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MP3 vs. WAV vs FLAC - Sound Quality?

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Quote:

Originally Posted by kieren

The idea is that as DJs we should love the music more than anyone else in the venue, and as music lovers we should want to hear & present the music in the best quality possible.

I just dont get it at all, I can accept that vinyl is too expensive and/or too heavy for some DJs but the WAV vs. MP3 argument is a argument I would expect to hear from kids talking about their iPods not professional DJs!!!!

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Quote:

Originally Posted by muse

are you retarded?

are you suggesting there is a clear audible difference between 16 and 24 bit wavs?

because if you are, i propose the idea that you are the one who is retarded. (i dunno, maybe retarded people have superior hearing or something)
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Spicy

nah kieren - music lovers and audiophiles are two different things even though they are related.

i'm sure you can tell the difference especially between 16 and 24 bits.

Not in my experience, most audiophile I know are purely music lovers chasing the highest quality representation of the original recording!
Though I do know a couple who are just into expensive toys!

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Spicy

are you suggesting there is a clear audible difference between 16 and 24 bit wavs?

because if you are, i propose the idea that you are the one who is retarded. (i dunno, maybe retarded people have superior hearing or something)

Of course there is an audible difference, but as posters have said previously in this thread it is alot more noticeable with different types of music ie: you will notice more of a differece if you recorded acoustic drum rather than electronic samples.

24bit/48K = 24 bits (1's & 0's) 48,000 times a second
compared to
16/44.1K

With higher bit and sample rates you get alot more info more times per second which results in smoother more rounded waveforms. This will only be really noticeable though if you are recording the instruments your self.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audiophile

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mixmastermil

Of course there is an audible difference, but as posters have said previously in this thread it is alot more noticeable with different types of music ie: you will notice more of a differece if you recorded acoustic drum rather than electronic samples.

24bit/48K = 24 bits (1's & 0's) 48,000 times a second
compared to
16/44.1K

With higher bit and sample rates you get alot more info more times per second which results in smoother more rounded waveforms. This will only be really noticeable though if you are recording the instruments your self.

Correct!
Also it depends on the quality of the system you are playing the files back on!


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Here's a quote from Francois K from a few years back which I think makes a good argument for seeking the best quality available.

***********************************************

I firmly believe, however, that no matter what style of music is played, inferior and lossy audio formats contribute to an overall mediocrity and degrade what so many of us have worked so hard to attain, especially when the alternative is readily available, and prevent us from fully enjoying music the way it was meant to be heard by its creators on large sound systems .

I think that those who limit themselves to playing a format that was designed for portability and convenience are breaking a covenant that always existed between performers and their audiences, where the performer is always bringing 110% to the stage, rather than being concerned about saving a few $$ on storage space. Either that or they have no respect for the audience's ears?...

FK

***********************************************
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Quote:

Originally Posted by kieren

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audiophile

.

ah yeah i see what u mean, i always attributed them to being tech geeks of the audio kind.

Quote:

Originally Posted by mixmastermil

Of course there is an audible difference, but as posters have said previously in this thread it is alot more noticeable with different types of music ie: you will notice more of a differece if you recorded acoustic drum rather than electronic samples.

24bit/48K = 24 bits (1's & 0's) 48,000 times a second
compared to
16/44.1K

With higher bit and sample rates you get alot more info more times per second which results in smoother more rounded waveforms. This will only be really noticeable though if you are recording the instruments your self.

well, i've recorded vinyl, instruments, vocals, and did (or tried to do lol) my own mastering at both 24 and 16 bit levels all for the purpose of seeing how each will sound. the results on my own ears are that the difference is inaudible.

on that note, my equipment is nowhere near as high end as proper recording studios. it might be a different story if you're listening on an expensive setup in a proper padded room.

i see exactly what you mean that a higher resolution will record a better sound for obvious reasons, and the same applies to all digital media, but i stand my ground that the difference between 16 and 24 bit wavs is so minute normally you could not pick it.
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Nice one futureproof, gotta love Francois, straight to the point as usual!

I was surfing the net and found this on John Burnett’s website, this is one of the best descriptions of Digital audio I have ever read http://www.lenardaudio.com/education/18_digital.html


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Quote:

Originally Posted by Spicy

ah yeah i see what u mean, i always attributed them to being tech geeks of the audio kind.

Yeah people do, and some of them are tech heads (I probably fall into this category in some way) but most audiophiles I have met couldnt even solder their own cables (if they could I would be broke). In general most audiophiles buy their equipment from shops like DJs and by definition are constantly up-grading like DJs!

A tech mate of mine in the UK said something to me last week that has stuck, he said up-grading is addictive, once you hear a better sounding speaker, mixer, cart etc. it is hard to be happy with the lower quality one. This is applicable to most things in life!


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My love for Francois K knows no bounds

Ok maybe I didn't word my statement so well, I'm tired and fluey. Apologies for that.

I write music @ 24/48 and use mostly analogue gear, most samples I use are recorded at this bit rate also. Not having the luxury of pressing my tunes onto wax, I have to compress them to 16/44.1 for CD to play @ gigs. The drop in sound quality is most definitely noticeable and quite disheartening, which is why I can't understand how people could enjoy playing mp3s on a club system when 16/44.1 wavs don't even sound that crash hot.

That is all.
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it's because you're an audiophile!
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I think most producers using analogue equipment are by definition audiophiles!

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Just to clarify some terminology being slaughtered in here - when you take a 24bit/48kHz file and turn it into a 16bit/44.1kHz one you're doing two processes which can be achieved in a couple of ways. The bit depth reflects the resolution at which the dynamic range of your material is captured and reproduced. This can be done by dithering (the correct way) or by truncation (the wrong way). If you truncate your 24 bit files you're going to wind up with a god 30% loss in your dynamic range representation and for sure will wind up with some strange behaviour with respect to how your louds'n'quiets are translated. muse I trust you're doing it properly?

Then there's sample rate conversion. That's taking a certain number of samples and more or less averaging them accross a smaller number of samples. Basically this reflects the highest frequency which is able to be captured/reproduced with a recording. A brief google of the Nyquist theorem will reveal a lot to those who've never heard of it and makes strange numbers like 44.1kHz make perfect sense all of a sudden.

Neither of these processes are compression. Downsampling and conversion, yes. The ultimate idea being to preserve as much sonic integrity as possible while staying clear of the boundary of what was calculated to be 'ideal' and 'imperceptible' at the time.

However I'm inclined to believe that muse is either doing something wrong, or hearing a difference because there should be one. As I've said before, if you can tell the difference between a 16/44.1 and 24/48 rendering of the same material on your $1000 monitors through your M-Audio shitofile in the corner of your bedroom, you're dreaming.

While I do agree that there is a perceptable diffo between 16 and 24 bits, you really need to be using material which will exploit the difference and be comparing them in a carefully controlled environment.
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yeah well i wasn't even bothering to argue the 44/48khz statement because noticing that difference is practically impossible for humans.

like you said, the bit rate differences are a fair go if you aren't deaf and have a high end setup which muse quite possibly has. mmm.. analogue knob twiddling action!
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good to see this topic resurrected.

for better quality on a big sound system wav is best! Dumbing it down/rule of thumb; 128 for pods, 320k for bar gigs, wav for club and festival sound systems. I see top DJs getting tunes from www.dancemusichub.com in mp3, it makes me cringe!!!

mp3 loses <20hz, so while you may not be able hear the difference, you can certainly feel it. You wouldn't need wav for acapelas but one benefit of mp3 is ID3 tagging so you can file and find tracks easier.

hope this helps
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Pro Tool

However I'm inclined to believe that muse is hearing a difference because there should be one.

yes i'm doing it properly, and there is a big sonic difference.

scuse me term nazi just joking, nice to see another protool-er out there

pls re-read all former posts, replacing compression w conversion
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Quote:

Originally Posted by futureproof

Here's a quote from Francois K from a few years back which I think makes a good argument for seeking the best quality available.

***********************************************

I firmly believe, however, that no matter what style of music is played, inferior and lossy audio formats contribute to an overall mediocrity and degrade what so many of us have worked so hard to attain, especially when the alternative is readily available, and prevent us from fully enjoying music the way it was meant to be heard by its creators on large sound systems .

I think that those who limit themselves to playing a format that was designed for portability and convenience are breaking a covenant that always existed between performers and their audiences, where the performer is always bringing 110% to the stage, rather than being concerned about saving a few $$ on storage space. Either that or they have no respect for the audience's ears?...

FK

***********************************************


I know that this (above) quote has been quoted already but it is FANTASTIC.

We are at a junction in history where we are accepting a poorer audio experience for the sake of convenience. NOT COOL! Despite the fact that I own dancemusichbub.com (I decided to launch it when I heard a 128k file played in a club in '05) I felt a loss when vinyl died and the loss was in the "warmth" of the vinyl experience. Generations to follow will not know any better. wav is the next best format option. please let me know if the wav handling fee we charge is a barrier to purchasing wav from our site. It's all about the music and I would rather forego revenue in favour of putting a better quality sound in the clubs.

Last edited by Lee Michaels: 14-Jul-09 at 02:09pm

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^ WAV service fee is the only reason I don't purchase WAVs. Storage space does not worry me in the least. Even a smaller service fee would be more acceptable - being on a budget where I can only spend a small amount each week on music means that I'd rather get a couple of new MP3 tunes than buy in WAV format.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by mcdoofus

^ WAV service fee is the only reason I don't purchase WAVs. Storage space does not worry me in the least. Even a smaller service fee would be more acceptable - being on a budget where I can only spend a small amount each week on music means that I'd rather get a couple of new MP3 tunes than buy in WAV format.

good to hear this feedback. anyone else? if there's enough support and where our supplier/label contracts allow we'll drop the wav charge. feel free to private message on this one too.
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put it this way -- if the labels and retailers such as yourself want the DJs to play the highest quality sounds, why the hell are wavs more expensive than mp3s? not only do we get charged extra to buy the format, but we have to waste more bandwidth to acquire the files which adds to the overall cost.
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the wavs should be cheaper, as less processing has gone into them
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The explanation I've read in the past is that sound systems in your typical clubs are such that you would never hear the difference between WAV and a 320CBR MP3.

And its a bit unrelated to what was asked, but WAV's do not support tagging like MP3's do, which makes WAV a bit inconvenient in some ways.
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You can just burn it on to cd, and write on the cd. Quite convenient if you have the right sort of texta
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Personally I am happy to pay extra, it’s not like it’s a lot of money!

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i remember reading an article that some university group conducted a test on a group of people to see if they could hear the difference in sound quality in flac vs 128kbps on an ipod with standard earphones, thinking the flac will win hands down but to their surprise, most people selected the 128kbps as the "better" sound and their comment was they couldnt tell them apart.

so without the "proper gear" does it really doesnt matter??...

prior to me owning an iphone, i use to lug around my old 2gb ipod nano at the gym and i would normally convert it on LAME to variable bitrate with a target bitrate of 115kbps and honestly, you really cant tell, until you conpare them on a decent studio monitors.

i archive and backup my cds in flac, but when i transport them on a portable devive, its a low kbps
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Spicy

put it this way -- if the labels and retailers such as yourself want the DJs to play the highest quality sounds, why the hell are wavs more expensive than mp3s? not only do we get charged extra to buy the format, but we have to waste more bandwidth to acquire the files which adds to the overall cost.

I hear you! wav is a very costly format for us to handle too, due to storage and bandwidth. That and the fact that distributors (our suppliers) mandate we charge extra is the reason we have the handling fee. The ISP's are the ones who profit the most as they hit you and businesses such as mine with the charges.

Ultimately we can't dictate what format dj's play so we have to offer options.

Quote:

Originally Posted by macc4

the wavs should be cheaper, as less processing has gone into them

we actually receive files from most suppliers in a wav format, press a button and it converts them into 320, 192 and a streaming format for preview (easy from our POV).
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lol, obviously wav's are more expensive because of hosting/bandwidth issues. Which is why i want to see flac available for download.

tbh i get most of my music in wav anyway but i do findmyself going over my quota almost every month. Which means i have to either buy mp3's toward the end of the month.

if flac were available from download sites it would help prevent this whilst maintaining the recordings integrity. I imagine it would also considerably lower costs for the distributer.

It really puzzles me as to why it isn't common place.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Lee Michaels

Dumbing it down/rule of thumb; 128 for pods, 320k for bar gigs, wav for club and festival sound systems.

Wouldn't those people with micro-drivers shoved halfway down the ear canal be in a better position to discriminate rubbish bitrates?

Or are those types of people already deaf?


Quote:

Originally Posted by Lee Michaels

mp3 loses <20hz, so while you may not be able hear the difference, you can certainly feel it.

What do you suppose is the low-end frequency response of a club/festival sound system?

How much energy is being output below 20Hz?

Seems like a waste of system resources (ie. amplifier power) to even contemplate it.

Don't most system processors run infrasonic filters (ie. < 15Hz) anyway?

Personally, I think managing a waveform wobbling as slow as 20 times a second is the least of MP3's encoding worries. Pretty easy to predict where the waveform will be in several miliseconds time. Compare that to the harsh reality of vocal reproduction and the fast, high frequencies of cymbals, for example, which is where I consider pushes the limitations of low bitrate mp3.

And for some reason, the club system keeps coming up as the ultimate listening environment for audio quality tests. Personally, I think it's just about the worst.

Last edited by Spectrum: 14-Jul-09 at 07:21pm

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Spectrum

What do you suppose is the low-end frequency response of a club/festival sound system?

How much energy is being output below 20Hz?

Seems like a waste of system resources (ie. amplifier power) to even contemplate it.

Don't most system processors rub infrasonic filters (ie. < 15Hz) anyway?

^^ this the clubs ive worked in just adjust crossovers so <20Hz is taken out anyway (we cant hear it properly whats the point of having it there?)

feel free to abuse me about this but eh.. from what ive seen its common practice in most places...

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The sound spectrum is 9 octaves or 20hz - 20khz so this is what we aim systems to cover! Maybe not every track will cover this spectrum but the system should be able to reproduce every instrument possible!

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And to illustrate my point again and to further put this 'mp3 is no good for club system' notion to the test, here's a linky for youse all:

http://www.geocities.com/cfr707/mp3.htm

Looking at an mp3 file under the spectrum ( ) analyzer...



Note the low frequency content is wonderfully supported, and in fact it's the highest of frequencies that get lopped off?

Anywho, perhaps this is not such a big deal after all given that the typical club PA box rarely extends beyond 17kHz (and certainly drops off before the average studio monitor or even iPod in-ear bud does) thereby further burying the beloved club system testing ground into the mud.
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lol @ AnalFreq
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^^^ I so missed that!
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Spectrum

And to illustrate my point again and to further put this 'mp3 is no good for club system' notion to the test, here's a linky for youse all:

http://www.geocities.com/cfr707/mp3.htm

Looking at an mp3 file under the spectrum ( ) analyzer...



Note the low frequency content is wonderfully supported, and in fact it's the highest of frequencies that get lopped off?

Anywho, perhaps this is not such a big deal after all given that the typical club PA box rarely extends beyond 17kHz (and certainly drops off before the average studio monitor or even iPod in-ear bud does) thereby further burying the beloved club system testing ground into the mud.

The mp3 no good on club systems meme has a very different origin than the situation we have today.

When it first turned up, dance music mp3s were in general 128-192kbit vinyl rips that people were burning to cds and they did sound like arse in general on big systems, this had as much to do with the transfer from vinyl using dj carts & djm500/600s as a preamp as it did mp3 compression.

With a modern digital master compressed to mp3 @ 320kbps, the difference is much harder to pick, especially with dance music.

Listening on my cans or on a decent hifi system I can pick mp3s from uncompressed. To dance music I'm not familiar with on a club system, it's getting pretty difficult, if not impossible to do reliably.

My main issue with mp3s now is it is nolonger necessary.

Hard drive space is under 15 cents per gigabyte and we've got 10mbit+ internet connections.

flac all the way.

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Quote:

Originally Posted by muse

rule of thumb: all mp3s sound like shit.


when most people create music @ 24/48, compressing to 44.1/16 is bad enough

I'd say that if you are producing, you should try 24/44, or 24/88. 48 is just silly nowadays if you aren't working towards a DVD, DVD-A or SA-CD final... you're hardly putting things on a DAT master.

I agree that the second I put the dither plug on the master channel things turn a little ugly.

Quote:

i remember reading an article that some university group conducted a test on a group of people to see if they could hear the difference in sound quality in flac vs 128kbps on an ipod with standard earphones, thinking the flac will win hands down but to their surprise, most people selected the 128kbps as the "better" sound and their comment was they couldnt tell them apart.

Yes - mentioned before... A bunch of old DJs listening at a club (Fabric).
And I said then, and I'll say it again... mp3s (particularly low bitrate... around 128-200kbps) have a very compressed sound. Percussion has a bit of a squish to it, which could be perceived as something nice for dance and modern rock/pop. When you're used to listening to more dynamic music, you realise just how shit this 'compress at every stage' mode of listening is.

Last edited by ferretrock: 14-Jul-09 at 10:35pm

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I thought low bitrates were a good thing?



Or will people tell me it is it no longer 2003 now?
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Quote:

Originally Posted by ferretrock

I'd say that if you are producing, you should try 24/44, or 24/88. 48 is just silly nowadays if you aren't working towards a DVD, DVD-A or SA-CD final... you're hardly putting things on a DAT master.

Well a lot of the time that IS the case coz I work in the film industry.

That is not the point of this argument though.....

24/48 is more force of habit for me... yeah I could just start at 16/44.1 when making fat beats for gigs but I would prefer to have the original sound fan-bloody-tastic for my own enjoyment
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I hate this argument but it's hard not to become involved. Actually, I don't have anything nice to say so I won't say it at all. Must... resist!
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Quote:

Originally Posted by muse

Well a lot of the time that IS the case coz I work in the film industry.

That is not the point of this argument though.....

24/48 is more force of habit for me... yeah I could just start at 16/44.1 when making fat beats for gigs but I would prefer to have the original sound fan-bloody-tastic for my own enjoyment

What about 24/96, at least then you get a straight /2 to 48 and a bit more to work with going to 44.1

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Wow, I missed a bit.

I'm pretty sure my nice concise observation (although my own personal experience) of what the perceivable differences between lossless flac and 320kbps mp3 audio lay, were enough for even the most die hard sticklers for purity and realism to realise that, in a club environment, where the audio systems EQ is shaped (generalisation alert), there is no/very little noticeable difference between these formats. (sorry for the convoluted sentence)

99.9% of the 320kbps mp3 digital files that come from beatport will sound exactly the same as the WAVs from beartport sound on 99.9% of sound systems. This is because not only is the detail that is destroyed in the compression so insignificant with the style of music released on beatport as well as the mastering techniques used on these releases, but also the speakers that make you dance in the club are the equivalent of a watch maker with Parkinson's when it comes to accuracy of that level.

I can't tell the difference between 24bit and 16bit at the same sample rate when blind A/B ing. I would love someone who can to tell me what they notice as the perceivable differences on any particular track - I only have a very small collection of 24bit recordings - to provide me with said tracks so that I can further ruin my enjoyment of inferior quality recordings.

This subject is fascinating, but there is a line where reality stops and idealism starts, admittedly, its one of the most blurred lines possible, but its there.

I work in a nightclub that has been extensively tested and tuned, Let me tell you, you can tell when someone drops a track that is below 192kbps. everyone in the club notices - they don't all turn around and go, wow, this dj sucks, he is playing low quality mp3s. They simply stop feeling that forceful edge of attack and vigor that a live clap/snare hit has. And like a bad choice of song, they lose that inhibition and reclaim control of their bodies, they realise they are tired, thirsty and horny, and that, is how dancefloors get emptied.
But the difference between the same beatport release in both the available formats is a audible as a scream in space.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Spectrum

And to illustrate my point again and to further put this 'mp3 is no good for club system' notion to the test, here's a linky for youse all:

http://www.geocities.com/cfr707/mp3.htm

Looking at an mp3 file under the spectrum ( ) analyzer...



Note the low frequency content is wonderfully supported, and in fact it's the highest of frequencies that get lopped off?

Anywho, perhaps this is not such a big deal after all given that the typical club PA box rarely extends beyond 17kHz (and certainly drops off before the average studio monitor or even iPod in-ear bud does) thereby further burying the beloved club system testing ground into the mud.

The only real way to make a comparison in a graph like that would be to use white or pink noise, taking the average peaks from music is almost insane if you want to prove how good a MP3 is compared to a WAV. You would need to record the pink or white noise as a WAV then make a copy converted into a MP3 then show me a graph and one showing under the 3khz area a lot clearer. Anyone who has use analyst programs likes SMAART to help get Linier Transfer out of a system will tell you tuning to average music peaks is not precise enough!
The graph you showed was to show the degradation in comparison with 2 other graphs and it does that clearly but it was using music average levels (the red line) and only really shows clearly the high frequencies!


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The range our ears are most sensitive to is 300hz – 3khz the slightest loss or distortion in this area can be very noticeable and is the reason why speaker designers try to avoid placing a crossover point in this area although this is unavoidable in high powered systems as you will generally blow compression driver/horn trying to play them from 3khz to 20khz at high volumes (hence the need for ultra high frequency tweeters like bullets & slots in the old days) so generally you bring the compression driver/horn down closer to 1khz and run a tweeter from around 7khz up.

our ears (generally speaking) are -20db less sensitive at 20hz than at 40hz and a lot of lazy system designers will shelf a system at 40hz, 50hz or even 60hz but as a bass note can be clean down to 42hz this is a very un-musical practice and something I consider a cop out.

I think my point is that you may not be able to hear a difference on the system you play on now but what will you do when all you have is your 128-192 MP3’s and you get to play on a high end system and the guy before you had vinyl or WAV files?

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The thing is though, low bitrate mp3s are now an anachronism. People may have 'legacy' collections of them, but where are people buying them from now?

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Personally I think as long as you can get them DJ’s should be buying “Loss-less un-compressed” formats but obviously not many DJ’s give a shit these days!

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Quote:

Originally Posted by omnipresence

I hate this argument but it's hard not to become involved. Actually, I don't have anything nice to say so I won't say it at all. Must... resist!

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Quote:

Originally Posted by kieren

Personally I think as long as you can get them DJs should be buying Loss-less un-compressed formats but obviously not many DJs give a shit these days!

I've bought plenty of white label records in my time which certainty left a bit to be desired sound quality wise. But I bought them because it was the only way to get that tune. These days I'd prefer flac as I've said, but I think it's very easy to become bogged down in semantics on the internets.

It's unfortunate for a lot of nub kid djs out there now is that there is just so much poor (mis)information circulated on so many topics.

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Originally Posted by gotamangina View Post

I hate it when you're right and I'm not.

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Quote:

Originally Posted by big eddie

What about 24/96, at least then you get a straight /2 to 48 and a bit more to work with going to 44.1

seems a little pointless doesn't it? humans can barely hear past 20khz, and 96khz (48/nyquist/blahblah) would probably only be apparent when doing a spectral analysis. certainly wouldn't make a difference to the ears i think.

so what exactly are you guys looking for in that upper most frequency range if you can't even hear it?
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I understand all the good points about the scientific side of this discussion, but for me its a simple principle.

Everyone agrees that piracy is bad because it short changes the producers of music.

Similarly, I see it that DJs should feel obligated to the patrons of the bars/clubs they play at, to always play the highest quality format they can.
These people are paying your wages and deserve the best.
The argument about bar/club sound systems not being good enough to notice the difference is fair enough, but that is the venue owners fault not the DJs.
Maybe if more DJs complained to venue owners that "My WAVs sound like MP3s" regularly, then things might get better.

I am fully aware that this sounds blindly idealistic, but the old adage 'If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem' seems to have some relevance here.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by futureproof

I understand all the good points about the scientific side of this discussion, but for me its a simple principle.

Everyone agrees that piracy is bad because it short changes the producers of music.

Similarly, I see it that DJs should feel obligated to the patrons of the bars/clubs they play at, to always play the highest quality format they can.
These people are paying your wages and deserve the best.
The argument about bar/club sound systems not being good enough to notice the difference is fair enough, but that is the venue owners fault not the DJs.
Maybe if more DJs complained to venue owners that "My WAVs sound like MP3s" regularly, then things might get better.

I am fully aware that this sounds blindly idealistic, but the old adage 'If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem' seems to have some relevance here.

If we are talking sound quality, why not take it a step further and only play vinyl ?
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