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Lossy Music Formats Compared

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the is-it-real-or-mp3 dept.

Music 328

Nicholas writes: "Today's Washington Post has an article detailing the results of having a "a diverse panel of listeners: two members of the National Symphony Orchestra, a high-end stereo salesman, a record producer, a composer and two guitarists" comparing MP3Pro and Vorbis formats. The punchline: "...felt Vorbis was the least realistic, with MP3Pro sounding better and Windows Media Audio best of all -- but none of these formats achieved CD quality.""

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328 comments

Re:Alas... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#86688)

Sometimes money actually does win. Why wouldn't Microsoft be able to pay for research to make a better compression algorithm?

I have never heard WMA, but if it's good, then all the more pity that MS wasted that money and removed some algorithms from general use. WMA will always be obscure and never be a standard, precisely because MS doesn't want it to be a standard. They want control over it.

And because of that, no one will ever use it. So Microsoft is effectively just burying technology.

Re:Windows Media audio should scare you (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#86689)

Either/or, I still prefer the sound quality of CDs. There is a noticable loss of sound quality with any compression technique and IMHO there is no comparison to the original.

Kind of hard to conveniently listen to a playlist of 2000+ songs with CD's, though. And they're more expensive. ;)

Anyway, if you want to be a *true* audiophile snob, you should be talking about how nothing can compare to a really expensive turntable system. Really high quality vinyl recordings on really expensive sound systems are superior to CD's - no 16-bit limitation. Granted, they cost tens of thousands of dollars, and the records have to be in pristine condition, but that's no impediment to a true audiophile. ;)

Well, ALL lossy formats are inferrior to PCM. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#86690)

Throwing away data... is bad. Once internet broadband increases, which it will eventually, there will be no need for compressed formats just like no one uses compressed disks under windows anymore (DRVSPACE.BIN).

This is a crock (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#86697)

WTF? The group decided that WMA sounds best and Vorbis sounds the worst? Don't they know that Vorbis is an open system that anyone can use, and WMA is a closed, proprietory system made by Micro$oft? Doesn't that have any bearing on their decision? Don't they know their history?

I don't have time to be posting this stuff. I've gotta get back to helping port OpenOffice to OSX to keep Micro$oft down to only having 97% of the vital Mac market instead of 100%. Ha-ha, up yours, Micro$oft!

Assuming they are right (5)

Alan (347) | more than 12 years ago | (#86700)

It still doesn't matter to me. If I could listen to WMA on my linux system(s) I would. If I could use WMA on my car mp3-cd player, I would.

I can't though, so it doesn't matter. I'm not a musician by any means, nor can I detect the difference between 160 and 192 mp3 compression. So I'll continue using my inferior, yet cross platform, non-license restricted, used-everwhere, mp3 format.

Re:Alas... (1)

David Greene (463) | more than 12 years ago | (#86701)

While I agree in general that MS puts out lots of good software and does excellent research, I couldn't let this go:

Now, I'm not much of a MS fan, however, it must be pointed out that their office software does work very well, and works well with itself.

This is completely untrue for any serious technical documentation. Figures and bulleted/numbered lists top my worst experiences in Word. Excel's data point limit has more than once forced me over to gnuplot.

Office is great for the vast majority of users: business types, one-off letters, etc. It is completely insufficient for anything of substantial size or complexity. LaTeX or Frame wins hands down.

--

I Got Two Turntables and a Microphone (1)

Threed (886) | more than 12 years ago | (#86704)

What the hell do I need digitally encoded music for? I have VINYL! *wild cackling laugh fades into distance*

The real Threed's /. ID is lower than the real Bruce Perens'.

--Threed

Finally! (2)

sheldon (2322) | more than 12 years ago | (#86709)

It is nice to see some persons who appreciate music come out and explain the differences between these formats and just how much of the music you actually lose.

Compression is convenient, but it is no replacement for the originals.

Napster (2)

Helmholtz (2715) | more than 12 years ago | (#86711)

This is the very thing that completely dumfounded me about the whole Napster debaucle. Throughout the entire court proceding the differentiation between making a tape recording of a CD and making an MP3 was that the MP3 was an "exact digital reproduction". The very definition of the format contradicts that statement, and yet this never seened to his the spotlight.

Sure you can download all your music from Napster and never have to pay anything, but you are _NOT_ getting CD quality audio. I used Napster to gather many songs for many reasons. Sometimes I had the songs on a media such as 33,45,or 78 vinyl, and simply didn't want to go to the trouble of recording them to disk. Other times I simply wanted to see what such and such group and/or song sounded like. If I found something that I really liked, then I went out and purchased the CD .... why? Well, I appreciate _quality_. MP3 is nice for a quick and dirty perusual of a song, but that's about it in my opinion. Well, I guess it's also good enough to play at low volumes on cheap PC speakers ...

The Music Industry's attack on distributed file sharing is more about controlling what kind of material gets presented to the public more than about mass bootlegging, in my opinion.

I know this is a little off topic, but I've sort of been waiting for something like this hit the "general news sites" ... I just find it funny that it didn't happen until long after Napster's demise.

Re:Hardware? (2)

Paul Carver (4555) | more than 12 years ago | (#86714)

Valves closing? Is that a good thing? I can't think of a time when I said "gee, that music was pretty good, but I sure wish I could have heard the valves closing"

Maybe if I was listening the movie Brazil. Otherwise, I can get quite a lot of enjoyment out of music without needing to hear valves closing.

Testing Methods? (5)

crisco (4669) | more than 12 years ago | (#86717)

They obviously didn't use very rigorous testing methods, the fact that the quotes from various testers named different file formats indicates that they knew the format as they were listening to it.

Combine that with no mention of the bitrates used and you essentially have a fluff piece.

I've only seen one test that might be called rigorous and that was a few years back. Does anyone know of quality listening comparisons between various codecs at various bitrates? Blind testing (Double Blind?), listeners with some musical background (musicians, recording engineers, even audiophiles), a wide range of music, maybe even different sound systems? I'm curious, almost (but not quite, I'm also lazy) enough to round up some friends and do my own sorry version of the test.

Chris Cothrun
Curator of Chaos

Re:consider the experts (1)

Diamon (13013) | more than 12 years ago | (#86734)

the article didn't compare or contrast MP3's to other formats
C'mon people READ the article:
When compared with regular MP3s, Vorbis often produced more pleasant sounds, especially with woodwinds and percussion, but MP3 treated the human voice a little better. MP3Pro sounded better than MP3 overall, bringing out bass notes more and giving higher tones a better ring.

Re:this is complete bullshit... (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 12 years ago | (#86735)

also, how did these people encode their mp3/ogg/wma files? there's no indication of bitrate, sampling frequency, encoder, encoder settings, nothing!.

Simple answer: They encoded the MP3 samples with the new version of Windows that only creates MP3s at 56k. No wonder WMA sounded better :)

Re:Assuming they are right (2)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 12 years ago | (#86738)

If I could use WMA on my car mp3-cd player, I would.

...and then when you put in the MP3 compilation CD you made out of your own legally-purchased CDs, it would say, "You have inserted a CD containing copyrighted music. This is not authorized by Microsoft WMA Digital Rights Management. Access Denied."

--

Re:What has happened to decent reporting? (5)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 12 years ago | (#86740)

God forbid they actually told you ALL the aspects of the story

The editor used compression on the story. :) You should write an article comparing the various lossy summarization techniques.

--

Re: Not to be a cynic but... (3)

Jobe_br (27348) | more than 12 years ago | (#86750)

Actually, you may not be entirely correct. My fiancee and I have had quite a few discussions about high-end stereo equipment (like discrete amplified channels, speakers such as Definitive, Sonus Faber, and whoever it is that makes the filament speakers) as well as the quality of CD recordings vs. vinyl or tape or digital (DAT), etc. Now, mind you - she is an audio engineer, with a degree from one of the most reputed schools in the country (I think its in LA - I forget what its called).

One of the things she explains to me most often is that what you hear (on your CD) is NOT what was recorded in the studio, on stage at the symphony, etc. It is what has been cleaned and processed to sound best on a variety of common setups - like an average stereo, a boombox, and a common (stock) sound system in a common type of car.

So, while many folks believe they can hear more details than others (and admittedly, I'm sure recordings exist that still have these details in them), by and large - these details were lost on the studio post-processing floor. The goal of post-processing is apparently not to deliver the most hi-fi sound - its to deliver the music in a way that it sounds good in the most diverse environments.

To me, this sounds like what we get on CD is truly the lowest common denominator. At that point - encoding into MP3 or Vorbis doesn't seem to make more of a difference. I personally prefer Vorbis because (a) it sounds good (b) the file sizes are small and (c) it is patent free [vorbis.com] - that means a lot to me. Notice I didn't make any comparisons - I don't presume to say that it is better or smaller than anything else - I don't really care. Its the only format out there that allows me to enjoy my music in a format that is smaller than .wav files and more transportable than CDs whilst knowing that the algorithms are patent free to boot. Sweet deal if you ask me.

Re:Windows Media audio should scare you (3)

jamesc (37895) | more than 12 years ago | (#86762)

I disagree, I think the billions and billions of money spent on research has more than paid off for Microsoft and users. Like it or not, through their research on what users wants, Microsoft makes huge advances in useability, although sometimes at the expense of stability, etc.

"What users want"? Maybe, if you want to write to the Least Common Denominator.... Anyway, trading off stability for "usability" is a mistake. A good SW Engr. group should be able to achieve both.

Also, why do you have to stop them? If you don't like them, don't buy their stuff and recommend that your friends do the same. I really don't see the need for a focus on stopping Microsoft. If they are as horrible as most people here think, they will stop themselves.

Maybe you missed the reason the AOL / MSFT talks broke down: the Dark Lords of Redmond wanted to tie all A-V formats to WMF with an exclusive contract, freezing out Real, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, etc. They still want to extend their monopoly any way they can.

The fact is that people have choices now in terms of computing. Microsoft doesn't need to be stopped. Make a better product and make it as easy to use as Windows and Microsoft's hold of computing with lessen.

I agree with this with some exceptions. If MSFT would compete solely on the quality of their products, I'd have no problem with them. So long as they are trying to extend their turf by leveraging their existing monopolies, and trying to get new monopoly positions, I've got no use for them.


--

Wait a second! (3)

brianvan (42539) | more than 12 years ago | (#86764)

Why couldn't they test it with some good music? Like Britney Spears?

I could encode Britney's music with PGP and it would still sound just as good.

*dreams of bouncing breasts*

Grammar, too (1)

pq (42856) | more than 12 years ago | (#86765)

Look at this:
"He founded this especially troublesome in Vorbis"

I mean, this is the Washington Post, not slashdot or something - I founded this troublesome myself!

mod parent up (1)

tosderg (44011) | more than 12 years ago | (#86768)

I wish I hadn't used all my mod points earlier this morning..

hehehe, nice post ac.

CD quality sucks (3)

chrysalis (50680) | more than 12 years ago | (#86771)

Actually, "cd quality" means poor quality. Honestly, a CD has a flat sound. Every CD sounds the same. Unrealistic.
12" vinyl records have much dynamic. More punch. If you listen to classic music on vinyl, you hear every instrument as if it was really nearby you. You don't get that feeling with a CD. Because a CD has only 16 bits of dynamic, music is overcompressed. Quiet music doesn't give anything on a CD. And when parts of the music become louder, there's a small difference of amplitude, but it has nothing to do with what real musicians played originally. Vinyl reflects this in a far better way.
Things may change with SCD (24 bits, 96 khz) . But the CD is definitely something lame for audiophile experts (nothing to do with the original music), for electronic music (the music isn't very punchy compared to vinyl), and for DJ's (I really hate mixing on CD, and I can't imagine hip-hop DJ's with CDJs) .

-- Pure FTP server [pureftpd.org] - Upgrade your FTP server to something simple and secure.

Re:Bit rates? (5)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 12 years ago | (#86773)

> What the article fails to mention, or I'm too blind to find, is what bit rates these tests were run at and a quick discussion of what bit rates the various formats are considered best at.

Exactly.

My suspicion - given the preference for MP3Pro over MP3 - is that it was MP3 at 64kbps vs. MP3Pro at 64kbps.

Even makes sense, after all. Including WMA in the study at all is weird -- and if they encoded the WMA and the MP3 using MSFT's built-in MP3 encoder, they'd have gotten the shittiest-sounding 64k MP3 on the planet.

MP3Pro is designed for streaming audio, and outperforms MP3 at extremely low bitrates (i.e. 64K).

The part in the article where the guitarist said he could hear the valves closing on the clarinet and bassoon... is utter bullshit. He probably heard some flanging artifact and thought it was a valve closure.

Finally - and this is another biggie - for the MP3 section, did they use Blade, LAME, Fraun, or Xing? Some rock on some forms of music, but utterly sux0r on others. And some encoders sound like dog shit on all forms of music.

Sounds to me like a puff piece designed to get people out of (ubiquitous) MP3 and into (proprietary, Windoze-only) MP3Pro and (DRM-encumbered and proprietary) WMA, with Ogg Vorbis thrown in for a "What's that?" appeal.

(Credit to them grokking that lossy compression in music often throws away stereo separation / spatial components, though.)

Re:Wait a second! (1)

pnatural (59329) | more than 12 years ago | (#86776)

I could encode Britney's music with PGP and it would still sound just as good.

methinks if you encoded Britney's "music" w/ PGP, it wouldn't sound just as good. it would sound better.

Re:Testing Methods? (1)

Fourier (60719) | more than 12 years ago | (#86777)

Generally tests that involve the quality of sound related items - speakers, microphones, etc don't need to focus on bitrate or such, they just get people to listen and make a judgement.

That simply makes no sense. Audio quality depends heavily on bitrate. Try encoding some music at 32kbps and 256kbps and make a comparison. One of the most fundamental principles of source coding theory is that there is a tradeoff between bitrate and distortion.

Any sensible codec comparison would:

  • use blind testing (probably not done here)
  • require all codecs to operate at the same average bitrate
  • repeat the test for a range of bitrates
As the parent noted, this was a fluff piece.

Something fishy ? (4)

Smthng (71777) | more than 12 years ago | (#86782)

This study varies significantly from the study done in Heise link here [heise.de] . That study concluded that high quality mp3s were indistinguishable from CD recordings !!
I can only conclude that one of these two sets of tests were biased or did something wrong. They can't both be right and the quality of digital recordings can't decrease with time !

Try testing yourself (1)

Shook (75517) | more than 12 years ago | (#86785)

I did this one time. I took a rock song with some delicate acoustic parts, loud parts, and a lots of instruments. I burned the song from a CD to MP3. I couldn't distinguish the CD and the MP3 on my $20 computer speakers (w/ no subwoofer). Then I tried it out on a friend's computer. He has it hooked up to a fairly nice stereo system. The MP3 just plain didn't sound as good, especially in the quiet parts. Also there didn't seem to be as much "punch" (as they mentioned in the article). There was definitely a loss in quality. I agree that it was kind of stupid when they complained about losing appreciation of music. What about earlier, when most people listened to recorded music on primitive record players, or maybe low-quality radio. And trust me, the REAL loss in quality with the Stravinsky piece was when it was recorded in the first place. Hear it live if you want to hear it as it was intended. Conclusion: MP3 is OK for my $20 computer speakers ;-)

The algorithm makes a difference (3)

Webmoth (75878) | more than 12 years ago | (#86786)

I've noticed that some players provide clearer sound than others when playing the same file, so I would think that the same would apply to encoders.

This, of course, depends on the implementation of the algorithm used, whether a reverse-engineered algorithm is used or a native one is used, what kind of error correction is used, and so forth.

--Jon

Re:WMA pretty darn good reall. (2)

daniell (78495) | more than 12 years ago | (#86788)

Impressed in comparison to.... what? Have you tried some third party video equip? Did you try Quicktime or DV equipment? Have you had any oportunity to look at an avid system?

-Daniel

Re:consider the experts (2)

barneyfoo (80862) | more than 12 years ago | (#86793)

MP3's do suck, but the article didn't compare or contrast MP3's to other formats. It compared MP3-pro. Big difference.

That said, I haven't heard mp3 pro or wma, so I cant comment on the substance of the matter.

Diverse? (5)

szcx (81006) | more than 12 years ago | (#86797)

If it were really diverse, they wouldn't just have music professionals on the board. They'd have a deaf person, some giggling schoolgirls, a super-intelligent killbot, and maybe a monkey.

Controlled Experiment? (2)

Hell O'World (88678) | more than 12 years ago | (#86802)

This was done over at somebodys crib... I don't think they had any controls. The testers are quoted saying things like "Vorbis was..." so it was not a blind test. They could have been just reacting to their preconcieved notions of the names of the types! This means nothing. Not news.

To many variables in a listening test (1)

cs668 (89484) | more than 12 years ago | (#86803)

Do you have the best encoder, decoder for the format. Are you running at comparable bit rates? Is the audio hardware decent. Even if the audio hardware is decent how do you get the audio to the amp?

I know that I can play the same mp3 on my computer/soundcard hooked up to my receiver's rca jacks or from my audiotron to the receiver's optical digital input and the mp3 sounds much better with the reciever doing the DAC.

Re:WMA pretty darn good reall. (1)

jacobcaz (91509) | more than 12 years ago | (#86806)

  • Impressed in comparison to.... what? Have you tried some third party video equip? Did you try Quicktime or DV equipment? Have you had any oportunity to look at an avid system?
Compared to using MP3 for audio, real and quicktime for video. Giving my choice I would use QuickTime Streaming Server on FreeBSD, but this isn't my choice. I have to work within the confines of the project.

I do shoot on DV and I have worked on projects where I capture/edit and dump back to tape and others where I dump to a .wmv to stream.

I don't quite understand how your comments about third party video equipment or an avid system come into play in this comment. Of course, when I shoot and capture video I am using third part video equipment. Last time I checked Microsoft didn't make a DV camera. As far as an Avid system goes, I don't see how other than maybe making my life as an editor easier it would have ANY effect on the picture quality of the final output.

On a side note - I find it interesting that the software I capture/edit and then compress video with captures to QuickTime to create an end result of .wmv


-----

WMA pretty darn good reall. (2)

jacobcaz (91509) | more than 12 years ago | (#86807)

I have tons of MP3's that I've made from my own CD's so I will probably not convert to .wma anytime soon, but I've been working on streaming video and audio projects and I am really impressed by both Microsoft's audio and video compression schemes.

Before you discount this as pro Microsoft retoric let me assure you that I am not a huge fan of their in the server/serving services arena, but they do make some good multimedia stuff.
-----

Vorbis and stereo (2)

jmv (93421) | more than 12 years ago | (#86808)

Last time I asked, (I think) Vorbis did not support mid-side stereo encoding. That means that it couldn't take advantage of the correlation between the two channels. It would do better than MP3 on mono signals and worse on stereo. Does anyone know whether it's still the case. That could explain the results.

Re:Windows Media audio should scare you (2)

almeida (98786) | more than 12 years ago | (#86810)

I disagree, I think the billions and billions of money spent on research has more than paid off for Microsoft and users. Like it or not, through their research on what users wants, Microsoft makes huge advances in useability, although sometimes at the expense of stability, etc.

Also, why do you have to stop them? If you don't like them, don't buy their stuff and recommend that your friends do the same. I really don't see the need for a focus on stopping Microsoft. If they are as horrible as most people here think, they will stop themselves.

The fact is that people have choices now in terms of computing. Microsoft doesn't need to be stopped. Make a better product and make it as easy to use as Windows and Microsoft's hold of computing with lessen.

consider the experts (2)

Ravagin (100668) | more than 12 years ago | (#86814)

Thing is, these are people who are theoretically vey sensitive and perceptive about such things. They didn't try to include John A. Consumer in the study.

I think the experts raise some valid points in the end of the article about poor sound quality not necessarily being excusable. But then, I'm a musician, so I may have different views on the matter.

And, wow, I had always wondered whether "Vorbis" was a Discworld reference. Cute. I thought "Ogg" might be, too, but I guess not.

Re:Windows Media audio should scare you (2)

ecki (115356) | more than 12 years ago | (#86825)

I think the answer to why it should scare me should rather be that they're coupling WMA with their rights management system, backed by Passport and deployed by pressplay [microsoft.com] . This really scares me.

Re:Not to be a cynic but.... (3)

rob_from_ca (118788) | more than 12 years ago | (#86827)

Small or not it's quite perceptible. Play on my stereo an MP3 vs. a CD of the same song I will 100% pick out the CD as being better each time based on the sound alone, and I could point out the differences to anyone and make them see it too. Lots of people can; MP3's are simply no good for at home, pure listening purposes. For just about everything else, they're fine (computers, joggers, cars, DJ's, parties, etc...) for the most part.

loss of subtle sounds? (1)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 12 years ago | (#86830)

According to the article:

The test sessions were done in a home environment with an ordinary stereo system.

If these tests were done by attaching a typical home computer to a stereo then we must ask ourselves what the quality of the hardware was. With typical hardware, a lot of the [ loss of subtle sounds ] could be blamed on signal to noise ratio, digital interference caused by motherboard , power supply, etc... pathetic mini to RCA cables... the list goes on

Maybe next time the Washington post should recruited a diverse panel of digital sound engineers, programers, and the technically inclined to set up the bridge between the home computer and the stereo because obviously the hardware cd player will always have an advantage in that kind of set up


---

Forgotten Lossy Music Formats (3)

Animol (120579) | more than 12 years ago | (#86832)

I can't believe in this comparison they neglected one of the most unique formats of all time! I mean, this format has nearly zero compression, a limited spand, is fairly lossy in level (although it has a better frequency range), and is extremely easily corruptible and nearly impossible to repair.

I mean, the vinyl record didn't even earn its due in this battle! Although I understand that if you're willing to take a shorter piece of music, the media can be compressed to half its original diameter.

Re:re-encoding? (2)

kill_9_1 (123711) | more than 12 years ago | (#86834)

You and I shouldn't have to worry about re-encoding our existing collection of songs (MP3, RM, pick the format) into new formats providing the existing collection is electronic.

We're not talking about different mediums here as in the case when everyone changed from LP to CD. At that time, listeners were repurchasing the medium (CDs) and the delivery mechanism (CD players). In this case, the delivery mechanism is software on your PC that is upgraded at the click of a button and each click could add new support for existing and emerging formats.

If your existing collection is in format X and better format Y comes out, each format can co-exist and be used together. The only issue is if you WANT your existing format 'upgraded'.

Check Out ABX and PCABX (4)

snookerdoodle (123851) | more than 12 years ago | (#86835)

Here's an interesting web site that lets you do the comparisons:

www.pcabx.com

Also see

www.pcavtech.com

for some results

and

oeonline.com/~djcarlst/abx.htm

for explanation of ABX in general.

This url:

http://www.pcabx.com/product/coder_decoder/index .h tm

contains samples to compare FOR YOURSELF several codec variations.

This url:

http://www.pcavtech.com/play-rec/summary/index.h tm

contains some results... Apologies for not posting with html...

Mark

How to play videos on Winamp (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 12 years ago | (#86839)

I'll stick with my winamp, thanks.. although I'm forced to use [WiMP] for video files

The VidAmp [winamp.com] plugin for Winamp can play avi, mpg, and mov formats. The developer couldn't add support for the RealPlayer formats because RealPlayer's EULA makes it not embeddable.

Don't need no steenkin' methodology... (5)

Daniel Rutter (126873) | more than 12 years ago | (#86842)

Apart from the fact that, as other posters have noted, there's no information given on the bit rates or encoders used, the article straight-out admits that "the test sessions were done in a home environment with an ordinary stereo system".

Which, I'll warrant, means no double blinding and no level matching. Probably not even single blinding (where the testers know what's being listened to, but the testees don't). Level matching is essential; different encoding methods may play back at slightly different levels, and just turning up the volume a tad will convince a large proportion of casual or professional listeners that something's improved in the sound.

Without a proper scientific test, psychoacoustic effects can swamp even quite large real differences in sound, and can cause people to hear quite large differences that they wouldn't hear if they didn't know when they were listening to what.

As can trivially be demonstrated, when you look at the number of golden-eared but scientifically ignorant audiophiles who are utterly convinced that marble plinths for solid state equipment, little discs made of Mpingo ebony that you sit on top of your components, incredibly expensive special power cables and CD "demagnetisers" all make a clear and definite difference to the sound of their hi-fi system.

If you do a proper scientific test and find an audible difference between an amplifier whose transistors have had voodoo incantations spoken over them and another otherwise identical amplifier that has not been so treated, then I'll give you my rapt attention, despite the fundamental ridiculousness of the concept. If the evidence supports your contention, then your contention has value, by definition.

But if you don't do a proper test, your results are going to be random. From what little this article says about the test's methodology, I see no reason to believe a word of it.

Re:Alas... (1)

SLi (132609) | more than 12 years ago | (#86845)

Now, I'm not much of a MS fan, however, it must be pointed out that their office software does work very well, and works well with itself. So, while you can argue that the OS is brain-dead, the software, (minus the paperclip) is of decent quality.

I'm not a MS fan either, I use Linux exclusively (at home, anyway).

But one thing I always wonder is people saying that the Windows OS/kernel is crap and office software is their strength. I would say it's vice versa - I can use Windows (although I prefer Linux), but Word I wouldn't touch with a 5 foot long pole. Installing LaTeX (or some other tool, suitable for the task at hand) is usually the first thing to do when I have to use Windows. And the Windows kernel's not really that lousy, although a little buggy (but certainly better than the office tools, I'd say).

Re:The algorithm makes a difference (1)

SLi (132609) | more than 12 years ago | (#86846)

Umm, you sound more than a little confused about this technology.

The entire issue of how to encode sound is left, perhaps unsurprisingly, to the encoder. If you find a decoder (player) which gives crappy output on a good mp3/ogg file, well then that player is crappy. Yes, I know that such players exist.

Reverse engineering also has nothing to do with this, and reverse engineering an algorithm doesn't really make it "non-native" or crappy in any other way.

Re:this is complete bullshit... (1)

SLi (132609) | more than 12 years ago | (#86847)

Wrong. Absolutely wrong.

A bit by bit comparison doesn't really make sense. Neither does frequency response analysis. These encoders were designed specifically to alter these things.

The only thing which matters is, "how good does it sound to the listeners". And that's indeed the most scientific way of testing it I can think of. Blind tests, comparing with real CD quality.

Re:Assuming they are right (2)

SLi (132609) | more than 12 years ago | (#86848)

I can't though, so it doesn't matter. I'm not a musician by any means, nor can I detect the difference between 160 and 192 mp3 compression. So I'll continue using my inferior, yet cross platform, non-license restricted, used-everwhere, mp3 format.

Funny. Licensing issues are the single most important reason for not using MP3, at least for me. Looking for a non-license restricted format? Try Vorbis.

Re:re-encoding? (3)

Doomdark (136619) | more than 12 years ago | (#86852)

Well... Personally, I have all my music (minus few LPs) on CD (which are, *gasp* actually purchased!), and I can (and already partially have) encode them in any new format (ogg vorbis in my case) I want. I consider mp3 files to be binaries, and originals (CD) to be the source. No one would de-compile binaries, then re-compile using a new better compiler... So why should anyone do the same with mp3 to ogg either (anyone ignorant enough to convert from lossy format to another lossy format deserves the piss-poor quality he gets). Ok, well, I know... people with tons of pirated mp3s from Napster might want to do it. Somehow I just don't feel for them, though.

Also... you are assuming all the world's music is already here, and in MP3. There'll be new music created that can be encoded using better formats, and of course not everyone has converted music to mp3 yet in the first place. There's plenty of room for new better formats.

Re:WMA pretty darn good reall. (1)

ennuiner (144711) | more than 12 years ago | (#86859)

Yeah, as much as I hate to admit it, when I'm encoding mp3s, it takes longer and uses more resources than when I copy stuff as wma. Of course it may be differences in hardware. At home, I have a Celeron 533 with 192MB of RAM and at work, where I encode as wma, I use a Pentium III 667 with 64MB of RAM. I would think the machine with more RAM would actually do better, but I haven't done an apples-to-apples comparison.

Re:consider the experts (2)

kfg (145172) | more than 12 years ago | (#86862)

Vorbis is a minor charecter in a single discworld book. Nanny Ogg, and the Ogg family she comes from, are major players in an entire thread of the discworld series.

KFG

What has happened to decent reporting? (4)

Docrates (148350) | more than 12 years ago | (#86865)

So they make a comparisson about compression formats, get together several "experts" in the field and the writer sums up the conclusions in a few oversimplified statements for the lazy reader.

God forbid they actually told you ALL the aspects of the story, the complete facts: what're the compression rates? which one compresses more? is there a relation between file size vs. quality (well, of course there is, but is some form of compression significan enough to justify lower quality? or the other way around?)

Sorry for the ranting, but I've been trying to catch up on what's going on in the world today and the more I read the more frustrated I get with regular articles from regular sources (the CNN's and MSNBC's). And has anyone noticed that it's becoming less and less of a practice to actually link the original source of the information?

Oh, and why is slashdot so slow today? maybe I should have named this post "A bad day...".

I apologize again for the negative tone.

Re: r3mix is the definitive source! (1)

bzzt (151412) | more than 12 years ago | (#86866)

it really deserves a second linking, www.r3mix.net [r3mix.net] is the difinitive source for the developing area of music archival on mp3.

it's pretty obvious w/o even reading the arkle that the 'test' is garbage.

before you get hot and bothered about lossy codecs for archival, check it out. it works in Real Life(tm).

Yes but... (3)

Nidhogg (161640) | more than 12 years ago | (#86870)

what about those people that aren't either experts in audio equipment or professional musicians?

Are they going to notice the difference? Probably not.

Granted this is nice information to have. But I don't see the average user caring much. The MP3 format itself was lossy but no one seemed to care.

They left out (5)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 12 years ago | (#86873)

all of the good details. Like how they where encoded at what bit rate etc. Also why did the listeners know what they where listening to. The comments should have been sample a sounded better then sample b not about which format sounded better. Also they did not mention file size or any of the other reasons that people use lossy formats in the first place.

Hardware? (2)

EraseEraseMe (167638) | more than 12 years ago | (#86874)

What kind of hardware were the audio's running on? The majority of MP3 listeners aren't too concerned with audio quality as their systems aren't meant to put out high quality audio anyways (As mentioned in the article, headphones and computer systems are the main components of an average MP3 users playback system).

It is surprising, however, that Media Audio comes out on top...Not because it's a Microsoft product, but because anecdotally, I've always found it to be the worst player for my system...An intense resource hog as compared to other player/compression pairs. I guess one could say it's the more 'professional' of the three (Ogg, MP3, WMA)

"On MP3Pro, I could hear the valves closing on the clarinet and the bassoon," said Peter Hubscher, a rock guitarist. "I couldn't on Vorbis." An interesting quote, how good were these recordings?

How to sound smart whith a negative IQ (5)

Skuto (171945) | more than 12 years ago | (#86886)

Well, besides the obvious missing details, there
is a lot that is wrong about this:

>>>>>>
The test sessions were done in a home environment with an ordinary stereo system. We focused most of our attention on MP3Pro and Vorbis, the two newest formats, with Windows Audio Media and MP3, the older and more familiar formats, given more limited tests.
>>>>>>

Notice 'a home environment with an ordinary stereo system'. So esentially any more subtle loss in sound quality should have been lost. Great environment for listening tests eh. Note that this isn't compensated by the fact that is what most people use. The distortion between such systems varies widely, and hence what sounds good on one system doesn't necessarily sound good on another.

>>>>>>>
We had them listen to digitally encoded versions of two songs: the opening of a recent recording of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and the Who's "Love Ain't for Keeping."
>>>>>>>

TWO songs? We have hundreds of music genres and they used two songs for a comparisation? Christ. Encoding Heavy Metal (very bitrate heavy) is a whole different job than encoding classical music(very sensitive for minor distortions).

>>>>>>>
Of the seven listeners, two couldn't discern much difference between MP3Pro and Vorbis. The other five felt Vorbis was the least realistic,
>>>>>>>

Discern difference between the codecs? The way
this paragraph is put makes it highly unlikely
they were doing blind A/B tests.

More likely they actually told the test subjects
which codes it was each time.

This is _always_ going to favor mp3pro., just
because of the name. Also, the point of a good
encoder is to replicate the original music,
not to make it sound good! That is what an
exciter is for.

>>>>
Most thought the beta version of the Vorbis encoder poorly represented the natural sounds of the individual voices or musical instruments.
(A few disagreed, saying certain instruments sounded more synthetic in MP3Pro.)
>>>>

This convices me even more the setup of the test was failed. As I stated in a previous post, mp3pro 'makes up' the high end of the music. This is why some people must have thought it sounded better, while the better trained ones where able to pick up the fact that the high end was artificial.

>>>>
giving higher tones a better ring.
>>>>

Yep. More ringing on the hing end. Sounds like mp3pro for sure. Nevermind that the original music doesnt have it.

>>>>>>
"In the compressed format it sounded as if they had all moved their chairs together," said Hubscher. He founded this especially troublesome in Vorbis.
>>>>>>

BONK. Vorbis is the only format that does NOT
use any kind of joint/intensity stereo coding.
(it will in the 1.0 release)

Then how can it ever get a smaller stereo image??
This isn't making any sense at all...

>>>>>>>
Vrbsky and Lipnick blamed this on the way digital compression shaves off the beginnings and ends of notes.
>>>>>>>

Hahaaaa. They heard something about temporal
masking I'm sure. Too bad they don't have a clue.

--
GCP (who did his own listening tests)

Re:consider the experts (1)

taliver (174409) | more than 12 years ago | (#86889)

Just a little side note, the reason that MP3 probably treats the Human Voice better is the way it was originally designed. Tom's Diner was the test song that was used as the standard.

Alas... (2)

taliver (174409) | more than 12 years ago | (#86890)

Sometimes money actually does win. Why wouldn't Microsoft be able to pay for research to make a better compression algorithm?

And before people bark at how lousy the OS is, there's a difference: with the OS, they have a huge legacy they must support without recompiling code. With applications, they have the benefit of being able to set their own standards over and over again repeatedly (as is the general complaint from Open Source people).

So while this has the effect of making it hard to copy, it also allows them to freely change anything they want.

Now, I'm not much of a MS fan, however, it must be pointed out that their office software does work very well, and works well with itself. So, while you can argue that the OS is brain-dead, the software, (minus the paperclip) is of decent quality.

Re:CD quality sucks - CD Turntables rock (1)

laxian (174575) | more than 12 years ago | (#86891)

24bit/96khz is going to rule. Virtually all recording equipment is at that level already ... and big analog/vinyl junkies are stating that 24/96 audio quality suits them just fine. Woo hooo!

As for mixing with CDs ... no problem. So many of my friends do it well with no real issues. I really enjoy it, too ... modifying a song or getting strange samples and sound effects, burning them to a CD and playing them out the same night.

As for hip hop mixing with CDJs ... check out this video ... the new Pioneer CDJ-1000s are VERY impressive:

http://www.rhythmatik.com/cdj-1000.rm [rhythmatik.com]

-Christian

Re:Testing Methods? (1)

lacoste (176105) | more than 12 years ago | (#86892)

Haven't seen anyone put up this site yet, but I found it very useful: http://www.r3mix.net [r3mix.net]
He mentions a test somewhere in the site docs, and also tells you what ripper and encoder is currently recommended (EAC and lame right now), and what settings to use.

Lacoste
--
Vidi Vici Veni

Re:Alas... (1)

bribecka (176328) | more than 12 years ago | (#86893)

minus the paperclip

Actually, if you've ever used the help-search function within the paperclip, it's quite good and extremely useful. Of course, you have to first get past the realization that you are asking a paperclip a question.

Windows Media audio should scare you (3)

IvyMike (178408) | more than 12 years ago | (#86898)

Why? Well, it's quite good; apparently the billions and billions Microsoft has spent on research has finally resulted in a payoff. And Microsoft has managed to dominate market segments with complete shit products before; now that they actually have something decent, it's going to be difficult to stop them.

Bit rates? (5)

Jumperalex (185007) | more than 12 years ago | (#86902)

What the article fails to mention, or I'm too blind to find, is what bit rates these tests were run at and a quick discussion of what bit rates the various formats are considered best at. We all know some encoders are optimized for a given bit rate and encoding above or below that can often greatly impact quality; especially things like freq response, transient response, and spaciousness effected by those "small cues" they talk about.

If I had to guess they used a low bit rate for MP3Pro under the assumption that everyone will shoot for the same quality they do with MP3 but with the Pro versions greater compression. Personally I plan on doing all my futere encoding at the same bit rate looking for the (hopefully) improved quality over MP3. The same comment applies for Vorbis as well.

Re:What has happened to decent reporting? (1)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 12 years ago | (#86903)

this was posted just as i was posting my bitch about the test, sorry for repitition...

--

Re:this is complete bullshit... (1)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 12 years ago | (#86904)

The only thing which matters is, "how good does it sound to the listeners". And that's indeed the most scientific way of testing it I can think of. Blind tests, comparing with real CD quality.

this is true, a blind test is definitely the way to go. but some quality control definitely needs to be instituted, as well as revealing the "brand x" that sounds so good afterwards. this "test" does none of this, it just gives us some random pseudoexperts who say that this format is the best, and this one is not.

--

this is complete bullshit... (3)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 12 years ago | (#86905)

...because the very nature of the test is invalid. if you want to determine what is "cd quality" and what is not, you need to at least use a more scientific method than this. check out r3mix.net [r3mix.net] for better info.

also, how did these people encode their mp3/ogg/wma files? there's no indication of bitrate, sampling frequency, encoder, encoder settings, nothing!. without this info, these results are even more invalid, and misleading to people who believe them. for example: in mp3 encoding, a file encoded at 128 kbps with a newer version of lame will sound much better than a piece encoded at the same bitrate with bladenc. why? cuz lame is much better, that's why!

i'm not supporting one format over another, but please, please don't base anything on this crap. i don't know how this even got posted.

--

"Lossy" is what threw off the RIAA (1)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 12 years ago | (#86909)

They were convinced that since MP3's did not offer CD-quality, folks wouldn't bother encoding music. If you remember, they were quick to jump on the "DAT Tax" which was a non-lossy encoding scheme. My Panasonic SV-3700 which features the "pro" quality digital copy capability (as well as the S/PDIF version) has a switch to defeat SCMS. SCMS was put in to prevent the making of more than 1 copy of a DAT tape. The SV-3700 was priced way out of the league of a consumer. S/PDIF ladened DAT decks went for hundreds of $$ less. People forget that this has been an issue for 10 years! Only until it affects their MP3 collection do they notice. Us musicians have been getting the shaft by these dweebs for years and from more than 1 angle!

Details... (5)

marcop (205587) | more than 12 years ago | (#86911)

As others have pointed out, the article lacks technical details. The most important detail of all... did the listeners KNOW which file format was being played? If they did then name branding could have had a play in some of the results. Can you imagine thoughts like...

"Ogg Vorbiss, what kind of name is that? Sounds like crap too." or...

"Microsoft, they got a lot of money for R&D. This should be good."

re-encoding? (5)

ambit (208647) | more than 12 years ago | (#86914)

i know this is all fine and well, but who really wants to change to a different format if they have to completely re-encode their entire mp3 collection?

More missing details: (1)

cthlptlk (210435) | more than 12 years ago | (#86916)

How much did the guitarist drink before the test? What did they smoke?

What instruments did the second classical musician play? Oboe? Piano? Percussion?

Does the audio saleman sell Harmon-Kardon or NAD?

It's hard to believe that the Washington Post could be so sloppy with important details! Who do they think is reading these articles, anyway?

You are correct (1)

wardomon (213812) | more than 12 years ago | (#86918)

I've compressed my entire 13 CD Joe Satrianni collection down to 1 disc of MP3s. I don't own speakers good enough to discern the difference between the original and the copy. Plus, it's so much more portable. Led Zeppelin is next.

Re:Testing Methods? (2)

zhensel (228891) | more than 12 years ago | (#86924)

Ars Technica [arstechnica.com] did a very in depth piece not too long ago. They compared various mp3 encoders here [arstechnica.com] . This might be what you are thinking of as it's from March 2000, but perhaps not.

Re:Testing Methods? (1)

MarkLR (236125) | more than 12 years ago | (#86930)

Generally tests that involve the quality of sound related items - speakers, microphones, etc don't need to focus on bitrate or such, they just get people to listen and make a judgement. When they have wine tastings, nobody computes the sugar content of the wine, they taste it. MP3s are poor compared to other formats, thats been known for a long time.

On the other hand, spaciousness (1)

kuhneng (241514) | more than 12 years ago | (#86932)

I agree wholeheartedly with the complaints about lack of information on testing methodology. It's a shame to gather a panel of experts and then ruin your results by telling them what they're listening to. It's a real waste of these people's time, even if they don't know it. Should have been a blind test at the very least.

On the other hand, the comment about loss of spaciousness showed some insight. One of the things most of these lossy formats don't preserve is the phase information between channels. Phase is one of the factors in the human auditory system's "imaging" sense, that is, it's ability to guess where a sound is coming from. Understanding of psycoacoustics is still fairly limited, with lots of clues as to what's going on, but no complete picture.

I worked at Bose a few years ago, and they had some very interesting demos involving sound imaging. Several demos involving only 2 drivers that seemed to very clearly move sounds around you such that you could point to precisely where you thought the sound came from. The recording methodology is very important for this kind of effect though.

My personal experience is that with good headphones (studio reference units), my untrained ear can hear the problems in MP3 at 128 kbits, but probably not at 192. Considering how rarely I listen to music under these pristine conditions, I'll live with MP3 until something better and universally supported comes along.

Re:They left out (3)

Bonker (243350) | more than 12 years ago | (#86937)

I agree. A lot of people will swear by the fact that above 256 Kbit/sec, even plain-jane MP3 becomes indistinquishable from regular CD Audio, even to the most experienced audiophiles. Of course at that resolution, you're only getting about 1:5 compression in terms of filesize, but you can still fit more than 60 four minute audio tracks on a 'backup' CD-RW and be confident of having the same quality sound.
Different codecs perform differently at different bitrates and with different types of audio. If they were trying to go for a little more impartiality here, they should have presented a little wider range of testing. Low, medium, and high bitrates, with speech, classical music, rock, and electronic music.

its true.. (1)

kbeast (255013) | more than 12 years ago | (#86950)

Well, I know that, if I make a cd from a bunch of mp3s...same album, same artist..and use 128, 160, and 192, I can tell the difference in my car, right away, and pick which is which bitrate..on the computer, since my speakers are pretty dinky, its harder to tell, but 192 always has nicer highs...

.kb

Re:Hardware? (1)

kbeast (255013) | more than 12 years ago | (#86951)

I agree that Windows Media Player blows..
Its in fact, so bad now, I hate to even load it up. Microsoft had a nice little version of it, and then they came out with the 6.1 or 6.4, and became this memory hungry monster...way too big and bulky to play back files quick...I'll stick with my winamp, thanks.. although I'm forced to use it for video files..I wish I could have the cut down version...

.kb

Re:this is complete bullshit... (1)

EllisDees (268037) | more than 12 years ago | (#86956)

Check out the site he links to. In a blind listening test of 300 audiophiles, mp3 recordings at 256k were indistingusihable from the original when played on the same equipment. Generally, I think 'audiophiles' are big into self-deception. :)

Re: Not to be a cynic but... (2)

Smegma4U (301112) | more than 12 years ago | (#86960)

I think you're completely off the mark on this one. Often times musicians can easily pick up on aspects of sound quality that the average user can't. It's just like some people can smell better than others. Just because I can't smell something doesn't mean it's not there, and the same thing can be said for the quality of music. I might not be able to pick up on something, but my roomate who has been playing the double bass for years often can.

That having been said, I think that these musicians overate the importance of sound quality on MP3s, because most people's stereos are not capable of producing high enough quality sound to make much of a difference.

Re:consider the experts (2)

Zaknafein500 (303608) | more than 12 years ago | (#86963)

I think the experts raise some valid points in the end of the article about poor sound quality not necessarily being excusable. But then, I'm a musician, so I may have different views on the matter.

It was the article I have been waiting someone to write. With all the attention the mass media has given to MP3, no one has really brought up the fact that MP3s simply suck as far as sound quality is concerned. Just because most people don't pay much attention, doesn't mean it is OK to sacrifice quality. I'm really quite surprised that this story appeared in mainstream press. It reads like an article you would find in Stereophile [stereophile.com] .

Most people think that they can't hear good sound. Fact is, they just never have. If more people would invest in quality audio components from companies like NAD and Paradigm, they would find better sound really does improve the enjoyment of the music, and can be quite affordable.

Re:How do you know it wasn't blind? (2)

mech9t8 (310197) | more than 12 years ago | (#86965)

that people with formal musical training are going to pick up on small details (like the valves on the clarinet) that J. Random User won't

I think part of the point of the article was that although we not be *consciously* aware of such things, the subtle nuances do make a difference in the quality of the music we're listening to, whether we notice them or not. They probably have a greater affect, in fact, if we don't consciously notice they're there.
--
Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.

WMedia vs. MP3 vs. The Future (5)

KosovoYankee (310988) | more than 12 years ago | (#86968)

Regardless of the superior sound quality of Windows Media, or Vorbis, it is important to remember that the primary target for compressed audio is males 16-35 who don't want to pay for music before they have heard it, or perhaps not at all. A big chunk of this group have already damaged their hearing beyond repair as a result of their love for loud music, and as such, cnanot tell the difference between a flat sound, a vibrant sound, or a few hertz missing here and there.

Additionally, the goal of compressed audio is not to replace cd's, but to aid in the dissemination of audio data, or music. Whichever technology has grassroots appeal and is more importantly free, will be embraced by the millions of people who use audio compression everyday, leaving higher-end solutions to professionals and audiophiles. This is illustrated well in the audio hardware industry: How many people have 20 000 dollar sound systems, or DVD audio collections? Not enough to be more than a niche market. This has been previously discussed on Slashdot....

Re:They left out (1)

Win-Developer (316016) | more than 12 years ago | (#86972)

Also why did the listeners know what they where listening to. The comments should have been sample a sounded better then sample b not about which format sounded better.

I think that the person would want to know what they are listening to before the test. How can anyone trully judge something based on its merits if you don't have some baseline for opinion? If you know the piece, then you know the intricacies of the piece and how the instruments *should* sound together. Being a non-musician/musician I can assure you it doesn't take an audiophile/musician to notice the difference between encoding bit rates of mp3s with a decent set of headphones, as long as you're concentrating on the sound.

Besides, they did say which one sounded better...the Windows Audio format. Hence the recording encoded with that sounded best overall.

Re:Windows Media audio should scare you (1)

why-is-it (318134) | more than 12 years ago | (#86974)

"Microsoft has managed to dominate market segments with complete shit products before; now that they actually have something decent, it's going to be difficult to stop them."

It was going to be difficult to stop them regardless of how bad their product is. It's just nice that the default product isn't so bad for a change.

Either/or, I still prefer the sound quality of CDs. There is a noticable loss of sound quality with any compression technique and IMHO there is no comparison to the original.

Bitrate (1)

novastyli (450003) | more than 12 years ago | (#86986)

It would have been nice if they compared at which bitrate does the sound become indistiguishable from PCM even by these supersensitive people.

Afterall, the size gets less and less important, not withstanding the coming doomsday when the harddisk capacity ceases to grow exponentially.

Re:Testing Methods? (1)

Keith Mickunas (460655) | more than 12 years ago | (#87001)

Your analogy is incorrect. Bitrate is very significant in this case. If one was done at 64, one at 256 and another using variable bit rate, the test would hardly be fair. Also, what if one used a higher rate than others were even capable of? In a wine tasting you expect that the wine is being served in the same manner, or in a manner that is appropriate for that wine, and that it also has been stored previously. If they weren't the tasters would most likely be outraged. In all testing you have to have whatever is being compared done so equally.

Re:consider the experts (1)

dohcvtec (461026) | more than 12 years ago | (#87002)

Funny you should mention Stereophile - Lewis Lipnick is (was?) a writer for Stereophile. I'm quite surprised the article didn't mention this tidbit.

Re:What has happened to decent reporting? (1)

dohcvtec (461026) | more than 12 years ago | (#87003)

Unfortunately, the size of the article would at least double or triple if all of the methodology, test parameters, etc. were disclosed. Tests of this nature have more variables and conditions than even computer hardware or software benchmarks do. That's why Stereophile and Audio (not to mention The Absolute Sound) don't exactly fly off the shelves the way something like People Magazine does. Most people's eyes would glaze over after the first paragraph, with mention of encoding variables alone, as well as what CD transport, DAC, preamp, amplifiers, cables, and speakers were used, plus speaker placement, room variables, testing methodology, you name it. At that point, you're looking at more of a white paper than a news article.

Vorbis sounds better to me... (1)

Jennifer E. Elaan (463827) | more than 12 years ago | (#87007)

I encoded a few of my songs into Vorbis and really liked the results. Not using a low-bitrate option or any such nonsense, of course... I set it for the compression rate that uses just more than 128kbps, so it was a smidge bigger than an mp3...

And suddenly, the floor started shaking, noticably. You see, MP3 seems to clip anything below 60Hz. Human hearing goes down to 40Hz normally, 20Hz for some people, but you can still detect a 10Hz waveform... Vorbis allocates much more data to the low-frequency end of the spectra than MP3, as was evidenced by the much higher utilization of my subwoofer.

Too bad the specification is still lacking... Vorbis is a nice format and I've been trying to write a player. Hard to do it all from sources.

-- Blore's Razor:

Psychoaccoustics. (2)

Jennifer E. Elaan (463827) | more than 12 years ago | (#87009)

Interesting. Personally I've noticed that my equalizer settings make more difference to sound quality than compression, unless it's a poorly-encoded file.

The point is that humans only hear a certain range of frequencies, but not only that, they only hear prominent frequencies. Vorbis took advantage of this moreso than MP3 by implementing a Bark-scale to differentiate the frequency subbands, instead of an arbitrary scale.

The point is that, if you hear a note at 400Hz at 50dB and one at 401Hz at 2dB, you won't notice the second. Your ear just cannot receive it. Lossiness comes in when this "masking" effect (where a frequency blocks out one of a similar frequency but lower amplitude) does not mask the noise introduced by the frequency quantization. The more advanced the psychoaccoustics, the more of this noise will fall below the "masking threshold". Some people have better masking thresholds than others.

The salient point here is that the more data you throw out, the harder it becomes to keep a perfect SnR (by the human ear that is, you obviously lose a lot of actual signal). The 128kbit is probably going to stay the standard, period, since bandwidth is getting so much cheaper. With improving psychoaccoustical models, the quantization noise should fall well below the masking thresholds of even the most astute listeners.

Without more sophisticated pickups (IE something better than human ears), files with some compression will eventually sound identical from the listeners perspective.

-- Blore's Razor:

My grandmother who is losing her hearing... (1)

mojumbo (464529) | more than 12 years ago | (#87010)

"...felt Vorbis was the least realistic, with MP3Pro sounding better and Windows Media Audio best of all -- but none of these formats achieved CD quality."

Not to be a cynic but.... (3)

natesch (465385) | more than 12 years ago | (#87011)

I think these guys are full of it. The amount of data that is lost in MP3 compression is tiny, and is mostly sounds out of range of human hearing. And if the files are recorded at higher bit rates CD quality sound can be achieved. I think these guys just felt they had to say something to the reporter, so as not to look like idiots. And at the end of the article, when the guy "worries" that we are losing our appreciation of music because of MP3s, I realized that this was an article about nothing, with quotes by people who knew nothing.
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  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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