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post #1 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 07:41 AM - Thread Starter
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I am looking at different audio formats for different devices.

Iphone - MP3, AAC (128 kbps) and AIFF (Apple Lossless)

I did not realize how large the AIFF files were going to be. I am a stickler for quality and realize this is the best quality you can get. Can you really tell the difference b/w the 3 formats on an Iphone?

PCH C200 Media Player - Flac, WAV, MP3 - I do try and go with Flac as I am usually not restricted by hard drive space and do want the best quality. I am using a Onkyo TX-SR608 and Polk speakers. I'm assuming that the difference in sound quality is more evident when you add in a receiver and speakers.

Is converting a Flac file to AIFF okay without losing quality?

Would appreciate any advice on what formats people use for similar devices and when there is a difference in sound quality.
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post #2 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 08:06 AM
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Answering the easier part, yes you can convert a lossless format like Flac to another without any loss.

Personally, I keep files on my home system in lossless format and use lossy for portable use. I however use high bit rate, variable coding. I am not an iphone user but if it supports variable rate AAC (setting the quality to max), that is what I would use. Actual data rate then becomes something like 256K to 300 Kbps or about half the file size of lossless. I only sync parts of my library that I like though. 128 kbps fixed rate is not to my liking but I am picky about such things .

If you want to hear the difference in quality, the best thing to do is to use the specialized tracks that bring out the differences. The main test to run is for "pre-echo." This when transients -- the hardest things to encode -- become grungy. Hard to describe until you hear it. Here is the nice link with list of test files: http://lame.sourceforge.net/quality.php. Go to the "FHG" section and download those files. castanets.wv is the de-facto test signal. Start with encoding it at lowest bit rate and then keep going up until you have trouble hearing the degradation.

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post #3 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 08:07 AM
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Adding on, if you have a choice of using AAC and MP3, ignore MP3. AAC is superior to it at the same data rate (and even somewhat higher).

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post #4 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 10:41 AM
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Iphone - MP3, AAC (128 kbps) and AIFF (Apple Lossless)

Just to be clear, AIFF is not the same as Apple Lossless. Apple Lossless is akin to FLAC—a lossless compression that cuts files sizes roughly in half, compared to fullsize AIFF or WAV files.

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Is converting a Flac file to AIFF okay without losing quality?

Yes, you can convert between lossless formats without degradation.

For hard drive storage, use a lossless format like FLAC or Apple Lossless. For portable devices with limited capacity,there's a trade-off. I use 192 kbps AAC for iPods. I wouldn't claim that's perfect, but it's good enough for the way I use iPods. The earbuds you use probably involve a lot more degradation than the codec you choose.

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castanets.wv is the de-facto test signal.

It sure is, but that also makes it perhaps an inappropriate test from a practical standpoint. For the consumer, the right question isn't, what bitrate makes the killer files transparent? It's, what bitrate makes the music I typically listen to transparent?

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Adding on, if you have a choice of using AAC and MP3, ignore MP3. AAC is superior to it at the same data rate (and even somewhat higher).

Definitely true at lower bitrates. I'm not sure I'd place bets on listeners preferring 256 kbps AAC to MP3, however. You'd need to be verrrry selective about both test subjects and files.

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post #5 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by amirm View Post

Answering the easier part, yes you can convert a lossless format like Flac to another without any loss.

Personally, I keep files on my home system in lossless format and use lossy for portable use. I however use high bit rate, variable coding. I am not an iphone user but if it supports variable rate AAC (setting the quality to max), that is what I would use. Actual data rate then becomes something like 256K to 300 Kbps or about half the file size of lossless. I only sync parts of my library that I like though. 128 kbps fixed rate is not to my liking but I am picky about such things .

If you want to hear the difference in quality, the best thing to do is to use the specialized tracks that bring out the differences. The main test to run is for "pre-echo." This when transients -- the hardest things to encode -- become grungy. Hard to describe until you hear it. Here is the nice link with list of test files: http://lame.sourceforge.net/quality.php. Go to the "FHG" section and download those files. castanets.wv is the de-facto test signal. Start with encoding it at lowest bit rate and then keep going up until you have trouble hearing the degradation.

Good responses all (but who am I to judge? )

I've done the same as Amir - my CD collection was ripped into both FLAC and 240kbps+ VBR MP3 for portable use, although now that I have FLAC capable players on my Android phone and only sync a small selection of my collection at any time I have not used the MP3 collection for some time.

I am not able to discern a difference, even at nearfield, between FLAC and high bitrate MP3, even with complex transients most typically found in classical music. At 192kpbs it's a different story. In fact, I have deleted all of my purchased and previously ripped music that is 192k or less - as I've learned to listen (and my equipment improved) they are no longer appealing.

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post #6 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

It sure is, but that also makes it perhaps an inappropriate test from a practical standpoint. For the consumer, the right question isn't, what bitrate makes the killer files transparent? It's, what bitrate makes the music I typically listen to transparent?

How do you or I would know what he typically listens to? Transients are common in music. If one wants to learn the impact of compression on music, it is useful to have an isolated test that reveals the artifact easily.

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Definitely true at lower bitrates. I'm not sure I'd place bets on listeners preferring 256 kbps AAC to MP3, however. You'd need to be verrrry selective about both test subjects and files.

That wasn't the point. The point is that MP3 is never better than AAC so if you have both, just use AAC. The only reason to use MP3 is if your target device only supports that. It is pretty rare these days for that to be the case.

It is a bit like Blu-ray. It still supports MPEG-2 but there is no reason to use it relative the newer compression algorithms there.

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post #7 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 01:41 PM
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How do you or I would know what he typically listens to? Transients are common in music. If one wants to learn the impact of compression on music, it is useful to have an isolated test that reveals the artifact easily.

I presume he does not typically listen to castanets.

And there's a reason castanets and similar sounds are used: They highlight differences that aren't obvious in other types of sounds. Yes, there are transients in music, and yes, different codecs will handle those codecs differently. But those differences will be harder to hear when embedded in typical music programs than they will in a more isolated presentation (like castanets).

So if you use castanets as your test for how high a bitrate you need to achieve transparency, then you will likely overshoot what you need for typical music programs. And that's gonna matter on devices with limited storage space.

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post #8 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

I presume he does not typically listen to castanets.

I find string guitar, pure vocals, even audience clapping all to bring out the pre-echo distortion. Castanet is a good tool because you can download the same file and use it as the rest of us do to speak about such things. Standard MPEG test suite for example includes pure vocal in addition to castanet.

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And there's a reason castanets and similar sounds are used: They highlight differences that aren't obvious in other types of sounds.

You mean aren't *as* obvious. The distortion is always there. You get lucky most of the time because it is masked. But then you listen to some solo string guitar and you hear it on every pick. We would not use these files if they didn't represent problems that needed fixing.

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Yes, there are transients in music, and yes, different codecs will handle those codecs differently. But those differences will be harder to hear when embedded in typical music programs than they will in a more isolated presentation (like castanets).

When I used to do codec testing, I had about 100 popular music tracks that were just as challenging as the MPEG test clips. I would find a new clip every week or two. Sometimes I would find problems with them that even MPEG test clips could not.

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So if you use castanets as your test for how high a bitrate you need to achieve transparency, then you will likely overshoot what you need for typical music programs. And that's gonna matter on devices with limited storage space.

I suggested that test clip for him to hear for himself what artifacts sound like. What he does after that as far as the bit rate to use for encoding is up to him. Once he knows the artifact there, he can then see if he hears them in real music. If he cannot then he can lower the rate. Without knowing what to look for, you may pick too low of a rate and then one day discover the artifact and have to go back and re-encode. But sure, if one is happier not knowing, who am I to complain .

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post #9 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cap2587 View Post

I am looking at different audio formats for different devices.

Iphone - MP3, AAC (128 kbps) and AIFF (Apple Lossless)

I did not realize how large the AIFF files were going to be. I am a stickler for quality and realize this is the best quality you can get. Can you really tell the difference b/w the 3 formats on an Iphone?

PCH C200 Media Player - Flac, WAV, MP3 - I do try and go with Flac as I am usually not restricted by hard drive space and do want the best quality. I am using a Onkyo TX-SR608 and Polk speakers. I'm assuming that the difference in sound quality is more evident when you add in a receiver and speakers.

Is converting a Flac file to AIFF okay without losing quality?

Would appreciate any advice on what formats people use for similar devices and when there is a difference in sound quality.

AIFF is not Apple Lossless.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_I...ge_File_Format

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Lossless

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post #10 of 19 Old 04-27-2012, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Definitely true at lower bitrates. I'm not sure I'd place bets on listeners preferring 256 kbps AAC to MP3, however. You'd need to be verrrry selective about both test subjects and files.

And also the real world testing of the kinds of equipment people listen to MP3s on. Would people notice the difference to be significant? I use FLACs for critical listening at home, and then MP3s for my Android phone with earbuds (which are ER-4PTs) and hooked up to my stock car stereo. My phone can play FLACs, but I really didn't seem to notice much benefit from them over 256K VBR MP3s.

Meanwhile, I really don't like Apple's business model (historically) when it comes to music, so I would likely never switch to AAC. Another reason to go with MP3s.

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post #11 of 19 Old 04-28-2012, 12:15 AM
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Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Meanwhile, I really don't like Apple's business model (historically) when it comes to music, so I would likely never switch to AAC. Another reason to go with MP3s.

Apple has nothing to do with AAC. AAC is an international standard created before Apple even thought about getting into music business. You might be turned off by their early use of their DRM on top of it which made the files proprietary. I do share your sentiments regarding apple in general though in this space .

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post #12 of 19 Old 04-28-2012, 04:25 AM
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Originally Posted by amirm View Post

Apple has nothing to do with AAC. AAC is an international standard created before Apple even thought about getting into music business...

AKA: MP4 and not Apple proprietary.

Wikipedia:
...AAC has been standardized by ISO and IEC, as part of the MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 specifications...

Also as a side not: ALAC (Apple Lossless) is now open source so anyone can license it.


I use ALAC on all my devices (iPhone, iPad & Nano). To me the small limitation problem of having to sync playlist more often is outweighed by having my music unaltered.
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To me, Apple has everything to do with ACC. They have been its standard bearer, and it's doubtful many people would be using it if it were not for Apple. In the public's mind, it's associated with Apple.

As for using Apple Lossless, well there's FLAC. Oh wait. That's right. Even thought it is the most popularly used lossless compressed format, Apple refuses to support it. Gotta try to lock everyone into their software and service ecosystem.

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Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

To me, Apple has everything to do with ACC....
As for using Apple Lossless, well there's FLAC. Oh wait. That's right. Even thought it is the most popularly used lossless compressed format, Apple refuses to support it. Gotta try to lock everyone into their software and service ecosystem.

Again, ALAC is OPEN SOURCE and free to use by anyone (just like FLAC). It is NOT proprietary or "locked" into any ecosystem.

Apple just uses ACC (MP4) and didn't "create" it. Anyone can use it and it is just an evolution/advance of MP3. When you say "to me" that is perception/belief and not facts or reality.


Wikipedia:
AAC was developed with the cooperation and contributions of companies including AT&T Bell Laboratories, Fraunhofer IIS, Dolby Laboratories, Sony Corporation and Nokia....

...AAC is also the default or standard audio format for iPhone, iPod, iPad, Nintendo DSi, iTunes, DivX Plus Web Player and PlayStation 3. It is supported on PlayStation Portable, Wii (with the Photo Channel 1.1 update installed), Sony Walkman MP3 series and later, Sony Ericsson; Nokia, Android, BlackBerry, and webOS-based mobile phones. AAC has also seen some adoption on in-dash car audio especially on high-end units such as the Pioneer AVIC series...
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Originally Posted by William View Post

Again, ALAC is OPEN SOURCE and free to use by anyone (just like FLAC). It is NOT proprietary or "locked" into any ecosystem. . . .

Say it one more time, and use all caps this time. I didn't get your point the first time. But since you seem to be assuming someone who disagrees with you must be an idiot, as a former documentation coordinator for a major open source project and having recently published an article related to open source, I'm fully aware what open source means.

You are talking about a couple of trees; I'm talking about how all the Apple trees in the forest work together and have worked together over time--the history of the total hardware, software, service, and media sales (not just music) ecology and what impact it has--and could have--on consumers. That's not a discussion to have here; it's been done to death on the Web, whether you agree with my position or not.

And in case this is some kind of Apple fanboy rant that assumes I'm an Apple hater, every couple of years I buy another Apple product in hopes that I'll be satisfied with it. For instance, after evaluating an iPad2 for the last 9 months, I'm getting ready to put it on Ebay and keep the Samsung Galaxy Tab I compared it to for the last three months. So do me the courtesy of not assuming anything if you choose to reply to this.

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post #16 of 19 Old 04-28-2012, 06:41 PM - Thread Starter
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What an unbelievable response to my post on comparing different Audio formats.
Can someone tell me quickly where I go to enable email notifications once someone responds to this post.

Seems like we are dealing with 3 issues affecting what music Codec people use.

Space, specific codec limitations (Itunes not accepting Flac, and at what point you can truly hear a distinct difference in Audio quality.

When I turned some Flac albums into AIFF the size of the album got larger. Is WAV and AIFF the largest file size that is typically used. Does it then go Flac, ALEC, AAC, and then MP3. Seems like the quality tends to follow the size - higher size -increased quality, smaller size - reduced quality. I think I am leaning towards FLAC for playing through my Media Player with my surround. sound. I like using Foobar2000 to rip CD's to Flac. Is this the program other people use, if so is there a particular setting to put it on. I will go with AAC for my Iphone due to space limitations and probably not being able to tell the difference with a different codec. Should I go with 192 kbps that alot of people have mentioned or is it better to go with the max of 320 kbps Bit Rate. Look forward to reading and learning from all the very detailed responses. Thank You.
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Originally Posted by cap2587 View Post

When I turned some Flac albums into AIFF the size of the album got larger. Is WAV and AIFF the largest file size that is typically used.

Flac is a lossless compression algorithm. It is able to roughly halve the file size without losing quality. If you convert it to AIFF/WAC, you are back to the original file without compression so rightly, the size grows. So if at all possible, you want to use some kind of lossless format as you get something for nothing (smaller files, but same quality). I use WMA Lossless for that reason.

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Does it then go Flac, ALEC, AAC, and then MP3.

All lossless codecs sound the same. So Flac, ALAC and WMA lossless all sound the same. The file sizes do vary a bit though although not substantially enough to matter. After that, AAC is better than MP3 as you list.

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Seems like the quality tends to follow the size - higher size -increased quality, smaller size - reduced quality.

Typically yes with the exception of lossless compression above.

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Should I go with 192 kbps that alot of people have mentioned or is it better to go with the max of 320 kbps Bit Rate. Look forward to reading and learning from all the very detailed responses. Thank You.

Just test it yourself. Find some music that has string guitar, solo vocals, sharp cymbal crashes and listen to see if their nature changes. If it doesn't, go with the lower number.

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post #18 of 19 Old 04-28-2012, 07:02 PM
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When I turned some Flac albums into AIFF the size of the album got larger. Is WAV and AIFF the largest file size that is typically used. Does it then go Flac, ALEC, AAC, and then MP3.

WAV and AiFF are essentially identical to what's on a CD—same file size, same resolution.

FLAC and ALAC are data-compressed lossless versions of the above, typically about half the file size but with no loss of information or resolution. (I have ALAC files that are only 20% of the AIFF file size, and others that are 80%. Half is just an average.)

MP3 and AAC are smaller still, but there is some loss of information/resolution as a result.

Quote:


Should I go with 192 kbps that alot of people have mentioned or is it better to go with the max of 320 kbps Bit Rate.

My own view is that 320 is overkill for music listening. 192 is probably enough for a portable media player, esp. given how people typically use them. If I had to use a lossy codec on a good system, however, I'd probably go with 256 kbps. To some extent, though, this is a personal value judgment. How important is it to you to know that you are listening to something very close to the uncompressed version? And how much music do you want to be able to cram onto whatever storage capacity you have?

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post #19 of 19 Old 04-28-2012, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by cap2587 View Post

Can someone tell me quickly where I go to enable email notifications once someone responds to this post.

Look under "thread tools" on the top right just up above where the postings start on any page.

I have heard of some sort of hack or plugin to make FLACs work with iTunes, but as a non-iTunes I don't really know how it works or if it works well.

I would add that contrary to what the others mentioned about FLAC size, my experience has been that it's more 60-70% of the WAV size on average, so YMMV. Although the size does depend on the compression setting given the encoder, which doesn't affect sound quality but does slightly decrease the size while requiring more encoding time.

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