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RichP714

CODEC Comparison: test your gear/ears

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I've uploaded the same track, five different times.  One of these files is the original CD rip, one is a FLAC rip, the other three are various lossy codec rips.
 
All were then converted back to wav.  Download the files and burn to CD, then compare and see if you can differentiate between the various algorithms; which one has the best soundstage, lowest noise level, harshest high end, etc.
 
Have fun.  I copied the files to a separate folder, then uploaded them randomly to the server, so the earliest file time stamp isn't the original, etc.
 
The track is 'Silver Springs' by Fleetwood Mac, and is a modern live recording with 'normal' high compression; this means the average listening level will be higher than the second song.
 
Post your experiences and in a bit I'll reveal (through PM) which is which.
 

EDIT:  I added another track, Shadowfax  "Brown Rice"  6-10 below, and it is recorded with little/no compression; this means the average listening level will be quite a bit lower than more modern recordings (that squash the hell out of the dynamics).  For instance, to hear him (and the sibilance) say 'brown rice' in the beginning moments, the volume will have to be a bit higher than you're used to 
 

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There's a lot of talk out there about how compressed audio can't be as good, has a flat soundstage, shrill top end, no separation, etc. Here's a chance to try for yourself.

 

e.g. I've found that, when compressed in mp3 in joint stereo mode (as most mp3's are) there CAN be an exaggerated channel separation, such that there's a weird flanging effect when used with Sonic Holography.  This contradicts other's experience that the soundstage is flat because the algorithm is 'hollowing out' the signal. 

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Well I listened to these on crappy computer headset headphones but #10 is the winner as far as im concerned.

 

 

 

REGARDS SNOW

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I'm going to build up a chart so we can compare experiences with these two tracks in different formats. This is NOT a contest, just an exercise for the listener.

 

The Brown Rice track is recorded with little/no compression, it will have a much lower average level.  The Fleetwood Mac track is a modern recording, compressed for a higher average listening level.  Harry has discovered the signal is also clipped sporadically throughout the song; the price you pay for higher levels unfortunately.

 

I included it so we'd have a copmparison between a high daynamic range song and a compressed song that also was live.

 

It would give more data if you also choose the worst version

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Some people have reported that, so far, it's turning into a harder proposition than they imagined.

 

MP3 CODECS have come a long way, and many people's negative experience with them stems from the rather crappy early encoding techniques (e.g. that horrible method MusicMatch used up until version 9 or so).

 

MP3 encoding isn't a set standard, it's a set of principles, and each encoder is allowed to implement as many of the techniques as they feel the need for (kind of like HQ video, there were (i believe) 4 technologies, but to have the HQ logo you only had to implement two)) and they all do it a different way.

 

The encoder I used for MP3 in this case was LAME version 3.98 beta 2; widely accepted as the standard for mid to high level bitrate encoding.

 

LAME dynamically implements joint stereo, L/R stereo. M/S stereo and intensity stereo depending on program material. You can also choose either CBR, ABR or VBR encoding, as with many of the better encoders.

 

The days of 'It's got to sound flat because so much of the original is missing' are really gone with the modern encoders. Give these tracks a listen, you might be pleasantly surprised.

 

at least ONE of the MP3 formats I chose should be easily identifiable; it's not a crappy 64kbps rip, but if you're the 'all MP3 is crap' type you should be able to pick it out.

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Performed a quick listen today of the Brown Rice tracks on my "second best" home system; I have to agree that the MP3 tracks are way better than I expected.  X was the only track that gave me the "MP3 is crap" feeling.  My results are a bit of a guess-timate because my better half was vacuuming during much of the session -- although it did give me an excuse to crank the volume!  I'll listen to Silver Springs tomorrow on my "best" system (and double check my Brown Rice ratings) when the wiffle is away.

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Thanks for giving this so much time and effort faustus; gives us more datapoints. I'll put your ratings in the chart after you report back with the other track ratings (and confirm your experience with the first song).

 

Silver Springs is a great song; it was on the B side of the single 'Go Your Own Way' and was dropped from the album.

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Okay, I give.  Waving the white flag.  Much tougher than I expected, based on what I'd heard from others.  If I was forced to choose, it would go something like this, based on clarity and harshness.  But no way would I claim to come up with the same results in another test.  My hat's off to anybody who can distinguish these with any sort of accuracy.
 
20091102144043625.jpg 
 

 
Great exercise, Rich.  This really seems to challenge conventional wisdom.  Got my award ready yet?

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Whew!  What an exercise.  I have never listened to this much MP3 and have not listened to any MP3 in a long while, but I did come to several conclusions.  First, back and forth from track to track is a tough way to compare.  Second, there are no real dogs in the mix -- even my lowest ranked track sounds acceptable.  Third, I noticed the biggest differences when the music got complicated with lots of instruments and/or lead/background vocals occurring simultaneously.
 
Thanks, Rich, for giving me a reason to evaluate MP3 versus lossless -- my blind prejudice against MP3 has been eliminated.  Obviously MP3 does not totally suck and can be nearly indistinguishable from a lossless recording.

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Whew!  What an exercise.  I have never listened to this much MP3 and have not listened to any MP3 in a long while, but I did come to several conclusions.  First, back and forth from track to track is a tough way to compare.  Second, there are no real dogs in the mix -- even my lowest ranked track sounds acceptable.  Third, I noticed the biggest differences when the music got complicated with lots of instruments and/or lead/background vocals occurring simultaneously.

 

Thanks, Rich, for giving me a reason to evaluate MP3 versus lossless -- my blind prejudice against MP3 has been eliminated.  Obviously MP3 does not totally suck and can be nearly indistinguishable from a lossless recording.

 

Thanks for posting your impressions.  There's much variability in MP3, not just in the compression rate but also in the encoder used.  Since there's no standard, each does it their own way.  LAME is very well regarded, and implements most (if not all) of the psychoacoustic principles to get a very nice result.

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The biggest differences I noted were during passages that had lots of instruments and/or lots of vocals simultaneously; at those times, the lower ranked tracks were not as thick/full/smooth sounding as the higher ranked - it seemed like the compromises made during encoding resulted in a thinner and/or less distinct result with a mild increase in harshness.  That said, I found next to no differences between the top three tracks for each of the songs, then a very slight quality drop to fourth place followed by another drop to fifth place.

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Almost 300 views and only about three people voted so far...........come on guys; it's not hard; just download 10 tracks and listen to them..... 

 

I bet everybody is waiting for my vote, as i'm sure everyone knows that my innocent young ears only have been exposed to the most beautiful music on the face of the earth, and therefore my ears should be considered to be the ultimate benchmark for comparison tests like this... happy0009.gif

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Almost 300 views and only about three people voted so far...........come on guys; it's not hard; just download 10 tracks and listen to them..... 

 

I bet everybody is waiting for my vote, as i'm sure everyone knows that my innocent young ears only have been exposed to the most beautyful music on the face of the earth, and therefore my ears should be considered to be the ultimate benchmark for comparison tests like this...

 

Yes, I'm waiting, and I'm sure others are interested.  Not many people actually going through with it though; I'm not sure why

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Rich' date=' I'm sure the reason most aren't commenting is, like me, they only have crappy computer speakers to listen on, which is no test at all.[/quote']
 
The workaround for that issue is to download the songs to your PC, burn the tracks to a CD-R using your PC's optical drive (I used Nero software), then listen to the CD on your home system through your good speakers.
 
It will take time to download the tracks -- in my case, close to an hour.  Once you have burned the CD-R, you'll be surprised at how good some of the MP3 tracks sound on your home system.
 
I'm interested to see the results from members whose systems are far better than mine.  Maybe it will be easier for them to rank the quality of the tracks?  Maybe not?

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