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Thread: Compared to vinyl, how poor is iTunes/Music sound quality?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by julide View Post
    It's not about high or low frequencies being inaudible. It's about reduced soundstage and so much information randomly lost to compression. There are crucial details lost all the time.
    We really need to tighten up our defintiions!

    Compression does NOT result in the loss of anything at all. You compress a Word document to a ZIP, you expect to be able to unzip that later on and get the document back perfectly, I hope! Compression means the making of something smaller, not the loss of data.

    What you are talking about is MP3's deliberate decision to discard data. It discards what it believes cannot be heard (whether or not it can is irrelevant for present purposes). By discarding data, naturally the audio signal is made smaller. Which maybe looks like compression, but it isn't. It's loss of data (i.e., 'lossy')

    So you can have compressed, lossy: MP3 is both
    You can have compressed, but lossless: FLAC is that
    And you can have uncompressed lossless: WAV is that
    And you could theoretically have uncompressed lossy: MP3 at 320kbps is close to that, but isn't quite. Given you've lost data, the need to be uncompressed is not sensible, so no-one actually does this combination in the real world.

    FLAC can be decompressed to contain precisely the same audio signal (mathematically provably identical) as the source WAV. There is *nothing* going missing or being reduced in a FLAC file, despite it compressing the file size to about half what it started with.

    Anyway: The key point to remember is that compression cannot and does not alter low frequencies, high frequencies or reduce the soundstage. It is whether your audio codec is lossy or not that raises the question of soundstage reduction or loss of frequencies.

    Compression != losslessness

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  3. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Moon View Post
    Age related hearing loss, does effect high frequency hearing. But, there is much more to listening to audio reproduction, than the loss of some high frequencies.

    I am over 60, and I can easily hear the difference between MP3 and lossless FLAC, and even more so, DSD. All I have to do is pay attention to imaging, soundstage, hall ambience, and other spatial cues. These attributes are not effected by age related hearing loss.*

    I also think that some high frequency hearing loss, is only a minor detriment to discerning differences.

    But the musical instrument with the highest frequency response, violin, goes out to about 16K, including harmonics, on the highest note. So, the vast majority of the range violins play in, are well below 16K, and well within the range most 60 year old's can hear.

    But the vast majority of musical instruments barely pass 10K (a couple, oboe and clarinet) go out to about 12K.


    https://alexiy.nl/eq_chart/


    * I took part in a double blind listening test about 3 years ago, where we compared 16/44.1, 24/192 and quad rate DSD.

    Yeah, you didn't read the website I linked to, I think. It said "only teenagers can hear up to 17,400Hz. For all us duffers up to aged 60, we're going to be lucky to get to 15000Hz ("difficult for anyone over the age of 40 to hear") and we'll even be lucky to hear 12000Hz ("hard for anyone over 50 years of age to hear").

    So if you're over 50 and listening to your 16000Hz violin, you're going to be lucky to hear the top 4000Hz. It's not impossible; there are always outliers, but on the whole, we're missing the top 4000Hz.

    I don't disbelieve your claim to have passed double-blind hearing tests, but without knowing the parameters of those tests, I can't make anything of the claim. There are stackloads of well-evidenced test that would contradict your claim. Or you might just be one of the golden-eared ones whose personal experience doesn't speak to what the vast majority of people will experience. Without the test parameters, without knowing the masterings, without knowing the sound reproduction equipment, it's impossible to comment meaningfully.

    And in any event, no-one was claiming that the listening experience is only about the loss of high frequencies as we age. It's just that if you have lost everything above 12,000Hz (let's say), then you are going to be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a FLAC which has frequencies of 20,000Hz which you cannot hear for biological reasons and an MP3 which doesn't have frequencies of 20,000Hz because it decided to throw them away. That's just a simple factual statement: the one you can't hear because your ears are too old; the other you can't hear because the signal's not there. Both result in not hearing the same thing!

    The specific claim I was addressing was whether 60 year-old ears generally can tell the difference between 320Kbps MP3 and FLAC, and the suggestion is that mostly they won't, because the higher frequencies the FLAC has you can't hear, and even a 320Kbps MP3 will have tossed them away (probably: depends on the psychoacoustic model in use by whichever flavour of encoder you decided to use to create the MP3 in the first place).

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    Now I am not going to claim I can hear anything above 10kHz, but there is a reason that higher freqs are needed. Freqs above the audible range do heterodyne down into the audible range. IMO I need response up to at lease 15k for proper playback. I think that this has a lot to do with the lack of spaciousness in low bitrate MP3.

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    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chilham View Post

    I gave-up vinyl many years ago (Rega Planar 3, Nytech CA 202, Kef Celeste III), in favour of CD (Marantz CD-67 SE, Mission Cyrus 3, Q Acoustics Concept 40). I plan to do a lot of travelling once restrictions are lifted, and will be off grid much of the time. Without the space to carry a vast quantity of CDs, and not able to stream, I've uploaded all of my CDs to iTunes/Music, and listen on my laptop, iPad or iPhone using a pair of relatively high-end earphones (Shure SE425). I've also purchased quite a bit of music there.

    So my question, is to what extent am I downgrading sound quality for convenience?
    I cannot hear any noticeable difference in music stored as AAC and that stored as mp3. I KNOW there's a difference, and I've listened for it, and cannot hear the difference.

    LPs, on the other hand DO sound different: I can HEAR when they are even slightly out-of-round, and I can hear when they are scratched.

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    . . . .

    ALAC is the lossless, compressed Apple proprietary audio codec (broadly equivalent to FLAC). AAC is an Apple proprietary lossy codec (broadly equivalent to MP3). AIFF is the Apple proprietary equivalent of WAV (i.e., uncompressed, lossless).

    I would avoid all proprietary codecs unless you are already heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem and never intend to leave it.
    To my knowledge, neither AAC nor ALAC is proprietary.

    https://www.lifewire.com/mp3-vs-aac-...-types-1999464

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Lossless

    As I’ve never used AIFF, I haven’t checked.
    Last edited by jegreenwood; Feb-18-2021 at 14:16.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BobBrines View Post
    Now I am not going to claim I can hear anything above 10kHz, but there is a reason that higher freqs are needed. Freqs above the audible range do heterodyne down into the audible range. IMO I need response up to at lease 15k for proper playback. I think that this has a lot to do with the lack of spaciousness in low bitrate MP3.
    Well, in audiophile circles, it is true, you will always get this claim that frequencies beyond the range of human hearing can nevertheless be 'felt' somehow. I have no means to assess the truth of such claims, since I was only born with two hearing organs, and what they can respond to is well-documented.

    More sensibly, no-one who cares about music in the slightest would ever bother with low-bitrate MP3s in the first place (by which I mean, I think, anything lower than 192Kbps), so I'll happily agree with you that they are dreadful to listen to, even if I might not agree with your reasons for why they're dreadful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jegreenwood View Post
    To my knowledge, neither AAC nor ALAC is proprietary.

    https://www.lifewire.com/mp3-vs-aac-...-types-1999464

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Lossless

    As I’ve never used AIFF, I haven’t checked.
    Well, they were proprietary, as their names indicate, but you're right that Apple was able to open-source them in 2011.

    So, I take that back.

    Thanks for making me check!

    That said, I still think you will generally find Apple codecs best supported by Apple hardware and software. I may be wrong, but I don't know many car digital players that can handle them, for example. Obviously, dbPoweramp can convert them; clearly ffmpeg can do likewise. It's not that it's a complete dead-end, therefore., But I still wouldn't want to hitch my ride to that particular set of posts.

    I am prepared to admit that might be me being old-fashioned, however!

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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    ALAC is the lossless, compressed Apple proprietary audio codec (broadly equivalent to FLAC). AAC is an Apple proprietary lossy codec (broadly equivalent to MP3). AIFF is the Apple proprietary equivalent of WAV (i.e., uncompressed, lossless).

    I would avoid all proprietary codecs unless you are already heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem and never intend to leave it.
    THIS. Keep everything FLAC if you can get it (or the higher quality SACD or DSD files if you have them), and use open-source codecs wherever possible.

    (Also, OGG is better than MP3, if your portable player supports it.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    Well, in audiophile circles, it is true....
    OK, guilty. I spent too much time at audio shows with my hand built speakers. But heterodyning to lower frequencies is a fact, or FM radio wouldn't work. I will not, however, debate with you whether it can be heard. I can clearly see the effect on a spectrogram. I have digital crossovers on my speakers and I think I can hear the difference between LR4 and phase linear XO's. Can I really hear it or is it in my mind? Again I won't debate it with you.

    PS: At this time in my life, I cannot hear a difference between 16/44 and 24/96, but I always download the hidef because I can and disc space is dirt cheap.
    Last edited by BobBrines; Feb-18-2021 at 23:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BobBrines View Post
    OK, guilty. I spent too much time at audio shows with my hand built speakers. But heterodyning to lower frequencies is a fact, or FM radio wouldn't work. I will not, however, debate with you whether it can be heard. I can clearly see the effect on a spectrogram. I have digital crossovers on my speakers and I think I can hear the difference between LR4 and phase linear XO's. Can I really hear it or is it in my mind? Again I won't debate it with you.

    PS: At this time in my life, I cannot hear a difference between 16/44 and 24/96, but I always download the hidef because I can and disc space is dirt cheap.
    Funnily enough, I always down-convert my Hi-Res audio downloads, because I don't need the Hi-Res (because I can't hear it!) and there's no point in simply wasting disk space, however cheap it is (and Seagate IronWolf Pros, bought in pairs for Z-mirroring aren't that cheap in the first place!)

    I'm not disputing the principle of hereodyning, either: I know how FM radio works and I'm grateful for the pioneering work of Reginald Fessenden, otherwise a 96.3MHz signal would be broadcasting Radio 3 only for the bats I'm not sure of its relevance to CD audio, is all. I'm well aware that ultrasonic frequencies can cause audible distortion, for example: it's one of the arguments against hi-res recordings played back on less than perfect audio equipment, after all. Outside of that, I'm not sure of the validity of a concern that filtering out everything above 20Khz (which few can hear) for CD mastering (for example) actually makes an audible difference way below that frequency (where all can hear). I think if that was a significant issue, the CD standard would never have been proposed, in other words.

    The only specific reference to heterodyning in a 'normal' context I am aware of is this one, which refers to a paper in which " ultrasonic loudspeakers [...]produce audible sound through heterodyning (see e.g. Roh and Moon: 2002; Gan, Tan et al.: 2011)". Those are not your normal speakers! (Now, maybe yours aren't either. But I'm fairly confident I don't have to worry about the effect, anyway).
    Last edited by Guest002; Feb-19-2021 at 12:59.

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimZipCode View Post
    THIS. Keep everything FLAC if you can get it (or the higher quality SACD or DSD files if you have them), and use open-source codecs wherever possible.

    (Also, OGG is better than MP3, if your portable player supports it.)
    On the other hand, the iPhone music app cannot play FLAC or DSD natively. You need a third party app for that. And as I mentioned above, the Apple CODECs AAC and ALAC are no longer proprietary.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jegreenwood View Post
    On the other hand, the iPhone music app cannot play FLAC or DSD natively. You need a third party app for that. And as I mentioned above, the Apple CODECs AAC and ALAC are no longer proprietary.
    Indeed, acknowledged as such up-thread. But that's what I mean by saying I wouldn't willingly hitch my ride to the Apple post: you are stuck doing things with AAC and ALAC from that point, because that's the codec Apple wants to support. It would be a fair chunk of work to then move away from Apple hardware, because of the codec 'lock-in' that platform vendor still angles for, despite open-sourcing the codecs.

    Of course, if you choose FLAC, you are sort-of 'locked-in' to Android, Linux, ChromeOS, Windows, FreeBSD, Solaris... but I don't see that being quite the same issue!

    When I began ripping CDs, I used Windows, and disk space was expensive and I therefore ripped them to WMA. Lossy. Big mistake on both counts, basically: nothing else (at the time) could play WMA, so when my work caused me to want to explore Linux, I was kind of stuck without music whilst doing so. Later I ripped to WMA lossless, fixing up one of my mistakes. But getting Linux to play WMA Lossless was even harder than getting it to play 'ordinary' WMA (do-able, in the end, by paying money for a commercial encode/decoder). Third time ripping my CD collection was the (long-winded!) charm, because that was to FLAC. I can now move between any operating system I need to, without having to re-encode a thing (except to Apple, of course!)

    My point: choose a ripping strategy that has future flexibility built-in, even if you don't think you need it now, because you never know where your hardware and software choices may take you in the future.
    Last edited by Guest002; Feb-19-2021 at 15:52.

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    By the way, why is vinyl the reference sound quality? (cf the thread title "Compared to vinyl...")

    Vinyl?

    Vinyl's terrible. The frequency response is squeezed: cymbals at the top end will distort, and deep base notes can knock around the needle in the groove. There's a constant baseline of surface noise from the needle in the groove – no such thing as a moment of silence from vinyl. And the mere act of playing a record destroys it (a little); never mind handling it and storing it.

    Vinyl is not an appropriate touchstone for "sound quality".

    Of course, neither is iTunes' normal mp3 format. Vinyl is certainly better than low-quality mp3, and probably better than medium-quality mp3. But we shouldn't think of vinyl as "the reference" for sound quality.

    We should probably use CD standard as the reference. CDs have their own issues of course (esp during the "loudness wars"). But 16 bit 44.1 is an objective touchpoint for accuracy & quality.

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    I think his question makes more sense substituting CD for vinyl since that is what is talked about after his initial question

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    Senior Member Chilham's Avatar
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    Who said vinyl is, "The reference for sound quality"?

    Vinyl is where I came from, originally. Consequently, it's my reference, whether anything that succeeded it was better or worse. No one said it was, "the reference".
    Last edited by Chilham; Feb-22-2021 at 13:54.

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