Am I going insane or is their actually a difference? (Lossless vs. mp3)*

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Nostradamus, Nov 25, 2021 at 12:11 PM.

  1. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    All my life I've ripped my music to 320kbps mp3 - being told that any further than that is just an unfair outlay in terms of size v audible difference.

    Out of curiosity I just download EAC and ripped a couple of albums to WAV - I honestly believe I can hear a stark difference - the instruments in the background are louder rather than being destroyed by the vocals, the vocals are clearer - ambient noises on tracks seep through where they were barely noticeable on either the Spotify premium play or my personal 320kbps mp3.

    Am I going mad?
     
  2. yamfan

    yamfan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Missouri
    If you notice a difference, there is a difference. I didn't too well distinguishing Mp3 from wav files on the test that NPR had on their website.
     
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  3. LakeMountain

    LakeMountain Vinyl surfer

    Location:
    Netherlands
    You are sane and you are not alone!
     
  4. Ingenieur

    Ingenieur Going with the flow...

    Location:
    PA
    I do not have golden ears but I compared Roundabout MP3 vs FLAC. I noticed a big difference, primarily upper end extension and resolution. I could not tell a difference CD vs FLAC.

    I re-ripped my entire library.
     
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  5. Stereosound

    Stereosound Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    No you’re fine, there is a difference. Some can perceive it others don’t think they can.

     
  6. Stereosound

    Stereosound Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
  7. Classic Car Guy

    Classic Car Guy Analog Recording to the Next Level

    Location:
    Northwest, USA
    Yes, sound can be night and day. I notice the big difference when I'm recording. The stock WAV or any lossless files (non re-mastered) is the way to go.
    and......
    Don't forget about the Secret Ingredient of Magic Fuse plays a big part too...:-plnktn-:
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2021 at 1:15 PM
  8. Blank Frank

    Blank Frank King of Carrot Flowers

    A few of us had a play one time, comparing different levels of MP3 with WAV and the original disc with replay chain kept as far the same as possible (CD player had digital inputs). Did it as blind as we could, with the listeners not knowing which was coming when and all rips made on the same device.

    We could all tell low bit from high bit MP3, high bit MP3 from either WAV or the original, but not the WAV from the original.
     
    jonwoody likes this.
  9. elvisizer

    elvisizer Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Jose
    mp3 is lossy, WAV is uncompressed.
    so yeah, there's a difference, of course there is.
    320 kbps mp3's are decent but these days . . . .who cares how big the files are? my iphone has a terabyte of storage for goodness sakes. just use uncompressed formats.
     
  10. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    For casual and portable listening, 320kbs AAC does me just fine. Serious listening through headphones and a decent DAC tho and I definitely hear a difference between lossy & lossless files.
     
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  11. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    You're sane. The difference you heard are the types of differences I hear between lossy and lossless. Welcome to my world. We're all sane here. It's the other people that are mad.
     
  12. Tim 2

    Tim 2 MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Location:
    Alberta Canada
    It's hard to believe someone would ask that question, of coarse theres a difference.
     
    jonwoody likes this.
  13. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Meat and Potatoes all day long

    The differences are incredibly obvious depending on the resolution of your setup.
    With 128K low res for instance, notes just drop out and get cut off when they end.
    There is no TAIL to the notes at all---they just STOP in mid stream.
    Not enough data to finish painting the note fully...

    Whatever you do don't EVER compare 24/192 to regular digital on a highly resolving set.
    You will be unable to tolerate low res after that.
     
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  14. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    Why is hard to believe someone would ask this question? I'm genuinely curious. I started collecting CDs at 11, I'm now 25 - everybody told me to rip them to 320kbps mp3/aac and save the file space growing up as FLAC/WAV were just using excess disk space for no audible benefit, so I was a bit stunned when I actually listened to the WAV files I was ripping primarily as a way to archive the CDs at their best rather than for general listening purposes and heard a difference.
     
  15. Tim 2

    Tim 2 MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Location:
    Alberta Canada
    No offence meant. I thought the difference would be clear to most audiophiles and good listeners. :shrug:
     
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  16. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    That's a path that most of us have followed. Start with mp3/aac because of storage size and convenience. Be happy with that for a while. Then hear that lossless really does sound better. Then oh dear, have to re-rip the entire CD collection. Been there. Done that.

    I started exploring computer as source a bit over 20 years ago. Back in the days when a 300GB drive was big. Storage size was a big concern. Which made lossy mp3/aac more popular. Then 10 years later I got better gear and found out I could now hear that lossless was better than lossy. Oh dear. And re-ripped the CD collection. My music collection is now over 2.5TB. That would have been an unimaginably huge amount of storage back in 1997 when I started this journey.
     
  17. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    While I advocate bit-perfect FLAC lossless compressed ripping for archives so we're ensure the best possible quality, I would say 320kbps MP3 (assuming a good encoder like a recent LAME version) is transparent (and the data I've seen including a blind test with other audiophiles is consistent with this).

    The best way to know to confirm hearing a difference - especially if it's "stark" - is to use foobar's ABX Comparator to listen to the MP3 and WAV versions. The software will keep volume controlled and you can easily go between the 2 tracks and see if you can accurately identify them and you can have a look at the output log to see how well you scored.

    I find it interesting that even if one can tell the tracks apart, I've seen people actually prefer the MP3 version. Sometimes removing certain frequencies in lossy compression can make the recording sound "cleaner".

    Good luck!
     
  18. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    Hold on, now. Those two are not the same thing! AAC (M4A) is much more efficient than MP3. And unlike MP3 which maxes out at 320 kbps (regardless if you have VBR enabled or not), AAC at 320 kbps with VBR enabled can actually exceed 500 kbps during challenging passages. It's as near-lossless as you can get without using a lossless codec.

    The only reason to use MP3 these days is for backwards compatibility -- it works with everything. But these days almost everything supports M4A too. Support for lossless is much more iffy -- a lot of devices simply don't support it, regardless if you use WAV, FLAC, or ALAC (Apple Lossless).
     
  19. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    Hmmm, by normalizing like that then playing the sound, it's actually misrepresenting the actual small differences. Plus the whole point of MP3 is auditory masking which makes the difference even less audible (likely inaudible). Again, best way to test for any of us is to actually try ABX Comparator. Like I said, I think sound people might be surprised that with high bitrate MP3, they might even prefer the MP3 version.
     
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  20. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Meat and Potatoes all day long

    I have said this myself.
    320K loses the high frequencies that bother me with a CD.
    CD filters have a lot of "hash" to try to reconstruct as they containe lots of distorted high frequency information.
    And to my ear that CD reconstruction is garbage.
    I would RATHER have LESS clarity in the treble and have it less mangled so that I can't be bothered by it!

    But High Resolution at 24/192 is a completely different animal.
    The filtering has a more complete signal to work with with more data.
    And the glare is moved way up high where I hear it less.

    I HATE 16/44.1 as a rule.
    I have very few CDs that I can stand.
    On the other hand i enjoy Spotify 320K tremendously even though it sounds a bit like an old fashioned jukebox.
    Kind of loud, brassy and boomy.
    But full of "life" and not glare-y.

    My two cents.
     
    Tim 2 likes this.
  21. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    Import a lossless and mp3 version of something into audacity, invert the phase of one, then mix the two down to a new track (basically subtracting one from the other). What you’ll have left is the difference. Anybody that tells you lossy formats work by removing inaudible data clearly haven’t done this exercise.
     
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  22. TimB

    TimB Pop, Rock and Blues for me!

    Location:
    Colorado
    For driving in my car, I use mp3 128-256 mainly because my car is a bit noisy. But for headphones and speakers I can hear a difference. Mostly soundstage looses out with compression followed by detail. When NPR did the big shoot out a couple of years ago as to if people could tell the difference they came up with over all that most people could not hear the difference. Ok so what phones did they use and what headphones? Most ear buds that came with phones were lousy with distortion and clarity being big issues. I am not saying you need $5000 Stax and a $50,000 DAC or $200,000 speakers to hear the difference. Plus most people do not have a clue about getting a good sound let alone understand the ideas of soundstage and trailing notes. And most people don’t care as well. Even most artists do not give a crap about all of this as well.
     
    Tim 2 likes this.
  23. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    I'd heard a difference between the CDs played in my Hi Fi System and the mp3 files played on my PC/phone - I had assumed that was more to do with speakers than the file type
     
  24. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    If I do Wave I want to hear the difference!
     
  25. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    Absolutely! Unless we're comparing apples-to-apples, it's too easy to make sweeping generalizations. Even small differences like 0.1dB volume shifts can change preference when listening, much less the massive variations between Hi-Fi system vs. PC/phone DAC and speaker differences!

    I'd take 320kbps MP3 with good speaker over lossless with not-as-good speakers any day!
     
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