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Tadas
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Where can I find high quality music

Hi everyone. I am in no way a hardcore audiophile in any way, but I recently bought Sennheiser cans and I want to see how good the quality on these things can get. All of my music is in MP3 format and most songs are about 7 Mb. I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions on where to find better quality music or if what I already have is fine. I'm also listening on a Moto Droid for now since my iPod broke but I will be getting a new one soon so the format has to be supported by at least one of those devices. Thanks for the help!

Elk
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

Welcome!

You definitely want to try music recorded with full fidelity - that is without the information loss present in MP3s and similar formats.

Apple lossless, wav files and FLAC encoded files are all full fidelity. I don't know much about iPods, but I think Apple lossless will be the best choice for you as these files take less space than uncompressed but are full fidelity.

Others here know much more than I.

Tadas
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

So would converting my files to one of these lossless formats improve the quality or do it have to search for songs encoded in these formats? And thanks.

Elk
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

You need to either have the CD and encoded it yourself or buy the music in one of these formats.

Unfortunately the goodness is already gone from the MP3 versions of the music. Transcoding them to another format merely changes the format, it does not fix the information loss that has already been inflicted on the originals when they were turned into MP3s.

Tadas
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

This is going to be tough because I am not buying 3,000 songs worth of CDs

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Re: Where can I find high quality music

Are there any sites where I can find HQ audio files? And also what bit rate am I looking for? 256? 320? Does it go higher? And lastly how can I know the bit rate of my already downloaded tunes?

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Re: Where can I find high quality music

If your tracks are about 7 MB they are most likely 256 kb

JoeE SP9
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

I'm not aware of many sites that offer "high" quality audio files. You should be aware that MP3 files at the lower bit rates sound pretty bad when played on good gear. When any music file is converted to MP3 part of the music is discarded. The lower the bit rate the, more music is discarded.
Most serious audiophiles prefer ALAC or Apple Lossless because none of the music is discarded. Of course the resulting files are larger. It's up to you to decide, high or higher quality and larger size versus lower quality and smaller size. When a file has been converted to a lossy MP3 file what is thrown away can't be recovered. So, you are stuck with whatever quality or lack of in your music files.

Chesky Records and HDtracks are two sites that sell CD and higher quality files. There are probably others that I'm unaware of.

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Re: Where can I find high quality music
Tadas
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

Thanks for the sites, but both of them have really limited selections. So is the best way to just rip the music from CDs onto my computer? If so, any programs that I should use? Sorry for all the questions but this is totally new to me.

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Re: Where can I find high quality music

Yes, ripping your own CDs is one of the best ways, at least it more-or-less guarantees you access to a selection of music you'll like! You don't say whether you use Mac or PC so I'll assume the latter. The best ripping program I am aware of is the 'Reference' version of dBpoweramp CD ripper ($36). It has something called 'Ultra Secure mode' which uses a combination of re-rips, C2 error pointers and AccurateRip to give the best chance of a bit-for-bit copy and if it can't it will tell you (no chance for errors to slip through, gua-ron-teed). It also uses both cores on a dual-core CPU so is faster. The standard version of dBpoweramp and Exact Audio Copy are also good free programs, just not as good as dBpoweramp Reference.

Btw, to find out the bit rate of an mp3 file in Vista or Win 7 just hover the cursor over it. In earlier windows versions just right click and select properties.

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Re: Where can I find high quality music
struts
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

Thanks nc, I knew I'd seen this list in a thread but couldn't remember for the life of me where. I'm going to save it this time!

Btw, one more: http://www.lessloss.com/high-resolution-audiophile-recordings-c-68.html

Elk
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Re: Where can I find high quality music


Quote:
The standard version of dBpoweramp and Exact Audio Copy are also good free programs, just not as good as dBpoweramp Reference.

This is completely correct, but a clarification: the free versions rip just as accurately - they just do not have all of the wonderful features of the paid program.

Also, as a separate clarification, even at the highest bit rates available, no MP3 file contains all the data contained on the original CD. Higher bit rate is better, but still incomplete.

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Re: Where can I find high quality music

That is correct, and if I listen to my mp3 files (320kb) on the computer, I can't tell the difference from a wav file, but when I play them through my system, there's a world of difference.

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Re: Where can I find high quality music
struts
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Re: Where can I find high quality music


Quote:
...but a clarification: the free versions rip just as accurately - they just do not have all of the wonderful features of the paid program.


Not true, dBpoweramp Reference can produce accurate rips even in cases where dBpoweramp (free) and EAC cannot. See here for (lots) more detail.

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Re: Where can I find high quality music


Quote:
Not true, dBpoweramp Reference can produce accurate rips even in cases where dBpoweramp (free) and EAC cannot. See here for (lots) more detail.

Thanks, Struts. I will take a look. I have not been exposed to this info before.

Interesting article.

Bottom line: no program rips without errors 100% of the time.

If you can take advantage of the AccurateRip database you can be almost certain your rip is accurate if data on the CD you ripped is available. But if this data is unavailable, dBpoweramp is better than EAC.

I am surprised to see that dBpoweramp still ripped tracks with errors 20% of the time.

I do question whether any of these errors are audible however or whether this is just another audiophile anal exercise.

struts
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Re: Where can I find high quality music


Quote:
I have not been exposed to this info before.


I think all this blew through while you were out on your sabbatical


Quote:
Bottom line: no program rips without errors 100% of the time.


Correct. There will always be bad or damaged discs and some drives do a better job of handling these than others.


Quote:
If you can take advantage of the AccurateRip database you can be almost certain your rip is accurate if data on the CD you ripped is available. But if this data is unavailable, dBpoweramp is better than EAC.


If there are at least 3 identical rips in AccurateRip you can be certain whether or not your rip was accurate regardless whether you are using dBp or EAC. dBpoweramp is however able to obtain an accurate rip in more cases than EAC, particularly (maybe specifically) in cases where the drive does not correctly flag C1 and/or C2 errors.


Quote:
I am surprised to see that dBpoweramp still ripped tracks with errors 20% of the time.


The specific test CD used to compare the performance of different drives was scratched and known to have unrecoverable errors.


Quote:
I do question whether any of these errors are audible however or whether this is just another audiophile anal exercise.


Excellent point. One could pretty easily construct a test file with increasing numbers of samples with MSB errors and see at what point they become audible. Come to think of it I might just do that!

The thing I am really curious about is how iTunes compares to these other rippers. Lots of folks use it for CD ripping and I think most of them assume that when they check 'Use error correction when importing Audio CDs' they are getting bit-for-bit copies. However the flowchart for this setting has never been published and afaik nobody outside Apple knows exactly what it does. I suspect, purely based on listening to the drive while ripping and observing the speed it is spinning at (which is reported by the program), that it relies exclusively on C2 Error pointers, i.e. similar to Plextools Pro. If so, it is only as good as the ripping drive's implementation of C2. Since iTunes does not use AccurateRip, whatever it does the user will never know what proportion of his rips are accurate. I'd love to see someone (Stereophile?) investigate this, I suspect the results might surprise a lot of people.

I am constantly surprised when I see computer audio 'experts' (even genuinely knowledgeable people who IMO should know better) incanting the myths that EAC/iTunes produce accurate rips 100% of the time. It just ain't so.

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Re: Where can I find high quality music


Quote:
I think all this blew through while you were out on your sabbatical

If only it were paid.


Quote:
The specific test CD used to compare the performance of different drives was scratched and known to have unrecoverable errors.

I didn't catch this, probably read too fast.


Quote:
The thing I am really curious about is how iTunes compares to these other rippers. Lots of folks use it for CD ripping and I think most of them assume that when they check 'Use error correction when importing Audio CDs' they are getting bit-for-bit copies.

Excellent question.

The other question I have is how well a typical CD player/transport does. We would probably be appalled.

struts
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Re: Where can I find high quality music


Quote:
The other question I have is how well a typical CD player/transport does. We would probably be appalled.


Another great opportunity for Stereophile to do some investigative journalism!

Tadas
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

Thanks for the huge list. I've looked through about half the list so far, and there are a few artists on there that I like it seems as if most songs are classical or by people I haven't heard of. I'm relatively young (18) and I like Alt. Rock, some Hip Hop, and the such. Any places where I can find these genres and artists (The Killers for example). For artists that I like more I guess I'm going to spend a little cash and get their CDs but there are many artists that only have a song or two that I like so its not worth me buying entire CDs for them. Thanks a lot for all the help so far, I'm really happy I've found such a pleasant forum.

struts
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Re: Where can I find high quality music

I'm not aware of any, Tadas. I'm afraid that the majority of fans of those genres seem happy with mp3 and they are not well served (yet) by the hi-rez download sites. I like the Killers too and I have ripped all their albums from the CDs myself. I would recommend you rip the CDs you have and the ones you decide you want to buy and just download the remaining tracks as mp3s.

mp3s at 256kb/s and 320kb/s can sound pretty darn good, to the degree that it takes a trained ear, a decent replay system and a quiet listening environment to tell the difference between them and a CD. You might like to test yourself: rip one of your favourite tracks to FLAC and then use something like dBpoweramp Music Converter to convert it into 128, 256 and 320kb/s mp3s. Put all the versions in a playlist and put them on shuffle play. Now can you tell the difference? It's good training!

struts
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Re: Where can I find high quality music


Quote:
One could pretty easily construct a test file with increasing numbers of samples with MSB errors and see at what point they become audible. Come to think of it I might just do that!


So I did. See the results here.

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