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. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    Yup, depending on the kind of DAC and filtering, I can certainly appreciate where you're coming from. IMO, you don't even need to bother with a filter when you have 192kHz data. Imaging artifacts would already be >96kHz so the natural roll-off of the "system" (ears, speakers, possibly amps) good enough to not cause trouble.

    In the blind test I ran years ago (linked above), it was actually interesting to find that folks (151 total respondents, "audiophile" types) seemed to have a preference for the MP3 version of the heavy metal track. I did not see this preference with the Pink Floyd or vocal/pop/country tracks. Indeed I wondered if the MP3 processing might have just toned down the "hash" and especially higher frequency content in music like that which could be perceived as "dysphonic".

    [Just a note, most MP3 blind tests are run with high quality productions like classical! I think this might be why we don't see more results showing the potential benefits of MP3 with nasty sounding music. ;-]

    Audiophiles in general never want to say that they prefer MP3 (other than you @Doctor Fine ;-); after all, we want *ultimate* fidelity, right? So it might be surprising for some to consider this possibility and be more open minded that MP3 is indeed its own form of DSP which in some instances might render the output more "euphonic"!
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  2. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    Again, it's inaudible in the context of masking. So by doing this subtraction exercise, you're actually taking the residual signal out of context with all the other (typically much louder) sounds that are supposed to be playing during that time!

    It's good to know what was taken out. But no need to fret that this was all that audible.
    vwestlife, Tim 2 and rcsrich like this.
  3. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Ah- thanks for the explanation! :righton:
  4. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma


    bever70 and Michael like this.
  5. Jack_Straw

    Jack_Straw Forum Resident

    Wichita, KS
    When I did that NPR test a few years ago, I preferred the uncompressed WAV in every case, until the 320kbps comparison, where I chose the MP3 every time. There must be something about that 320 algorithm that is pleasing to my ears… very strange.

    I listened on my computer/studio monitors, not on my main system, but it’s still weird how it was so consistent. I’d like to try it again if it’s still available.
    Doctor Fine likes this.
  6. Jamsterdammer

    Jamsterdammer Forum Resident

    I hear a lot of people in the real world (i.e. outside of this forum) say that 320 kbps mp3 is plenty. I'm sure it's perfectly fine for the vast majority of people listening to music on their phones or in the car, but if you want to listen to music through decent speakers or headphones, you will absolutely hear the difference between lossy and lossless. The more revealing your system, the more obvious the difference. In this day and age, with storage costing next to nothing, there's no reason not to rip your CDs to a lossless format to keep the sound quality identical. Unless of course you want to keep listening in your car and through cheap earbuds on your phone. Then 320 kbps mp3 is quite sufficient.
    Blank Frank, gakerty, TimB and 2 others like this.
  7. Michael

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

    I hear it, I hear it!
    Eric_Generic and JohnB like this.
  8. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    Probably true, but a lot of your assertions could be a product of your specific setup and playback systems.

    HIRES_FAN Forum Resident

    After you've heard hires music and native 3D object based stuff (Atmos, Auro3D, etc) on a resolving setup, it can be hard even going back to a lossless redbook CD....Mp3??? Geebeezus, you guys live in some kinda time warp out here man...
    Doctor Fine, TimB and Tim 2 like this.
  10. Michael

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

    yes, time warps are good.; ) because we like it?
  11. Retro Music Man

    Retro Music Man Forum Resident

    Sydney, Australia
    About three years ago, I decided it was finally time to get my CD collection onto my phone. So I ripped the discs to WAV with EAC, then transcoded the files to 320kbps MP3 and added tags/artwork. I was happy with this setup for a long time.

    Recently, I became convinced about the benefits of AAC over MP3. I didn't want to convert the WAVs directly to another lossy codec, so instead, I decided to use FLAC as an intermediary.

    By applying the metadata to the FLAC files, and keeping them as a lossless archive, I can now transcode to any lossy format with one click using the dBpoweramp batch converter. It's fantastic. I could change the lossy codec of my portable library every week if I wanted to, and I wouldn't need to re-enter any of the tag info.
  12. Jamsterdammer

    Jamsterdammer Forum Resident

    Correct. And AAC is a better lossy codec than mp3 sound wise (while flac trumps alac for efficiency in lossless).
  13. crispi

    crispi Vinyl Archaeologist

    You need to do a controlled test, not compare two different systems. Rip the same track to both 320kbps and WAV, and then compare them back to back on the same system through the same speakers or even better, headphones. Best is to listen to small portions and switch back and forth mid-track. Otherwise you'll imagine things because ears are deceiving.
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  14. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    What matters is how you experience the music and what you need. I occasionally have youtube session just listening to music via youtube. 320 is probably fine for most pop and rock music.
    Eric_Generic likes this.
  15. realgone

    realgone Forum Resident

    Did a comparison many years ago ripping FLAC and MP3 to CD. Was there a difference? Maybe. All I can say is I am not going to lose any sleep if I only had mp3 to live with. I think there are other things in the audio chain that will make listening more enjoyable.
  16. Well, I really hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but…..
  17. jonwoody

    jonwoody Tragically Unhip

    Washington DC
    To me the difference is stark even on crappy gear playing from a phone to a Bluetooth speaker the difference was obvious.
  18. Lowgroove

    Lowgroove Forum Resident

    I clearly hear the difference on my main rig. So when I ripped my CD’s I used dBPoweramp to rip FLAC and hi res MP3’s simultaneously.

    I had been using FLAC on my server in my main rig and MP3 in the car and for portable use.

    Now I have my FLAC hard drive and Tidal integrated over Roon - so it is FLAC throughout the whole house. Only use MP3’s in the car and when travelling.
  19. Bungo

    Bungo Forum Resident

    Madison, WI
    Agree regarding cheap earbuds, but not necessarily regarding car listening. Even with the stock inbuilt audio system in my car (2017 Honda CRV), I can often hear a clear difference between lossy streams (Apple Music when not in hi-fi mode, Spotify at 320kbps) vs. lossless (Apple Music in hi-fi mode, Qobuz) when my phone is connected via wired Apple Carplay. Of course if connecting via Bluetooth then everything gets wrecked by the Bluetooth codecs. :shake:
    Jamsterdammer likes this.
  20. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    Out of curiosity, I did an ABX test a few years ago to see if I could tell the difference between a FLAC file and an MP3 ripped at 320kbps using LAME. I used the same headphones I normally use to listen to music.

    My results were that sometimes I could sense a slight difference at times but not enough to tell which was which and which sounded better. A factor in this is likely that my hearing isn't what it used to be (natural loss due to age).

    Although I prefer FLAC, 320kbps MP3 is fine for use in places like my car. I'm not concerned about file sizes since my hard drive has plenty of space, my player can hold around 136gb of data, and a CD can hold all of the music I want to take with me in my car.
  21. Wigru

    Wigru Forum Resident

    There are also big differences between the encoders to make the MP3's. Even on 320.
  22. Eric_Generic

    Eric_Generic Enigma

    I can hear the difference on older music quite clearly, but 320kps is almost like the experience of listening to FM Radio back in the day, so if I choose to play some 80s/90s hits on my iPod now and then it's absolutely fine for the job. Same with modern music, a lot of it won't sound hugely compromised by 320kps...stuff like CHVRCHES and Groove Armada, for instance, sound acceptable to me if I sometimes play their stuff on the iPod.

    But the more audiophile stuff from the 70s or 80s, album cuts and complex productions, do suffer a bit.

  23. When In Rome

    When In Rome It's far from being all over...

    With my equipment and headphones I can't hear any difference at 128kbps and ignorance is bliss! That said, I still import everything into iTunes as ALAC (except audiobooks, 256kbps for them) but then I convert it to AAC 128 on my iPod for listening on the go. I also have a second iPod for lossless only but I still can't tell a difference, I just know it has to be better...
    tfunk182 likes this.
  24. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Going sane, more like it.

    In addition to being lossy, MP3 was always a pretty lousy sounding compression scheme at any bit rate. At 320 kbps you lost the most obvious apparent phasey artifiacts that were audible at lower bit rates, but it never sounded great or gave a great presentation of ambience (listen to so minimally mic'ed classical recordings with real room sound audible). Ogg Vorbis, which is what Spotify used to use, and maybe still does, was better than MP3, so was AAC.

    But lossless compression at redbook or better sample and bit rates literally looses you no data and has the potential to sound much better, and usually does. And with bandwidth and data storage more available and much cheaper than 25 years ago when MP3 ruled the roost, there's really no good reason to use MP3, or really any lossless compression, anymore, if you care about sound. Now if someone's listening to modern compressed hashy sounding recordings over bluetooth or while they're walking and talking and doing other things, off axis from a mono smart speaker, differences might not be all that noticeable.
  25. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Louisville, KY
    AAC satisfies.
    When In Rome likes this.

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