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Can't tell difference between FLAC and high quality MP3/AAC

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by uncredited, Sep 2, 2014.

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  1. uncredited

    uncredited New Member Thread Starter

    Hello everyone,

    I just made few audio tests few hours ago, using ABX Comparator. I compared a recent released track on FLAC format, that I had ripped with EAC on my previous PC, with the same track on MP3 256 kbps. It happened that I couldn't tell the difference between the two tracks. I used my Sennheiser MM 500-x, which I believe has always allowed me to enjoy my lossless music library so far. My DVD is the HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GH20NS15. Consequently, my ears must be the problem.

    I am so appalled right now because I have ripped all my CDs to ALAC, as I am mainly on Mac, using iTunes then. I have bought new CDs recently and I do not know if I should rip them to FLAC as always, or simply rip them with iTunes on AAC 256 kbps (since I am not able to hear a difference).

    It happens that I could not tell the difference because of the well-known "loudness" dimension that appears on every nowadays production.

    I have the original Marvin Gaye's What's Going On album (2001 remaster) but I don't think I would be able to tell a difference between a FLAC and a MP3 version of it neither.

    What should I do now? Should I continue ripping to FLAC and "wasting some time" or just put the cd on, press rip, and wait 2 minutes?

    I don't know what to do now.

    Maybe my 90s Hip-Hop CDs sound better compared to their mp3 counter parts because they have not been mastered according to the loudness pattern of today's productions. I don't know and I am honestly tired of doing these tests. I just want to enjoy my music, but I want the best of it. As a matter of fact, I have the original Yeezus CD and the iTunes version that I have bought sounds somewhat better to me. How ridiculous.

    May you please propose what method should I use now? I feel like I will rip my library all over again. Clear OCD. Sometimes it is just easier to put the original CD on and press play, you know?

    Thanks to all for reading and helping.

    Have fun.
     
    4stringking73 likes this.
  2. Kyhl

    Kyhl On break

    Location:
    Savage
    It can't hurt to keep them in lossless?

    I think high level MP3 sounds pretty close to the original 16/44 versions :hide: and don't think I could distinguish a difference under headphones. Where I "see" a difference is in the soundstage when listening on the main rig. The soundstage changes for me by getting flatter, with less depth. The instruments sound like they are playing on a plane or wall infront of me instead of a stage. Example would be a singer in the front and a guitar behind him in the lossless world versus both of them on the same 2D picture in the MP3 world.

    Otherwise, sticks striking drum heads and all the other details sound the same to me. It's the space that is lost in my experience.
     
  3. wolfram

    wolfram Slave to the rhythm

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    I can't claim that I hear the difference either, but I would strongly suggest to keep ripping to a lossless format (like FLAC). If you should ever need a different lossy format from what you use now, having a lossless file to work from is important. Encoding from lossy to lossy will quickly degrade the quality in a notable way. And you never should rule out the possibility that a future system of higher quality might reveal a difference between lossless and lossy. Lossless is just safer, more flexible and storage space shouldn't be an issue anymore. Also, ripping to lossless shouldn't take any longer than ripping to lossy.
     
  4. MEMPHISSUN

    MEMPHISSUN Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Stick to Flac.
     
    Doggo and Coricama like this.
  5. progrocker71

    progrocker71 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I always listen to the cymbals, I still hear a weird "fuzziness" to the sound of cymbals on .mp3 releases, but not on FLAC or ALAC.
     
  6. numanoid

    numanoid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Valparaiso, IN
    FLAC and ALAC are future proof. You should definitely keep those files. You can then convert to whatever file format you like.

    And a lot of people seem to lament the fact that mp3's or aac files are very, very tough to distinguish from the lossless files. This is a good thing! It means that the lossy algorithm is doing what it's supposed to do. It's throwing away data that is not noticeable to you. Sure, you can listen, and listen, and listen and you may find an artifact. But these encoders are very close to transparent these days. It doesn't mean you're a bad audiophile or have cotton in your ears, it means they are working correctly.

    My only other advice is to ditch the constant bit rate. These encoders work well at variable settings. That can give you the advantage of more bits when you need them, less when you don't (silence for example) and you usually end up with almost the same file size at a similar bit rate. I've found I usually get smaller sizes.
     
  7. scompton

    scompton Forum Resident

    Location:
    Arlington, VA
    I rip everything to ALAC even though I listen to AAC. Like Wolfram said, if I ever need to use another format other than AAC, I'd be stuck without the ALAC. That said, 10K albums is a lot of converting.
     
  8. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    I think both Lossless and MP3's have their place. I don't have a problem listening to 320K MP3s or AAC files o a portable device, in a car, or just for background music, but I'd always prefer listening to Lossless on a large system.
     
  9. crimpies

    crimpies Forum Resident

    Convert to MP3, delete FLAC. If you can't tell the difference, what's it matter?
     
  10. wolfram

    wolfram Slave to the rhythm

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    Some of us have tried to explain why it could matter.
     
  11. crimpies

    crimpies Forum Resident

    He asked for opinions, I gave one.
     
  12. wolfram

    wolfram Slave to the rhythm

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    I think he asked for advice.

    Whatever.
     
    Rhett, 500Homeruns and Billy Infinity like this.
  13. Mal

    Mal Phorum Physicist

    Stick with lossless and then forget about it and enjoy the tunes.
     
  14. crimpies

    crimpies Forum Resident

    crispi likes this.
  15. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    Rip to FLAC. It takes the same amount of time to rip to FLAC as it does to rip to MP3. A lossless FLAC rip means you are future proofed. When in the future you get better gear or make some other decisions about how to process and play the files your lossless music library will be ready for you. Otherwise you risk disappointment later when you find you need to re-rip your CDs and DVDs and other discs.

    Lossless will preserve HDCD data if you have any CDs with HDCD.

    Lossless gives you more options for future audio processing (like EQing, headphone crossfeed, and other digital processing). Doing digital processing on MP3 files can cause lossy formats to reveal their limitations. I've done some headphone crossfeed processing where the processing made the difference between MP3 and lossless more obvious. Without the processing it would be near impossible for me to ABX the MP3 and FLAC. With the processing it becomes possible for some tracks.

    And you don't know what gear you may get in the future. You may end up getting a really killer setup that is more revealing and would make you wish you hadn't ripped to lossy.
     
    Vidiot, Johnny Vinyl, wolfram and 4 others like this.
  16. progrocker71

    progrocker71 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    As cheap as storage is these days there is no reason to NOT keep lossless copies of your files, even if you make lossy versions to put on your portable devices you always want to keep your lossless as a backup.
     
  17. ElvisCaprice

    ElvisCaprice Forum Resident

    Location:
    Jaco, Costa Rica
    Try these first, :wiggle:

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    The Sennheiser MM 500-X headphones are also Bluetooth. The wireless Bluetooth connection means you're likely introducing an additional lossy conversion to do the wireless streaming to the headphones. Not a fair or optimal way to be ABX testing FLAC and MP3.
     
    Vidiot and floweringtoilet like this.
  19. testikoff

    testikoff Seasoned n00b

    For fun I made a couple of VBR versions of the 16/44 FLAC file: MP3 V0 & AAC Q0.75 & ran a null test on them and the lossless original. The original waveform, null test delta waveforms & deltas' spectrum graphs are below (purely for comparison sake I also added 24-to-16 bit quantization error spectrum graphs for AUdacity RectAngular, TriAngular, Noise-Shaped dithers + FB2K's built-in noise-shaped dither + MDA dither VST plug-in).

    Original waveform (FLAC):
    [​IMG]

    FLAC-MP3 delta (zoom=20):

    [​IMG]

    FLAC-AAC delta
    (zoom=20):
    [​IMG]

    Deltas' spectral graphs (24-to-16 bit quantization error spectra added):
    [​IMG]

    The differences between FLAC original & MP3/AAC lossy versions may be rather small & hard to discern in ABX tests. However, they definitely are audible, especially when one listens to null test deltas (which somewhat sound like distorted versions of the track itself). The 24-to-16 bit QE null test deltas are much less audible (they sound just as light hiss-like noises). Some forum members would nonetheless claim to hear substantial differences in various dithered lossless versions... ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2014
    showtaper, Vidiot and GetHappy!! like this.
  20. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    :eek:

    Naw, don't do that. Drive space is cheap, and you always need good backups.
     
    Tommy SB likes this.
  21. adamdube

    adamdube Forum Resident

    Location:
    Elyria, OH USA
    Friends don't let friends rip to MP3. Think of friend who may listen to your tunes, you might just lose one if you go MP3. +1 on the bluetooth things as well. When it sends the MP3 to you it likely does less compressing of the music than the flac. It has to crunch down the flac to get it into the bluetooth stream. At then end of it all, it compresses both files down to the same thing before your ears hear it.
     
    Vidiot and Doggo like this.
  22. mmars982

    mmars982 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Unless storage space is an issue, I can't see any reason to only rip to mp3 or AAC. Makes perfect sense to convert to that when putting them on a portable device with limited space, but if anything ever happened to your original disc you want a lossless backup.
     
    Vidiot likes this.
  23. Welly Wu

    Welly Wu Active Member

    Location:
    Nutley, New Jersey
    If you have purchased any high resolution albums, then stick to a loss less audio codec. If you're ripping and encoding your CD collection, then choose MP3 or AAC which is better. There is no point to rip CDs and encode them using a loss less audio codec. I have a killer home and portable audio system and I can't hear the differences between the original CD, FLAC or ALAC, and AAC or MP3s. I ripped and I encoded my CD library to MP3s and I never looked back. It saved me a ton of disk space too. AAC sounds nearly indistinguishable compared to CDs and loss less audio codecs using a high variable bit rate. My favorite is LAME 3.99.5 V0 "extreme" joint stereo MP3s because it has universal support for hardware and software. Most of my music is in MP3 codec and I still can't hear a difference in sound quality.
     
  24. uncredited

    uncredited New Member Thread Starter

    I could not expect that number of answers! Thanks to all of you.

    Concerning the bluetooth option on my headphones, I only use it when I listen to my music outside, when walking for example. When I am at home, or in the train, I connect it to my computer/device with the cable.

    I will definitely keep ripping my CDs on FLAC then. That is a good point you guys made here. I mostly listen to my music on my MacBook Pro. Is it more pragmatic to rip them directly with XLD on ALAC, or keep ripping them in FLAC on my PC? I like having them on FLAC, though. I tend to trust EAC more. What somewhat disturb me is that I rip into FLAC on my PC, copy the songs on a usb hard drive, paste them on my mac, and convert them on ALAC by using XLD or Max.

    I used this guide for my EAC profile, is that good enough? For XLD, I did the settings myself, using the Paranoia II method.

    And I finally want to say that I actually wash my ears every day, so thanks for your q-tips :righton::uhhuh:
     
  25. erniebert

    erniebert Shoe-string audiophile

    Location:
    Toronto area
    You also asked, "What's it matter?"
     
    Vidiot likes this.
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