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jazzfan
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Everyone hates compressed audio but we all love DVDs

Why is it that the two big US high end audio magazines are always trashing audio compression, such as saying that MP3s, WMAs, AACs, computer sound systems and iTunes all spell the death of good sound, and yet both magazines have sister publications dedicated to home theater?

The last time I checked, all DVD soundtracks used some form of heavy duty audio compression, with Dolby Digital being the the worst (most compressed) and DTS being somewhat better (less compressed).

So here's my point. Audio compression in and of itself is not all that bad, if it's done correctly. But just like any other element in the recording and playback chain, if not done correctly, compression will become the weak link. Now please don't get me wrong, an uncompressed signal is far better than a compressed signal and for proof just listen to a 5.1 channel SACD or DVD-Audio disc played back on good home theater system versus a 5.1 Dolby digital version of the same recording, - it's no contest.

So why does the high end audio press give a free pass to the audio compression used on DVDs, so much so, that they recommend home theater setups costing tens of thousands of dollars - all to playback what are in essense high bit rate MP3s!!! And then they have the nerve to turn up their noses at the mere mention of MP3s or WMAs or AACs in their audio publications. Something doesn't sit right with me.

I have an iPod and rip my own MP3s and they sound pretty damn good. I use the latest versions of LAME and Exact Audio Copy and rip using the "--preset extreme" varible bit rate setting. Are the MP3s files as good as the CDs I ripped them from? No. Are they very good copies, useful for listening to on my iPod while on the train? Yes.

But really people let's stop all the b.s. and admit it - you all listen to and enjoy plenty of compressed audio.

RGibran
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Re: Everyone hates compressed audio but we all love DVDs

Well maybe they said compressed audio spells the death of "good" sound, meaning the highest quality presently obtainable, but they didn't say it spelled the death of "enjoyable" sound. Perhaps your over reacting or misinterpreting what you read. This seems a normal and rational statement for a publication dedicated to the state of the art in sound. Why would one spend thousands on state of the art equipment only to feed it less than state of the art software. This is not to say that the same software in a compressed format is any less enjoyable to the given listener. I'm sure you enjoy compressed whomever while on the train...but much prefer the "good" sound you get from whatever level of home electronics and better software of that same recording you own. Guess I just don't really understand what the hell your point is?

I don't find it out of place for a high end audio publication to state mass market audio software or compression MAY be the death of "GOOD" sound. They are suppose to look at things from that side of the fence, IMHO.
Given that SACD and DVD-A have serious marketing issues and sales of same are not exactly going thru the roof, one has to look at competing technoligies and label them as the sword carrying warriors that they are.

Don't get me wrong, I have some music Dolby/DTS DVD's I absolutly love. WHY? Because they have twice the content as available on the cd/sacd/dvd-a, video if desired, and most importantly, are of the music genre and artists I prefer most. This alone is an immense enjoyment factor, more than the sound quality. I would rather "enjoy" these compressed audio discs then sit thru some of my uncompressed hi-rez "good" discs.

Personally, I think Hi-rez will die, due to the soon to be released lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio technologies. In the very near future, our DVD's are going to sound ALOT better!

RG

jazzfan
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Re: Everyone hates compressed audio but we all love DVDs


Quote:
Don't get me wrong, I have some music Dolby/DTS DVD's I absolutly love. WHY? Because they have twice the content as available on the cd/sacd/dvd-a, video if desired, and most importantly, are of the music genre and artists I prefer most. This alone is an immense enjoyment factor, more than the sound quality. I would rather "enjoy" these compressed audio discs then sit thru some of my uncompressed hi-rez "good" discs.

Personally, I think Hi-rez will die, due to the soon to be released lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio technologies. In the very near future, our DVD's are going to sound ALOT better!

Your points are very well taken and quite frankly not that far apart from my own feelings on the issue. I still don't understand why it is okay to listen to and enjoy compressed audio in the context of DVD-Video and then trash all things compressed in any other context. It just has me a bit puzzled.

I think the high end audio world would be better served if it took a little time to learn a few things about compressed audio, such as what sounds good and what sounds bad and how to keep all those nasty artifacts of digital compression down to a minimum. Then it could help pass this knowledge along to others and make new friends instead of just creating enemies. It's just as easy to make a very good sounding MP3 as it is to make a horrible sounding one, someone just has to show you how to do it and iTunes or Windows Media Player is not the answer.

As far as your last statement about the future Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD, from what I've read I'm not to sure that we will be getting anything like the sound quality currently available from present multichannel SACD or DVD-Audio discs but will once again be listening to some form of compressed audio. I believe that these issues have to do with maintaining compatability with existing Dolby digital decoders but I'm not 100% sure, perhaps someone who better understands the subject could jump in and give us a detailed explanation.

Editor
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Re: Everyone hates compressed audio but we all love DVDs


Quote:
I still don't understand why it is okay to listen to and enjoy compressed audio in the context of DVD-Video and then trash all things compressed in any other context. It just has me a bit puzzled.

Your confusion stems from thinking that Stereophile and Home Theater are edited and written by the same group of people and have the same goal. None of this is true. Stereophile is dedicated to getting the best possible sound, and in that context _all_ lossy compressed formats fail, even on DVD. (Personally, I look out for live concert DVDs that have a PCM soundtrack.) By contrast, HT is devoted to getting the best from video with sound quality that is appropriately good enough, in my opinion. In that context, Dolby Digital gets a passing grade, despite its failings.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

jazzfan
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Re: Everyone hates compressed audio but we all love DVDs

I do understand the differences between Stereophile and Home Theater magazine and I do agree with your statement "in that context all lossy compressed formats fail, even on DVD", however, I just know that many people who trash MP3s, etc. are spending big money on home theater audio playback systems to listen to what is basically MP3 quality sound.

On another note, and perhaps this belongs in a seperate thread, but have you ever heard the SACD 5.1 surround mix of Bjork's Medulla recording? The 5.1 channel mix is completely different from the two channel mix and takes full advantage of all the channels and, most importantly, the higher resolution of SACD. Once you hear something like Medulla you realize just how much is missing from the average DVD soundtrack, be it Dolby digital or DTS. I can't recommend it highly enough.

RGibran
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Re: Everyone hates compressed audio but we all love DVDs *DELETE

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