Storage Space vs. Sound Quality
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Sebasistan

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OK so I am approaching a conundrum.
Thanks to going overboard on Bandcamp sales and Groupees.com bundles, my music collection is growing too fast for my poor little *ahem* 512GB micro SD card. This is because I suffered from that audiophile delusion of grandeur that told me to get all the music I can in FLAC because, well, sure sounds better.

But then, does it really? I guess this isn't really the debate I want to have, there's plenty of eons old ongoing mudsling-fest threads in the sound science forum. FLACs are nice and all. But... I'm running out of space here, and a big reason for me to go for DAPs vs. phones was always the promise of being able to carry around (most of) my music collection wherever I go.

One way out would of course be to go for a 1TB micro SD card. The problem there is that currently such a storage device would cost me almost as much as I paid for my Shanling M6. Which seems excessive. And also, micro SD cards are notoriously finicky and prone to sudden, inexplicable death. Which doesn't make them something I want to spend $300 on.

So that leads to another option: downsize my collection. In sample rate, not in quantity. Bandcamp (and Groupees.com for that matter) are nice in that they allow unlimited (AFAIK) re-downloads of purchases with different file formats to select from. I have not paid much attention to this over the past few years, I only ever went for either 320CBR mp3s before the FLAC worm bit me (FLAC tower clipped my wing...).

And I kinda dread to ask, since there are always a lot of very subjective impressions involved here, and I don't want to start a mudslide / flame war. But what is, currently, the best bang/buck 'lossy' format? AAC? OGG? Just plain old 320CBR MP3? Yeah there's different codices for MP3, but I don't get to chose THOSE with Bandcamp, unless I download everything as WAV and encode myself and yeah ain't nobody got time for that.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Please someone snarkily tell me to not fall for the FLAC hype and get over myself... Or point me towards a reliable vendor selling 1TB micro SD cards for under $200 or something... A man can dream...
 
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gimmeheadroom

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I would never buy MP3 or rip them. I ripped about 200 CDs to MP3 (but 128K back then) and I realized much later I wasted my time.

FLAC or highres all the way. No AAC, no OGG and not even APE or MPC. WAV is ok for CD rips but if you're worried about storage rip them to FLAC, not WAV.

Storage is cheap and SD cards and USB drives are no way to store music. Spinning rust drives for PC NAS (2,5 inch) will give good service and are cheap per terabyte. 2T is a good standard size.
 
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Zhiliang2929

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I am in a similar situation as you now. Went for the 1tb micro sd card which was painful but now realised that even that is fast filling up. I also usually get my files in as high resolution as possible.

I would not go back to mp3 for sure but would regularly do spring cleaning and getting rid of albums that i do not really like. Albums that are poorer in quality i would get them in lowest 16 bit quality. Only the best performances and/or sound quality recordings would i keep them in DSD or 24 bit formats.
 
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Hey Sebastian,

Don't fall for the FLAC hype and get over yourself!

But seriously... Can you hear a difference? Personally, I'm with the Sound Science people: I can't discern a difference between 320kbps MP3, 256kbps AAC, and lossless (I'm on Mac, so use ALAC), and I have doubts about any claims to the contrary.

And if you can hear a difference, is it significant enough that you're going to notice during regular listening? Like, do you have to turn the volume up to ear-splitting levels to notice? Or is the difference so subtle that you won't notice unless you're specifically listening for it? Or will you be listening someplace with enough background noise that it'll all be masked anyway?
I used to think that maybe, possibly, if the stars were aligned just so that I could detect a subtle difference between lossless and good lossy formats... But then I thought who cares? During regular listening there's absolutely no way that I'm going to be able to notice or care about any possible difference. Since then I've realized I was most likely deceiving myself about any difference, anyway.

I do agree with the above poster, though, that you shouldn't store your music only on microSD. Get a decent 1 or 2TB hard drive and keep all of your lossless files there. (And really you should also have a backup of that drive, just in case.) Then use a transcoder to convert to MP3 or AAC for your microSD card, no need to repurchase music you already have.
On my main drive, I don't store my music in lossy formats in case I end up recompressing them, in which case I can tell the difference compared to lossless. (Or, at any rate, I could (or thought I could) some 20ish years ago, but perhaps MP3 encoding has improved since then.)

Oh yeah, my lossy format of choice is 256kbps AAC, which takes up less space than 320kbps MP3 and sounds just as good.

I guess my main point is to try it out for yourself. Convert some of your FLAC files to MP3, or whatever format you like, and see if you can hear a difference. Be honest with yourself! There's nobody to impress or please but yourself.
 
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Sebasistan

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Hey Sebastian,

Don't fall for the FLAC hype and get over yourself!

But seriously... Can you hear a difference? Personally, I'm with the Sound Science people: I can't discern a difference between 320kbps MP3, 256kbps AAC, and lossless (I'm on Mac, so use ALAC), and I have doubts about any claims to the contrary.
It is weird. I am somewhat convinced that I can in fact hear a difference. But I also know that's a nocebo effect. There is no real difference that I can physically discern. I have no superhuman hearing (it is very accurate, but come on, me! I'm no man-bat!). It's in a way a part of this whole cargo cult surrounding the entire hobby. Bigger files must be better because they have more audible information!

I guess I will actually go forward and redownload my bandcamp and groupees stuff at 320CBR MP3s (not re-purchase! I don't really do a lot with those one-time-download DJ platforms like Beatport exactly for that reason...) for the time being. I still have my FLAC bunker on external drives, so I wouldn't have to re-download everything as FLAC whenever the bigger micro SD cards become more reasonably priced... I might still keep some artists as FLAC just because, but the bulk of throwaway synthwave stuff I really don't need at that high a resolution anyway...
 
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Mhog55

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I could never go mp3 again. It sounds congested and veiled in comparison - to my ears it does anyways. If the difference isn't enough or too marginal for you, save the space. It's up to you and only you at the end of the day.
 
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gimmeheadroom

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You will never regret if you rip losslessly. You might regret if you don't. Storage is cheap, it's 2020 fellas.
 
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The advantage of lossless is you can always convert to any other format without generation loss.
If you go from one lossy format to another, you get the cumulation of the artifacts of each.
So stick to lossless.

If you run out of space on a portable, transcode to a lossy format.
AAC is probably your best bet but I had troubles with the tagging on Android.
Hence it is 320 MP3 for me.
And it will be until indeed that day comes around that a 1Tb is affordable.
 
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I can’t tell any difference in sound quality between a higher bitrate MP3 and FLAC, but I still rip CDs to FLAC. If I ever lose or damage the CD, I know I can burn another copy, and it will be the same as the original.

I know the larger capacity SD cards are still expensive, but an external HDD with 6TB can be had for well under £100 theses days, so in the long term, storage isn’t an issue.
 
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I'm fine with 192 kbps MP3 or higher personally. Can't hear a difference.
 
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Sebasistan

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An issue is that I need to rebuild my library / the way my music is organized on my DAPs. I started out splitting them into FLACs and MP3s. Guess it's time to say goodbye to that distinction and just throw everything into one. And also decide what to keep as FLAC and what gets downgraded. As much as I adore the genre, I don't really NEED 75gb of Groupees.com synthwave FLACs (that site is dangerous...).
 
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I'm only using a 256GB card, and I still have about 45 gigs of space left. Granted, I'm rather genre specific though. How do people find time to listen to so much music, and when? Life is pretty busy for most... I think 🤔. I suppose I can see an office worker who can listen to headphones daily needing so many files. When I realize that I'm not listening to something much at all, I remove it in order to make space for something that I will. Perhaps going through your collection and deleting what you don't frequent would help?
 
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gimmeheadroom

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I'm only using a 256GB card, and I still have about 45 gigs of space left. Granted, I'm rather genre specific though. How do people find time to listen to so much music, and when? Life is pretty busy for most... I think 🤔. I suppose I can see an office worker who can listen to headphones daily needing so many files. When I realize that I'm not listening to something much at all, I remove it in order to make space for something that I will. Perhaps going through your collection and deleting what you don't frequent would help?
There isn't any need to delete something you might like someday that doesn't take up any real space. CDs and albums are not always easy to find and ripping your collection for backups makes sense like any other data. Even at our expensive European prices I can buy WD Red NAS drive 2T for 100 euros. 2 of them hold all my music now and they take up space of two cigarette packages.

I also have almost half terabyte of technical doc. Data storage is too cheap not to take advantage of it.
 
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Sebasistan

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I'm only using a 256GB card, and I still have about 45 gigs of space left. Granted, I'm rather genre specific though. How do people find time to listen to so much music, and when? Life is pretty busy for most... I think 🤔. I suppose I can see an office worker who can listen to headphones daily needing so many files. When I realize that I'm not listening to something much at all, I remove it in order to make space for something that I will. Perhaps going through your collection and deleting what you don't frequent would help?
Fair. And, as I said, a lot of this is Groupees.com bundles that sometimes come like nesting dolls where you buy one bundle from an artist which comes with a previous bundle - which itself has a previous bundle and so forth (and I haven't even listened to all of those).
 
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I still keep all of it on my portable external hard drive. I can always put it back on my cards. If it's something I might listen to once in a great while, I'd rather have the space for something that will see more playing time. Could be just me. Different strokes...
 
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