Mp3's as source material.... - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 03-02-2007, 01:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Currently I have a fairly modest stereo (JM Lab speakers, BK Components). I have always been reluctant to start spending serious money on the hobby for two reasons:

1. I live in a high-rise building in Manhattan, and I don't think many people would be happy if I had some WP7's playing all the time.

2. I don't own a single cd or vinyl record. All of my material is on my computer. I hook the computer up to my B&K Processor via a rca to mini headphone cable.


The first reason I don't care too much about anymore, I play music fairly often now and no one has complained. However, the second is still a concern. I have always heard the expression "garbadge in, garbadge out" in audio. Is there any way to have a digital source for material with the same quality as cd's or vinyl? Would I be wasting my time buying something like WP7's if I am going to be sending a crappy signal like MP3's through it?
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post #2 of 17 Old 03-02-2007, 02:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JarodL View Post

Currently I have a fairly modest stereo (JM Lab speakers, BK Components). I have always been reluctant to start spending serious money on the hobby for two reasons:

1. I live in a high-rise building in Manhattan, and I don't think many people would be happy if I had some WP7's playing all the time.

2. I don't own a single cd or vinyl record. All of my material is on my computer. I hook the computer up to my B&K Processor via a rca to mini headphone cable.


The first reason I don't care too much about anymore, I play music fairly often now and no one has complained. However, the second is still a concern. I have always heard the expression "garbadge in, garbadge out" in audio. Is there any way to have a digital source for material with the same quality as cd's or vinyl? Would I be wasting my time buying something like WP7's if I am going to be sending a crappy signal like MP3's through it?

I think it is fair to say that the higher the resolution of your audio system, the more you will notice the deficiencies in your source material. But you CAN have a computerized source that gives excellent quality. In my case, I have all my CD's ripped in Apple Lossless and stored on a central server. I use the digital output from a desktop Mac into a Musical Fidelity X-DACv3, which feeds a Musical Fidelity A5 integrated amp and then to a pair of Magnepan 1.6QR speakers. This system isn't nearly in the price range for me even to be posting here (the MF amp is $2500; the X-DAC was $500 used; and the speakers were $1600 for the pair). But it is a fairly high-resolution system, and music sounds terrific with this setup.

On the other hand, I doubt there is much of anything that could make 128kbs iTunes files sound decent.

John C.
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post #3 of 17 Old 03-02-2007, 03:04 PM
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I wouldn't spend any more $$$ on equipment until you are using lossless audio (FLAC, Apple lossless, etc.) and your computer is set up correctly.

Have you tried using the DACs in the BK instead of the computer (may be better or worse)? Have you played around with ASIO plugins in to get around Kmixer (i.e. get bit-perfect operation)? Read up on things in the HTPC forum and ensure that your computer is tweaked for sound quality...
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post #4 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 01:01 AM
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If you're using MP3, you shouldnt be wasting money on Wilsons or JMLabs.... mainly because there is so much missing in an MP3 compressed song that you'd be better off going lossless than getting even more resolute speakers that will further magnify the deficiencies of the MP3 format.

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post #5 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 02:19 AM
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The thing is he said he doesn't own a single CD. So that means he is purchasing or "sharing" all of his music online. In which case he doesn't have the option to burn in lossless. The only high-res online resource I am aware of is Music Giants, and I have never looked at their service so I have no idea what their selection is.

It's rather interesting to consider that our source components are becoming higher and higher resolution while what appears to be the primary future purchasing method for music has become lower resolution. And as I currently see it there is close to 0 demand to motivate the online services to provide higher quality recordings. Sad but true. I hope that changes. I buy music online all the time and I'd pay $1.50 a song every time for full res versus $1 for low res but I suspect I am in a very very small minority - not enough for the onlines services to even pay attention to. Then again, maybe if they chaged an extra 25 cents for high res people might surprise them.
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post #6 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 06:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QQQ View Post

The thing is he said he doesn't own a single CD. So that means he is purchasing or "sharing" all of his music online. In which case he doesn't have the option to burn in lossless. The only high-res online resource I am aware of is Music Giants, and I have never looked at their service so I have no idea what their selection is.

It's rather interesting to consider that our source components are becoming higher and higher resolution while what appears to be the primary future purchasing method for music has become lower resolution. And as I currently see it there is close to 0 demand to motivate the online services to provide higher quality recordings. Sad but true. I hope that changes. I buy music online all the time and I'd pay $1.50 a song every time for full res versus $1 for low res but I suspect I am in a very very small minority - not enough for the onlines services to even pay attention to. Then again, maybe if they chaged an extra 25 cents for high res people might surprise them.

Thanks that is what I am hinting at. Is there any way to convert .mp3 to lossless? Or does anyone know a website or service that I can download lossless songs?
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post #7 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 07:11 AM
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JarodL

The answer to your question is NO. Once you lose it, there is no way under the present laws of physics to get it back in this universe. That is what .mp3 does it takes things away from the stream of data. Lossless on the contrary compresses them in a way they can be retrieved just as they were ( more or les so). Just like the zip files on computer, they are squeezed but nothing (in theory, to my ears not a lot) is stripped away and discarded like mp3 does.l
As QQQ mentioned, Music Giants has high quality downloads. I do not know much about them. With the price of storage plunging, it is not a stretch to store the CDs you "share" in Lossless or even in native format... I recently saw 500 GB quoted at less than $150 at www.newegg.com. That is close to 700 CD in native format or 2 to 3 times this number of albums in lossless format. That is a lot of music storage for $150.

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post #8 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 07:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QQQ View Post

The thing is he said he doesn't own a single CD. So that means he is purchasing or "sharing" all of his music online. In which case he doesn't have the option to burn in lossless. The only high-res online resource I am aware of is Music Giants, and I have never looked at their service so I have no idea what their selection is.

It's rather interesting to consider that our source components are becoming higher and higher resolution while what appears to be the primary future purchasing method for music has become lower resolution. And as I currently see it there is close to 0 demand to motivate the online services to provide higher quality recordings. Sad but true. I hope that changes. I buy music online all the time and I'd pay $1.50 a song every time for full res versus $1 for low res but I suspect I am in a very very small minority - not enough for the onlines services to even pay attention to. Then again, maybe if they chaged an extra 25 cents for high res people might surprise them.

Well, you're mostly right, but there are a few rays of hope. Many indie classical labels still have a strong commitment to SACD, and you can download 24/96 albums from Linn Records (their Studio Master series) with NO DRM (!!). Gramophone magazine this month highlighted a new download service in England that uses 320kbs MP3's. Still not lossless or 24/96, but a whole lot better than 128 crap. And there seems to be an increase in the number of sites that are offering higher-resolution downloads (Music Giants does lossless WMA; e-music does 192, still marginally better than 128; etc.)

So maybe we're seeing something of a turnaround in the quality department. It would be nice if one of the HD Video formats finally establishes itself as a high-resolution music carrier, but I don't see that any time soon.

John C.
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post #9 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 08:45 AM
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JarodL,
I don't know at what point MP3 listening becomes indistinguishable from hi-rez digital, vinyl or studio masters. This week I downloaded 192 kbps MP3's of some Chopin piano works from eClassical because I like the performance...However, on the big rig it makes it sound like a tube is going to blow. Piano is a difficult sound to reproduce and since I have a grand piano sitting a few meters from the stereo I'm a little sensitive to differences.

On the other hand, I use 320kbps OGG in one of my fancy MP3 players and it sounds pretty good. Never tried it on the big rig.

As jdcolombo and others point out there are now several full-rez (mostly seedee quality) or hi-rez (still fairly limited selection >24bit/88kHz) download sites running and some are without DRM. Many of us have gone to high-end music servers for much of our listening. Try reading through this thread:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=702875

There is also some good information in the "Audiophile" section of the Slim Devices forum here:
http://forums.slimdevices.com/forumdisplay.php?f=7

There is also a lot of discussion on the audibility of digital artifacts on the HydrogenAudio forum here:
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php

Hi-rez downloads are (probably) the wave of the future but suggest that you will need to re-purchase your digital music library in higher resolution if you get into a highly-resolving system.
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post #10 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 09:14 AM
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All I'm saying is that if you're willing to spend $15+K on a set of Wilson Watt/Puppy7, you should have a few thousand $$$ that you're willing to spend on getting CDs.

Or, do what a lot of us do, go to your local libraries (yes, plural) and burn their CDs into FLAC.

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post #11 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 09:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JarodL View Post

Currently I have a fairly modest stereo (JM Lab speakers, BK Components). I have always been reluctant to start spending serious money on the hobby for two reasons:

1. I live in a high-rise building in Manhattan, and I don't think many people would be happy if I had some WP7's playing all the time.

2. I don't own a single cd or vinyl record. All of my material is on my computer. I hook the computer up to my B&K Processor via a rca to mini headphone cable.

JarodL,

Try some affordable experiments:

1) Take 5 of your favorite albums, and find the original CDs. Listen to the CDs for a couple of weeks without listening to the mp3s. Then, switch back to the mp3 versions. If you can hear a significant audible difference, then you may want to consider investing more in a lossless music collection.

2) (Basically Greg's advice) Your PC should have digital output, either Toslink or S/PDIF coax. Try running digital out from your PC, instead of analog out. You may hear an audible sound quality improvement there, too.

I use both HTPC and a universal player as sources - both have their strengths and weaknesses.

- Steve O.
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post #12 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by scorch123 View Post

JarodL,
I use both HTPC and a universal player as sources - both have their strengths and weaknesses.

- Steve O.

What are the strengths of the HTPC in sound and/or video-wise ?
What universal player do you have?

Thanks

Frantz
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post #13 of 17 Old 03-03-2007, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by FrantzM View Post

What are the strengths of the HTPC in sound and/or video-wise ?
What universal player do you have?

Thanks

Hi FrantzM,

HTPC's greatest strength is flexibility (IMHO). If you're computer-savvy, you can swap playback software, codecs, and write automation software to create a highly customized interface for your setup.

I can really tweak video from HTPC to my CRT projector (gamma, refresh rate, various video post-processing) with TheaterTek, PowerDVD, even Media Player Classic.

Having a PC-based jukebox is really fun, too. Capacity - hard drive prices keep dropping. Pro audio sound cards can really give dedicated pre-pros and some external DACs a run for their money.

*

I got a McCormack UDP-1 late last year. I really enjoy its sound - I listen to music about 80% with the McCormack and 20% with HTPC. Also for music concerts, I like to run component video from the player through the HTPC's input card to the PJ, but run audio from the UDP-1 instead.

- Steve O.
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post #14 of 17 Old 03-07-2007, 03:15 PM
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I have tweaked my system for 192 kbps mp3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KAz5vLV2_E

Truth always wins in the end.
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post #15 of 17 Old 03-07-2007, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by scorch123 View Post

Hi FrantzM,

Pro audio sound cards can really give dedicated pre-pros and some external DACs a run for their money.

Not only can pro audio sound cards give them a run for their money, they're probably what the studio used to record and monitor the performance in the first place!

Mark
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post #16 of 17 Old 03-07-2007, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by ValhallaPC View Post

I have tweaked my system for 192 kbps mp3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KAz5vLV2_E


I can't believe I watched the whole thing

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post #17 of 17 Old 03-07-2007, 04:31 PM
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I can't believe I watched the whole thing

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