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Will lossy compression ever die? Audio Interfaces
Old 21st December 2010
  #61
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Tuberizer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geissler View Post
Good for you. It's certainly rare to have such sensitive hearing at 21KHz.
That is a common misconception. Frequencies interact and if a signal lacks certain frequencies it affects the other frequencies when it comes to hearing. The human ear cannot hear frequencies above 15-20kHz (depends on your age), but what it can hear is if frequencies below that are affected/not affected by higher frequencies.

BTW: What you guys havent discussed so far - is a CD lossless? It cuts off everything above 20kHz....
Old 21st December 2010
  #62
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doug hazelrigg's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
No. With current hard drive sizes (It's difficult to find much under 1/2 TB for a desktop drive). and current high speed internet standards for DSL and even cable there is absolutely no excuse to use lossy compression. So you can only get 100,000 songs on your iPod instead of a million? Big Schnoz. You're never gonna listen to all those songs anyway.

As far as flash memory is concerned, Apple is offering 1/2TB flash drives in their Mac Pros. High capacity flash memory is here. We should see 1/2 TB flash iPods in the next year or two. If we don't it's simply a case of artificial scarcity.
What I really had in mind in terms of mobile devices is phones. It seems more and more people are downloading tunes into phones. So I take it from what you're saying is that we should see a significant increase in a typical phones storage capacity in the near future. However, aren't there still transmission issues? Again, I'm not a tech geek, but how quickly can one transmit a 50 megabyte file over the airwaves into a phone? Doesn't this present issues as far as clogging up routine communication bandwidth?

Also, you state that high capacity flash memory in devices like an iPod will emerge in the next year or two. That's good, but that doesn't help anybody right now, nor does it address people -- the majority, I assume -- that will keep using older devices for a fair amount of years in the forseeable future. So eventually I think you're right, the need for lossy will evaporate. But it's some ways off, it appears
Old 21st December 2010
  #63
Gear Head
 

The Mp3 is still around for many reasons beyond the sound quality. It's a cultural and even a linguistic thing. My parents can barely use the internet at all, but they've heard the word mp3. They know that's the new way to get a song is on mp3 (forget that it's been around well over a decade). Like kleenex is to tissue, mp3 is to song. Forget Flac or even .wav, only those that are involved in computers know what a file format even is. Listening to music as the sole source of entertainment has lost to the movie, and the video game. Listening has become passive because people are more easily stimulated by their eyes. Not to mention, our culture in general has become more and more impatient. We require instant gratification and we think in breadth (number of friends on facebook), not depth (the quality of their friendship). It's the same reason you'll have a hard time finding a lot of new popular music that isn't 3-5 minutes long per song and doesn't follow the verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-chorus format. Auto-tune, beat-quantized music is easy to make, it's quick, and it fits well in our homogenized society. The internet gave everyone an equal voice, and to be honest, it gave the lazy, and uneducated the same voice as everyone else. And now our culture, art, etc will suffer because everyone thinks they deserve that voice that lets them rant (like I'm doing right now) to society, and they expect others to care. Worst of all, these people think they actually have something useful to say. Advertising and promoting our 'iNeed' culture isn't helping either.

I've obviously gone off topic, but the point is, the quality of audio (and the mp3) is just a small part of our changing society. I think we're starting to experience the beginning of the negative backlash that the internet has caused. I liked it better when you had to work to get your voice out to the public. Even if that would prevent me from sharing my thoughts with you all today.

The whole world is getting compressed to fit on a tiny screen ...

sorry for the diatribe, thanks for your time. And for the record, I can easily tell the difference between mp3 and .wav, and it's not about 20-20k hearing because psycho-acoustics have proven that harmonic relationships can create phantom fundamental frequencies in our hearing, so retaining that information above 20k is important to getting an emotionally pleasing music file. So yes, mp3s suck. CD's suck. most of you who mix for a living know that it sucks when your 24bit mix has to get truncated to 16. I know I wish my mixes could stay in their 24bit format all the way until it hits the listener's ears ... but that's just never gonna happen.

-theCota
Old 21st December 2010
  #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
So, you see, the cassette recorder was never intended for musical use by its original developer (Phillips/Norelco), but once adopted by the auto sound industry became subject to the same constant evolutionary improvements that all preceding distribution formats had been.
Ok then. Data compression has become subject to evolutionary improvements too, right? AAC is better than mp3 I believe. Lossless data compression like FLAC and Apple Lossless is now available.

So what's the point here? That mp3 was designed for music distribution marking the first time tech took a step backwards in quality? Is that what mp3 was intended for?

Well great. Anyway, the point I'm mainly concerned about is that consumers in general tend to care much more about convenience than quality. I guess I won't stir up much debate with that statement, seems pretty obvious.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buddachile View Post
AAC is better than mp3 I believe.
Around 96 and 112 kbps, sure. But once you get up to 192-ish and higher the difference drops off and it all just settles in to "not quite as good as the original".
Old 22nd December 2010
  #66
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
you can see the difference yourself on a scope or with a null test if your ears are not sufficiently educated to hear it.

Quote:
I would suggest you do a null test and listen to the null file. You'll be shocked at what is eliminated from the MP3.
This is another common misconception, or at least a misinterpretation of the significance of a null test.

Perform a null test and you get a raspy, bubbling form of the original audio. It sounds ugly.

To understand why, we need to explain how MP3 works.

From Wikipedia: "The MP3 lossy audio data compression algorithm takes advantage of a perceptual limitation of human hearing called auditory masking. In 1894, Alfred Marshall Mayer reported that a tone could be rendered inaudible by another tone of lower frequency." MP3 takes advantage of this to get away with not encoding data that it calculates the average human ear and brain is not able to detect. The lower the bitrate, the more data it discards to fit the data budget.

I know; there is no such thing as the 'average' human ear. The threshold is obviously higher among the trained ears of audio engineers.

This informs us as to why there are differences in a null test. Some audio was literally left out during the encoding process.

But the null test does not prove that there are glaring audible differences between MP3 and the original audio that everybody and their grandmother could hear. All it proves is that those frequencies revealed in the null test were removed and we hardly even notice. If anything, it proves the point of how good MP3 can be!


Another good point to be made is that not all MP3s are created equal. Some encoders are lousy. Some are superb. I test drove and discarded a LOT of MP3 encoders before settling on one I like: winLAME. Some of the encoders I discarded made some nasty sounding MP3s.

Good encoders, if used incorrectly, can sound lousy: There are settings on winLAME that let you set encode quality to 'Fast', 'Standard' or 'High'. I wonder how many people encode set to 'fast', because faster is better, right? I wonder how many other encoders quietly default to 'Fast' settings? I wonder how many online MP3 retailers audition MP3 encoders for sound quality? I wonder how many of them choose the encoder based on convenience and how many songs it can process per minute?

My point is that people are talking about MP3 as if it is concrete, an unchanging quality standard. It isn't!

I can pick out a 128kbps MP3. And Apple's Itunes bought songs never sounded right to my ears. But my own 320kbps MP3s sound as good as the original to me.

I just made my own test with a bunch of Wav files and 320kbps MP3 versions (encoded with all settings on high, winLAME) and could not detect a difference. I'm not ashamed to say it...

I don't doubt that people can hear the difference between a particular MP3 and the original. I just think that a lot of MP3s are not optimally encoded, and that has contributed to this prejudice against them.

Apologies for the long winded post. Been thinking about this all day!

-Mike C
Old 22nd December 2010
  #67
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doug hazelrigg's Avatar
In general, it seems it's mostly audio engineers and their audiophile brethren that are calling for lossy to be replaced. I'd point out that those people represent a fairly small section of the music-buying market. The great majority don't care. Having said that, I fully support the call for replacing lossy. We want the people to hear our work in the bet possible light
Old 22nd December 2010
  #68
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by doug hazelrigg View Post
BTW -- somebody mentioned Bandcamp. Are you aware that Bandcamp streams at the UGLY 128 kps? One of my tunes sounded so bad that I posted there, I went back to the premium service at soundclick in order to stream at 320 kps.
Yes it streams at 128kbps but this is for previewing purposes only. When you purchase an album or song from bandcamp, you can have it in any format you desire, whether it be mp3, FLAC or hell even Apple Lossless.

imo this is a GREAT way to go about distributing music, and I sure hope it catches on.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #69
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post
they make no sense today , audio industry should go to a high def format
mp3 is a JOKE. It's like a model - T
I completely agree. IMO MP3's (maybe along with giving up dynamics in order to have everything louder and louder) have created a "dark age" of music. I would rather listen to a cassette recording than an MP3 (today *and* back in 1998 or whatever the OP said).
Old 22nd December 2010
  #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
I think it's important to understand that portable music is a completely different market than that of music fans.

It's remarkable how many people lump McDonald's together with gourmet food when it comes to music.
it amazes me how many people don't seem to realize the difference between the two. or how many people simply think of music as 'background', almost as if it's just noise that they put on for some random reason.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #71
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I feel like I can only sorta come at this from how I use technology..

#1 I've never bought a music download.. only CDs... I rip them at the highest MP3 data rate possible.. put them back in the case in case I'll need to re-rip them due to some kinda crash some day.
#2 I really want some kind of all you can eat music service.. where I can just get all I want, explore all I want.. for however much money per week.. but I don't expect the quality to be too high..

In terms of compression schemes.. I didn't see anyone mentioning this.. but one of the issues is the computer power for the decompressing.. clearly smart phones are wimpy in that department...

I don't feel a real limitation in terms of my ability to put music on an iPod type thing.. though I am using a "classic iPod" and an iPhone.. but I mean just by synching it.. I'm ok...

I feel like.. in the age of technology.. you ought to be able to get it the way you want it.. so if you want lossless you ought to be able to get it.

Another thing I don't think was mentioned is that.. when we are talking about MP3s.. high bit rate ones.. there's still the issue of.. if you EQ them you'll here the issue more...
Old 22nd December 2010
  #72
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeC1980 View Post
I don't doubt that people can hear the difference between a particular MP3 and the original. I just think that a lot of MP3s are not optimally encoded, and that has contributed to this prejudice against them.
Yes, many mp3s are not encoded very well. But the people who can hear the artifacts at 320 kbps are also the same people who do everything possible to encode properly...because we can hear it.

I'll just say this for MP3: I am not opposed to a high bit rate mp3 in my car. It is noisy in the car and my brain has to stay on the road anyway. I just wouldn't put one on in the house.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #73
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filipv's Avatar
If the music is well written, arranged, tracked and mixed, it will sound good regardless of the medium.

U should all worry and debate much more about those things, and much less about the difference between 128k mp3 and 96/24.

If the mix rocks - it will keep rocking on all playback systems and formats.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #74
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filipv View Post
If the music is well written, arranged, tracked and mixed, it will sound good regardless of the medium.
That's a lazy way to dodge the debate.

And no, the best recording of the best performance of the best arrangement of the best song in the world will not sound good if it is a 96 kbps mp3 on a crap Ipod dock. It will merely sound better than a lesser song played as a 96 kbps mp3 on a crap Ipod dock.

You do have to involve actual good hardware to end up with good sound. Sorry.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #75
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filipv's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
And no, the best recording of the best performance of the best arrangement of the best song in the world will not sound good if it is a 96 kbps mp3 on a crap Ipod dock
We're discussing formats, not playback devices. On Ipod it will sound equaly bad compressed or uncompressed.

On a decent playback system even the mp3 of a good song will sound good. Even if you can tell a difference, it doesn't mean that the sound is bad.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #76
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boomaudio View Post
it amazes me how many people don't seem to realize the difference between the two. or how many people simply think of music as 'background', almost as if it's just noise that they put on for some random reason.
If you only create music that appeals to broadcasters and filmmakers as a "kewl ambiance," it's little wonder that people don't expect to pay for that kind of music.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geissler View Post
No problem! All in the name of science

Here are the clips: 35 seconds from Elephant Talk, the opener of King Crimson's fantastic 'Discipline'. It's a 16/44 rip from the first pressing of the japanese vinyl. Chopped in sound forge and encoded with dbpoweramp using lame (320kbps mp3, then back to wav). Vocals, clean and overdriven guitar, wacky drums, a prominent cymbal hit, good production with good dynamic range... I think it's a pretty good test song.

I can't tell the difference, but I'm sure many of you have better ears and equipment than me!

You shouldn't give in to all these audiophiles here. The real test is a blind A/B performed by someone else opposed to the listener. Going back from mp3 to wav isn't gonna help quality-wise either. Your converting a 2nd time. Something will be lost or rounded off.

I've met many people that claim to hear a difference, but when you take everything away and have them judge purely by ear just about everyone failed. When you're switching yourself looking at the tracks your mind will always make up a difference.... Let alone knowing which is the mp3/wav. (the situation most people use when claiming they can hear the difference )
Old 22nd December 2010
  #78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mavano View Post
You shouldn't give in to all these audiophiles here. The real test is a blind A/B performed by someone else opposed to the listener.
Why shake the hornet's nest? Give me any comparison test and I'll identify the mp3. Your choice of test. Go.
Quote:
Going back from mp3 to wav isn't gonna help quality-wise either. Your converting a 2nd time. Something will be lost or rounded off.
You don't quite understand how digital audio works. You can't hear an mp3. That data means nothing to the D/A converter. You have to change it to an uncompressed form before listening. In other words, you lose nothing converting to wave because it does that anyway every time you listen.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #79
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
Why shake the hornet's nest? Give me any comparison test and I'll identify the mp3. Your choice of test. Go.
You don't quite understand how digital audio works. You can't hear an mp3. That data means nothing to the D/A converter. You have to change it to an uncompressed form before listening. In other words, you lose nothing converting to wave because it does that anyway every time you listen.
Damn... never thought of it that way tbh... I always figured that going back to wav new data would have to be "made up". Didn't realize the codec would obviously always do that when you play the file.

I don't have time right now. Will try and come back later with something. Although I still think a test like this isn't exactly the same as a full blind test with another person controlling playback and switching. (and any form of cheating is completely ruled out. no pun intended )
Old 23rd December 2010
  #80
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by filipv View Post
We're discussing formats, not playback devices. On Ipod it will sound equaly bad compressed or uncompressed.

On a decent playback system even the mp3 of a good song will sound good. Even if you can tell a difference, it doesn't mean that the sound is bad.
We're discussing lossy vs lossless formats on ideal, transparent playback devices, not crap ipod docks.

A 96k mp3 on the best system in the world will still sound like crap - yes you can tell the difference and yes the sound is bad. That statement makes me wonder if you even actively listen to your low bitrate mp3's.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #81
Progress marches forward. Progress won't pause, realize the error of its ways, and then backtrack because it might have made a mistake.

The mp3 gained a foothold because it was "good enough" at the time it was formulated. Something/everything would have to change radically for this "good enoughness" to suddenly not be good enough now.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #82
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there are better mediums for audio playback out there (gee, and one of them dates back since, i don't know, the early part of the 20th century?), so there's no reason MP3's should be used and there's really no validity in terms of defending it's sound quality. the *only* reason MP3 is popular is because of the internet and because of crappy small digital players like iPods and whatnot. the fact that many people are okay with listening to their favorite contemporary light rock station on their alarm clock radio at work or listening to really bad rap or current R&B crap on their car stereo, many times with a subwoofer in the trunk that causes you to only hear body panels vibrating, has resulted less choices or options for the rest of those who have a taste for good sound. and of course artists should get paid for their music.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #83
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As I've mentioned before, what really needs to happen is the MP3 format needs to be updated to include a "lossless" option.

For example most encoders give you the options of:
  • Fixed bitrate
  • Variable bitrate

Update:
  • Fixed bitrate
  • Variable bitrate
  • Lossless

Average consumer sheep don't understand the technical side of things. They don't understand that MP3 is lossless. They just associate "MP3" with music. It's the reason why lossless formats such as FLAC or even uncompressed WAV haven't really caught on. MP3 was the first format to allow people to easily transfer audio files in the days of dial up connections, The first option is usually the option that sticks. Pro Tools anyone? How about how almost everyone calls plugins "VST's"?

If MP3 encoders are updated to include a lossless compression option then all of the online shops will offer lossless MP3 sales as standard since they are already selling MP3 and it will be transparent for consumers. It will be the best of both worlds, no degraded quality and 1/2 the size of uncompressed audio. If this happens then I'm sure in 1-2 years lossy MP3's will be a thing of the past.

Any developer can make this happen. LAME is open source:

http://lame.sourceforge.net
Old 23rd December 2010
  #84
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filipv's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BubbaMc View Post
A 96k mp3 on the best system in the world will still sound like crap - yes you can tell the difference and yes the sound is bad. That statement makes me wonder if you even actively listen to your low bitrate mp3's.
Well, yes, but if I had to choose, I would pick good song+mix on a lossy format rather than crap music in lossless 24/96. I would listen to a great album from a cassette and earbuds, rather than **** album on vinyl and million dollars of speakers.

So, in the hierarchy of importance, the format of the medium is really low. There are far more important things, but - strangely - secondary issues generate most threads/posts.

Is that a sign of a profound collective ignorance?
Old 23rd December 2010
  #85
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filipv View Post
Well, yes, but if I had to choose, I would pick good song+mix on a lossy format rather than crap music in lossless 24/96. ....

So, in the hierarchy of importance, the format of the medium is really low. There are far more important things, but - strangely - secondary issues generate most threads/posts.

Is that a sign of a profound collective ignorance?
No. It's a sign of not wanting to discuss the obvious.

Stuff that is more important than the playback medium:
*Song quality
*Speaker/Amp/Player quality
*Whether or not you are engaged in a boxing match while trying to listen
*The listening room is not on fire
etc.


We don't dispute that. Hence we don't feel the need to discuss it in this topic. It is all a given.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #86
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but, if you encode at 1411kbps is there any loss?
Old 23rd December 2010
  #87
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filipv's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
No. It's a sign of not wanting to discuss the obvious.
Oh, c'mon. As if good tracking and mixing was obvious.

You will admit that there's a discrepancy between the amount of ignorance on one hand, and the amount of posts/threads on the other hand. Subjects which are more important for the end result get less threads/posts. Subjects which are less important - get more threads/p0sts.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #88
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
I would rather listen to a cassette recording than an MP3
This is the kind of audio-geekery that really gets my goat. Because audio geeks are freaked out by the idea that MP3s are 'throwing away' some of their precious audio quality, they are willing to choose something that even my grandmother can hear is **** quality (cassette tape) rather than something that in a blind test, most of em cant hear a difference between(320K mp3 vs WAV. )

Its as near to insanity as makes no difference. If you cant hear a difference between two files, or at least the difference is so minor that you shrug and go "Either will do me fine for enjoying music" , then it simply doesnt matter what is going on "under the hood" so to speak.

A 320K mp3 is perfectly fine for any normal listening, and would never get in the way of anybody's enjoying of music. If it does, I submit that you're such a geek that you probably dont enjoy music much anyway, and are more likely to be found pleasuring yourself over amplifier reviews in Stereo Review magazine.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #89
When bandwidth is no longer an issue.

Bandwidth is still an issue, therefore lossy still makes sense.

Hard drives are still relatively small, just a couple of terrabytes at best, the majority of people i.e. potential customers in the world are still on <0.5mbit connections.

On top of all that there's economy. Servers cost a great deal of money to run and server bandwidth is expensive, Apple and their ilk like to make the most profit that they can so therefore the choice of transmitting 1 song at a perfect quality or 10 at an acceptable quality for the same price is a no brainer.

Fact is most people can't hear the difference on their cheap PC speakers. It might be upsetting to you, but that's how it is. If it pisses you off that much then see it as a gap in the market, an opportunity, in which case you could always set up a "premium" site that's competition for Apple and sells only uncompressed songs. You never know, you could be on to something.
Old 24th December 2010
  #90
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulbrother View Post
A 320K mp3 is perfectly fine for any normal listening,
It all depends on what your version of "normal listening" happens to be. My normal listening is me sitting in my listening room with the lights and TV off and some decent midfields cranking. So no, a 320 kbps mp3 is not perfectly fine in that case.
Quote:
and would never get in the way of anybody's enjoying of music. If it does, I submit that you're such a geek that you probably dont enjoy music much anyway, and are more likely to be found pleasuring yourself over amplifier reviews in Stereo Review magazine.
I submit that the person who spends time and money to create a listening environment that can support music as a primary form of entertainment enjoys music more than the person who downloads mp3's to the computer that they already own to drone in the background.
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