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After 4 Years, HydrogenAudio Opens New 128kbps Listening Test

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the my-tin-ears-expect-pure-gold dept.

Media 267

kwanbis writes "After more than four years, a new MP3@128kbps listening test is finally open at HydrogenAudio.org! The featured encoders are: LAME 3.97, LAME 3.98.2, iTunes 8.0.1.11, Fraunhofer IIS mp3surround CL v1.5, and Helix v5.1 2005.08.09. The low anchor is l3enc 0.99a. The purpose of this test is to find out which popular MP3 VBR encoder outputs the best quality on bitrates around 128 kbps. All encoders experienced major or minor updates that should improve audio quality or encoding speed, and we have a totally new encoder on board. Note that you do not have to test all samples — it is a great help even if you test one or two. The test is scheduled to end on November 22nd, 2008."

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267 comments

Black cock is BIG dick! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696605)

Black cock

i look forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696683)

To al those people who claim they can tell the difference between 256 and 128 eating their hats.

Re:i look forward (-1, Troll)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696949)

To al those people who claim they can tell the difference between 256 and 128 eating their hats.

Will you be eating a big black cock if they can tell the difference?

Re:i look forward (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697231)

Will you be eating a big black cock if they can tell the difference?

America, however, will soon have a big black cock rammed up it's ass.

Fascism we can be believe in!

Re:i look forward (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697583)

Will you be eating a big black cock if they can tell the difference?

America, however, will soon have a big black cock rammed up it's ass.

Ah, but it's a kinder, gentler cock.

Re:i look forward (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697667)

I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

use the cans, luke (5, Insightful)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696629)

good headphones are a must for such close listening tests. you'll only be able to hear really major differences with most speakers.

Re:use the cans, luke (3, Interesting)

maeka (518272) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696703)

good headphones are a must for such close listening tests. you'll only be able to hear really major differences with most speakers.

Good headphones are nice in so far as they block ambient noise and allow you to hear any artifacts easier, but since MP3 is a perceptual encoder it is actually more likely that artifacts are audible on "defective" hardware.
If a cheap speaker or cheap headphone's frequency response is bad enough to mess with the model's idea of masking, for example, poor quality reproduction can actually make the 'tricks' of MP3 apparent.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696751)

While headphones may give better sound for the money spent isn't expensive speakers better than expensive headphones?

Re:use the cans, luke (2, Interesting)

perlchild (582235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696837)

Depends if you can isolate outside noise as well. If you live like a hermit, certainly(no neighbours making noise while testing, etc...

Good headphones do that for you, and isolate ambient noise better. You can't noise-cancel on speakers either, not practically.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697005)

So all open headphones is shit because they don't isolate ambient noise? ;D

But ok, closed cans is probably better while vaccuming the appartment than speakers :)

Re:use the cans, luke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696925)

I'd be very, very surprised if $200,000 speakers sounded as good as $200 headphones.

Re:use the cans, luke (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696943)

And I'd be even more surprised to see a moron who paid $200,000 for fuckin' speakers to admit otherwise.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696991)

I had the impression headphones was supposed to be better earlier but then I got the impression on head-fi that speakers was considered superior. Atleast afaik, so that's what I wanted to ask to make "sure."

Neither of my speakers or headphones are that exclusive, rather cheap B&W DM603s2s and also not that special Alessandro/Grado MS-1. And I think it's very hard to compare the "feeling" of each medium, sound levels and such makes such a huge impact beyond signature.

Without having listened to them I think I'd bought some of the Beyer-Dynamic DT770/880/990 instead today, but it's to late now =P.. Some other day :)

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697271)

You won't get proper bass response from any headphones, and the reason for this is a) deep bass is picked up not so much by the ears as by other parts of the body, and b) bass demands a lot of air to be shoved around, meaning you need huge drivers. I know I'd prefer listening to $200,000 speakers set up correctly in a well suited listening room to $200 headphones any time.

Re:use the cans, luke (4, Funny)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697403)

Then imagine how good $200,000 headphones would be. They'd include an extra large driver to place on your torso for deep bass.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697461)

Just give me neural driven audio already :D

Re:use the cans, luke (2, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697409)

it really depends on the application. for music, headphones are probably a much better value and give a better listening experience. but if you're building a home theater setup for watching movies, obviously speakers are the way to go. you just can't properly enjoy 5.1 surround sound with stereo headphones. but at the same time, most recording studios probably work with headphones far more than they work with speakers.

and in this day and age you shouldn't have to spend $200 to get a decent pair of headphones. likewise, quality speakers shouldn't cost tens of thousands of dollars, much less hundreds of thousands of dollars. i mean, how much did a top of the line sound system cost in the 70's? even by then most high end audio equipment probably exceeded normal human hearing ability. i would hope that today's mid-level consumer audio equipment would be able to at least match the state-of-the-art from over 3-and-a-half decades ago.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697003)

It depends entirely on the room the speakers are in. If the room isn't any good (size, shape, irregularities, etc.), it doesn't matter how good the speakers are, they'll still get blown out of the water by a good pair of headphones.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697253)

Yeah, except at tone and stereo imaging and frequency response. You know, the "sound".

Re:use the cans, luke (5, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696793)

I call horseshit. I only care about the differences *I* can hear with the speakers/headphones *I* have. Isn't that the whole point? The shortcuts I can take without noticing a difference...

Re:use the cans, luke (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696905)

I call horseshit. I only care about the differences *I* can hear with the speakers/headphones *I* have. Isn't that the whole point? The shortcuts I can take without noticing a difference...

It is a heck of a lot easier to upgrade your equipment than it is to re-encode your audio, assuming you even have the original sources around.
What sounds fine today on your current system may sound poor on your next system tomorrow.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697487)

Haven't you heard of this new fangled software stuff that can do that stuff for you?

If someone cares so much about how stuff sounds I would always expect them to rip lossless.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

jmv (93421) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697095)

Then take a 64 kbps test and encode your music at that rate. When you want higher quality, you use 128 kbps and you need to test that more carefully.

Re:use the cans, luke (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697255)

If that is what you care about, you should just go ahead and follow someone else's encoder recommendations (the differences are small), and you certainly shouldn't bother sharing your listening experience with others.

Re:use the cans, luke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697639)

I call horseshit. I only care about the differences *I* can hear with the speakers/headphones *I* have. Isn't that the whole point? The shortcuts I can take without noticing a difference...

I could be wrong, but it kind of sounds like you're the type of iPod earbud user who couldn't tell the difference regardless due to your cavalier attitude about hardware.

Re:use the cans, luke (4, Insightful)

rtollert (1403485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696963)

A lot of very high quality encoder tuning has been done with $30 headphones on laptops. Concentration and patience is more important than equipment here.

ugh (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696641)

Wow, what a mess. Download this package. Now download fourteen more packages (DownThemAll is the only reason I didn't give up right then). Y'know, I'm kinda interested in this subject, as I have no trouble hearing artifacts in most 128kbps CBR MP3s, but this is just a huge pain in the ass. Wouldn't a simple Flash app have made things so much easier?

Re:ugh (5, Interesting)

HateBreeder (656491) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696801)

Agreed.
I went into the trouble of trying to run this under Linux.
the supplied batch files didn't work - it was missing files due to bad paths. the java application required a HUGE meddling around, choosing the settings, creating tests... I gave up. I'm not *that* motivated to help.

If you're trying to design a public test, the goal is to make it as simple as possible. An online application is an absolute must here.

I would be surprised if there will be anymore than a few hundred responses to this, all from a very specific demographic, Hardly a representative sample of the general population.

Re:ugh (1)

pablomme (1270790) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696953)

I went into the trouble of trying to run this under Linux.
the supplied batch files didn't work - it was missing files due to bad paths. the java application required a HUGE meddling around, choosing the settings, creating tests...

All works fine under my Ubuntu box with the latest Wine and Java JRE runtime (which I happened to have installed).

But whatever, I agree with you: who on Earth decided that testers should even need to use the command line? Why didn't they just embed the Java into a webpage?

And it's not only that the sample will be reduced, it could be that the results come out biased -- what if it turns out that geeks tend to be tone-deaf, or another unfortunate correlation like that?

Re:ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696855)

Wouldn't a simple Flash app have made things so much easier?

I don't. A Flash app cannot deliver the quality needed for this testing.

Re:ugh (5, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696875)

Wow, what a mess. Download this package. Now download fourteen more packages (DownThemAll is the only reason I didn't give up right then). Y'know, I'm kinda interested in this subject, as I have no trouble hearing artifacts in most 128kbps CBR MP3s, but this is just a huge pain in the ass. Wouldn't a simple Flash app have made things so much easier?

I gave up at step 3751 "Buy Monster cables". ;-)

Re:ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696881)

Amen to that, not to mention the website is also pretty terrible.

Say what the point is in one sentence, and then say how to participate in one sentence. Leave the rest of the crap for afterward, and don't hide the downloads halfway down the page.

Installers and package managers were invented for a reason.

Re:ugh (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697011)

Wait, what? It's not a blind test? Fail. For it to be done correctly it should be a blind test (i.e. you don't know what was encoded with what) and made sure that all outputs have the same volume (that influences on your perception of quality, just like sugar level influences how tasty you think a soda is).

Re:ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697265)

It is blind. Take a look at the home page for ABC/HR:

http://ff123.net/abchr/abchr.html

I wonder how you came to this assumption.

Re:ugh (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697323)

By not RTFA and by assuming that if the tests were run by the user it meant he could know which made what.

You only need to download *two* files (2, Insightful)

rtollert (1403485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697015)

The ABC/HR zip, and one sample zip. Each sample zip is a separate test that can be run completely separately from the others. Testing each sample may take quite some time (it took 1-2 hours for a single sample last night for me) - so splitting this up actually does make a bit of sense. That said, even on Windows this test has been plagued with problems. I've had to downgrade to Java 1.5 to avoid a crash.

Re:ugh (1)

Canar (46407) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697055)

You haven't been involved in many listening tests, have you? It is a lot of work to complete a single package. You are probably not going to get good results at more than a package a day. It's a slow process, and your ears get fatigued quite quickly. Grabbing all of them is overkill.

And you'll probably be pleasantly surprised at just how good MP3 can sound at 128...

What kind of music is involved (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696645)

While popular music is acceptable at 128kbps with recent encoders, certain niche music genres like spectralist music clearly suffer at low bitrates. With pieces like Per Norgard's Symphony No. 3 [amazon.com] or Grisey's Les espaces acoustiques you can easily hear the difference between 256kbps and the original CD-quality on even average headphones or speakers. Any music which depends on a greater portion of the natural overtone series than just the first handful of partials will need higher bitrate encoding.

Re:What kind of music is involved (4, Informative)

maeka (518272) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696771)

You are asserting MP3 has faults it does not have.
"Overtones" are not an issue, nor do I think you could point out a 'problem sample' which fails due to the presence (or lack) of "overtones."
Popular music, in fact, is often harder to encode efficiently as it tends to have the dynamics compressed out of it (see loudness war), full of distortion, and therefore be closer to random data.
Temporal smearing is clearly a problem with MP3, and is evident in music such as harpsichord, but that is not the claim you make.
Do you have any ABX tests to back your claim?

Re:What kind of music is involved (2)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697077)

No he's right I'm afraid. On sounds with hundreds of overtones, even a rate of 256 kbps (in stereo) isn't enough. I know because I experimented with image transmission over the sound by synthesising an image into a sound by turning each horizontal line into a modulated sine at a specific frequency. Here's an example [sourceforge.net] with the input and output image transmitted over a 256 kbps (mono!) MP3.

Long story short, when you've got over 500 overtones simultaneously, you need a much higher bitrate. In the aforementioned example with a bitrate of 128 kbps (mono) the output image would get very noisy, and at 64 kbps (mono) which should be considered a normal rate for normal audio music, you could barely recognise either the sound or the input image. The areas that wouldn't be blacked out (entire squares or triangles) would be noised out beyond recognition. Feel free to reproduce my example with varying MP3 encoding rates and you'll see for yourself, the amount of overtones matters an awful lot.

Re:What kind of music is involved (5, Insightful)

rtollert (1403485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697229)

That's great if you're trying to use a codec for a purpose it was never designed for and nobody actually uses. Would you choose a JPEG codec based on its ability to encode/decode raw audio? Would you choose a car based on its ability to traverse the English Channel?

Re:What kind of music is involved (2, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697301)

No it's not the point. The point is, in such kinds of music as "spectralist music" there's a much higher density of "sound information" due to the shear number of overtones and it requires higher encoding bitrates.

As for the point of the experiment I linked to, the point isn't to actually store images in MP3s but to show how images can be transmitted over sound with a good quality, furthermore in an intuitive format (i.e. the image's 2 space dimensions are 'mapped' to the sound's time and frequency dimensions). The practicality (or lack thereof) is irrelevant.

Re:What kind of music is involved (3, Insightful)

rtollert (1403485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697453)

Spectral music might make for great samples for this kind of testing, but your assertion is ultimately unsubstantiated unless you can provide real listening test results that show it makes for a more sensitive test. There are all kinds of subtle things going on that might seem to make for great encoder testing, but largely turn out to make an imperceptible difference. Just because so many overtones exist (99% of which do not exist in msot acoustic music, btw!) doesn't mean they are necessarily audible if they are perturbed. More specifically, I'd anticipate that most FFT-based imaging techniques would hammer encoder lowpasses very hard, but would not be nearly as hard on preecho performance or stereo imaging artifacts. In a lot of situations, the preecho is a lot more important than the lowpass.

Re:What kind of music is involved (0, Flamebait)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697585)

Unsubstantiated? Didn't you read what I say earlier about the effect of lower bitrates? STFU?

What year is this? 1999? (0, Flamebait)

rtollert (1403485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697675)

"What you said earlier" was a lot of hot air about looking at spectrum plots instead of actually listening to the encodes in a controlled environment.

Did you ABX the 128kbps encode? If not, it's unsubstantiated. Plausible, sure, but not substantiated.

Re:What kind of music is involved (1)

TBoon (1381891) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697419)

Would you choose a car based on its ability to traverse the English Channel?

Seeing the luck Top Gear [youtube.com] had with that one, I think I'll take the ferry instead...

Re:What kind of music is involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697087)

Overtones are exactly the issue.
One of the ways MP3 reduces the data is to remove quiet tones when there are louder ones of a similar frequency.

If the music relies on hearing the overtones, MP3 is not a good idea as most of them will be removed!

Heavily compressed and distorted signals are harder for a *lossless* compressor to deal with, but not a *lossy* perceptual compression system like MP3. This is because of the increased masking effect of a noisy and distorted signal!

Re:What kind of music is involved (1)

maeka (518272) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697495)

Overtones are exactly the issue.
One of the ways MP3 reduces the data is to remove quiet tones when there are louder ones of a similar frequency.

Only if the quiet tones are determined to be masked.

Re:What kind of music is involved (5, Interesting)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697615)

"Overtones" are not an issue

Incorrect. One of the ways MP3 achieves lower bitrates is by removing overtones of a fundamental frequency when the overtones are reasonably quieter. If, for example, you pluck an "A" string tuned to 440hz, the string would also resonate at 880Hz, 1320Hz, 1760, and so on. An MP3 encoder would remove these overtones if they were significantly quieter than the original 440Hz tone, since research has shown that the human ear doesn't really notice them if the fundamental is much louder. The problem arises, as the parent noted, in some niche music; however anyone should be able to notice this in things like cymbals, where the most basic sound and timbre of the instrument is defined entirely by the overtones it produces. You can hear this as an almost flanger-esque quality to the cymbals in sub-128Kb/s encoded MP3s. Any drummer will tell you that this drives them up a wall, and the way the psychoacoustic model of MP3 compression handles overtones is the culprit.

Re:What kind of music is involved (1)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697677)

Yeah so I just saw your response to that AC and I did leave out the part about masking (I'm by no means an expert, so I'm not entirely confident in this response); however still, with things like cymbals, you have a large amount of overtones close enough to each other to be considered "masked" that MP3 compression does significantly alter their sound because of overtones.

Re:What kind of music is involved (5, Funny)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696775)

I'm not too worried about the quality of my music. Since I mostly listen to noize, industrial and EBM, the occasional scratching, pop, siren, explosion, grinding metal and screaming only accentuate the already apparent awesomeness of what I'm burning holes in my ear drums with.

Popups on Slashdot? (-1, Offtopic)

Gyga (873992) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696689)

Why the fuck did firefox tell me it blocked a popup on slashdot? Sure firefox blocked it but Slashdot shouldn't even have popups to begin with.

Here's the ad's url, it will resize your window.
http://core.insightexpressai.com/adServer/showInvite.aspx?uninvite=0&branding=0&SiteID=&BannerID=36774&CampaignID=1147&redir=http%3A//core.insightexpressai.com/adServer/acceptInvite.aspx%3FBannerID%3D36774%26referrer%3Dtech.slashdot.org%26adiqs%3Desi%253dtrue%2526bannerID%253d36774%2526referer%253dtech.slashdot.org%26

PS, I know this is offtopic, mod it accordingly.

Re:Popups on Slashdot? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696857)

Somebody (corporate overlords) is experimenting with various types of advertising on small sample sizes at Slashdot. A few months ago, I got an interstital ad here. Just once.

Re:Popups on Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697221)

Wow, and I thought I was just stoned when I saw one.

Re:Popups on Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697149)

Why the fuck did firefox tell me it blocked a popup on slashdot?

Because you have a virus. Sorry dude.

Painfully painful test (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25696755)

You know what, I thought I'd be nice and give this a shot, but the amount of effort involved just isn't worth it. If it isn't 'click on this link, listen, rate', it's too much work. Download x, install x, email x - way, way, way too much work for what is being given in return.

mono encoding (1)

EpsCylonB (307640) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696785)

I am deaf in one ear, so I won't take the test since I don't think I can do it justice.

I know that mono encoding saves relatively little space since joint stereo minimizes redundancy between the channels, but is there anything else I should be aware of as someone who transcodes everything to mono before I copy it to my mp3 player ?.

Re:mono encoding (2, Funny)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697369)

use a pair of headphones.. after you're done listening to a sample, rotate the headphones and play the sample again to hear the other channel of audio. Then you will be ready to rock & roll.

Out of phase (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697435)

is there anything else I should be aware of as someone who transcodes everything to mono before I copy it to my mp3 player ?

Some songs are recorded with parts out of phase between the stereo channels. This means that the left and right channels, instead of being up/up and down/down, are up/down and down/up, which creates directional effects in stereo (especially on a surround receiver) but cancels itself out in the conversion to mono. For instance, "Happiness in Slavery" on Broken by Nine Inch Nails loses the snare in mono, and the quality of the snare drum in the remix of Coburn's "We Interrupt This Program" used with the NEDM meme drifts back and forth between clap-like and snare-like.

dotted (1)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696863)

Only up half an hour and already slashdotted. Looks like their servers are not as strong as they were last time. Not very smart to ask about a million of surfers to download a couple of megabytes from thir servers.

Re:dotted (1)

Canar (46407) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696983)

I'm one of the moderators at Hydrogenaudio. The site hosting the clips is not Hydrogenaudio. However all the people rushing the topic seem to be overloading our already stressed server. Bad timing. :)

Outdated? (5, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696913)

Umm... 128 Kbps? Seriously? And no Ogg Vorbis, AAC etc... If you're bothering to set up a listening test, why limit yourself to 128 Kbps MP3?

Also, this should really be set up as a blind test, you get to listen to two clips, and have to choose which is better. The clips are randomized, of course... I could go on, but I'd just make myself sound even more arrogant. ;)

Re:Outdated? (4, Funny)

m1ss1ontomars2k4 (1302833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696941)

Hey, I still listen to only 128 Kbps mp3 (and some AAC). It saves space. If I accidentally obtain an mp3 of higher quality, I downgrade it to 128 Kbps.

Re:Outdated? (1)

davidphogan74 (623610) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697281)

Really? I aim for 320 VBR if I'm ripping my own discs. I still can fit plenty of music on a single CD for use in my car.

As far as long term storage, I have about 300 gigs available at home if needed. My laptop has a 120 gig hard drive even.

Re:Outdated? (1)

m1ss1ontomars2k4 (1302833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697353)

That's odd. I actually have that same amount of hard disk space available to me, but I'm constantly running out of room. Hmm......

Re:Outdated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697591)

There is no such thing as 320kbps VBR...

Re:Outdated? (3, Insightful)

darien (180561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696955)

this should really be set up as a blind test, you get to listen to two clips, and have to choose which is better.

I agree entirely. They should also include different bitrates - do many people still use 128kbps? - and versions which aren't compressed at all. Hopefully the results might shut up the audiobores who keep insisting that MP3 isn't good enough for their precious ears.

Re:Outdated? (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697079)

MP3 is plenty good enough, it just requires more bits. Why have 192kbps MP3 when you can save room with an equally good 160kbps Vorbis?

Re:Outdated? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697327)

Because I don't have to mess with the resulting file to use it on my media player, cell phone, etc., and storage is increasing irrelevant.

(The amount of space that 1 song takes up on my USB drive is currently irrelevant; the amount of space 1 song takes up on my laptop disk is nearly irrelevant; the amount of space 1 song takes up on my exercise-centered mp3 player is largely irrelevant. I'm not a huge collector, but I bet my collection is somewhere beyond the 80th percentile of what normal people will ever deal with, so my experience is actually relevant)

Re:Outdated? (3, Interesting)

A Friendly Troll (1017492) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697415)

MP3 is plenty good enough, it just requires more bits. Why have 192kbps MP3 when you can save room with an equally good 160kbps Vorbis?

Why have 160 kbps Vorbis when hard drives are growing in capacity and dropping in price?

I used to encode things in 192 kbps, then VBR, and now I want to smack myself over the head for doing so; blank CDs weren't so cheap back then, and I wanted to save a little bit of money. Looking back, it sure as hell wasn't worth it - I have crappy, lossy mp3 encodings of rare albums that I cannot obtain anymore, and a hard drive that could easily hold 2000 albums encoded with FLAC.

Sure, there was a time when storage was a premium, but now it isn't. Save room for WHAT? Five years from now, when you will be able to cheaply have 10 TB of storage space in your computer, are you going to regret having 160 kbps Vorbis instead of FLAC encodings? I know I would be, so now I'm encoding every CD I still have in lossless. If I were interested in HD video (which I'm not), I'd have no intention of re-encoding it to smaller sizes, because I *know* there will be a time when I'd regret it. Of course, YMMV.

Re:Outdated? (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697577)

Indeed, after reripping my entire collection for like the 3rd or 4th time because it got corrupted randomly, I switched to just ripping everything to lossless. If I need a copy for multiple MP3 players and such or change my mind about what compression rate or type I want it's a task my computer can handle without me swapping tons of discs.

It's always been easier to encode to a lower quality than to a higher quality. And in a strict sense the latter isn't really even possible.

Some devices can't play Vorbis (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697481)

Why have 192kbps MP3 when you can save room with an equally good 160kbps Vorbis?

Because handheld devices that play Vorbis might cost more for the same capacity. Or multifunction devices such as video game players or mobile phones might include MP3 and not Vorbis, and you don't want to carry a second device. Or you're trying to stream music to people who use a computer that someone else owns and administers, so they can't install the Vorbis codec into their QuickTime or Windows Media Player.

Re:Outdated? (1)

doofusclam (528746) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696987)

But it is an *mp3* listening test, the idea is to see the state of the art with mp3 and to check whether 128kbps is a reasonable bitrate for everyday use.

Also, this is a double blind test - maybe you should have read the link? HydrogenAudio are well known for their scientific approach to audio codec testing.

Maybe a little less of the arrogance next time, eh?

Re:Outdated? (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697067)

Also, this is a double blind test - maybe you should have read the link? HydrogenAudio are well known for their scientific approach to audio codec testing.

Tried the link, was Slashdotted at the time at least... Seems to have opened though, gotta take a proper look.

Re:Outdated? (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697097)

Tried the link, was Slashdotted at the time at least... Seems to have opened though, gotta take a proper look.

Took a proper look. The test does indeed seem to be set up very professionally. I stand corrected.

Re:Outdated? (2, Insightful)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697007)

For the same reason you do performance testing on slow machines. It makes it easier to detect differences in sound quality (or slow code in performance testing) and the results scale smoothly upwards.

By limiting the bitrate to 128, you're more likely to get good data instead of just guesses.

Re:Outdated? (2, Informative)

Canar (46407) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697009)

Other codecs have been tested previously. Blind testing codecs is very labour-intensive and these events do not happen frequently. This test is expressly centred around MP3. If you'd like, drop by Hydrogenaudio and come take a look at the other listening tests that have been co-ordinated. There have been many through the years.

Re:Outdated? (2, Informative)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697031)

Such tests have been available for a long time [hydrogenaudio.org] (though I think that can't possibly be a complete list: I thought there had been loads more tests than that). This item happens to focus on a single-format MP3 128 kb/s test; why this is newsworthy when all the other tests aren't, I'm not sure.

Re:Outdated? (1)

Shrubbman (3807) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697227)

Because they've already had to extend the testing deadline twice for lack of enough submissions and someone's got around to submitting it to a few sites like /. in hopes of getting more people involved, that's why.

Re:Outdated? (2, Informative)

Snowblindeye (1085701) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697041)

Also, this should really be set up as a blind test, you get to listen to two clips, and have to choose which is better. The clips are randomized, of course...

Glad you took the time and checked how they do it.

The test is done using the ABC/HR blind listening utility, which does pretty much what you suggest.

Re:Outdated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697185)

Crazy isn't it? A 128kbps MP3 listening test only focusing on 128kbps MP3s...

If you take a look at the site you will see that the last 128kbps test included various formats. There have also been tests using different bitrates. You have to pick a situation to compare; you cannot test 64kbps Ogg Vorbis against 192kbps AAC.

Put your money where your mouth is: take the test and see if you really can tell the difference. You may be surprised.

Re:Outdated? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697555)

Probably because MP3 is still the format of choice for use on portable players. Yes, iPods and a couple of other players can handle AAC and non-iPods can handle WMA, but what person in their right mind uses either format? AAC is fine if you don't want to ever play it on a non-Apple player, but for those that have multiple types of players it just doesn't cut it. And some people do still share via the sneakernet, cutting out nearly 1/3 of players is kind of silly, really.

MP3 at 192kbps variable is perfectly acceptable in most cases and is virtually identical to the original source.

At home, I like to keep my music compressed with something like flac or monkey's audio so that I have the full quality and don't have to rerip every time I change my mind about the type of format that I wish to use on my device. And can better handle multiple players with differing capacities.

Re:Outdated? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697609)

I see this listening test is unfortunately generating a lot of confusion. I'll try to explain some of the decisions in a new light.

First a history lesson. MP3 at 128 kbps has very bad name. I'm sure we all remember the 90s and first MP3s being passed around on 3.5" floppy-disks. Everybody was astonished by 12:1 compression ratio and whatnot, but as soon as people tried to use the free encoders for something serious, it became apparent how poor the quality was. (For nostalgia, find the (c) 1994 low anchor encode in one of the test samples provided for this test ;) So the bitrates started to go up.
But since then, people testing and finetuning the encoders have done a tremendous job. I used to dismiss low-rate MP3 (and even MP3 in general) as flawed, because they sounded to me awfully clipped of high frequencies and some ugly echo artifacts were audible on pretty mild parts of the music. But when I tried some double-blind tests with recent LAME versions, I had to admit they're transparent for me even on ~128 kbps, unless I'm testing some particular killer-sample. Does that make me ripp stuff to such bitrate files only? No. But I'm not scared about 128 kbps MP3 anymore and I don't have a reason to disrespect it.

Then why MP3? Because it's an ubiquitous format. You can play it on every OS, every portable DAP, every (data CD capable) car stereo, heck even on your toaster. I am aware there are many other audio encoders and containers around with many great improvements, but a shitty old MP3 is still the most portable choice.
I think nobody serious is criticizing using FLAC or other lossless format for local storage of CD rips. After all, you get a bit-perfect backup of the original CD that way and a guarantee you'll never have to go through the hassle again. And if your portable player supports some shiny AAC, fine. But for sending a recording to my mom, I'll use MP3, because I know it'll play safely anywhere.

And one usage where bitrate still counts a lot is streaming. If your internet radio has 2000 listeners, each kbit of bitrate costs you 2 Mbit of bandwidth and over 250 MB transferred per second. If it's possible to lower that while maintaining sound quality, I guess every streamer would like to know.

There are more reasons for chosing just 128 kbps. Like that the test is already using short, carefuly selected, problematic killer-samples rather than random music parts, so that people are able to notice at least something. Or that placebo is evil, evil, evil - I learned that the hard way myself.
All in all, I think such test will still provide a lot of interesting information even today and hope some more people will take it seriously and contribute.

What's the point? (2, Interesting)

DogDude (805747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697059)

What's the point? MP3's? Welcome to 1990! With storage and processing power as ridiculously cheap as it is, why do people still use MP3's? I don't understand it. I've got my entire music collection stored as FLAC right now on a single half-gig hard drive. I think that in a few years, even that will be pointless, and we'll be back to storing our music as WAV's again. So, why do people still bother with crappy 128 bit MP3's?

Re:What's the point? (2, Informative)

corychristison (951993) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697125)

I've got my entire music collection stored as FLAC right now on a single half-gig hard drive.

Must be a really small 'entire music collection'. 1/2 of a gig is 512MiB. Average FLAC encoded song I have are anywhere from 8MiB to 25MiB per song.

I hope you meant a half TB. That would make it much bigger... but again, you could still probably have your entire collection stored in WAV. I have about 1,300 songs.. all stored in various formats (MP3, OGG, FLAC) and it's under 10GiB.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697151)

512mb harddrive? Welcome to 1990! ;)

Re:What's the point? (3, Funny)

Polarina (1389203) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697235)

Why switch back to WAV when you can have your music played at 192000 Hz and a 48-bit volume scale?

Re:What's the point? (1)

TheStonepedo (885845) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697399)

PCM is not limited to some arbitrarily low sampling frequency or resolution. Regarding 48 bits, can your ADC chips really pick up 2x10^14 distinct amplitudes? Can your ears?

One decent argument for switching back to WAV is the simplicity of handling uncompressed data. No complicated transforms are calculated because uncompressed signals need not be decoded; simple, energy efficient processors can play back WAV using less power than complex, optimized routines on advanced hardware would use to play back FLAC.

Re:What's the point? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697349)

Some of us (most of us) have more music than you have. 500MB (0.5 Gig) as you so eloquently put it is only a few minutes of music. I have about 500G (~21 days) of MP3-compressed music, I have 500MB just in WAV/FLAC samples, 700MB in Tracker (as in FastTracker) format and 15G in AAC format. Putting that all in FLAC/WAV would take a few TB which quite honestly, I just don't have (especially since I need a backup of all that as well) and lugging an XRAID to a party would definitely look good but it's just too expensive.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Von Helmet (727753) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697433)

What's the point? MP3's? Welcome to 1990!

MP3 players, perhaps? They've been around a while, since nearly 1990 in fact, so I'm surprised you've not heard of them. I'm not aware of any portable music player that can play FLACs. Hell, there's barely any that can play Ogg Vorbis.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697473)

Precisely. I do store all my CDs as FLAC, but when I put them on my portable I transcode to MP3. Granted, I don't use 128kbps because it's pointless (VBR is superior to CBR and ABR and my portable has a large enough drive that lame at -V3 is fine). But MP3s are still useful. Hell, I buy them from Amazon now and again.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697539)

That's where transcoding and a couple days to let your processor work is nice.

If someone is so seriously worried about listening to their music on the go in high enough quality they'll drag their laptop around with them. And I do believe the ArchOS can play FLACs but I'm not sure.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697575)

I'm not aware of any portable music player that can play FLACs.

Actually, you'd be surprised - most of them can play FLACs. I mean, if two random noname Chinese mp3 players of the cheapest variety could, I don't see what couldn't!

Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697061)

Just re-encode the 128kbps MP3 to 320kbps and it will sound much better.

Lets move forward! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697623)

128 come on!! with terrabyte HD's, broadband connections and MP3 player which can hold 120 Gig's we are still stuck with comparing 128?! I think we need to press on forward to FLAC or WAV gosh how about 24bit and higher sampling frequencies.

Bring music back! I am sick of substandard garbage. I rather listen to music not of my style that sounds beautiful then something I love that sounds like s*@t.

1980 called and wants their technology back (0, Troll)

exabrial (818005) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697681)

1980 called and wants their technology back. Please move on to AAC or Vorbis. It's not an "open" format (it's patented). Use something that's better (AAC) or actually open (Vorbis) Thank you

Why are we still focusing on 128kb? (2, Insightful)

The Optimizer (14168) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697689)

It was 10 years ago when I bought a Rio PMP-300, the first readily available flash-based MP3 player. It came with 32MB of internal memory, and would accept a single SmartMedia card, 32MB max in size (which I quickly went out and bought).

Back then, the size of your MP3 files mattered a whole lot more. At 128K CBR, I could fit 6 to 9 songs on each bank, depending on how long they were. The artifacts were noticeable to even my poor hearing. So I then stepped up to 160kb CBR and then LAME -remix (VBR, average ~ 190K ) encoding setting. I will make a note here that not all MP3 encoders are created equal - there is no fixed encoding standard, just for decoding.

With the VBR files, I could only fit 3-6 songs per bank of the Rio, so yea, it mattered then. If I wanted a specific CD to take to the gym with me, I had to think about what I put on the Rio. Often I couldn't fit the whole CD on the device or I had to swap play order to better use the slack space in each memory partition.

Can you even buy a MP3 player with less than 1GB of internal flash memory today? Skip past something like the iPod shuffle or equivalent at 1 and 2 GB, and you are quickly looking at 4GB, 8GB, 16GB or more.

I just encoded my copy of Linkin park's Minutes to Midnight CD that I bought with LAME 3.97 high quality VBR and it came out to 77.6 MB for the whole thing with the average bit rates in the 230kb/s to 270kbs. It wouldn't fit on the RIO at this quality. On the cheapest iPod Shuffle, I could fit 13 similarly sized CDs at this quality encoding. On the cheapest iPod Nano, around 100 similarly sized and encoded CDs.

My point??

128Kbs is sooo 1990s.. We've moved on. Storage, be it flash or Hard drives, has gotten order(s) of magnitude cheaper and bigger. So why aren't we moving our mindset about default MP3 quality UP to reflect the change? Make very High quality VBR the default and raise the average quality bar.

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