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Brad Fitzpatrick

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mp3 quality [Mar. 1st, 2008|11:14 am]
Brad Fitzpatrick
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Now that I have an iPod in my car, I've quickly discovered that half my mp3s sound like shit. Previously in my car I'd been listening to either the radio or non-burnt CDs. CDs obviously sound awesome, and FM radio's not even that bad (as opposed to XM radio bullshit, which I cancelled long ago)

So now I'm re-ripping all my CDs at 320 kbps CBR, as I found that the Amazon mp3s I've purchased (at 256 kbps) sound fine.

This makes me love my car even more, as I can't tell these mp3s sound so bad on my headphones or computer speakers. Although generally headphones generally means I'm on the shuttle or an airplane. I should get new computer speakers.

Not sure what I'm going to do about all my low-bitrate mp3s that I don't have the CDs for. Used CD stores today, probably.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: popcultureicon
2008-03-01 07:27 pm (UTC)
In situations like this, I have found that forced stereo helps the sound quality a lot, regardless of how lossless some people insist Joint Stereo is.
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[User Picture]From: dossy
2008-03-01 07:40 pm (UTC)
Wait, you had poor headphones that made your "crappy" MP3s sound better than they sound in your car?

While I understand the technical reason behind this, at first glance it sounds like your car is failing to make your MP3's sound as good as your headphones or computer speakers. Why don't you blame the car audio system? :-)

(In other words: have you listened to some of those 320 kbps CBR ripped MP3s in your car? Do they really sound better than the previous bitrate MP3s?)

I guess I never understood that mentality of, "Oh yeah, my (X) soundsystem is so great, it makes all my music sound like shit now!" Huh?
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[User Picture]From: brad
2008-03-01 10:56 pm (UTC)
My car's the best audio system I have.

I guess I never understood that mentality of, "Oh yeah, my (X) soundsystem is so great, it makes all my music sound like shit now!" Huh?

Once you can hear the whole range of sounds, it's very obvious switching from one rich track to another low-quality one that's missing half the sounds.

Yes, 256/320 is very, very noticeably better than 128 kbps. I'm not claiming to detect the difference from 256 and 320, though... I'm just ripping at 320 kbps because I have plenty of disk and don't care to do this again in the future.

Really, I should be ripping in FLAC, but I'm not that motivated.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2008-03-02 07:58 pm (UTC)
It can play Apple Lossless at least. Presumably one can convert (losslessly :)) between FLAC and Apple's?
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[User Picture]From: bulknews
2008-03-04 03:24 am (UTC)
XLD can decode/encode between various lossless codecs and I believe it can do FLAC to Apple Lossless.
http://tmkk.hp.infoseek.co.jp/xld/index_e.html

I recently started ripping or buying only > 256kbps mp3 files with the same reason you mentioned. Sometimes I want a legal support for "buying 128kbps DRMed AAC on iTunes Store but downloading 320kbps mp3 from torrents" thing. I pay to own the music but not the actual CD disc.

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[User Picture]From: muerte
2008-03-01 07:48 pm (UTC)
You must have some good speakers or a good system. At least with Lame I know they've done a bunch of blind tests and found that for most people Lame was transparent (not noticeably different from the original) at around 160Kb/s.

I've also noticed that MP3s that were encoded a long time ago (with crappier encoders) sound much worse than the same song encoded today with Lame. Not that encoding to 320Kb/s is bad, but it may be unnecessary with a modern version of Lame.

I can't find the exact post, but http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/ has all kinds of cool info on encoders, settings, quality, etc. If you're into encoding audio at all, it's a very interesting place to hang out.
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[User Picture]From: erik
2008-03-01 08:03 pm (UTC)
I ended up re-ripping my entire collection two ways: max quality VBR MP3 (averages out to about 256 kbps, but the nice thing is you know it's always getting the bitrate it needs for that moment in the song), and FLAC for archival purposes (so I could put my CDs away in boxes and never have to deal with them again). I've been really happy with it. I'm sure it won't be long before there'll be a portable audio player that can handle my entire collection in FLAC, and then that'll kick complete ass.

BTW, the program I used was dbPowerAmp. It pulls really reliable CD info (including CD artwork) from the internet for metadata tagging, and you can download plug-ins for all file types (MP3, FLAC, OGG, AAC, etc.). It uses the LAME encoder for MP3s, which I guess is one of the best.
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[User Picture]From: loki128
2008-03-02 05:25 pm (UTC)
There are some portable audio players out there that handle FLAC - most notable are some of Cowon's range; I own a 4GB Cowon D2, and while only a small part of my music is in FLAC, what I do have sounds great on there. The new A3 will even record in FLAC.

Edited at 2008-03-02 05:26 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: henry
2008-03-02 08:10 pm (UTC)
My 4-year-old Rio Karma does FLAC, but good luck finding someone willing to part with theirs.
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[User Picture]From: henry
2008-03-01 08:33 pm (UTC)
I ran into the same problem when I installed a line-level mp3 player in my car, and again when I bought some quality headphones. 320 CBR is overkill though, you should be able to get the same quality with LAME APS/APE VPR and save on some disk.

For computer speakers, I've always heard Klipsch can't be beat for music applications; the next step up would probably be studio monitors and an amp.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2008-03-01 10:53 pm (UTC)
I don't have disk space problems, though.

Worst case I keep the 320 kbps CBR on my server and put a lower quality version on my iPod, but I don't have space issues on the 80GB iPod yet.
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[User Picture]From: henry
2008-03-02 08:00 pm (UTC)
Yet...

I'm too much of an efficiency geek to waste disk when I know it's not doing any good. Plus two copies of the same track at different bitrates will probably cause problems come backup/syncing time.
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[User Picture]From: jeremyleff
2008-03-02 03:54 am (UTC)
If cost is not a major issue then you might check into some powered Mackie studio monitors:

http://www.mackie.com/products/studiomonitors/

They're incredible for home theater too. I think I remember reading that the last two Matrix films were mixed on these.
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[User Picture]From: chris
2008-03-02 07:20 pm (UTC)
studio monitors have great sound but they aren't actually that great for casual listening to music, because they are highly directional and designed to be a given distance away. you can fake it if, say, you spend a lot of time sitting in the same spot, but for a home sound system they aren't a great choice.
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[User Picture]From: henry
2008-03-02 07:58 pm (UTC)
yeah I was suggesting them for computer speaker use only, since that's usually a fixed listening position. they'd be overkill anyway IMO.
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[User Picture]From: salacious_pop
2008-03-01 08:55 pm (UTC)
I faced this same dilemma last year and have been slowly re-ripping or re-"obtaining" my library in a better format.

I concur with the opinion that 320CBR is a bit too bloated. You may want to test a few tracks using VBR, using the "V0" setting.

The avg bitrate will wind up being between 224 and 320 (most of mine live in the ~285 area), and sound perfect. The space you save adds up when you have hundreds of albums.
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From: ext_69754
2008-03-01 10:23 pm (UTC)

Computer speakers

I love my Klipsch computer speakers: http://www.klipsch.com/products/details/promedia-gmx-a-2-1.aspx

But yeah, they make bad MP3s sound bad.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2008-03-07 04:27 am (UTC)

Re: Computer speakers

Ordered. And I think they arrived at work today, but I worked from home.
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[User Picture]From: deathboy
2008-03-01 10:43 pm (UTC)
would downloading illicit copies not be superior? (via a program that told you the file bitrate/type)

assuming you owned them once (so morally ok), buying used doesn't give any money back to those who created it, and doesn't guarantee you a decent quality disc to rip from.

you might have a different moral compass on this, I just never see 2nd-hand goods as being an improvement on out-and-out copying.
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[User Picture]From: krow
2008-03-02 12:35 am (UTC)
How much longer do you think it will be until we move to just using music we rip in an uncompressed manner? AKA everything goes lossless?

The above question keeps me from re-ripping all of music yet again :(
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[User Picture]From: adamthebastard
2008-03-02 02:59 am (UTC)
Why not re-rip and encode one copy of each of your tracks with FLAC? You can use that as the source for MP3s/Vorbis at the quality that your sound system can reproduce faithfully. Each time you get a new system that is noticeably better at a higher quality you can use the FLACs as the source for your transcode. Which will be fine up until the point where a lossless codec becomes standard (if it's not FLAC) and then you can just transcode your FLACS to the new codec.

The obvious 'why not' is disk space. Other questions can probably be handled by bash/perl/python/other scripts.
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[User Picture]From: henry
2008-03-02 07:57 pm (UTC)
A CD is still a lossy format; it contains a mixed-down version of the original live performance. Mp3 compression just takes this one step further by removing empty space and frequencies you aren't likely to hear anyway, and if you're using the right compression algorithms there will be no discernible loss in quality. So to answer your question, you're either waiting for the human ear to evolve to be more sensitive or an advance in technology that will allow you to carry around an actual live band in your music player.

This is assuming, of course, that your headphones/speakers are of sufficient quality to accurately reproduce CD-quality music. As we see in Brad's case, crappy mp3s sound fine on crappy gear.
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[User Picture]From: jeremyleff
2008-03-02 03:47 am (UTC)
That's surprising to me to hear that the MP3s didn't sound bad in your headphones. Usually in good quality, professional-grade headphones (which you have) is where you notice the most detail.

I'm with you on satellite radio. I've heard Internet/streaming radio stations that sound better. What's even more perplexing to me is how so many people don't seem to notice and swear by it. Where are their ears?

It's too bad, because I like the concept of being able to drive all over with so many programming choices. I imagine it isn't that bad if you mainly listen to sports and talk.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2008-03-02 08:06 pm (UTC)
Like I said, I only use my headphones in really noisy environments, so I've never really appreciated them at their best.
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[User Picture]From: toastednut
2008-03-02 07:22 pm (UTC)
amoeba. the berkeley location is less picked-over btw.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2008-03-02 08:06 pm (UTC)
Went to the Haight Amoeba the other day.... I was blown away. I'd never been there before.
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[User Picture]From: bostonsteamer
2008-03-03 06:09 pm (UTC)
yay, more reasons to spend time in a gas-guzzling pollution machine!
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[User Picture]From: scosol
2008-03-03 08:46 pm (UTC)
For new computer speakers, I can entirely recommend these:

http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/speakers_audio/home_pc_speakers/devices/224&cl=us,en

For $200 you can't go wrong.
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