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When will I hear a difference?


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Hi,

 

This seems like a slippery slope, but, I've just got to get an idea if I'm tone-deaf or not.

 

I've got all my music in Apple Lossless, I've also got them converted at 160Kbps AAC for my iPod. I'm currently in the process of building a system, but, I presumed my Shure e3c's would give me pretty good representation of sound quality.

 

I honestly can't tell the difference between Apple Lossless and AAC. I really can't. I'd like to, I'd like to get this ethereal sound, but, it's no different.

 

What are the deciding factors? Are my earphones really not that good, or, is it the use of the line-out of my Mac.

 

Thanks

 

Andrew

 

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You are not alone.

 

Not by a large margin!

 

I have my own experiences with AAC vs. Lossless involving some audiophile friends and accomplished classical musicians. To cut a long story short, differences between the formats may not show up clearly, depending on the music. The more complex the music, the easier it is to discern the two formats. Also, the sound reproduction system must be able to produce differences in the first place. I don't know your earphones, so I can't say anything about them. You could repeat the test at a local audio store with their top of the line system, but it is possible that you still won't hear any big differences. That may mean that YOU are the problem ;) Only when you are trained to detect the differences will you hear them (unless they are blatantly obvious). So, get some friends together who can all detect the differences clearly and reproducibly and have them explain to you what the differences are.

 

Best - MM

 

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Thanks for the feedback, it's reassuring.

 

I've been reading about the Grado SR60's - I think I'll give them a try, I was listening to some Greenday earlier, perhaps they're not the most musical of bands :)

 

If I could just set a benchmark of where I want to get to, that would be enough.

 

On another note, and without starting a new thread; any idea where I'd get some SR60's in Florida? I'm going to both Orlando and Miami in November and it should workout a bit cheaper.

 

I've checked here in the UK and the SR60's run the equivalent of $140.

 

Andrew

 

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I'm not at all surprised by your findings, as they agree very well with my own experience.

 

I did some comparisons a while ago, importing a few tracks from several CDs into various formats and bitrates. Even using AAC at 128k, it was very hard to tell the difference. At any higher bitrate, it was impossible.

 

Remember that AAC is part of the MPEG4 standard, and as such is a very sophisticated coding algorithm, which is a generation ahead of MP3.

 

I once saw an article by a recording engineer (I think the link may be on Ashley's site), who had the same experience. This was a guy who listens to 1st generation master tapes, and indeed the live performance every day, through studio monitoring equipment ! So if he can't tell the difference, it's not surprising that we can't either.

 

Cheers,

Chris.

 

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I'm delighted to read this because we've found the differences can be hard to hear, although obvious with some material in a side by side comparison. The experts tell me that it's worse with certain types of music and less so with others and we've noticed that headphones don't show up problems where quite a few hi fi systems do. Some "musical" ones (no names mentioned) seem to tickle off problems that might otherwise be inaudible. Therefore we advise people to experiment and decide what suits them because compressed files are too useful to ignore.

 

Ash

 

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I have done some un-scientific tests (no ABX!) comparing high quality (V0 vbr-new) Lame MP3s to Q10 Ogg Vorbis to FLAC, and I can't consistently hear a difference between the MP3/Vorbis files, but the FLACs do sound 'cleaner' than the lossy ones. I have not tried FLAC vs WAV. Also, my ears are not 'golden'!

 

Peter

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ash, I thought I would sign in here with a question for anyone.

 

Just to remind you, and tell the others what I am listening on.

 

1. Brand new Beresford DAC (£120, but said to punch above its weight.)

2. Quad 77 Integrated Amplifier (10 years old?)

3.Quart 980s German Tower loudspeakers (20 years old, well reviewed in Germany, sold in USA but not successful in UK)

 

I can hear the difference between a 160 AAC file and a Lossless file (Apple or Flac), but a Gimmel 24/96 Flac is matched by my very best CDs ripped to Flac. I have not been able to compare the same recording at both definitions, but as I said it is very very close with my best CDs.

 

Should I expect a big difference between CD Quality and 24/96? Could my DAC or analogue components be failing to show what would be obvious with more expensive or more modern equipment?

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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Brian

 

it's great to see you on this wonderful new Forum!

 

The Gimmell recordings are full 24 Bit, unlike quite a few others that are just 24 Bit masters, and they are made using purist techniques. I'd expect them to be amongst the best sound that you could buy. I don't think you should expect to hear a big difference even on the very best equipment. Where I'd expect 24 Bit to have an advantage is on a large a complex production using lots of tracks, lots of instruments and lots of effects. The Gimmell stuff is very wide dynamic range but a minimalist recording and therefore not such a great challenge to the equipment.

 

There's no question that more modern equipment than yours would give better results, but if you're enjoying your music and aren't aware of anything it's doing that is spoiling that, I'd not worry too much about spending more money.

 

My only warning is that everyone needs to ask himself occasionally whether he's listening as much as he used to, if he's avoiding certain recordings, or blaming them for being made badly, or is he listening at lower levels, does his system do things that irritate and so on. If they do, then it's time to think hard and carefully about replacement. In true Ashley style (guaranteed to offend someone) I've written a piece on our website that tells you how useless you are (the whole world, me included) is at assessing things, so you can figure out a work around. http://www.avihifi.com/assessinghifi.html

 

Hope this helps

 

Ashley

 

 

 

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Thanks Ash

 

I was comparing two Gimmel recordings of sacred choral music :

 

Byrd - The Great Service- Tallis Scholars - this is the clearest CD I have - and ripped to Flac

 

and

 

http://www.gimell.com/recording-Allegri-Miserere-Palestrina-Missa-Papae-Marcelli.aspx at 24/96 Flac

 

also the Tallis Scholars

 

as I said, impossible to rate one better than the other.

 

I would like to compare some piano music, but haven't found a 24/96 file to buy.

 

But you say it's in the big orchestral stuff that it shows most.

 

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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Brian

When large Orchestras are used for film music or a mixture if real instruments and electronic ones are combined, it's not unusual for vary large numbers microphones to be used as well as many channels of a mixing console together with reverb, digital delays and other effects units and all these reduce the level as which noise and distortion occur. Bits are lost in the production process, so if you start with more, you'll finish with more and the sound quality will benefit.

 

It's a crude description that an expert will correct, but I think it's near enough to offer explanation.

 

Ash

 

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