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  1. #11
    Robin Bowes
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    FLAC vs. VBR MP3: should I hear adifference?

    Fifer wrote:
    > I very quickly noticed that the life and sound-stage had been sucked
    > from my music.


    That describes the problem perfectly. When you lose detail (which is
    what happens in mp3 encoding) it isn't always immediately obvious,
    especially on lower grade equipment but you often get a sense of the
    music being "tiring" to listen to without being able to put a finger on it.

    This also applies to the differences between DACs and, to some extent,
    differences between cables - even digital interconnects. In the digital
    domain, it is jitter that causes most of the problems by messing up the
    high-frequency content and losing coherence.

    All of the psycho-acoustic cues for "life" and "soundstage" are in the
    high-frequency content and if that gets messed with you end up with
    "lifeless", "narrow" sound.

    R.
    --
    http://robinbowes.com

    If a man speaks in a forest,
    and his wife's not there,
    is he still wrong?


  2. #12
    Senior Member
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    Thank you all for the replies while I was sleeping Couple of comments:

    Quote Originally Posted by Pat
    I've seen several credible reports that iPods and the like combined with high efficiency headphones is causing (enabling?) folks to seriously damage their hearing. And it is usually permanent. Take care of your hearing. Turn it down. It is interesting that most (or at least a huge number of) audiophiles
    are middle aged men, most of whom have listened to too much loud
    rock and have hurt their hearing.
    I have not used headphones much in the past; only recently with the SB2. The sheer convenience of the SB2 has really opened up the music world for me. But now I probably have been listening a bit too loud.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pat
    Large Advents have a serious problem with linearity. They sound great when played fairly loud with an amplifier that delivers a lot of watts. But they do not sound good at low levels. You need to crank them up to near live sound levels.
    Funny you mention this. They are not large Advents (Prodigy Towers), but I recently re-foamed them and they sound bad now, compared to what I remember before the buzzing(!) There is a whole midrange missing--I can tell this without comparing to anything, so it must be bad. I've been wondering if the foam needs to break in, but I've run them many hours while out of the house and don't notice any difference. And I have also thought that the sound is not nearly as good at low levels, which is where I listen most of the time when not using headphones.

    I'm waiting for av123 to offer their new XLS speakers. Then I'll retire these Advents. I was very surprised at the Labtecs. About 8-10 years ago, my brother visited and brought with him several sets. He said they sounded so good that when they went on sale, he couldn't resist picking up more to give away.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pat
    Try this, re-encode them at something far lower fidelity, like 120 CBR. See if you can tell then. Or even worse. For a lot of music, moderate VBR can sound pretty decent. What you need to listen to are subtle things like the sense of acoustic space, the way that the piano sounds decay slowly, or the snap and sizzle of hit hats. Or brushes on a snare in a jazz trio.
    You and Sean mentioned something similar. I will try this experiment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean
    However when you add background noise, audience noise, disortion from tubes and guitar amps etc you get an extremely complex signal. Also drums and cymbals especially can have a wide freuency content and fast transitions which mp3 has trouble with. You generally won't hear the most artifacts in the main, loudest element of the program, because that's where mp3's psychoacoustic model can get the most perceived quality per bit. The best example I can think of is on one of the DMB live albums (sorry forget which one) during the into to "two step". They're getting into the intro and the audience is clapping in unison. On each clap, with mp3 the clapping sounds like an "envelope" of noise but on the CD it actually sounds like lots of hands coming together. The thing is you'd have to really be familiar with the CD in order to know that you're missing something. But this one example where I can repeatably tell the difference blind (at 160K anyway).
    Ok, I understand. This is an excellent example because it describes the aspects of the MP3 artifacts, and they certainly are things I should be able to hear. Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Robin
    Also, your main system - Advent speakers and Onkyo TX-860. Again, I have no direct experience of those components, but you say yourself that you believe the Labtech headphones to be better.
    As I mentioned above, I think the Advents are kaputt. The _specs_ on the TX-860 are better than any low-midrange home theater receivers I've been considering recently from Denon and HK. Have not looked at 2-channel amps. I really have a hard time justifying spending money on separate components (2-channel vs. HT), and I'd like to add HT sometime in the next year or two. I'm going to start with new speakers, since that I _can_ justify.

    Thank you again for all your thoughtful replies. - Dave

  3. #13
    Robin Bowes
    Guest

    FLAC vs. VBR MP3: should I hear adifference?

    Dave D wrote:
    > As I mentioned above, I think the Advents are kaputt. The _specs_ on
    > the TX-860 are better than any low-midrange home theater receivers I've
    > been considering recently from Denon and HK. Have not looked at
    > 2-channel amps. I really have a hard time justifying spending money on
    > separate components (2-channel vs. HT), and I'd like to add HT sometime
    > in the next year or two.


    One possible alternative is to look at HT decoders, i.e. boxes that do
    all the processing but have no amplifier built in. Then you can use good
    quality 2-channel amps, or at least use one good quality 2-channel setup
    for the main L+R speakers and make do with something cheaper for the
    rear and centre speakers.

    R.
    --
    http://robinbowes.com

    If a man speaks in a forest,
    and his wife's not there,
    is he still wrong?


  4. #14
    Senior Member
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    I would argue that the biggest benefit of FLAC is not that it sounds better than mp3. In fact for most people with most equipment in most environments flac will not sound better than decently encoded mp3s.

    However I rip ALL my music to FLAC. Because I do not want to EVER rip my music twice. You will not suffer generation loss transcoding FLAC to the codec du jour, however with mp3 and other lossy formats you suffer generation loss when transcoding.

    Also FLAC is a backup for my CDs, I actually have my CDs packed neatly in a box that I have not opened in years. I once had over 200 CDs stolen (before I ripped them) and I lost alot of great music, some of which not replaceable (small local bands). That will not happen again.

  5. #15
    Senior Member pfarrell's Avatar
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    Re: FLAC vs. VBR MP3: should I heara difference?

    On Tue, 2005-09-20 at 03:20 -0700, Fifer wrote:
    > > Be warned, headphones have all sorts of non-linearities.
    > >

    > I'd argue that in general, pound for pound, decent headphones will
    > provide more linearity and fidelity than speakers. (Obviously I mean
    > pound sterling, although the same might be true for pound weight if
    > your neck muscles are strong enough ... )


    You bet. once you get into a couple hundred dollars for headphones,
    which is still over a hundred pounds sterling, you can get
    pretty good sound. Headphones under $20 are not going to deliver any
    fidelity.

    But one of the first rules for people with home studios is
    to not try to do critical mixing and mastering on headphones,
    no matter how high quality. My mixing monitors are Mackie 824s,
    which cost a bit over a grand, they were the cheapest ones
    I could really hear critical differences on.


    --
    Pat Farrell PRC recording studio
    http://www.pfarrell.com/PRC



  6. #16
    Junior Member
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    mp3 vs. flac: there's also the "gapless" playback issue

    Most players don't give you "gapless" playback from mp3 -- at least they didn't six months ago, when I was deciding which way to go.

    This is a big problem for those many classical albums where one track is supposed to move into the next without any audible pause or "gap." (See, for example, http://www.pretentiousname.com/mp3players/ and http://forums.slimdevices.com/showth...hlight=gapless.)

    It's irrelevant for most rock albums, which have the standard 2-second gap between tracks.

    Dave2

  7. #17
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave2
    Most players don't give you "gapless" playback from mp3 -- at least they didn't six months ago, when I was deciding which way to go.
    Just to make this perfectly clear, the SB2 does not play MP3 gapless (unless a firmware update has changed things since I tested it).

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave2
    This is a big problem for those many classical albums where one track is supposed to move into the next without any audible pause or "gap."

    It's irrelevant for most rock albums, which have the standard 2-second gap between tracks.
    Ahem. There are literally thousands of rock albums where tracks segue; some very famous ones being: Dark Side of the Moon, Abbey Road, Hounds of Love, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway ... the list goes on and on.

  8. #18
    Senior Member
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    It's irrelevant for most rock albums, which have the standard 2-second gap between tracks.
    Rock, jazz, spoken word, live albums of any genre, electronica and many other types of recording require gapless playback to be heard as the artist intended. It certainly isn't just limited to classical. That's why I use FLAC, OGG Vorbis and a Rio Karma as my portable player. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that the Karma firmware does do gapless MP3, although I don't use it.

  9. #19
    Senior Member radish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fifer
    Rock, jazz, spoken word, live albums of any genre, electronica and many other types of recording require gapless playback to be heard as the artist intended. It certainly isn't just limited to classical. That's why I use FLAC, OGG Vorbis and a Rio Karma as my portable player. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that the Karma firmware does do gapless MP3, although I don't use it.
    Off topic alert:

    The Karma firmware is touted as playing mp3 gapless via either LAME tags if present, or silence detection otherwise. However, I've never been able to make it work properly, and others have reported similar problems. It's gapless for sure, but just like the SB2's FLAC playback, a chunk is sometimes skipped at the transition. Vorbis, on the other hand, is great.

  10. #20
    Senior Member pfarrell's Avatar
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    Re: FLAC vs. VBR MP3: should I heara difference?

    On Tue, 2005-09-20 at 10:51 -0700, cliveb wrote:
    > > It's irrelevant for most rock albums, which have the standard 2-second
    > > gap between tracks.

    > Ahem. There are literally thousands of rock albums where tracks segue;
    > some very famous ones being: Dark Side of the Moon, Abbey Road, Hounds
    > of Love, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway ... the list goes on and on.


    Huge numbers of my favorite rock albums seque.
    Probably the best one is Jackson Browne's The Load-Out sequeing
    into Stay, but The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's seque from Uncle
    Charlie and His Dog Teddy into Mr Bogangles is also classic

    Nearly all of the "art rock" of the early 70s was based
    on "concept albums" that sequed like crazy.

    Now, since I'm old, most of my favorite rock is what younger folks
    probably scoff at.

    --
    Pat
    http://www.pfarrell.com/music/slimse...msoftware.html



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