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post #1 of 15 Old 03-03-2014, 04:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Getting great speakers (Philharmonic 3's) to go with my new home theater setup.  I've been excited about them and it's making me consider my music collection.

 

However, I'm confused about what is supposed to 'sound good' and what isn't.  I have many CD's but haven't bought many in the last several years.  I have most of my music on iTunes on my Mac and I've upgraded them to the higher quality.  I've read that vinyl is still the king for real music reproduction.  I know I don't have a golden ear and I'm not going to get rid of anything I have now but... what do I invest in going forward?  CD's? iTunes? Records? SACD's? 8 Tracks?  My wife's car plays DVDa?

 

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Texas

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post #2 of 15 Old 03-03-2014, 05:28 PM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_file_format

Lots of us rip CD's to HDD and use .FLAC a virtually loss less open source format that takes up less space than a CD .WAV file both are 16/44.1 and sound exactly the same . I always archive and usually playback in .FLAC.

WMP (windows media player ) does not suport .FLAC without plug ins . .FLAC is the defacto audiophile CD ripping format. The preferred (free) player is Foobar 2000 probably the best multi format player around free or paid.
. Audacity/LAME is a good (free) multi format sound recorder/file converter .
it supports .WAV,.FLAC,mp3 .AAC ,ALAC etc .

AAC (iTunes ) is a little more transparent than mp3 or mp*** in general it is highly compressed like mp*** though.
High bit rate mp3 (320 or 280kbps ) are best of the mp3 bit rates any less than that is considered major low-fi .

You can always copy/down sample FLAC ,.WAV or .ALAC to mp3 or AAC for different devices lots of times high bit rate mp3 or .AAC is fine also although most audiophiles prefer .FLAC or other loss less formats that can be a long conversation in itself try a few formats see what you like. technically any loss less format will be more accurately faithful to the original recording .

Vinyl *can be very good* given the right circumstances and equipment but not necessarily better than good 16/44.1 CD ,High res. or other loss less files .
All things being equal a good CD can sound just as good as an SACD.

The wife car probably plays CD ROM and DVD a CD +R or maybe -R also maybe some RW also.

Hires Music formats ..............."Why does it sound like a CD ?" ............. can we make it louder "?
"The wireless music box has no commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
- David Sarnoff's associates at RCA the 1920's -
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post #3 of 15 Old 03-03-2014, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Wilkins 99 View Post
 

...  I've read that vinyl is still the king for real music reproduction.  ...

 

You have been reading a good deal of nonsense.  Take some time reading this article:

 

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/technical-articles-and-editorials/technical-articles-and-editorials/a-secrets-technical-article63.html

 

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/technical-articles-and-editorials/technical-articles-and-editorials/a-secrets-technical-article64.html

 

Pay particular attention to Part 7, and keep in mind, that the high distortion is with great equipment carefully set up.  Most people will have worse.

 

 

See also:

 

http://www.bostonaudiosociety.org/explanation.htm

 

http://www.bostonaudiosociety.org/bas_speaker/abx_testing2.htm

 

Those two demonstrate running audio through a conversion to CD quality does not audibly degrade sound.

 

That should be enough to tell you that you don't need higher resolution, but one more article:

 

http://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

 

 

Now, there are cases when an LP can sound better than a CD, and that is when a poor master is used for the CD and a good one is used for the LP.  Basically, if crap is put on a disc, crap is what you have.  There are more cases of this than you might think, because the original master tapes for some old recordings no longer exist and consequently a substandard source must then be used for new releases.  And, any time anything is remastered, it can be made better, worse, or just different.

 

Also, multichannel will sound different than stereo, and so there is a reason to go with SACD or DVD-Audio or music on a BD.  But for the multichannel sound to do you good, you need to play it on a multichannel system, properly set up.  Additionally, of course, a better master might be used on one format and that can make a difference even for the stereo version, without the format being responsible for the better sound.

 

 

So, what you should get in the future depends on several things, such as whether you want multichannel audio or not.  If so, you want things like SACD, DVD-Audio, audio on BDs.  You might also be able to get some lossless multichannel downloads, but the lossless file would need to be made from a good lossless source or you would not be getting what you might expect to get.

 

For stereo, CD is fine.  You can also get some lossless downloads, but, again, you need to be careful about what you are buying online.

 

Basically, with digital files, given that hard drive space is cheap these days, you should only be dealing with lossless files, not the old MP3s, though high data MP3s done right can sound fine.

 

 

My personal favorite format is hybrid SACD.  This is a disc with both an SACD layer and a CD layer.  Such a disc can be played on an SACD player for multichannel sound (if it is a multichannel SACD), and the CD layer can be played on any CD player, which makes it very versatile and compatible with many systems.  Unfortunately, not much is released on this format.  The vast majority of the music I buy is on CD.


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post #4 of 15 Old 03-04-2014, 10:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Wilkins 99 View Post

Getting great speakers (Philharmonic 3's) to go with my new home theater setup.  I've been excited about them and it's making me consider my music collection.

However, I'm confused about what is supposed to 'sound good' and what isn't.  I have many CD's but haven't bought many in the last several years.  I have most of my music on iTunes on my Mac and I've upgraded them to the higher quality.

More details about that upgrade process?
Quote:
 I've read that vinyl is still the king for real music reproduction.

Only in the minds of a tiny, noisy minority.
Quote:
 I know I don't have a golden ear and I'm not going to get rid of anything I have now but... what do I invest in going forward?  CD's? iTunes? Records? SACD's? 8 Tracks?  My wife's car plays DVDa?

CDs and lossless downloads are the sure technical bet.

High bitrate lossy-compressed files are usually a good risk.

Ultra high sample rates, DSD, SACD, and vinyl have relatively limited availability of different titles, etc.

Ultra high sample rates have negligable audible benefits but may sound nicer to some ears due to being remastered.
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post #5 of 15 Old 03-04-2014, 10:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies.  Arny, I assume the upgrade process you are talking about is the iTunes one?  If so, then it is paying Apple so much for my library to replace 192k AAC's with 256k AAC's (IIRC).

 

My new system is going to be a front soundstage of Philharmonic 3's flanking a Philharmonitor center.  I'm getting a Denon 4250ci AVR and an Oppo 103D universal player.  I'm using Niles ICS 7 inch in ceilings for surrounds due to the room's limitations.  It will also be hooked up to Elan home automation.

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post #6 of 15 Old 03-04-2014, 04:09 PM - Thread Starter
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I did some searching and am a bit more informed.  Our house is fairly Apple-ized - having iPhones, iPods of various models, and iPad, and various Macs.  Even my wife uses iTunes on her PC.  I mention this to see if there is a disadvantage of going with ALAC versus FLAC.  I got on HDtracks and got a piece of music on ALAC at 96 kHz/24 bit.

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post #7 of 15 Old 03-05-2014, 12:04 AM
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I was wondering if arnyk and/or Jack D Ripper could say something more about the perceivable (to a well trained ear, which my aren't yet, but hopefully will be eventually) differences between various common lossy mp3 type of files and also FLAC. What's considered low bitrate? Up to 128? Or 192? And high would be... 256 and 320? How do these compare to each other, and to FLAC on good recordings in proper rooms with good equipment?

I hear different things on this and would appreciate your thoughts.

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post #8 of 15 Old 03-05-2014, 04:49 AM
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Originally Posted by dagdrivaren View Post

I was wondering if arnyk and/or Jack D Ripper could say something more about the perceivable (to a well trained ear, which my aren't yet, but hopefully will be eventually) differences between various common lossy mp3 type of files and also FLAC. What's considered low bitrate? Up to 128? Or 192? And high would be... 256 and 320? How do these compare to each other, and to FLAC on good recordings in proper rooms with good equipment?
I hear different things on this and would appreciate your thoughts.

Low bitrate is up to 128. High is anything over 192.

Properly made FLAC and .wav files are bit-perfect copies of the original, and are comparable and the 100% equivalent of the original CD played on the best possible player.

However, its possible to fabricate a FLAC or WAV files from MP3s and then all bets are off.

The coder used to make the MP3 is very important. There are still 128K MP3 files kicking around the web from the late 1990s, and they may sound pretty poor. If you use a modern SOTA coder, sound quality at 128K might be significantly improved.
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post #9 of 15 Old 03-05-2014, 04:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Wilkins 99 View Post

I did some searching and am a bit more informed.  Our house is fairly Apple-ized - having iPhones, iPods of various models, and iPad, and various Macs.  Even my wife uses iTunes on her PC.  I mention this to see if there is a disadvantage of going with ALAC versus FLAC.  I got on HDtracks and got a piece of music on ALAC at 96 kHz/24 bit.

Properly made ALAC and FLAC files are the 100% equivalent of the original CD played on the best possible player.
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post #10 of 15 Old 03-05-2014, 04:56 AM
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Is there an audible difference (given the right circumstances) between, say, a 256 kbp/s or a 320 kbp/s mp3 and a FLAC file all else being equal, though?

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post #11 of 15 Old 03-05-2014, 06:12 AM
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Originally Posted by dagdrivaren View Post

Is there an audible difference (given the right circumstances) between, say, a 256 kbp/s or a 320 kbp/s mp3 and a FLAC file all else being equal, though?

It is said that there are a few, what is known in the audio coder trade as "Pathological recordings" that have a few audible artifacts even at 320k with the best coders.

These recordings may themselves have technical defects and are not hard to code transparently because of their natural beauty. FLAC and wav are audibly transparent, regardless.

I have been working with a church that is doing streaming video and had quality problems. I don't know what bitrate their audio is at, but it is probably pretty high because their video is pretty good.

Their services came though with good enough sound, except for the senior pastor's wireless mic which was horribly flawed with really excessive sibillance, etc. However, on-site recorded .wav files were just fine. Replacing the mic made all the difference.

What I take away is that sometimes the electronics that we use in production is its own worst enemy, and no place that I know of is as picky as perceptual coding.
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post #12 of 15 Old 03-05-2014, 09:52 PM
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So maybe perhaps probably? I'll keep on reading, see what I can find. And try to figure out how to set up listening tests myself. Thanks!

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post #13 of 15 Old 03-06-2014, 04:50 AM
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So maybe perhaps probably? I'll keep on reading, see what I can find. And try to figure out how to set up listening tests myself. Thanks!

Coder listening tests are relatively easy.

Here's the tool of choice for doing the coordination of the test:

Foobar2000 freeware music player + ABX plugin
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post #14 of 15 Old 03-06-2014, 06:36 AM
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I've been using foobar2000 for a number of years, actually. I'll make sure to download the ABX plugin. Thanks again!

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post #15 of 15 Old 03-06-2014, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Tony Wilkins 99 View Post

I did some searching and am a bit more informed.  Our house is fairly Apple-ized - having iPhones, iPods of various models, and iPad, and various Macs.  Even my wife uses iTunes on her PC.  I mention this to see if there is a disadvantage of going with ALAC versus FLAC.  I got on HDtracks and got a piece of music on ALAC at 96 kHz/24 bit.

You can have both if you like. It just requires two conversion runs and more hard drive space.
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