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PlayClassics test files to compare file formats


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I would like to offer some test files so you can compare the sound of the different file formats and report your conclusions. See if we can find out how much the file format really affects the final experience.

 

For the purpose of this thread, I have made one track containing about 16 minutes of music. Piano solo, soprano and piano, tenor and piano and flamenco voice and guitar.

 

All this music has been recorded exactly the same way. Our physical setup (hall-stage-mics) is a fixed setup, and our recording chain is also a fixed setup from microphones to master. So it would be like listening to one long song with different instruments in it.

 

We do not do any mixing or mastering. Our masters are simply the raw sound of the take. Left mic is left speaker and right mic is right speaker. There is no dynamic range compression. What you are hearing is the full dynamic range of the performance. And we record everything with the same gain, so once you find a realistic sound level on your equipment you should be able to listen through all the excerpts without the need to adjust the volume. This way you will be getting a sense of the real levels of the performance.

 

I have uploaded 1 zip file to the server containing this one track in 7 different formats:

flac 24bit 96kHz

flac 24bit 48kHz

flac 24bit 44kHz

flac 16bit 96kHz

flac 16bit 48kHz

flac 16bit 44kHz

lame mp3 320kbps 48kHz

 

These test files have been directly processed from the 24bit 96kHz master on the protools session. The volume is exactly the same for all of them. If you want to download just say so and I will send you a PM with the code and the link to the files.

 

P.S. I would rather not give an opinion on this. I would not want to influence anybody's perception in any way. I am just happy to be able to provide the test material and I even more happy to find out what you all think.

Mario Martínez

Recording Engineer and Music Producer

Play Classics, classical music at its best

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Yesterday morning I spent some time listening to the Format Test Files kindly provided by Mario Martinez.

Even though I generally find listening evaluations a humongously tedious affair, I must have been in the right mood and the neighbourhood was very quiet which was also helpful.

 

The proceedings of my listening session were as follows:

 

16/44.1 track

24/44.1 track

16/44.1 track

-

16/44.1 track

16/96 track

16/44.1 track

-

24/96 track

16/44.1 track

24/96 track

 

First of all, it was a very interesting experience to listen to different performers and instruments playing with such a tonal and acoustical seamlessness, almost as if I were listening to a single musical event.

 

Then something happened which really surprised me: I had listened to two of the recordings included in the set a reasonably amount of times before in 24/96 and it didn't take too long to identify the shortcomings of the 16/44.1 version.

 

And once I nailed the characteristics of those shortcomings it was hard to miss them.

I can still enjoy 16/44.1 but I am convinced of it's lower fidelity.

 

I intend to disclose my notes in a few days to avoid spoiling the fun for those who have not yet had their go at the comparison.

 

Thank you Mario for providing this opportunity.

 

Cheers,

Ricardo

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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I would like to offer some test files so you can compare the sound of the different file formats and report your conclusions...If you want to download just say so and I will send you a PM with the code and the link to the files.

 

Thanks Mario. I'd like to try them. Also, if I could get the Flamenco recordings, that would be great.

 

Regards,

Odysseus

 

CAPS v3 Topanga / JRiver MC21 | iFi iUSB Power | Woo Audio WDS-1 DAC

Odyssey Khartago Extreme | Magnepan 1.7s

 

 

 


Dedicated 20A circuit; Hubbell HBL5362I Receptacles; Shunyata Venom Defender Power Conditioner; Shunyata Venom Power Cables; Belkin Gold USB Cable; Kimber Hero WBT Interconnects; Anti-Cable Speaker Cables

 

 

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Plz send me the code also - fyi I'm still reviewing the Angel Cabrera recording, but it went straight to current rotation and will stay there for awhile - loving it as a consumer :).

 

Thanks David, I am glad you are enjoying it :)

 

I also sent you the flamenco files in case you want to have a listen to them too...

Mario Martínez

Recording Engineer and Music Producer

Play Classics, classical music at its best

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Re-post of my results from original thread.

 

Mario, Here's my short report for whatever use you may find it. First I have to admit all listening is based on the piano solo cuts. I just couldn't listen to the vocal stuff long enough to even begin to make any comments.

 

1 The mp3 file sounded hard and coarse on the hammer strikes, more so as he progressed to harder key strikes and further into the right hand register.

2. The 24/96 file sounded beautiful, clean, smooth, and without edge throughout the entire cut. Also seemed to present a better representation of the differing timber and harmonic structures of the notes.

3. Jumping to 16/44 redbook the file seemed to marginally lose that detail of the timber and harmonics that I heard on the 24/96. Not day/night and it would be very hard to pick out in any blind test if at all.

4. Other file samplings in between were too subtle for me to claim I heard the difference until the jump was very wide. Not a game changer from any one format to the next faster.

 

IMHO I can see no reason to clutter your site and confuse potential customers by offering all these different resolutions. MP3 for the file size needy, 24/96 for those who want the best and maybe something in 48k for apple compatibility. It is my personal feeling that 24/96 offers the best that humans can hear though you may want to consider recording at 24/192 just to give you some elbow room when mixing.

Thanks for offering us this opportunity to directly compare the different resolutions.

"The gullibility of audiophiles is what astonishes me the most, even after all these years. How is it possible, how did it ever happen, that they trust fairy-tale purveyors and mystic gurus more than reliable sources of scientific information?"

Peter Aczel - The Audio Critic

no-mqa-sm.jpg

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I would like to offer something that I think might be better than the test files.

 

It is my personal opinion that our brains listen best when we are not consciously interfering in the process.

 

Ricardo reported something that I think points in this direction:

Then something happened which really surprised me: I had listened to two of the recordings included in the set a reasonably amount of times before in 24/96 and it didn't take too long to identify the shortcomings of the 16/44.1 version.

 

He had been listening to the complete Albéniz Iberia album long before I offered the format comparison test. During all those listening sessions he could not have been looking for format related issues, but every time he would listen to it his brain was probably unconsciously processing all that info anyway. So when he was presented with the other format he picked it up quicker that he would have expected.

 

So, why do not we do this? I have uploaded 24/48 and 16/44 versions of all the albums to our webpage. Many of you have already heard the 24/96 version of one album so by now you should be familiar with it like Ricardo was with the Albéniz. If you want to I can send you a new code to download the lower resolution version of that same album. It will be interesting to see if this makes a difference.

 

Anybody wants to try?

 

P.S. Of course I will keep sending the other test files too.

Mario Martínez

Recording Engineer and Music Producer

Play Classics, classical music at its best

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Okay, have had some time to spend on this under reasonably good conditions.

 

I listened to only the 24 96 and the 44 16. MP3 is known not to be fully transparent so I had no interest in it.

 

After a few listens I thought there was a difference at times. Especially in the decay in the hall of the piano. When I would go directly back and forth the difference wasn't really there. One afternoon when doing other things I put these two into random play mode so I wouldn't know at any given time which was playing. No differences were apparent to note.

 

So I ran these through an ABX test. 16 trials done twice. 10 of 16 and 9 of 16 done a couple hours apart. Had I gotten positive results or heard differences in the sighted part of the test with conviction I would have tried some of the in between rates and bit depths.

 

After all listening I upsampled the 4416 file to 2496. Dumped it into a sound editor. Flipped polarity and mixed it with the original 2496 file. You get noise that wiggles slightly around the -88 or 89 db level. What you would expect from 16 bit dithering. I boosted this by 40 db, and listened. You hear faint swishing noise. There are some points in the latter portion of the track where you get low level clicks. They coincide with places the original clipped or very nearly did. I imagine the up and down sampling may have caused some intersample overs to show up this way. I then took this file and slowed it down by a factor of 4. This would make it easy to listen to any ultrasonic effects one normally doesn't hear. This was still boosted by 40 db mind you. Really nothing to report, a bit higher pitched tone to the swishing hiss much like FM radio hiss between channels.

 

Here is an FFT of one of the louder (though unclipped) sections using this mix between original and upsampled 4416. Note this is not boosted in level.

 

Playclassics 4416vs2496.jpg

 

You can read the RMS level for the 0-40 khz band is -89 db. I used shaped dither in the upsampling which is what gives the noise floor the shape you see.

 

I don't see any reason to think these would be audibly different.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I'll make my point simple, succinct :

One shouldn't generalise with whatever might be concluded with this interplay between PlayClassics' files and one's own playback situation (involving specific chains of products and particular listening rooms).

Because there are too many variables (as you can well imagine) ‽

 

The best outcome of this Thread is for PlayClassics' justification in their own file offerings ?

 

Sure, you who've tried can also have faith in what you now certainly know to be the best :)

 

And I, I only give leisure time to compare and find the best of what truly interests me. Say, on a parallel level, for graphics, yesterday I started to seek (to comfort a friend) the best online version of Bosch's Haywain Triptych. Settling on Museo Nacional del Prado's own 2952 x 1953 pixels upload :

271db06042.jpg

 

Yeah, Wiki Commons has a 9843 x 6475 pixels version, but...

 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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Re-post of my results from original thread.

 

Mario, Here's my short report for whatever use you may find it. First I have to admit all listening is based on the piano solo cuts. I just couldn't listen to the vocal stuff long enough to even begin to make any comments.

 

1 The mp3 file sounded hard and coarse on the hammer strikes, more so as he progressed to harder key strikes and further into the right hand register.

2. The 24/96 file sounded beautiful, clean, smooth, and without edge throughout the entire cut. Also seemed to present a better representation of the differing timber and harmonic structures of the notes.

3. Jumping to 16/44 redbook the file seemed to marginally lose that detail of the timber and harmonics that I heard on the 24/96. Not day/night and it would be very hard to pick out in any blind test if at all.

4. Other file samplings in between were too subtle for me to claim I heard the difference until the jump was very wide. Not a game changer from any one format to the next faster.

 

IMHO I can see no reason to clutter your site and confuse potential customers by offering all these different resolutions. MP3 for the file size needy, 24/96 for those who want the best and maybe something in 48k for apple compatibility. It is my personal feeling that 24/96 offers the best that humans can hear though you may want to consider recording at 24/192 just to give you some elbow room when mixing.

Thanks for offering us this opportunity to directly compare the different resolutions.

 

 

My experience and Sal's are quite close so I'll use his as a jumping off point.

 

- much of the test tracks contained music not to my taste, and therefore I had a hard time listening and evaluating the complete tracks.

 

-- it was however the vocals (which I particularly disliked) that best showed the difference (to me) of the 24/96 which was not as harsh / strident at the lower res formats.

 

- there's a difference between the 24/96 and 16/44, with the former preferable.

- there's not enough of a difference to matter, or work to hear it, vs the others.

- exception being MP3 - which I think all agree is a mess.

- That said - I did download and listen to the Albeniz/Iberia album - it's exceptional.

 

- I agree that the site should not be cluttered with multiple formats - offer 24/96 and leave it at that. I wouldn't even bother with mp3 - it's not consistent with what you seem to stand for.

 

just my 2 cents; imho; ymmv; etc etc etc.

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One shouldn't generalice with whatever might be concluded with this interplay between PlayClassics' files and one's own playback situation (involving specific chains of products and particular listening rooms).

 

I am offering these test files for your personal use' date=' so you can draw your own conclusions about the sound of the different file formats on your own systems.

 

 

IMHO I can see no reason to clutter your site and confuse potential customers by offering all these different resolutions. MP3 for the file size needy, 24/96 for those who want the best and maybe something in 48k for apple compatibility.

 

We are currently offering 24/96, 24/48, 16/44 and two sets of MP3 files (one without dynamic range compression, and one without dynamic range compression). By offering our albums on different formats we are not trying to make a statement on the sound of the different file formats. We are offering our albums at different formats just so that people can choose to download whatever they want.

 

 

The best outcome of this Thread is for PlayClassics' justification in their own file offerings ?

 

Once you donate you can choose to download whichever file you want. You could download just one file or you could download all of them. We do not have any commercial interest for offering these different formats. We are just trying to offer the best possible service for everyone.

Mario Martínez

Recording Engineer and Music Producer

Play Classics, classical music at its best

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We are currently offering 24/96, 24/48, 16/44 and two sets of MP3 files (one without dynamic range compression, and one without dynamic range compression). By offering our albums on different formats we are not trying to make a statement on the sound of the different file formats. We are offering our albums at different formats just so that people can choose to download whatever they want.

Once you donate you can choose to download whichever file you want. You could download just one file or you could download all of them. We do not have any commercial interest for offering these different formats. We are just trying to offer the best possible service for everyone.

 

Well no one better complain they can't get their own preference, you offer it all.

Cheers to ya my friend.

"The gullibility of audiophiles is what astonishes me the most, even after all these years. How is it possible, how did it ever happen, that they trust fairy-tale purveyors and mystic gurus more than reliable sources of scientific information?"

Peter Aczel - The Audio Critic

no-mqa-sm.jpg

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I'll make my point simple' date=' succinct :[/font']

One shouldn't generalise with whatever might be concluded with this interplay between PlayClassics' files and one's own playback situation (involving specific chains of products and particular listening rooms).

Because there are too many variables (as you can well imagine) ‽

 

The best outcome of this Thread is for PlayClassics' justification in their own file offerings ?

 

Sure, you who've tried can also have faith in what you now certainly know to be the best

 

The purpose of these files is to evaluate the difference between formats of what, in mine and in others' opinions, are very high technical quality recordings.

That quality is what makes them (more) suitable for the task.

 

It's obvious that one's system is a limiting factor, as is one's listening evaluation ability/methodology.

 

 

I know that offering your own opinion is perhaps too far out of your comfort zone :) , but would you be so brave as to post your impressions/findings on the differences between the formats?

 

Or forward the topic link to your friends...

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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Ricardo, you know that Mario's « protools » is a dirty word to many ;)

 

And you, frequently snapped skating on water, are foolish to speak of « comfort zone » ‽ Yeah, bravery and foolhardy are but the same formats for you.

 

A while back, dated 9/26, I actually sent Andrew Everard #88

 

Plus it's on record :

Because' date=' in short, your proposed experiment is, let's say, imperfect.

 

And I'm not a monomaniac advocate of DSD, for example, recalling this from Andrew Everard :

west-side-story.jpg

 

So, the DSD is the one to go for. then? Not so: the site says that ‘West Side Story was originally recorded to 9624 PCM. The 9624 WAV files are the original digital file generation sent to us. The DSD and FLAC files are considered second generation and made from conversions using our Blue Coast conversion methods. DSF and FLAC will offer the convenience of metadata that the WAV and DFF files will not.

 

‘After several blindfold tests, it is our opinion that the 9624 wav files sound the best, followed by DSF or DFF and after that the FLAC 9624. The difference is minimal. We suggest you purchase files for your best performing home DAC. The DAC will make more difference than the file type.

So's Sal's :

It is my personal feeling that 24/96 offers the best that humans can hear though you may want to consider recording at 24/192 just to give you some elbow room when mixing.

As if I'll partake and share this (either naive or disingenuous) test to impressionable friends, fool...

 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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Ricardo' date=' you know that [b']Mario[/b]'s « protools » is a dirty word to many ;)

 

And you, frequently snapped skating on water, are foolish to speak of « comfort zone » ‽ Yeah, bravery and foolhardy are but the same formats for you.

 

A while back, dated 9/26, I actually sent Andrew Everard #88

 

Plus it's on record :

So's Sal's :

As if I'll partake and share this (either naive or disingenuous) test to impressionable friends, fool...

 

I fail to see the relevance of the linked article.

Could you please elaborate on your point, making an effort to write it in a more intelligible English?

 

Cheers,

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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