Poll: Lossless vs Lossy - Can you tell the difference?
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View poll results: Lossless vs Lossy - Can you tell the difference?
Definitely not.
23 14%
Slightly. Possibly placebo. Negligible difference.
70 44%
Yes, but not so much to shun mp3s altogether.
59 37%
Huge difference. Lossy formats are shit.
8 5%
Voters: 160.
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#1
I'm somewhat of a "modest audiophile," having spent around $750 combined for my head-fi and full audio setup to get good/decent audio quality. However, I have to be honest in saying that I haven't been able to tell the difference between a well-ripped, decent-quality (V0) mp3 and any sort of lossless format (WAV, FLAC, etc).

A friend from work just upgraded his setup to exceptional hi-fi audio equipment and I'm planning to revisit the FLAC vs mp3 ABX test using that... but for the meantime, my answer is a definitive no for this thread.
#2
You can tell the difference between a wav and mp3 but no more than that. I'd actually put money on it that these so called 'audiophiles' are talking bullshit all the time. No one can tell the difference between a 'high quality wav' at 96 and one at 44.1

It's similar to how people swear vinyl sounds better and is superior to CD even though it has a dynamic range of around 70db whereas a CD has something like 120db before the noise floor and then there's the other issue of reproducing low end worse.


edit: fact is, the music industry is made of 99% bullshit. People reitterating buzzwords and phrases that they've heard some teacher or a guy in a video or a musician say. The moment people start banging on about analogue technology and how 'warm' things sound i get suspicious.

Edit2: i am not saying these things are bad to talk about, but you can tell that there's a certain type of people who love to talk about vintage stuff just for the sake of talking about it.
Last edited by Zoot Allures at Jun 25, 2010,
#4
The difference between a $100 shitty hi-fi system and and $1000 'nice' audio system is roughly the same as the leap between that same nice system and a $100,000 audiophile's wet dream - it's so, so fcuking objective that one audiophile grade setup will never please two people. I think the difference is possibly noticeable, but negligible. It depends shitloads more on your receiver and speakers...

On your mate's Hi Quality system, I doubt you could tell the difference between 96 kHz 320 kbps MP3 and lossless wav, CD, audio-dvd, whatever you want to test. There are so many websites and forums out there that are much better equipped to deal with this question, as well as scientific studies to provide evidence one way or another.
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#5
Quote by seemeel
The difference between a $100 shitty hi-fi system and and $1000 'nice' audio system is roughly the same as the leap between that same nice system and a $100,000 audiophile's wet dream - it's so, so fcuking objective that one audiophile grade setup will never please two people. I think the difference is possibly noticeable, but negligible. It depends shitloads more on your receiver and speakers...

On your mate's Hi Quality system, I doubt you could tell the difference between 96 kHz 320 kbps MP3 and lossless wav, CD, audio-dvd, whatever you want to test. There are so many websites and forums out there that are much better equipped to deal with this question, as well as scientific studies to provide evidence one way or another.


Thing is, this is the kind of question where elitists will never back down on, similar to tubes against solid states. I expect this thread will have a lot of 'it just sounds better' getting said even if all the evidence shows people are talking out their arse.
#6
Quote by Zoot Allures
Thing is, this is the kind of question where elitists will never back down on, similar to tubes against solid states.

Yes, you're right. However, you can't argue against solid figures. Opinions are another matters of course. I'm sure that decent, impartial, analytical articles exist somewhere.
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#7
Quote by seemeel
The difference between a $100 shitty hi-fi system and and $1000 'nice' audio system is roughly the same as the leap between that same nice system and a $100,000 audiophile's wet dream

So true. The "law of diminishing returns" is very applicable to hi-fi audio. As you get higher up to audiophile territory, the amount that you pay for gets higher while the improvement in quality becomes less and less. I've stopped (so far) where I couldn't justify the cost to myself anymore.

Quote by Zoot Allures
I'd actually put money on it that these so called 'audiophiles' are talking bullshit all the time. No one can tell the difference between a 'high quality wav' at 96 and one at 44.1

For all you know it just depends on the combination of one's setup (say, a $200,000 setup) plus how "well-trained" and sensitive someone's ears are. I'm open to the possibility, but I draw the line at "this $1000 cable produces better audio than your $50 cable"...

...but I dunno... maybe the absurdity of 96Khz vs 44.1 Khz is just on the same level of that
#8
its noticable i mean not to blow you out of the water difference but i record somethings and when i change it to mp3 i could see where people would say it sound better.i prefer the room mp3 and such make since i usually listen to music through my creative and headphones and the difference between the two isnt enough to make me care
#9
Quote by valacirca
So true. The "law of diminishing returns" is very applicable to hi-fi audio. As you get higher up to audiophile territory, the amount that you pay for gets higher while the improvement in quality becomes less and less. I've stopped (so far) where I couldn't justify the cost to myself anymore.


For all you know it just depends on the combination of one's setup (say, a $200,000 setup) plus how "well-trained" and sensitive someone's ears are. I'm open to the possibility, but I draw the line at "this $1000 cable produces better audio than your $50 cable"...

...but I dunno... maybe the absurdity of 96Khz vs 44.1 Khz is just on the same level of that


Well as good as our ears are, they get worse and worse with time (this is even more true for people like us who play instruments and like listening to loud music) Therefore if anything the 'audiophile' thing is even more nuts because a lot of the older guys who swear by their high quality wavs probably can't hear very well anyway and have lost all their top range of hearing.
#10
Quote by Zoot Allures
Thing is, this is the kind of question where elitists will never back down on, similar to tubes against solid states. I expect this thread will have a lot of 'it just sounds better' getting said even if all the evidence shows people are talking out their arse.



i agreed with your first post, but ive got to disagree with the tube/ss comparison. im no audiophile but even i can tell tube amps (generally) are waaay better than most solid states
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#11
i can tell differences between specific bitrates of mp3 are ripped at. But extensive hearing damage prevents any discernible differences above the 192 kbps range, even compared to lossless. (which means i rip all my stuff tat 192 cause i can't hear the diff anymore)

160 kbps is my floor, i don't like going below that, but if it is.. who cares. If a song is good.. its good.
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#12
^ Tube amps are better for instruments, but for perfect audio reproduction of the original source, then solid state is the way to go. But I won't dispute that tube amplifiers for music have a desirable sound to them.

With the main argument at hand, I can tell the difference between 128kb mp3s and CD Audio. With better mp3 settings, only at certain points can I tell it's slightly different. I'd prefer my music as uncompressed as possible, but I use mp3s anyhow (as well as owning many CDs).
#14
I usually just use AAC at the best quality iTunes lets me have when I import CDs. But I still use a lot of mp3s, since they don't take up much space, even though some of them sound like shit. At a higher bitrate, they're not bad, though.
#17
I can't tell the difference between file types, but I can definitely tell if something is ripped/rendered/recorded at a bad quality setting.

Also people might like vinyl more because of the lower quality, maybe it sound less produced and more human to them.
#18
Quote by Zoot Allures
You can tell the difference between a wav and mp3 but no more than that. I'd actually put money on it that these so called 'audiophiles' are talking bullshit all the time. No one can tell the difference between a 'high quality wav' at 96 and one at 44.1

It's similar to how people swear vinyl sounds better and is superior to CD even though it has a dynamic range of around 70db whereas a CD has something like 120db before the noise floor and then there's the other issue of reproducing low end worse.


edit: fact is, the music industry is made of 99% bullshit. People reitterating buzzwords and phrases that they've heard some teacher or a guy in a video or a musician say. The moment people start banging on about analogue technology and how 'warm' things sound i get suspicious.

Edit2: i am not saying these things are bad to talk about, but you can tell that there's a certain type of people who love to talk about vintage stuff just for the sake of talking about it.

/thread.

it's like this one company that sells gold-plated cables for audio systems for like 4000 bucks, they once did a test with a bunch of "audiophiles" using the same system and the gold cables and cheapo 6 buck ones. They of course couldn't tell the difference BECAUSE THERE IS NO FUCKING DIFFERENCE. Most of the stuff audiophiles spew is bullshit.
#19
Quote by CoreysMonster
/thread.

it's like this one company that sells gold-plated cables for audio systems for like 4000 bucks, they once did a test with a bunch of "audiophiles" using the same system and the gold cables and cheapo 6 buck ones. They of course couldn't tell the difference BECAUSE THERE IS NO FUCKING DIFFERENCE. Most of the stuff audiophiles spew is bullshit.

whoa whoa whao, there's is a difference in wiring, like between a 20 dollar guitar cable, and the 5 dollar cheapy that came with my epiphone. But that's not speaker cable, and it's for recording:p
I don't have enough experience with speaker cables to have a real opinion, but I imagine there are at least minute differences.
Last edited by stratkat at Jun 25, 2010,
#20
Quote by stratkat
whoa whoa whao, there's is a difference in wiring, like between a 20 dollar guitar cable, and the 5 dollar cheapy that came with my epiphone. But that's not speaker cable, it's for recording:p

well yeah, but IMO the difference isn't worth so much money, is all I'm saying, because the human ear can't tell the difference after a certain level.
#21
I'd say I can hear a tiny difference but maybe only because I'm led to believe there is a difference. Like I'll actually listen to two recordings of varying bitrate etc, and try to pick out these tiny differences, which I'd never notice otherwise.
#22
Quote by CoreysMonster
well yeah, but IMO the difference isn't worth so much money, is all I'm saying, because the human ear can't tell the difference after a certain level.

Yeah, it's a 15 dollar difference for sure, but for sound I wouldn't spend more then 50 bucks on any cable, but I'd spend quite a bit on a wireless system.
#23
I doubt anyone hear a noticleable. People saying they have to listen to 320 kbps music because the rest is too low quality strikes me as pillocks. It's like people who say they have to watch the 1080p HD quality video instead of 720p HD.

Quote by Zoot Allures
It's similar to how people swear vinyl sounds better and is superior to CD even though it has a dynamic range of around 70db whereas a CD has something like 120db before the noise floor and then there's the other issue of reproducing low end worse.


There is a big difference between vinyls and CDs though, there's more to thinking something is better because of the dynamic range. Some people might like the low-end noise, all the little sounds you get from the needle jumping on the LP and the LPs are usually from a time with a different mastering.

'Technically' it may not be better, though.
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#24
TBH, I've spent too much of my life listening to Motorhead at full volume to even pretend I could hear a difference.
Or much of anything.
#25
So I tried this ABX thing again with the same Emmylou Harris album... this time I encoded the mp3s at the lowest VBR quality (V9) and moved one step up until I couldn't tell the difference anymore.

I stopped at V4 (that's more or less the counterpart of 160kbps CBR, right?)

That's the point where I couldn't tell the difference anymore between a 96Khz WAV rip and its 48Khz MP3-VBR counterpart.

I think my stand on this for the moment is that lossless and lossy formats sound practically the same. Personally, I doubt that most people could tell the difference unless they have much more revealing equipment and much more trained/sensitive hearing. The method of ripping seems to be much more important the the quality of the file unless the bitrate is exceptionally poor.
#26
Quote by Zoot Allures

It's similar to how people swear vinyl sounds better and is superior to CD even though it has a dynamic range of around 70db whereas a CD has something like 120db before the noise floor and then there's the other issue of reproducing low end worse.

The compression is WHY people prefer vinyl (in my experience at least.) It gives a more "natural" feeling to the music. (I'm ignoring the fact a lot of vinyl has been remastered for CD and on the whole that has been for the worse.)

As for lossless/mp3: through my laptop speakers I can only just hear the difference (if at all in some cases) but if I burn to cd/dvd and play it through my hifi setup I can definitely hear the difference when played back to back; but if I just listened to one I would be hard pressed to tell you which is which (*).

In reality though it also depends entirely on the type of music you listen to, on this forum I assume most people would listen to rock and metal, you'd be very hard pressed to hear many differences with this sort of music because sound engineers think "louder is better" so compress the **** out of the tracks in recording. This means you can use lower quality files and still make it sound OK. In contrast music with a much bigger dynamic range such as a classical orchestra makes the differences in file quality much more noticeable.


* Subject to the mp3 being decent enough: 192/96 or so
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#27
I picked the third option, but I'm fine with a well-ripped V0/320 MP3. FLAC never really appealed to me all that much and I don't see why all the audiophiles get so worked up about them, but I can hear a difference. That difference just isn't that amazing.

Smaller audio filesize w/decent ripping>'Perfect' FLAC ripping that leads into the 600MB+ range per album.

EDIT: I do tend to stick to higher-quality ripping, however. I usually draw the line at 192kbps and prefer at least 256kbps. My views on audio have completely changed since joining What.CD.
Last edited by 'Leviathan' at Jun 25, 2010,
#28
I can hear the difference. But I'd rather have space on my iPod than higher quality. There isn't that much of a difference really.
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#29
I can't hear any difference above 192kbs mp3, so I don't waste any space by having higher. I might not be able to tell any difference slightly lower, but I can tell between 192 and 128, and maybe between 192 and 160, so I just go with 192.
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#30
I tried this out by having a 320 mp3 of orion by metallica and a high quality flac. Both files to my ears sounded the same. I also can't tell between a 128 and 320 mp3. Either there really is no difference or I have shitty ears.
Quote by shut_up_n00b
I can hear the difference. But I'd rather have space on my iPod than higher quality. There isn't that much of a difference really.

This. It's why I stick to 128 mp3s.
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Last edited by ricanboyguitar at Jun 25, 2010,
#31
Quote by Kensai
I doubt anyone hear a noticleable. People saying they have to listen to 320 kbps music because the rest is too low quality strikes me as pillocks. It's like people who say they have to watch the 1080p HD quality video instead of 720p HD.

I'm sorry but there is a huge difference between 1080p and 720p.

EDIT: I'd should probably note that I'm very biased, but there is a pretty large difference.
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Last edited by mattman93 at Jun 25, 2010,
#32
Don't CD's stop at 44kHz anyway? Suggesting that ripping to 48kHz is a waste of time and space.

For me it depends on the quality of the ripping app. A good quality VBR ripper can make a 128kb/s MP3 that is indistinguishable to me from CD quality; on the other hand, there's nothing quite as painful as having to listen to an MP3 that was ripped badly.

I'm no audiophile. I rip my MP3's to 44kHz and 192kb/s maximum, and I think I won't ever need anything else.
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#33
Most of you are probably listening to these files through bad speakers/monitors/headphones, in a room with bad acoustics, with bad d/a converters. If your setup is bad the sound will be bad no matter what. Go into a studio with great acoustics and great monitors and there will be a BIG difference. If you are listening to an i-pod with earbuds, that is about as bad as you can get. Not that it matters much if you are just going for a run, but there is a difference. You realize when a producer or engineer is mixing a track they are listening to the most minute details. They hear things that other people do not. Tell them they are talking out of there ass and prepare to be laughed out of the room. An mp3 is essentially taking away half the content. Listen to cymbals in the mix on an mp3, can't you tell?
Quote by Gabel
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#35
Quote by ripple07
Most of you are probably listening to these files through bad speakers/monitors/headphones, in a room with bad acoustics, with bad d/a converters. If your setup is bad the sound will be bad no matter what. Go into a studio with great acoustics and great monitors and there will be a BIG difference. If you are listening to an i-pod with earbuds, that is about as bad as you can get. Not that it matters much if you are just going for a run, but there is a difference. You realize when a producer or engineer is mixing a track they are listening to the most minute details. They hear things that other people do not. Tell them they are talking out of there ass and prepare to be laughed out of the room. An mp3 is essentially taking away half the content. Listen to cymbals in the mix on an mp3, can't you tell?


I'm sure there is a difference, and I'm sure uber audiophiles "can" hear that difference in their soundproof room with their $10,000 sound system... but I can't. I've got my home hi-fi and it makes music just fine. And I feel sorry for said audiophiles because they can't enjoy the convenience of MP3's.
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#36
Quote by Zoot Allures
Thing is, this is the kind of question where elitists will never back down on, similar to tubes against solid states. I expect this thread will have a lot of 'it just sounds better' getting said even if all the evidence shows people are talking out their arse.

Tube generally does sound better than solid state.

I don't know much about sound systems and all that, but I'll attest to the fact that my Marshall 800 sounds better then, say, a solid state Ampeg of some sort.
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#37
Quote by Sewe Dae
I'm sure there is a difference, and I'm sure uber audiophiles "can" hear that difference in their soundproof room with their $10,000 sound system... but I can't. I've got my home hi-fi and it makes music just fine. And I feel sorry for said audiophiles because they can't enjoy the convenience of MP3's.

I agree. If your are in a car or working out, the noise around you will cancel out some benefit of the better file. The fact of the matter, is an mp3 is compressed as tits. How many of you would put a compressor pedal in front of your amp and say you cant hear a difference? I suppose the question should be, "do you care about the difference". But yes, the convenience to sound quality ratio is something to be considered. Oh, a good pro tools hd system with will go for way over 10,000. And I feel sorry for the people who can not hear all the beautiful details to the music we all love
Quote by Gabel
You are EXTREMELY WRONG! I have played it. I own an 18W and it would be an awful stereo amp, it's way too bright, breaks up too easily and so on. Secondly, why would a guitar store sell an hifi amp.
#38
*shugs* Maybe some day someone will convert me to lossless by playing me some music in their soundproof room on their >$10,000 system. Then I'll have to delete my MP3 collection.

Until then the convenience far outweighs the loss for me.
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#39
Quote by Kensai
I doubt anyone hear a noticleable. People saying they have to listen to 320 kbps music because the rest is too low quality strikes me as pillocks. It's like people who say they have to watch the 1080p HD quality video instead of 720p HD.


There is a big difference between vinyls and CDs though, there's more to thinking something is better because of the dynamic range. Some people might like the low-end noise, all the little sounds you get from the needle jumping on the LP and the LPs are usually from a time with a different mastering.

'Technically' it may not be better, though.


Well thats fine, i know some people prefer the charm of a vinyl sound on some tracks and i do too sometimes but to say 'Vinyl is better than CD for sound quality' is false. If you want to hear a song as the artist intended it to be heard when they exported the final mix, then a CD will get you a lot closer.
#40
Quote by Sewe Dae
*shugs* Maybe some day someone will convert me to lossless by playing me some music in their soundproof room on their >$10,000 system. Then I'll have to delete my MP3 collection.

Until then the convenience far outweighs the loss for me.

Indeed. If you don't have incredible gear, the need for lossless is that much less. Most people don't have incredible gear. Mp3's are popular. Soundproof. Also, keep in mind, the quality of the recording is the most important factor...
Quote by Gabel
You are EXTREMELY WRONG! I have played it. I own an 18W and it would be an awful stereo amp, it's way too bright, breaks up too easily and so on. Secondly, why would a guitar store sell an hifi amp.
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