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Lossy vs lossless compression
Lossy vs lossless compression
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Old 4th June 2008, 12:03 PM   #1
alleycat is offline alleycat  Australia
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Default Lossy vs lossless compression

I know that this has been argued to death all over the net, but I'm still "at a loss" to hear any difference between lossless and MP3 encoded above 192kbps. Just recently I started using iTunes (Windows) to encode AAC at 160 and even 128. Only once did I think there was a tiny difference between AAC 128kbps and Apple Lossless. I thought the AAC file didn't seem to sound quite as "open". When I listened to the tracks again the next day I couldn't tell them apart, so maybe the difference was just psychological.

I'm using an M-Audio Revolution 5.1 soundcard directly feeding a pair of Yuin PK3 earphones, which although not "high end", should be a fairly revealing setup. I always thought I had pretty sensitive hearing. Tracks used for testing included John Tavener's "Song for Athene" and Enya's "Shepherd Moons".

I know that there has been a lot of blind testing done on this, and I have seen some of the results. It seems that I am obviously missing something. Therefore can anyone suggest a short passage of music which will highlight the differences between lossy and lossless compression? What should I listen for? Any other ideas?
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Old 4th June 2008, 12:21 PM   #2
SaSi is offline SaSi  Greece
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This has really been discussed to death and many people argue that can hear great differences even at 320kbps and uncompressed.

The basic problem with MPEG audio encoding is some loss of dynamic range and some disappearance of high frequency harmonics, among other less important things.

In general, don't try to listen to differences with rock or heavy metal music. Or symphonic orchestra music for the same reasons.

I have found that solo violin is the easiest instrument to identify a bad encoding. I have also been annoyed by bad encoding of solo piano as well.

For solo violin, an excellent (and enjoyable if you fancy violin) album is the one with the Paganinni 24 caprizios.

One other piece I've had trouble reproducing properly on several stereo systems is the Decca DVD Audio version of the 1812 ouverture by Tschaikofski. Especially the (real) cannon bursts seem to throw subwoofers and mp3 encoders over the edge.

Another really important tool to identify the differences is a pair of really good headphones. I am using a pair of Sennheiser HD650 which I find to be much clearer than the older HD420 I was using before. Much less distortion (the specs claim <0.05%) and a huge dynamic range allow them to reproduce the original music without introducing their own distortions.
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Old 4th June 2008, 03:40 PM   #3
jcx is offline jcx  United States
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perhaps you can find many "claims" but serious developers of today's better codecs don't find "many people" that can tell the difference at 320Kb in properly conducted bilnd testing

best references/forums for codecs are at Hydrogenaudio


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Old 5th June 2008, 12:04 AM   #4
sq225917 is offline sq225917  United Kingdom
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Send a message via MSN to sq225917 Lossy vs lossless compression
serious developers of todays codecs don't listen to classical music on 20k worth of hifi though and they certainly don't test it there.

Any company who gives a rats *** about quality provides lossless encoding and everyone owes it to themself to try all encoders and bit rates to find what works for them; rather than listenign to those who dismiss the preference and learned expereince of others just because they might have cloth ears or a penchant for 'dance' music.
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Old 7th June 2008, 06:56 AM   #5
alleycat is offline alleycat  Australia
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Thanks for the replies. I will look for loss of dynamic range and listen to more violin and piano. So far I have been listening mainly to live vocal recordings for comparison, believing that they should expose any problems, but I'm only guessing here. Also, it appears to me that AAC is far superior to MP3. Distortion and loss of detail are pretty obvious in many MP3 encodings.
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