Why do people care about lossless audio? | INFJ Forum

Why do people care about lossless audio?

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Eniko, Jun 9, 2009.

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  1. Eniko

    Eniko May snark if provoked
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    Simple question. If you like, try to convince me that lossless formats like FLAC are useful, because I'm pretty sure at 196 kbps encoding and above a human ear can't tell the difference in quality anyway.
     
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  2. Ookami

    Ookami Community Member

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    NOTE: You can hear the difference if your ears are trained. Listen to FLAC on the right equipment for a couple months then try going back to 198KBSP and you'll see just how much of a difference there really is.

    <- Loves Music.
     
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  3. OP
    Eniko

    Eniko May snark if provoked
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    Will I really, or will I have convinced myself that the FLAC I have been listening to has a higher bitrate and therefore must have better audio quality even though I couldn't detect the differences in a double blind experiment?
     
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  4. Ookami

    Ookami Community Member

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    Oh, I like this one Shai. :m015:

    I'll type up a good response when I get back sweety :) I have to go out soon and don't have time to type up a few paragraphs. Hopefully, I'll find a way to shorten it.
     
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  5. Zero Angel

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    If you have crappy speakers or a crappy soundcard (like onboard), you wont even be able to tell the difference between a 128kbps and a lossless file -- same thing if you're not good at detecting the subtleties of music.

    Also keep in mind
    1) Not all encoders are created equally
    2) Every time a compressed file is modified somehow, its quality degrades. Any kind of post-processing like equalization can actually remove detail from the sound (though sometimes it can make the sound 'seem' more detailed, esp if its a good DSP) -- the higher quality file you have to work with, the less that post processing degrades the quality.
    A good encoding for MP3, IMO, is 320kbps, especially if you have a good sound system. It's close enough to lossless to justify the extra filesize savings and compatability.
     
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  6. Ookami

    Ookami Community Member

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    :) Okay, back. I agree that with a blind experiment some people might not be able to tell the difference, but like I said above, and like Zero Angel just said. If you have the sound system and the ears. You'll be able to tell the difference between audio bitrates. I never listen to any music under 256KBSP. I can hear how bad it sounds because it's faded and scratchy. :m027:
     
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  7. aeon

    aeon Ooh, a bunny!
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    I care about lossless audio because 44.1KHz rate @ 16-bit depth has been a standard for the last 27 years. I at least want to maintain this standard - I am not interested in audio formats that compromise frequency response, dynamic range, or phase response. I appreciate convenience, but not at the expense of performance. Lossy compression is a step backward from what we have already achieved.

    I care about lossless audio because I value the psychoacoustic properties of ambience and reverberation, whether acoustic, parametric, or convolution-based. Lossy compression compromises the soundstage produced via these environments (acoustic) and processes (parametric, convolution), especially in the RT-60 decay region where we theoretically "can't tell the difference."

    I care about lossless audio because as a samplist, I value having full-resolution source material from which to sample, especially when those samples will undergo other post-processing, both analog and digital. This is especially important when said samples will undergo processing that introduces its own phase shifts, e.g., analog/digital IIR parametric eq, because the total time-misalignment per frequency will be enough to lead to "smear" - lack of transient response and overall imaging detail.

    I care about lossless audio because I care about timbre in music - of individual instruments as well as the entire mix. This love has inspired me throughout my life to such a degree my avocation is as a sound-designer, programmer, and audio engineer. Lossy compression sacrifices timbre first - the very thing I hear, listen for, and love most in music.

    I care about lossless audio because the professional standard is lossless audio. If it really didn't make a difference, professionals would use lossy compression while recording, mixing, and mastering. They do not, and it is for a reason - sound quality.


    cheers,
    Ian
     
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  8. OP
    Eniko

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    Obviously they don't use lossy compression while recording, mixing and mastering. That'd be pretty stupid considering every time you pass something through a lossy format degradation occurs. Which means that even if a lossy format was indistinguishable from lossless on the first pass, you'd always wind up with severe degradation by the time you have something to serve the masses. And even if you only saved the final thing in a lossy format you still could never reuse any of it without putting it through a second pass and the subsequent degradation that entails.

    But that's not an argument for why a single pass lossy format isn't good enough for the masses. Speaking as an artist I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between a lossless PNG of a true colour digital image and a high quality lossy JPG. But I still wouldn't use JPG during my work flow.
     
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  9. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Permanent Fixture

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    Try to print out a JPG encoded at 90% quality. You do notice the noise quite a bit when its on paper compared to when it's on screen -- because the screen mushes the artifacts so that you can't even percieve them.

    It's the same thing with a poor stereo system and something encoded at 128kbps. You don't really notice how poor it is at first.
     
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  10. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    I always save real work in .PNG with 0% compression.

    It's a little bit bigger in file size, but the quality is very noticeable.
     
  11. corvidae

    corvidae ohai internets
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    I can't fit 70 albums on an 8 GB flash drive without some compression, unfortunately. I can tolerate 128kbps, but I remember about 7 or 8 years ago when mp3.com had 32kbps... it was awful. Worse than AM radio.
     
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  12. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Permanent Fixture

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    OMG. I remember when 128kbps CBR was the 'decent' standard of encoding MP3s -- and that was back in the napster days. Now anything encoded below 192kbps VBR is considered poor quality. And I've listened to 32kbps radio stations -- the sound quality was absolutely awful!

    320kbps seems to be the new audiophile standard thanks to bigger hard drives and faster internet connections. I'm still fine with 192 though since I don't yet have a high end dolby digital/DTS home theatre system upon which to play them through (yet).
     
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  13. aeon

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    In the same way, as an end user, you will not be able to make any changes to your playback system, tonally or otherwise, without introducing further degradation when the source is lossy compressed.

    Indeed.

    What did you think of my other four points in my post?

    My values are such that I don't wish to treat the masses as a common entity. Many people can hear the difference, and I don't want a standard that limits their experience because others cannot hear it.

    To me, JPG always introduces noise and block artifacts in areas of detail, even at high quality settings, that are easily identified. The only way around it is to use JPG at lossless compression, i.e., 100% quality.


    cheers,
    Ian
     
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  14. J. Cardigan

    J. Cardigan Community Member

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    I'm not an audio engineer so I can't give an answer based on the frequency range of human hearing and whatnot, but I will say that I'd take FLAC any day over MP3 (assuming I had the available hard drive space).

    Once MP3s hit a bitrate (192kbps is my minimum) they tend to be fine for casual listening. My favorite albums are ripped in FLAC, though, because MP3s are downsampled and (however minor the difference may be) inferior to a direct copy of the original.

    The best way I can put it is; with proper equipment, FLAC simply sounds way better than MP3. If you're listening through your iPod earbuds (or even your iPod, for that matter), the quality difference will be lost and you may as well use MP3.
     
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  15. Puck

    Puck Perilous Pixie
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    I'm happy enough with mp3s at 192kbps. I ripped my entire collection at that bitrate and it's good enough for me. I listen mostly to rock and hair metal though, so perhaps sound quality isn't so much of an issue as if I was into classical.
     
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  16. alcyone

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    Off topic question, but I didn't want to start a new thread for it.

    What are some alternate programs for loading music into my ipod, and burning CD's from my music library. I hate, hate HATE itunes and I've heard bad things about Realplayer (although I can use it to upload and download my ipod)....what other programs are out there that I could use!?
     
  17. IndigoSensor

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    do NOT use realplayer that entire company is hellbent on scaming people in every way possible (I know out of experience).

    I actually don't know any other media player that will sync an ipod. I am sure you can find some programs with a few internet searches though. Winamp might do it, but I am not sure.
     
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  18. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Permanent Fixture

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    Songbird will synch with an ipod. Winamp might also, but i'm not certain. I know that winamp will rip from and burn to CDs but its slow unless you purchase 'Winamp Pro'. It really is hard to find a player that doesnt have compromises somewhere.
     
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  19. Ookami

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    Songbird is one of the best Multimedia Programs out.

    Foobar2000 is great for music only and has a wide variety of plug-ins and add-ons.
     
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  20. J. Cardigan

    J. Cardigan Community Member

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    I love foobar2000 (only reason I'm using Windows on this computer... running it right now), but the last time I used the iPod plugin it messed up my songs and playlist on the iPod. This was back in 2007, though, so it's quite possible they've fixed those issues now.

    iTunes seems to suck considerably less on the Mac, so I just use that to sync up with my iPod. I still wish there was a Leopard port of foobar2000, though.
     
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