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aaronk
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Posted: 09 January 2012 at 4:20pm | IP Logged Quote aaronk

I agree, Ron. You shouldn't be able to tell the difference between a
320 mp3 and a wav file when listening on FM. If you look up the tech
specs on FM signals, I don't think there are any frequencies over like
15khz that get broadcast. All of the really high frequencies are tossed
out.

I'm even converting from wav to 320 (LAME) for my DJ system for two
reasons: the ability to tag better and to save space.

As a side note, I recently exchanged emails with mainrhythm about
mp3 compression, and my conclusion is that LAME mp3 sounds better
than Fraunhofer.

Also, I've been extremely impressed with the newer encoding on
Apple's iTunes store files. There are some that I cannot distinguish
between a wav file. Does anyone know what encoding is being used
for those?

Edited by aaronk on 09 January 2012 at 4:26pm


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Brian W.
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Posted: 09 January 2012 at 5:08pm | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

aaronk wrote:

As a side note, I recently exchanged emails with mainrhythm about
mp3 compression, and my conclusion is that LAME mp3 sounds better
than Fraunhofer.

They do, I was susprised to find out. I thought a 320 mp3 is a 320 mp3 is a 320 mp3. Not so. I recently encoded the well-known "killer sample" of the song "Show Me Your Spine," and while I was able to differentiate between the .wav file and the MP3 100% of the time with Foobar's ABX fetaure on all the files, there were FAR fewer artifacts with LAME at 320 than there were with iTunes's MP3 encoer or the Fraunhofer MP3 encoder.

In fact, I would say the LAME MP3 was close to transparent, although once I idenitfied WHERE the artifact was, I could ID it every time.

One tip I found: if you're encoding at a flat bitrate rather than with LAME's variable bitrate encoder, do NOT use a quality setting in your command line (i.e., q7, q3, q0, etc.) It seems that these quality settings are ONLY designed to work with the variable bitrate feature and will actually make a straight-bitrate MP3 sound WORSE.

Apparently this is a bug that has been known about for some time, but I experienced it firsthand while experimenting with the "Show Me Your Spine" sample.

Another tip: If you want, you can set a minimum bitrate with LAME on the variable bitrate files. I use LAME V0, the highest VBR (variable bitrate) setting, but I want my mono files to be a flat 256kb so they will match any I bought online, such as some mono Digital 45s that have never been made available in lossless. (If you just use V0, mono files will be around 170kb.) Just enter BOTH settings in the commandline and it will give you V0 with the minimum bitrate specified. For example, my LAME commandline in Foobar is simply: -b256 -V 0 - %d

Edited by Brian W. on 09 January 2012 at 5:09pm
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Posted: 09 January 2012 at 9:47pm | IP Logged Quote prisdeej

aaronk wrote:
As a side note, I recently exchanged emails with mainrhythm
about mp3 compression, and my conclusion is that LAME mp3 sounds better than
Fraunhofer.


It depends on the Fraunhofer codec you're using. I use the Radium
Fraunhofer 320k since the beginning of time. [It doesn't function past
Windows XP, however] I've made some comparison to LAME. I've always
preferred it over LAME. The Fraunhofer version Itunes uses is inferior,
however.

Since we're on the topic, one difference I can not hear is Stereo VS Joint
Stereo. I've always selected stereo assuming it's the purest.



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Hykker
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Posted: 10 January 2012 at 9:17am | IP Logged Quote Hykker



aaronk wrote:
Sadly, though, most programmers and music directors can't hear the
different between wav and mp3 (people on this board excluded), so even if
they load the songs in as wav files, that doesn't mean the files they use are
all lossless to begin with.



Don't even get me going! I had a PD once who pretty much built his on-air library from stuff he'd downloaded from the old Napster...lots of badly encoded 128K (or worse) mp3's. Ugh! In most cases he couldn't hear the difference, and on those he could his attitude was "it's better than not having the song". Sigh. He's out of the biz now.



crapfromthepast wrote:
I'm usually a stickler for sound quality, but I think 320
kbps mp3s may work OK for radio. We have a 256 kbps live
stream, so there won't be much of a difference between
flac and 320 kbps for the stream listeners. And no one
will notice over our FM signal.


Most of the stuff that's serviced to radio via download is 320k mp3 anyway, and you really can't tell the difference on an FM. Just beware of cascading codecs though as far as streams go...especially if there are digital processing devices in the airchain. Every time the audio goes thru a D-A (or A-D) conversion more crud creeps in.

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aaronk
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Posted: 10 January 2012 at 6:10pm | IP Logged Quote aaronk

prisdeej wrote:
It depends on the Fraunhofer codec you're using. I use
the Radium
Fraunhofer 320k since the beginning of time. [It doesn't function past
Windows XP, however] I've made some comparison to LAME. I've always
preferred it over LAME. The Fraunhofer version Itunes uses is inferior,
however.

Interesting. I'm sure the Fraunhofer encoder in Cool Edit Pro is ancient and
far inferior to LAME. That's the only one I've really used regularly and the
one I used for a comparison test. I'm glad to know that they continue to
make improvements to the codecs.

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Posted: 10 January 2012 at 6:16pm | IP Logged Quote aaronk

Hykker wrote:
Most of the stuff that's serviced to radio via download
is 320k mp3 anyway, and you really can't tell the difference on an FM.
Just beware of cascading codecs though as far as streams go...especially if
there are digital processing devices in the airchain. Every time the audio
goes thru a D-A (or A-D) conversion more crud creeps in.


I'm glad to see that many tracks are being serviced as wav files now, too.
TM Studios even requires the label to provide a wav file before they will
service it on their discs. The problem, though, is that they don't really
check to see if the wav file may have started as an mp3. After all, they
service hundreds of tracks each month, so it would be impossible to put
that kind of quality control in place. There are many songs on their discs,
as I've mentioned in other posts, that started out as lossy files.

As far as the mp3s go, they are probably also using the iTunes codec or
some other inferior codec. I've analyzed them with both my ears and the
spectral analysis on Cool Edit Pro, and they don't sound or look as good
as what I can create with the LAME codec.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 2:57am | IP Logged Quote NightAire

iTunes isn't using mp3 at all; they're using some version of AAC or AAC+.

BTW, the advantage of joint stereo is that anything that is in both channels is only encoded once instead of twice, one for each channel.

The reason THAT is an advantage is that it leaves more of the bits (320kbps, or 256kbps, or whatever) to encode the rest of the audio.

In effect, you're giving the encoder more "breathing room" to encode the harder stuff.

There is NO loss to the stereo image, only improvement to the fidelity. The only time you'd want to encode raw stereo is (MAYBE) if you had two completely independent channels of audio left and right... even then, I don't think it would hurt, there just wouldn't be any advantage.

Unless somebody can come up with a valid reason otherwise, always, always, ALWAYS use joint stereo when you have the option! Especially at lower bitrates, your ears will thank you. :)

(Seems I've heard some encoders won't even do joint stereo at higher bitrates; that might be why you hear no difference.)

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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 7:13am | IP Logged Quote EdisonLite

NightAire wrote:
iTunes isn't using mp3 at all; they're using some version of AAC or AAC+.


Which has better quality for digital downloads - iTunes or Amazon? (I think Amazon digital is sometimes referred to as Amazon-mp3? Is it really mp3 still or is it also this "AAC" thing?)

Edited by EdisonLite on 12 January 2012 at 7:14am
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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 8:15am | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

aaronk wrote:

Also, I've been extremely impressed with the newer encoding on
Apple's iTunes store files. There are some that I cannot distinguish
between a wav file. Does anyone know what encoding is being used
for those?

The files iTunes sells are Quicktime AAC encoded at 256kb Constrained Variable Bitrate. (Which they call iTunes Plus.)

Edited by Brian W. on 12 January 2012 at 8:15am
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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 8:19am | IP Logged Quote Brian W.

NightAire wrote:
iTunes isn't using mp3 at all; they're using some version of AAC or AAC+.

I think Aaron was referring to files that he encodes with iTunes MP3 encoder himself, which I've read is their custom version of the old Xing MP3 encoder. Whatever it is, it's shite compared to LAME. Didn't believe that until I compared them myself. But none of them are as good as AAC, which is the only compressed format I tried (MP3, AAC, and WMA) that could handle the above-mentioned "Show Me Your Spine" killer sample with no artifacts at all.

Edited by Brian W. on 12 January 2012 at 8:19am
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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 9:36am | IP Logged Quote KentT

You can tell the difference on even AM. MP3 does not do
multi-generation hops through a digital air chain without
sounding bad. .bwf format best for on air. This is coming
from a broadcast engineer.

Edited by KentT on 12 January 2012 at 9:41am


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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 5:35pm | IP Logged Quote NightAire

Amazon is doing 320 kbps mp3 (for the most part).

Which is better? Are apple trees or pear trees better? :-)

AAC is VERY good; it is an extremely efficient codec, and a worthy successor to mp3.

If you put a 256 kbps AAC file up against a 320 kbps mp3, it would be extremely close (and difficult if not impossible to tell from the source)... but I think if there WAS an audible difference, the winner would be AAC.

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aaronk
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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 6:25pm | IP Logged Quote aaronk

I agree. I've listened to some AAC files (iTunes purchases) where I cannot
detect any artifacts at all. Although it's really difficult to tell with 320, I can
usually detect some artifacts with all bitrates of mp3s.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 9:52pm | IP Logged Quote EdisonLite

Aaron & Gene (and anyone else who might know) - I thought with iTunes we download m4a files. Have they changed it to these AAC files now, or are they one and the same?
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Posted: 12 January 2012 at 10:42pm | IP Logged Quote aaronk

The "m4a" is merely the file extension and "container," but the audio within is encoded in AAC.

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Posted: 31 July 2022 at 4:22pm | IP Logged Quote PopArchivist

aaronk wrote:
I'm even converting from wav to 320 (LAME) for my DJ system for two
reasons: the ability to tag better and to save space. Also, I've been extremely impressed with the newer encoding on
Apple's iTunes store files. There are some that I cannot distinguish
between a wav file. Does anyone know what encoding is being used
for those?


A little late to comment but I agree on the whole 320 LAME mp3 conversions. I find LAME to offer the best reduction without sacrificing much. For my Iphone I used 320 LAME rather then take up the space of lossless.

As far as Itunes, the quality in 2022 for a lossy file is so superior with mastering if no lossless is available it is far superior in mastering. Even some older tracks have been mastered better. There was a time when Itunes mastering left a lot to be desired but now whatever software they use makes some of the older songs sound better.

The fact is that CD is going the way of the dinosaur. All the huge selling artists don't offer their albums on CD anymore. Entire albums go digital and are downloaded.

An example of an all digital collection is Stevie Wonder who offered a 48 Disc Complete set digitally with extras. While CD's are desirable for some between streaming (Spotify, Qobuz) and downloading (Itunes, 7digital, Qobuz) people find coasters not to their liking.

The times they are a changin'.

Edited by PopArchivist on 31 July 2022 at 4:29pm


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Posted: 31 July 2022 at 7:21pm | IP Logged Quote AutumnAarilyn

Cd had a bump in year over year sales in 2021 which is
the first that has happened in over 20 years.

Vinyl has also had increases which has always been a head
scratcher. Mega collectors and today's vinyl connoisseur
do not place many spins on each album so the wear isn't
really as much an issue. It's recently been revealed that
MOFI and others use digital sources for vinyl which sort
of isn't the purpose.

It will be interesting to see how sales do the rest of
the year. I believe cd is making a huge comeback. The
major artists of interest are all going to get a bump in
used sales as are imports and Rhino collections.

Labels did themselves in when they offered cd-r's as cds.
Concord really butchered the Fantasy catalog after
purchase but in fairness they couldn't really turn a
profit. Downloads have also declined but labels are
getting smart upon their insistence of streaming.
Streaming is tough for me to navigate but it's one
comment or unsigned contract away from getting pulled.

It's sad but life was better in 1988!

Edited by AutumnAarilyn on 31 July 2022 at 7:22pm
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Posted: 01 August 2022 at 5:17am | IP Logged Quote Hykker

aaronk wrote:
I'm sure the Fraunhofer encoder in Cool Edit Pro is ancient and
far inferior to LAME. That's the only one I've really used regularly and the
one I used for a comparison test. I'm glad to know that they continue to
make improvements to the codecs.


Curiously, is there a plug-in for Adobe Audition for the LAME codec?
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Posted: 01 August 2022 at 3:47pm | IP Logged Quote Jody Thornton

AutumnAarilyn wrote:
Vinyl has also had increases which has always been a head scratcher. Mega collectors and today's vinyl connoisseur do not place many spins on each album so the wear isn't really as much an issue. It's recently been revealed that MOFI and others use digital sources for vinyl which sort of isn't the purpose.



Well in actuality, a few things to point out about vinyl playback. First in the 70s and 80s, many of us who were used to decent maintained Technics or the many CEC rebranded turntables weren't really complaining about record wear. Sure there were pops and clicks, but most of my LPs and singles sounded "practically" as good as a CD. So when I first heard the now late Vangelis on a CD for the first time in 1983, it sounded kind of "meh" to me. It just sounded like an average run of the mill, plain LP. Sure it sounded like brand new after twenty plays, but I was expecting more from digital. I already had great sound from a decent turntable.

CDs were only great at first glance if you graduating from a BSR changer, or if you didn't really take great care of your stylus and records. I know there are contradictory opinions to this, but that was my observation. That's why even to this day, I stuck with vinyl, even during the "extinction" years between 1991 and 2006. I do realize that as a format the CD player is a superior format to the table, but I've had a good run with my LP and singles collections.

As for analog discs being cut from digital recordings and masters, I don't see that as missing the point, or objectionable in any way. "Gaucho" by Steeley Dan is a digital recording and sounds best on various LP releases and seems comparatively bland to many across CD releases. I'm sure that's mostly down to mastering conditions, but I have many terrific LP pressings made from digital recordings.


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Posted: 14 November 2022 at 1:58am | IP Logged Quote EdisonLite

PopArchivist wrote:


As far as Itunes, the quality in 2022 for a lossy file is so superior with
mastering if no lossless is available it is far superior in mastering.


I agree. There are times when I can only find new songs available on iTunes (it
even happened today) and not on Qobuz, 7D, etc. And it really sounds great.

Richie, I assume you still buy lossless when available. Right? I do, too -
although I sometimes question that decision when iTunes vs. qobuz is, say,
$0.99 vs. $1.79 per song, but the audiophile in me can't help myself. (My ears
probably wouldn't hear the difference if I always just bought iTunes files.)
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