It is currently Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:34 am

All times are UTC - 8 hours




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 16 posts ] 

FLAC compression level on portables, and unamped line out?
Rio Karma 20 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
iRiver iHP-120/140 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Apple iPod 100%  100%  [ 3 ]
Creative Labs Zen Touch 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
iAudio M3 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Something else fitting Ed's needs (please suggest below) 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 3
Author Message
 Post subject: FLAC compression level on portables, and unamped line out?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 7:45 am 
Offline
SPCR Reviewer

Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 9:53 pm
Posts: 2696
Location: Scarsdale, NY
Good day, all! I was doing a bit of research and noticed that there are at least five portable players on the market that can handle lossless formats. From what I can tell, they are the:

1) Rio Karma 20
2) iRiver iHP-120/140
3) Apple iPod
4) Creative Zen Touch
5) iAudio M3

My preferable format is either Monkey's Audio or FLAC, as half my library is FLAC and half my library is Monkey's Audio; if the player supports either format, I need only rerip half my archive, rather than the the entire thing.

However, I did notice that the latest firmware for iAudio M3 only officially supports FLAC levels 0, 1 and 2. I'm positive I used the maximum compression (8?); will the M3 still play my files? If not, I'd end up having to rerip even my FLACs just for it! How about Rio Karma 20? I haven't been able to find if there are any compression level limitations for its FLAC support.

If I have to go with a format other than those two, I need to know if there's any audio player other than iTunes that supports Apple Lossless on PC. Right now, I use foobar2000 and I don't think it supports Apple Lossless (somebody please correct me if I'm wrong there). I don't like iTunes because it doesn't seem to have support for Kernel Streaming or ASIO output, or at least it cannot bypass Kmixer (again, please correct me if I'm wrong on that as well). While WAVE would certainly work, that'd really cut down on the amount of hard drive space I have all around, so I'd like to avoid WAVE if possible.

Another highly important item is if the player supports a standard line-out; I will be using a HeadRoom BitHead and Etymotic ER-4S, and I'd much prefer to use the player's line-out if possible, rather than the headphone out. I know the iPod supports this via an aftermarket cable; what about the other players I listed? It has to remain on the portable side, so carrying the dock would be a real hassle unless it's really, really small and all cables are detachable from it.

-Ed

_________________
Contributing Writer, SPCR
NgTechnik

Want something reviewed? Help us get samples!
Donate for Patron or Friend Status!


Last edited by Edward Ng on Sun Oct 31, 2004 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 11:10 am 
Offline
*Lifetime Patron*

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:06 am
Posts: 3214
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Can't help you on a good mobile player, Ed, but I wouldn't worry about FLAC compression limitations.

From what I've read, FLAC decompression speed is constant no matter what level compression you use. Granted, this was measured on an x86 based CPU and not an embedded CPU, but I'd like to think that decompression at level 8 is comparible to level 1.

I'd go with the Karma if I were you, since I know it supports FLAC. IIRC, it also supports gapless playback, if that's an important feature for you.

_________________
My Power Rig, Storage Rig, HTPC and Main Rig


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:21 pm 
Offline
*Lifetime Patron*

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:06 am
Posts: 3214
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Okay, I just did a bit more homework now... It seems that the only players you listed that explicitly support FLAC is the Rio Karma and the iAudio M3. The rest only support Wav (i.e. you'll need to decode it).

However, the iRiver, Rio and iAudio also support Ogg Vorbis. Generally, the fidelity of portable players will make Vorbis a much more viable option. The reason I suggest it is because you could encode at -q 6 and easily get 35-50% more compression that you probably won't hear (though I can see that you're going nuts for optimal sound via headphone amp + Etymotics).

That's basically what I'm doing. I've got most of my music in MPC format, but when loading it to my portable (a Neuros), I convert it to Ogg.

As for unamped out, I don't think any of them have line outs. But set to a low enough volume and I don't think the amp will distort any. But YMMV.

_________________
My Power Rig, Storage Rig, HTPC and Main Rig


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 2:15 pm 
Offline
SPCR Reviewer

Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 9:53 pm
Posts: 2696
Location: Scarsdale, NY
That's why I've been looking closely at the iPod; there's a 3rd party cable that plugs into the docking connector and provides an unamplified line out. Problem is foobar2000 doesn't support ALAC and iTunes doesn't do ASIO or kernel streaming output, so I'd end up keeping ALAC format for my portable and FLAC/APE for listening to at home. That's going to consume the space on my little 2.5" hard drive in no time flat. :cry:

_________________
Contributing Writer, SPCR
NgTechnik

Want something reviewed? Help us get samples!
Donate for Patron or Friend Status!


Last edited by Edward Ng on Sun Oct 31, 2004 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 4:16 pm 
Offline
*Lifetime Patron*

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:06 am
Posts: 3214
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Do you NEED to keep an ALAC copy locally? I'd just as soon toss it and if you ever needed it again, just regenerate it.

_________________
My Power Rig, Storage Rig, HTPC and Main Rig


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 4:21 pm 
Offline
SPCR Reviewer

Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 9:53 pm
Posts: 2696
Location: Scarsdale, NY
Well, since an iPod is so big, I suppose that wouldn't be necessary; I could always cache stuff to my hard drive temporarily if I need to make space...

_________________
Contributing Writer, SPCR
NgTechnik

Want something reviewed? Help us get samples!
Donate for Patron or Friend Status!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 4:36 pm 
Offline
*Lifetime Patron*

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:06 am
Posts: 3214
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
BTW, do you know whether or not the Karma's docking station runs through the amplification circuit?

_________________
My Power Rig, Storage Rig, HTPC and Main Rig


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 4:43 pm 
Offline
SPCR Reviewer

Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 9:53 pm
Posts: 2696
Location: Scarsdale, NY
Supposedly, it does not, but I have yet to confirm it with absolute certainty...

I'll keep looking around for now. Haven't sufficient money on hand to make an immediate purchase, anyway, particularly after spending on Total Bithead and ER-4S. I'd like to know exactly what I'm getting with the portable audio player, 'cause my previous one was a poor investment (CL Nomad II).

-Ed

_________________
Contributing Writer, SPCR
NgTechnik

Want something reviewed? Help us get samples!
Donate for Patron or Friend Status!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 4:51 pm 
Offline
*Lifetime Patron*

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:06 am
Posts: 3214
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Well, the Rio Karma has a pretty big following. So I wouldn't worry too much about the problems of getting a Nomad (you're talking to someone who's suffered through a Nomad IIg. Great support for that product now...).

Truthfully, though I own a Neuros, if I had to get another portable player again, I'd get the Karma. Though that iAudio looks like a tempting alternative for me.

_________________
My Power Rig, Storage Rig, HTPC and Main Rig


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 4:59 pm 
Offline
SPCR Reviewer

Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 9:53 pm
Posts: 2696
Location: Scarsdale, NY
According to this thread at Riovolution, using the dock results in higher power drain, due to the player powering the ethernet port. Also according to the same thread, there is active circuitry between the docking connector and the RCA ports, in the dock, so a simple conversion cable is not likely to be done. :cry:

This is the item I'd get for iPod to enable line-out. It's obviously far less clunky than a whole dock.

-Ed

EDIT: Further research indicates the iAudio M3 also has line-out, but like Karma, only from the dock--and the dock isn't even included! :?

EDIT2: Hmm...On closer inspection, there is a "Sub pack" for the M3 that is small and includes both, line-in and line-out. Now I just need to find out if A) the sub-pack works without AC plugged in, as it's also a charger, and B) if the line-out really is non-amplified...

_________________
Contributing Writer, SPCR
NgTechnik

Want something reviewed? Help us get samples!
Donate for Patron or Friend Status!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:04 pm 
Offline
SPCR Reviewer

Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 9:53 pm
Posts: 2696
Location: Scarsdale, NY
Quick update...

Further research indicates that the, "line out," from the iAudio M3 isn't a true line level output, as the gain control still affects the volume level of that output (however, the lower general volume would indicate that it is, at the least, not amplified). This leaves me skeptical that it is as clean sounding as an unamplified, gainless, "true," line level output.

This leaves Rio Karma and iPod, and the Rio Karma has to be carried around with the battery draining dock to provide a line level output.

I am heavily looking in favor at an iPod, even if it means reencoding all my music. It provides a true line level output, and it's very simple to achieve, but just attaching a SiK din. The vast market of accessories for iPod also makes it quite appealing...

-Ed

_________________
Contributing Writer, SPCR
NgTechnik

Want something reviewed? Help us get samples!
Donate for Patron or Friend Status!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:33 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2004 11:10 pm
Posts: 657
Location: AB, Canada
off-topic, but i can't help but ask, how exactly do you have different levels of compression if it's lossless, when still using the same codec? go from stereo to mono? :P
or do increasing levels require huge increments in cpu power?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 5:26 am 
Offline
*Lifetime Patron*

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:06 am
Posts: 3214
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Straker wrote:
off-topic, but i can't help but ask, how exactly do you have different levels of compression if it's lossless, when still using the same codec? go from stereo to mono? :P
or do increasing levels require huge increments in cpu power?

They reduce size further at the expense of processing power. In FLAC's case, there is no difference in decompression time between the levels. Meaning quite literally, that it just takes longer to compress and that's it (providing very little incentive to NOT use the highest level compression).

Other lossless codecs are much more difficult to decompress when you've compressed at a higher level. If you click on the link I provided earlier, you can see two graphs on each page (except the first). The graphs are size vs. encoding time, and size vs. decoding time.

_________________
My Power Rig, Storage Rig, HTPC and Main Rig


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2004 3:59 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2004 11:10 pm
Posts: 657
Location: AB, Canada
hmm neat, sort of what i was guessing. with compression ratios that crappy, though, that's another incentive to use the highest level possible. :P


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2004 9:55 am 
Offline

Joined: Thu May 27, 2004 10:10 am
Posts: 237
Location: California, USA
IMO, lossless formats for portables have limited usefullness at this time. Lossless-encoded tracks are about 3-5 times larger than 128Kb - 192Kb files. This means that the player's hard disk will need to be accessed much more often (hard disk access is the largest single battery drain), resulting in drastically reduced play time per charge. Probably the number one complaint about HD MP3 players is that they run out of juice too quickly.

From my perspective, lossless audio formats are, for now, not suitable for portable players, even when supported. I have no direct experience with this (I do own a 30GB Creative Zen), but I just don't even think it's worth the time to experiment with it.

_________________
Antec Solo | Nexus Value 430 | Nexus 120mm Case Fan | Gigabyte P55M-UD2 | Core i5 (XIGMATEK HDT-S1284 w/Nexus 120mm) | 4GB DDR3 RAM | Sapphire Radeon HD 4550
| 1TB Samsung F3 SATA | Sony DRU-510A burner


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2004 10:51 am 
Offline
*Lifetime Patron*

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 10:06 am
Posts: 3214
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
My feeling on it is that with a high quality codec (AAC or Ogg Vorbis), you're not going to hear the difference from lossless in most scenarios where you would use a portable.

Of course, the flip side is that high quality codecs are more power intensive (not necessarily computationally, since Ogg Vorbis is supposed to be much simpler than mp3).

Oh well, you can't have everything.

_________________
My Power Rig, Storage Rig, HTPC and Main Rig


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 16 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group