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Poll; Is there an audible difference between Apple music downloads and CD?

Poll Results: Is there an audible difference between itunes and cd?

 
  • 57% (12)
    Huge difference
  • 19% (4)
    There's a difference but it's not noticeable
  • 9% (2)
    No difference
  • 14% (3)
    What's itunes!?
21 Total Votes  
post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
This is a Poll I figured I would start about Apple's mastered for itunes program and if there is an audible difference between it and CD.

Guys (and girls) when you voice your opinion please use the current bit rate of 256 kbps, I don't care if has been mastered for itunes or not.

The main purpose here is to find out if the itunes version sounds better/worse than the cd. If the itunes version just sounds different please factor that in when you vote. If you have never bought or heard anything off of itunes vote "What's itunes" or don't vote.

Please tell us the album you used to compare and tell us what was most noticeable.
Edited by kbeam418 - 10/9/13 at 10:17pm
post #2 of 19
Also, be sure to tell us:

1. Whether you compared them blind.

2. How you level-matched the outputs, and to what degree of tolerance.

3. Whether you achieved a statistically significant proportion of correct identifications.

Thank you.
post #3 of 19
"Raising Sand"-- Allison Krauss. & Robert Plant-- Grammy wining album of
The year 2009.

I downloaded from iTunes and felt there was some 'fuzziness' and distortion
Of lower bass notes. Not being happy, I purchased the CD, and it sounded noticeably
Better to me.

BUT....at the time of the download iTunes was at 128kbps... I believe that they
Are now 256kbps. Not sure if I could hear a difference now.

Listening done on my computer on a pair of Mackie powered speakers.

Sorry Mcnarus, I am unable to meet your testing criteria. wink.gif

I have not downloaded any music from iTunes since.
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by grasshoppers View Post

"Raising Sand"-- Allison Krauss. & Robert Plant-- Grammy wining album of
The year 2009.

I downloaded from iTunes and felt there was some 'fuzziness' and distortion
Of lower bass notes. Not being happy, I purchased the CD, and it sounded noticeably
Better to me.

BUT....at the time of the download iTunes was at 128kbps... I believe that they
Are now 256kbps. Not sure if I could hear a difference now.

Listening done on my computer on a pair of Mackie powered speakers.

Sorry Mcnarus, I am unable to meet your testing criteria. wink.gif

I have not downloaded any music from iTunes since.

They are currently 256 kbps and have mastering software available to engineers to make the process smooth.

As far as testing is considered I'm not too considered about that... Although if you are able to do please do.
post #5 of 19
The OP specifically referenced titles that are Mastered for iTunes. That is different than standard offerings.

I have no opinion on whether or not it makes a difference, but just thought I would point out that the OP is not asking about iTunes in general but titles that are part of the MFiT program.

http://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by BGLeduc View Post

The OP specifically referenced titles that are Mastered for iTunes. That is different than standard offerings.

I have no opinion on whether or not it makes a difference, but just thought I would point out that the OP is not asking about iTunes in general but titles that are part of the MFiT program.

http://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/

Yeah, you are correct, not a big iTunes fan (obviously) don't
Really care what "software" they are using to "master" the music
With.

If you feel it is appropriate I will delete my post sir.
post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Also, be sure to tell us:

1. Whether you compared them blind.

2. How you level-matched the outputs, and to what degree of tolerance.

3. Whether you achieved a statistically significant proportion of correct identifications.

Thank you.

There's another BIG flaw here;

How can you make a comparison between an "Apple Mastered For Itunes" download, versus a CD, unless if you've ensured that the same master is used in both versions.

Two different masters are going to sound different than the other. This is even if they're on the exact same format. I'd be willing to bet that they'd sound different even with all of the criteria listed above.
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by grasshoppers View Post

Yeah, you are correct, not a big iTunes fan (obviously) don't
Really care what "software" they are using to "master" the music
With.

If you feel it is appropriate I will delete my post sir.

You don't have to delete your comment.
post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bo130 View Post

There's another BIG flaw here;

How can you make a comparison between an "Apple Mastered For Itunes" download, versus a CD, unless if you've ensured that the same master is used in both versions.

Two different masters are going to sound different than the other. This is even if they're on the exact same format. I'd be willing to bet that they'd sound different even with all of the criteria listed above.

Quite right.

Right now, at Steve Hoffman Forums, there is a huge discussion about the Led Zep MFiT releases. For those that don't frequent SHF, these guys compare masterings to the gnat's ass level, frequently with wave form analysis, dynamic range measurements, etc. Sometimes, as crazy as it may sound, they even LISTEN to the music. :-)

The thinking is that the Zep transfers are actually new masters from what may be superior source tapes, and many members prefer them to the previously preferred masterings (typically early CD's that were mastered by Barry Diament).

Anyway, your point is 100% spot on. To know if MFiT made a difference, the source tapes would have to be identical.
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bo130 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Also, be sure to tell us:

1. Whether you compared them blind.

2. How you level-matched the outputs, and to what degree of tolerance.

3. Whether you achieved a statistically significant proportion of correct identifications.

Thank you.

There's another BIG flaw here;

How can you make a comparison between an "Apple Mastered For Itunes" download, versus a CD, unless if you've ensured that the same master is used in both versions.

Two different masters are going to sound different than the other. This is even if they're on the exact same format. I'd be willing to bet that they'd sound different even with all of the criteria listed above.

All of the above issues are flaws or not flaws, depending on how you compare and what conclusions you wish to support or deny.

The OP for this string of posts appears to be http://www.avsforum.com/t/1494210/poll-is-there-an-audible-difference-between-apple-music-downloads-and-cd#post_23820126 by "grasshoppers".

Things are confusing because he raised multiple issues, several of which could easily be audible.

For example, finding an audible difference between a 128 kb download and a 256 kb download is not much of a surprise if the files are MP3s. If they are AAC, then an audible difference is a little more of a surprise, but probably still not much of a surprise. Its well known that 128 kb MP3s often have audible artifacts that are both audible and unpleasant.

If two music files are mastered differently, then again finding an audible difference is not much of a surprise. In fact not hearing an audible difference would be a surprise since the purpose of remastering is to produce an audible difference and the methodology and tools used to remaster files are designed to sound different.

If files are different in terms of both bitrate (when one of the bitrates is low and the other is high like it is here) and mastering then everybody who is surprised should find a pointed cap and a corner to sit in! ;-)

Anecdote: I was relaxing at a backwoods campsite last week, listening to MP3s I had casually and hastily downloaded to my Sansa Fuze from a collection that I've had for years, but that has a shall we say varied sourcing. ;-)

I was listening to a series of files from one artist (probably sourced together), and I was generally displeased with the sound quality. I went though a menu and looked at the file formats and bitrates. They were all 112 kb MP3s. I later on listened to another series of files from another artist, and they sounded great. I again clicked though the menus and found that they were 256 kb MP3s. I thought "Figures", and then I thought "When will I get my act together and rip those CDs that I have to high bitrate MP3s or even FLAC files?". I'm not going to make any far reaching conclusions about MP3s from this experience, but neither was I surprised and I think that I knew exactly what to do about the bad sounding files!
post #11 of 19
"Mastered for iTunes" notwithstanding, is the real question whether or not we can hear the difference between 256K AAC and an uncompressed original? If so, and in light of all the valid comments about mastering sources, a better testing baseline would simply be to take a disc off the shelf and convert it to AAC, then compare the ripped file to the original.

I'm in the (very slow) process of re-converting my MP3 library to ALAC, but I'll be the first to admit that the real-world benefits are probably gonna be pretty slight. It's just that now, in the age of cheap storage, it seems "right" to have a lossless library.
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brownstone322 View Post

"Mastered for iTunes" notwithstanding, is the real question whether or not we can hear the difference between 256K AAC and an uncompressed original? If so, and in light of all the valid comments about mastering sources, a better testing baseline would simply be to take a disc off the shelf and convert it to AAC, then compare the ripped file to the original.

Answering this question for yourself is pretty easy. The Foobar2000 music player has an ABX Comparator plug in. Preparing your own test files takes very little time. The ABX listening tests which can be self-administered will be pretty arduous if your standard is comparisons that are positive for audible differences. You will work for what you get but if you try enough different files you will probably at least occasionally obtain positive results.
Edited by arnyk - 10/21/13 at 8:44am
post #13 of 19
With the crappy on board DAC that is present in MAC's, and trough powered speakers, you will hear no difference. Unless one uses an external soundcard that is half-way decent and a good pair of headphones, any test is irrelevant.
post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoNic67 View Post

With the crappy on board DAC that is present in MAC's...

Really?

That seems to fly in the face of these real world experimental results:

http://archimago.blogspot.ca/2013/05/measurements-bit-perfect-audiophile.html



What do you see wrong here?
post #15 of 19
careful arny, you are just going to confuse sonic with facts....sad but true.
post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by 67jason View Post

careful arny, you are just going to confuse sonic with facts....sad but true.

I was actually pretty surprised by the excellent performance of the Mac audio interface. I remember paying about $200 for a stand alone audio interface that performed this well, and it was not that many years ago!

Knowing our correspondent as I do, I expect one of the following responses:

(1) Measurements mean nothing, its how it sounds in sighted evaluations posted by some anonymous poster on the web that matters.

(2) Since it is obviously a Sigma-Delta converter and therefore not the magical R-2R type, it has to sound like crap.

(3) No response at all, because all these fancy charts and graphs are over his head.
post #17 of 19
Downloaded some Beethoven symphonies couple of days ago which had the MFiT label - main reason being that I was hoping to get good quality sound. After some listening via airplay thru a denon 1912 and both headphones (sennheiser hd280 pro) as well as ma silver rx2's I was rather impressed by the dynamic range and overall sound. Don't have the same recording on CD but having a a few different recordings of the same stuff on CD I have to say that I can't hear a significant difference to the cd based stuff I like. This is not scientific of course but good enough for me to choose the MFiT stuff over non-MFiT downloads.
Having said that, I still think CDs are good enough if properly done and don't use any HD audio.
post #18 of 19
First, I think you are asking the wrong question. I made a mistake of voting no difference prior to reading your comments so if you have the ability to delete one vote, please do so for the sake of accuracy. Anyone with decent equipment can hear the difference, and it's huge. However, with aiff from your own recording on iTunes, I can't tell a difference.
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaby View Post

First, I think you are asking the wrong question.

It looks like the title of this thread was changed at some point from "Apple mastered for Itunes" to "...Apple music downloads"

I still think that this doesn't make a valid comparison, because, again, there is the question whether you're comparing the same mastering. And I am willing to bet that in a vast majority of examples, that will not be the case. The rest of the variables are irrelevant, because the mastering will provide a difference unto itself.
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