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jazzfan's picture
Last seen: 1 year 8 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Something for Nothing

After following along with Jim's "MP3 vs. Redbook" thread in this section and this other thread Classical MP3s audiophiles over in the Classical music section, along with all the various links and sidebars, I've come to the conclusion that with the advent of computer audio and compressed music files we've taken a big step backwards into the world of snake oil salesmanship.

Let's all stand up and give JA a round of applause for his unwavering commitment to the simple idea of the truth. With that in mind let us get back to first principles and try and clear the air of all of this bovine feces being so freely tossed about.

When the CD was first introduced the audiophile world was up in arms because the the sampling rate (44.1KZ) and word length (16 bit) were felt to be inadequate and so the hi-rez formats of DVD-Audio and SACD were introduced to help resolve this problem.

Now at the same time in the world of computers, various compression schemes were developed to help deal the problem of the large file size (and storage requirements) of the resultant wave sounds files. Wave sound files being the computer version of CD audio. Again, as I've stated before, the primary goal of these compression schemes was the smallest possible file size with acceptable sound quality. After the dust had settled, the MP3 format emerged as the most widely used and accepted format.

So where does that leave us today?

In the world of high end audio we have two dying hi-rez formats, each capable of producing rather stunning sound and the CD audio format still going strong. And in the world of computers we have several different lossy and lossless compression formats, DRM and ever growing amount of claims about how less is more.

Since JA is a fine English gentleman and would never go so far as to insult anyone, either directly or indirectly, and I'm just some guy from New Jersey who happened to grow up in Brooklyn, I have no such qualms. So here goes. I don't care who backs the technology, what fancy name you give it, what kind of claims make, how many patents you can pull out from your butt or how many letters are after the guy's name who wrote the white paper: an MP3 file or any other compressed audio file can never, as in like forever, be as good as the original wave file.

If the MP3 file sounds better it's because of some type of sonic enhancement and that same enhancement can also be applied to the original wave file with the exact same results. If anyone tries to tell you anything else, duck before the feces hits you in the face.

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Something for Nothing

As I originally said it is hard (impossible) to get more from less.

In my initial trials of MP3s my goal was to find out why people who claim to love music would basically use the MP3 format for most if not all of their music, and if this is where 90+% of the public is headed.

I also said this is the antithesis of all Stereophile is about, but I am trying to be open minded about all things audio. I own an IPod and just because it can I DO NOT have to load it with MP3. Given my choices I would take RedBook and DSD all the time.

I am also surprised that MP3 can be very good and beyond awful just by the process or a bad codec. A bad file converted to 32K cannot be that enjoyable to listen to.

Last night I transferred a wonderful recording of Laverne Butler from MaxxJazz. The performance and the engineering are above first rate. Reduced to MP3 by Switch I was amazed at now good the file still was. Yes some air and 3D was gone, but if you start with a great recording it is still very listenable to me. Yes, it is the reverse of what audiophiles are about, but...

Outlandish claims will remain what they are. These should be avoided as they just fuel of the flames of foolishness. If you make a recording you just want it to have enough vitality, reality, and substance that makes someone want to listen to it and, yes buy it! The Fraunhofer site perpetuates this "more from less" as well.

The Beta Max was about time shifting. CD was about the promise of perfect sound forever, but ultimately for most became more about convenience than sound quality. The Walkman gave us the ablity to think we could have music anytime anywhere. The the CD Walkman and the portable MiniDisc came about and the idea of compressed audio files was tested. Many bought in as to them it was totally about the music not how it sounded. WE CRINGE!

We start worrying about OpAmps, the sound of capacitors, faster diodes, and better clocking of the data stream and the masses think we have lost it. So what? We think they have lost it. Sony ups the ante with DSD and then dumps us like a cold fish.

After reading the reviews of some of the most popular sound cards I can understand how duped people can be by this MP3 marketing. These same people who have dropped some serious green ($300+) on a poor audio card would never have heard of RME, DigitalAudioLabs, MAudio, Echo, and other Audiophile quality cards. For the MP3 crowd it may not really matter, but I can tell you the files that I have converted and listened though my Jolida CD player are pretty decent for the file size. It was an academic exercise I am surprised about.

The files I downloaded from Apple had sent me packing and not wanting more. Doing some of my own has had me reopen the door for more listening and conversion trials.

I am listening to some very nice 192K files and will write more as I collect my thoughts. I wish reality would have been for Sony to open more SACD pressing plants, make ALL of their releases DSD and RedBook 2 channel, and MC if they could. Now, I only hope the fomat lives on like the "Dead" lp. LOL

The sad part is there will be so much music that we could have gotten closer to the performance of, but will not because of the lack of DSD pressing time. Just when the equipment has reached performance levels of spectacular proportions, we find the software not keeping up.

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