What audio format should I use? ALAC or FLAC? - Page 2 - AVS Forum
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

I have a $20K system using state-of -the -art electronics and speakers and can hear small differences in sound quality.

I have found that 320K MP3 files are lossless in my listening, and have adopted them as my standard. they take up more room than lossier files, but are certainly not as space-consuming as FLAC files and wav. files.

I also think that these are more compatible with different devices and equipment across the industry, and are more likely to remain so for a long time.

I have also seen a technical paper which agrees that MP3 is lossless with 320K and above.

BTW, I use a program called Music Collector to organize and maintain my music library. I recommend it if you are interested in that type of library.

I don't care if you have a $200k system. You're old and your hearing isn't very good. You do have an active imagination, though - I'll give you credit for that. wink.gif
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Old 12-18-2013, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by beaveav View Post

I don't care if you have a $200k system. You're old and your hearing isn't very good. You do have an active imagination, though - I'll give you credit for that. wink.gif

Actually, for once, he is correct. I've done biased controlled listening tests. You need to get below 256kbps before you can identify an MP3 from the original CD. At 192 kbps there is a subtle audible difference. At 128kbps it is an obvious audible difference. Below that the quality gets dicey. At 256kbps and 320kbps neither you nor I can distinguish an MP3 from the original CD.
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:34 PM
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I have a $20K system using state-of -the -art electronics and speakers and can hear small differences in sound quality.

I have found that 320K MP3 files are lossless in my listening, and have adopted them as my standard. they take up more room than lossier files, but are certainly not as space-consuming as FLAC files and wav. files.

So, you own a freaking 20K system and skimp on a few TB for storage space????
Maybe you got your priorities wrong?
I only got about a 3 k$ system (including the DIY PC and excluding various record players, after I got rid of several thousand $ worth of bryston equipment) but my storage include a total of about 6Tb interior storage, 1 x 8Tb exterior Raid 5 storage and another 2 TB non raid exterior storage. All exterior storage is backup (twice and once on about 25 double layer bluray discs).

And I am glad I have...about two month ago I lost the operating system from my c-drive after four years...just vanished, first indications were programs not working, strange things happening, BSOD frequently...suddenly..no more OS.
Luckily I could restore everything from the exterior HD and with help from Microsoft with a clean W7 download.
Which meant reformatting all interior HD's losing all audio files (close to 50k).
I had to intermediately install Linux to check my interior HDs to find that they were all OK. Just something ate the W7 OS.

My rips are all in Flac, which gives me the opportunity to burn Cd's direct from foobar if I so desire, and convert down to any other format for mobile use.
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Actually, for once, he is correct. I've done biased controlled listening tests. You need to get below 256kbps before you can identify an MP3 from the original CD. At 192 kbps there is a subtle audible difference. At 128kbps it is an obvious audible difference. Below that the quality gets dicey. At 256kbps and 320kbps neither you nor I can distinguish an MP3 from the original CD.

I was teasing his claims about his superb hearing abilities, not questioning his claims about audibility of different bitrates. He seems to enjoy mentioning his $20k system and his wonderful hearing whenever he posts, but his faulty logic errors seemingly escape him time and time again.

Some of my former co-workers were involved in bias-controlled listening tests back in the 90s, when some of the codec algorithms and the standard was being developed, so I'm familiar with that aspect of it.

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Old 12-19-2013, 02:37 AM
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He is an unusual case to be sure. He told me that he is an engineer and amplifier designer. Obviously, that isn't true. The equipment in his system changes several times each day depending on the claim he is making at the moment. It is curious. Take care.
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Old 12-19-2013, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Actually, for once, he is correct. I've done biased controlled listening tests. You need to get below 256kbps before you can identify an MP3 from the original CD. At 192 kbps there is a subtle audible difference. At 128kbps it is an obvious audible difference. Below that the quality gets dicey. At 256kbps and 320kbps neither you nor I can distinguish an MP3 from the original CD.

IMO the real question is about futureproofing. MP3 is lossy, so you're staring out at a disadvantage for anything you want to do in the future. If you get a new media player that needs files in a particular format, or if you want to compress further for a portable with limited space (but you care less about quality due to environment), etc, you have to make a lossy encoding of a lossy encoding. Each generation of that the quality degrades, even if you make a 320kbps MP3 encode of a 320kbps MP3 the quality drops. The best reason to go lossless is you can convert to any other lossless format in the future, or make derivative lossy copies for other devices as often as you want with no accumulating losses. Good media software can even convert on the fly to other formats for compatibility/space.

256kbps or 320kbps MP3's may be "good enough" today (sound and compatibility wise) but I don't want to have to rerip all my CDs in the future, nor do I want to spend my time doing bitrate evaluations to figure out just how small I can make it when the difference is only about 300MB per disc.

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Old 12-19-2013, 06:40 AM
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Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post

IMO the real question is about futureproofing. MP3 is lossy, so you're staring out at a disadvantage for anything you want to do in the future. If you get a new media player that needs files in a particular format, or if you want to compress further for a portable with limited space (but you care less about quality due to environment), etc, you have to make a lossy copy of a lossy copy. Each generation of that the quality degrades, even if you make a 320kbps copy of a 320kbps MP3 the quality drops. The best reason to go lossless is you can convert to any other lossless format in the future, or make derivative lossy copies for other devices as often as you want with no accumulating losses. Good media software can even convert on the fly to other formats for compatibility/space.

256kbps or 320kbps MP3's may be "good enough" today (sound and compatibility wise) but I don't want to have to rerip all my CDs in the future, nor do I want to spend my time doing bitrate evaluations to figure out just how small I can make it when the difference is only about 300MB per disc.

No. A digital copy of a digital file has no loss whatsoever. It is exactly the same as the file from which the copy was made. Every bit has the same value it did to start. You are thinking of the old analog days. You may not understand that at 256 kpbs what is lost is not audible. It doesn't matter. I realize there is an audiophile fear of compression and people go to great lengths to avoid compression but most of that fear is based on misinformation just like yours is.

I didn't say high bit rate MP3's are "good enough." I said they are audibly indistinguishable from the original CD's and that's what they are.
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Old 12-19-2013, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

No. A digital copy of a digital file has no loss whatsoever.

Not if you decompress it and run it through an encoder again, which is what I was getting at. Say you start out with an mp3 player so you rip all your music as 256kbps MP3. If you then get an iPod and decide to convert all your music to AAC you will be compounding losses converting from MP3 to AAC.

Or if you've got all your music in 320kbps MP3 for home but get a small portable player and need to compress it further (say down to 128kbps MP3) to fit more on.

In either case the quality of converting one lossy format to a different lossy format will be worse than if you ripped the CD again direct to the later format. Every time you convert from one lossy format to another you compound the loss, and it gets worse the more times you go. Even the first conversion can be bad because you are asking the encoder to not only compress the music, but also the artifacts from the prior lossy compression which is harder than compressing a source without compression artifacts. This is why I think it's best to rip to lossless once. Then you can convert (on the fly) to any other format you want as many times as you want without introducing any more loss than just the single lossy compression.

It's way faster (and easier) to convert from already ripped lossless to something else (especially if you tool can do it on the fly whenever you need it) than it is to rip the CD every time you want a file in a different format.

I went through this once already, initially I ripped all my CDs in APE, at a later date I wanted them in FLAC. Had I ripped them in a lossy format to begin with I would have had to rip all my CDs over again, but since I used APE (lossless) I could just have J River Media Center convert my entire library unattended, and with no loss.
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post

Not if you decompress it and run it through an encoder again, which is what I was getting at. .

There is no way to decompress an MP3. The data that was lost in compression doesn't exist any longer. You can compress it further but there is no going back.
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Old 12-19-2013, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post

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No. A digital copy of a digital file has no loss whatsoever.

Not if you decompress it and run it through an encoder again, which is what I was getting at.

You seem to have conflated copying with decoding. They are two different things. It is incorrect to confuse the two. FMW made a correct statement while your statement is incorrect because it does not recognize that copying and decoding are two different things.
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

No. A digital copy of a digital file has no loss whatsoever. It is exactly the same as the file from which the copy was made. Every bit has the same value it did to start. You are thinking of the old analog days. You may not understand that at 256 kpbs what is lost is not audible.
Not audible to whom and across what domain of content? He is making an absolutely correct statement that generational loss in lossy compression are not only accumulative but can spike unexpectedly high as the decompressed MP3 may be come harder to compress the second time around due to pre-echo and other artifacts in the first pass.
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It doesn't matter. I realize there is an audiophile fear of compression and people go to great lengths to avoid compression but most of that fear is based on misinformation just like yours is.
He is not confused whatsoever. Yes the word "copy" should not have been used loosely but as he explained generational loss is a problem. And the original fixed bit rate MP3 is not transparent either.
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I didn't say high bit rate MP3's are "good enough." I said they are audibly indistinguishable from the original CD's and that's what they are.
That's just not true of all listeners and all people. It is true of most people and most content to be sure, but cannot be generalized as you are doing.

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Old 12-19-2013, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

You seem to have conflated copying with decoding. They are two different things.

I have not, I understand exactly what they are. Apparently my use of the phrase "lossy copy" was not understood. I meant copy in the noun sense (an imitation, reproduction, or transcript of an original) not the verb sense. As in when I take a CD and rip it to MP3 I get "lossy copies" of the songs on that CD.
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FMW made a correct statement while your statement is incorrect because it does not recognize that copying and decoding are two different things.

I was not disagreeing with his statement, I was disagreeing with his understanding/interpretation of what he said. I never said making a file copy of an MP3 degrades quality.

I have changed "copy" to "encoding" in my post to clarify.

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Old 12-19-2013, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

There is no way to decompress an MP3. The data that was lost in compression doesn't exist any longer. You can compress it further but there is no going back.

You can decompress an mp3 file, that's how you get playable PCM data. MP3 data cannot be sent through a DAC to produce sound (at least not sound resembling the orignal source). But you are correct you can never recover the information that was discarded by the MP3 encoder.

The point is each time you run a music file through a lossy encoder (MP3 encoder) the quality degrades. Even if you (for example) use LAME and have it set to 320kbps, if you run that same file though enough times the quality loss will become audible. So if your original rip is MP3, but later you decide you need an AAC, if you run that MP3 file through an AAC encoder the quality will necessarily be worse than the MP3 was, and will now be two generations worse than the original source.

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Old 12-19-2013, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

I realize there is an audiophile fear of compression and people go to great lengths to avoid compression but most of that fear is based on misinformation just like yours is.

To be clear, I don't fear compression, I use MP3s in my car, mainly for compatibility. But at home the space savings going with lossy compression over lossless compression is utterly inconsequential. When storage is $0.04/gb the savings of MP3 over FLAC for a CD amounts to about $0.01. I'd much rather spend that extra cent and know I don't have to spend hours/days of my precious time reripping my CD collection in the event that I need a "reproduction" of that music in a different codec for a different device/purpose.

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Old 12-19-2013, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post

You can decompress an mp3 file, that's how you get playable PCM data. MP3 data cannot be sent through a DAC to produce sound (at least not sound resembling the orignal source). But you are correct you can never recover the information that was discarded by the MP3 encoder.

The point is each time you run a music file through a lossy encoder (MP3 encoder) the quality degrades. Even if you (for example) use LAME and have it set to 320kbps, if you run that same file though enough times the quality loss will become audible. So if your original rip is MP3, but later you decide you need an AAC, if you run that MP3 file through an AAC encoder the quality will necessarily be worse than the MP3 was, and will now be two generations worse than the original source.

I understand. I wasn't considering changing the compression codec. It wouldn't occur to me to do that.
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post

To be clear, I don't fear compression, I use MP3s in my car, mainly for compatibility. But at home the space savings going with lossy compression over lossless compression is utterly inconsequential. When storage is $0.04/gb the savings of MP3 over FLAC for a CD amounts to about $0.01. I'd much rather spend that extra cent and know I don't have to spend hours/days of my precious time reripping my CD collection in the event that I need a "reproduction" of that music in a different codec for a different device/purpose.

I said audiophiles fear compression. I meant it as a generic statement, not something aimed at you. I understand that hard drives are cheap. But each one is limited in size. My MP3 collection won't fit on a 1TB drive and I'm not willing to trust larger drives yet in terms of long term reliability. Dealing with a music collection spread over different drives is fussy. It would take 10 1tb drives to fit my music as uncompressed files and then they also have to be backed up. Since my compressed files are indistinguishable from CD's there is no point in adding to the fuss. Finally, my Squeezeboxes were manufactured before FLAC was invented. There are no truly suitable replacements for the Squeezebox so I'll use them until they die. In other words, the cost of hard drives is not necessarily the only reason to avoid lossy files.
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Old 12-19-2013, 02:47 PM
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Finally, my Squeezeboxes were manufactured before FLAC was invented. There are no truly suitable replacements for the Squeezebox so I'll use them until they die.

On that front, this is rather interesting:
http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?97046-Announce-Squeezelite-a-small-headless-squeezeplay-emulator-for-linux-%28alsa-only%29

I've heard there are a number of devices you an run it on to basically roll your own squeezebox, though I've not had need to dig into that yet.

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Old 12-19-2013, 07:12 PM
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My MP3 collection won't fit on a 1TB drive and I'm not willing to trust larger drives yet in terms of long term reliability.
The industry data doesn't seem to support your assertion of lack of reliability.
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Dealing with a music collection spread over different drives is fussy. It would take 10 1tb drives to fit my music as uncompressed files and then they also have to be backed up.
Build a server and add some RAID, 5 or 6, software or hardware. Not all that expensive or difficult, and you'll be able to serve up to multiple devices simultaneously if required.
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Old 12-20-2013, 04:34 AM
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The industry data doesn't seem to support your assertion of lack of reliability.

I don't doubt that. I'm probably too overly paranoid about protecting data. Hard drives do get better every year.
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Build a server and add some RAID, 5 or 6, software or hardware. Not all that expensive or difficult, and you'll be able to serve up to multiple devices simultaneously if required.

I have two NAS units. They hold all of my music in high bit MP3 without a problem. Backups are located on various hard drives around the network. I'm content with high bit rate MP3. I have no motivation at all to do anything different.
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Old 12-20-2013, 05:31 AM
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The industry data doesn't seem to support your assertion of lack of reliability.

I don't doubt that. I'm probably too overly paranoid about protecting data. Hard drives do get better every year.

I've been almost exclusively been building desktops with RAID arrays as their only storage for about 5 years and this is the way to go. The drives still fail, but its a soft failure, the machine keeps booting and the data is OK. Mirroring is a bit egregious in terms of poor space efficiency, but hard drives are now far larger than most users need by a factor or 3 or 8. The drives themselves are cheap enough that adding one more drive does not break the bank. Setup time is the biggest cost but that's my labor for which I bill.
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Build a server and add some RAID, 5 or 6, software or hardware. Not all that expensive or difficult, and you'll be able to serve up to multiple devices simultaneously if required.

+1
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