no wonder MP3s sound lousy!

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by GerryJ, Feb 4, 2005.


  1. GerryJ

    GerryJ Member

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    Learning about Digital recording, came across this data from a Dolphin Music site, http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/page/shop/news_story/a/news_id/e/120


    3 minute stereo mix

    BitDepth Sample rate Bit rate File Size
    16 44,100 1.35 Mbit/sec 30.3 Mb
    16 48,000 1.46 Mbit/sec 33 Mb
    24 96,000 4.39 Mbit/sec 99Mb
    MP3 File 128 k/bit rate 0.13 Mbit/Sec 2.82 Mb


    If you think Ipods with their mp3s sound less rich and dimensional than CDs (16 bit, 44kHz).....you're right , and there is a reason for it.

    I guess the one plus....the aural experience of a live band will sound so much better than 'recorded' music, the youngin's on the board will have a better shot at more dates ;) .
     
  2. GaryNattrass

    GaryNattrass Member

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    Yes all MP3 and Atrac audio is compressed and what is lost is dynamic range and a certain amount of frequency response.

    Its not a problem for heavily compressed commercial music such a Britney or the boy band stuff but for serious listening what will be missing is definition in the mix.
     
  3. Macaroni

    Macaroni Member

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    Music downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store is in the newer AAC format, which is better than MP3. You can also chose to convert songs in iTunes using AAC vs MP3. Apple also has a lossless format that cuts the size of a regular CD song in half with no quality lost.
     
  4. JPF

    JPF Member

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    I'm not so sure about the quality of AAC 128KBPS which is what you get when you buy from iTunes. It's comparable to MP3 at 256KBPS, which is not what I would call CD quality by a long shot. In fact, I think iTunes may have to re-think their business model and increase the quality of their pay-per-song/record downloads if they don't want to be left behind.

    I bought the Dream Theater Live at Budokan "cd" from iTunes and am less than impressed when burned using lossless and played on a home stereo, though it sounds fine on my iPod using Shure E3c earbuds. Frankly, it sounds no better than ripping from a cd at MP3 192 KBPS to my ears.

    At Euros 9.99 per "cd", it's about half the price of buying the actual cd. If the quality were equivalent, it's worth it to me despite the limits in number of burnings and computers it can be played on, loss of cover art, liners, etc...

    But until the quality is improved, I'll continue to buy CDs and LPs and rip them into MP3 256KBPS for iPod use. Just my Euros 9.99' worth, YMMV etc...

    Does anyone know of any alternative sources of true cd quality hifi pay-for-content downloads?
     
  5. Macaroni

    Macaroni Member

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    No one is calling it CD quality - just somewhat better than MP3 - which it is.

    No disrespect intended, but Apple is so far ahead of everyone else in this area, that "left behind" is a completely absurd statement to make at this point. They dominate more than 70% - 80% of the market with their model, and at this point, everyone else is being "left behind". The other download models have yet to be proven - at least to the extent that Apple has proven theirs. The consumers are speaking with their money, most of which is going to Apple, so I doubt if you could convince them their model is seriously flawed - at least not based on any sound business principles.

    Did you actually download it as "lossless" in the first place? There is no "burned using lossless" - a CD is burned with whatever the source is - you have to download it that way first. If you did, then it is "exactly" the same as the 16 bit CD - no more, no less - regardless of what you're hearing. You can easily prove it using an audio editing program.
     
  6. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    Wondering how this is done. Realtime data decompression?
     
  7. Macaroni

    Macaroni Member

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    From the Apple site...

    Weapon of Choice


    "However, you can choose to use different audio formats for any track that you import from CD. iTunes lets you convert your music to MP3s at high bit-rate for no additional charge. Using AAC or MP3, you can store more than 100 songs in the same amount of space as a single CD. Discerning customers and audiophiles want true CD audio, and now iTunes can give you that quality with the new Apple Lossless encoder. You’ll get the full quality of uncompressed CD audio using about half the storage space. You can copy music in this format onto your iPod or iPod mini, to take perfect audio wherever you go."


    So there you have it. It doesn't specifically answer your question, though I suspect it is done in real time, but I can't say for sure.
     
  8. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    That would be my guess. If it's truly lossless it would have to be de-compressed, I would think.
     
  9. JPF

    JPF Member

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    Ron, I agree with you that the iTunes download model is a good one and has gotten off to a great start. But there are other companies that are preparing to focus more on the audio quality of the paid-for download, though they have not yet built up a large inventory of music to choose from. This is what I meant to say in my earlier post. By "left behind" I meant in terms of state-of-the-art audio quality for downloads - not market share or number of clients or downloads.

    There is a proven market for companies like Apple offering a wide choice of material and acceptable audio quality, and I agree with you that their model seems to work fine in terms of numbers of downloads, not to mention their profitability this year compared to last, principally from iPod sales.

    But there is a market segment which wants higher quality audio (as well as choice of material, obviously), and there ARE other companies positioning themselves to cater to this "niche". If you're interested, I'll try to hunt down a comparison I recently read which compared the relative audio quality of 6 or so companies offering paid-for music downloads. Apple was NOT at of near the top of the list in this respect, though they were #1 in terms of musical inventory to choose from.

    My intention was not to slag Apple - very much the contrary, I love what they're doing. But in the same way that the large recording companies have been selling us sub-standard audio quality CDs over the last 18+ years, I suspect that there will be a demand for superior downloaded audio standards as this market develops, and I hope that Apple leads that charge.

    Also, you rightly point out that one cannot download lossless from iTunes, only the AAC 128KBPS standard they offer. What I meant to state is that I burned the downloaded "material", then imported the same material from a physical DT Live at Budhokan CD using MP3 VBR (both 192KBPS and 256 KBPS to compare) and Apple Lossless, then played them and the original CD straight through my home system (fairly standard Luxman amp and cd player and Mission loudspeakers).

    The CD sounds far better to my ears, though the difference is less noticeable when comparing AAC to MP3 on the iPod. In short - Apple is on the right track, and have done a great job in demonstrating that there IS a viable alternative to depending on the big recording companies for our cd purchases. But there will be a fork in the road: wide selection and quick download time vs. narrower selection (initially for those playing catch-up) and longer download time for higher-quality/resolution audio.

    Personally, I hope Apple fills the gap and either upgrades their audio quality as "standard", or offer a higher audio quality download of the same material at a (slightly) higher cost. I like Apple and the fact they dare to be different. I hope they choose to cater to the pain-in-the-ass hard to satisfy audiophile in me as well ( and I KNOW I'm not the only one out there ;)
     
  10. JPF

    JPF Member

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    You're absolutely right, and the data is compressed to close to half of the original file, BUT you cannot play that Apple Lossless cd in any home or car stereo system - it's Apple's baby and you're tied to iTunes if I'm not mistaken. At any rate, the audio cd I converted to Apple Lossless from the original source wouldn't play on my home system.

    Then again, the original Beatles "Let It Be - Naked" cd wouldn't play on my Bose Audi factory-installed car system, so there are bugs in the digital copy-protect realm to be worked out...
     
  11. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    This has kept me from going iPod, I think the sonic quality of MP3s is pretty poor... like going back to prerecorded tape cassettes, what we were stuck with in the early 70s if you weren't going 8-track!
     
  12. Macaroni

    Macaroni Member

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    Now you can see that you don't have to settle for mp3 on an iPod, you can have AAC or Apple Lossless, and I think you can even play the original CD on the iPod, but you won't be able to store as many songs.
     
  13. JPF

    JPF Member

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    ...or you can have WMA lossless which also sounds better than MP3s to me. We're basically once again in between two emerging standards fighting for a dominant market position, AAC/Apple Lossless in the Apple/iPod camp, WMA/WMA Lossless in the Windows camp.

    Ron, I did find that article I mentioned in an earlier post - it ican be found in the current issue of "Playlist" magazine (a MacWorld Special issue).

    iTunes sells us 128 Kbps AAC downloads, Realplayer Music Store sells us 192Kbps AAC material, though they have half the songs that iTunes have. They are , however, offering the highest audio quality available on the market at this time. I really think Apple are going to lose market share over the next couple of years if they don't upgrade their audio quality.

    There are another 9 - 10 companies, mainly Windows WMA-oriented, with between 275,000 and 725,000 songs available, and are vying for market share.

    So it's iPod vs. Creative, Rio and other brands of players, and two non-compatible audio source standards fighting for our money and ability to give them their critical mass.Sound familiar? ;)

    I love the iPod and similiar platforms for their convenience and portability, but if I'm in the mood for serious listening, nothing I've heard yet gets close to an LP, or, in a pinch, a CD played through a decent hifi system.
     
  14. Macaroni

    Macaroni Member

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    For sure Apple is bound to lose some market share as various competitors move in for the kill. That's the nature of the capitalistic beast. ;) It will be very interesting to see how it all unfolds and how each competitor responds.

    I'm on your side when it comes to quality - I use Dynaudio BM6A monitors in my project studio here at home, and I'm about to spring for a Benchmark DAC1 just for D/A conversion to my BM6As, to enhance my mixing/mastering capabilities. I listen to a lot of 24 bit/44.1 audio through this system, so like others in my position, I'm a bit spoiled.

    I don't have an iPod, because I don't really have a need for one yet, but I still have my CD collection in iTunes, converted using AAC, and I enjoy listening to the music at that level of quality, even though it's not the very best. For the most critical listening, I can always put the original CDs on.
     
  15. tedm

    tedm Gold Supporting Member

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  16. gregc

    gregc Member

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    I don't like and try not to listen to any sort of data compression scheme. They'll tell you they are leaving out the lower level signals that are masked by louder signals and your ear can't tell the difference. Bull #@%^! Listen to MP3 for a while and then go listen to a live band/orchestra. whatever. You won't even recognize the instrumentation. All the harmonics and timbre get screwed with, in a bad way. Who needs 10000 songs in their pocket anyway??????

    gregc
     
  17. JPF

    JPF Member

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    I do - long transatlantic and other flights, long and painful physiotherapy sessions and I get bored easily ;)
     
  18. MrVelvet

    MrVelvet Member

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    I think a lot of the sound change happens subconsciously (besides the obvious washy highs and smaller image etc.). Things you don't notice right away or can't put your finger on what it is but the uncompressed version is more relaxing to listen to...
     
  19. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

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    there seems to be a lot of technological terms bandied about in this thread that need some clarification.

    MP3 and AAC are not only data compressed formats, they are lossy formats. that is, data is absolutely and irrevocably lost. as in, never will be there ever again. thankfully apple is seeing the writing on the wall and offering more and more of their downloads at 256 KBPS AAC, which is better sounding. however, there is still a lot of data that is lost.

    we should all be hollering and screaming for lossless formats from our individual download sites. if we don't get that, it will mean that we have taken a rather large step backwards, in terms of availing ourselves w/ true technological advancements that enhance our appreciation of the arts.

    i would dearly love to see 24 bit 96 k/Hz PCM or DSD as the standard format for home and 16/44.1 for portable devices. i have a sneaking suspicion that music lovers would experience a renaissance of 'consumerism' if a high quality medium were widely available and offered at the same (or hopefully less) price as current 16/44.1 CDs.

    c'mon, it's the frickin' 21st century here. the last truly high resolution format widely available was the vinyl record. we can do better than that and easily w/ current technology.
     
  20. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    ****, you guys should stick to vinyl then. I never really thought of mp3s as being audiophile listening, but rather portable listening to give you a close enough listening experience while you're out and about --- or otherwise using non-audiophile gear. And for that purpose (mobile audio, where you can't control your environment and eliminate all the environmental noise pollution) I think high bit-rate mp3s are just fine.
     

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