbps, a rate I consider unacceptable for desktop listening).
     
  9. mnagali
    I cannot tell a difference 99% of the time... and if I did, it's because I was trying really really hard to find the differences when A/B'ing songs I've had for years/really familiar with. I've decided on Lame -V0 VBR with my equipment. The only upgrades I foresee in the next year or two will be to an E7 and possibly some more universal IEMs, so doubt I'll have any regrets [​IMG]
     
  10. FallenAngel Contributor
    After some testing with good recordings (personally ripped and encoded using EAC to FLAC and Lame to 320kbps CBR and V0 VBR), I can usually tell the difference between FLAC and MP3, but not between V0 VBR and 320kbps CBR. Really depends on the recordings though - if you listen to Timberland, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between 192kbps and FLAC. [​IMG]
     
  11. aj_brown_99
    i find that on headphones i can tell the difference sometimes but not always, but on my speakers i find the difference quite evident. i stick with FLAC whenever possible.
     
  12. Head Injury
    Okay, I voted 99% of the time I can't hear a difference. And this may be all in my head because I didn't have two of the same file to compare, but over the weekend during my first experience with the rig in my signature, I swear every MP3 had fizzy, undefined highs and every FLAC had sharp, clear, detailed highs.

    Next week I'm going to test it with like files. Maybe ABX, maybe regular old AB. If I can finally hear a difference, I'll be both thrilled and horrified. I can hear my HDD screaming in agony already.
     
  13. Ypoknons Contributor
    I think, from some very non-scientific testing, that I can hear a difference. But I don't sweat it, I'll use flac where there's archival value and 320kbps when I just want to listen to it, even 256kbps mp3 if it happens to come that way. Poorly made recordings are a much bigger pet peeve.
     
  14. DrBenway
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ypoknons /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    Poorly made recordings are a much bigger pet peeve.



    They certainly are for me, too. Think of that old expression: you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. If you start with a lousy recording, a FLAC version of the file will be nothing more than a faithful representation of a lousy recording.

    That said, I still think that lossy compression is an idea whose time has passed. Storage is cheap. Bandwidth is cheap. What's the point?
     
  15. Head Injury
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DrBenway /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    That said, I still think that lossy compression is an idea whose time has passed. Storage is cheap. Bandwidth is cheap. What's the point?



    Not having to spend crazy money on a 32GB SDHC card [​IMG]

    Portable audio is still too limited for FLAC unless you don't mind only carrying around a few favorite albums or a pocket full of flash.

    But yeah, for stationary storage, it doesn't matter. I have plenty of space left. And if I run out, I just have to pop in another $75 1TB hard drive. One of those drives can hold about 150,000 minutes of FLAC, or 2,000 full CDs. At $5 a CD, you're paying $75 to store at least $10,000 worth of music. Like a drop in a bucket.

    I'd pay 5 cents more per CD knowing it's lossless, even if I can't hear the difference.
     
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