aef110 wrote:The difference between any MP3 (or LAME, or OGG, etc.) and the original is typically astronomical. If you're not hearing a difference, let alone a large one, it's exposing the limited resolution of your equipment and / or your setup.
The listening tests I've seen, such as the various blind tests at the Hydrogen Audio forum, indicate that to the vast majority of people can't hear any difference between high quality MP3/Ogg and the uncompressed source. Maybe that's their ears or their equipment, but I doubt that everyone contributing is either half deaf or listening on $20 computer speakers.
I'm not saying that you aren't hearing it, just that to most people the differences are much more subtle than you indicate, and that the loss of quality is generally imperceptible. In my experience the difference in sound between multiple releases of the same CD can be vastly greater than the difference between MP3 (even at a fairly low bitrate) and the CD audio.
Having said all that, hard drive space is cheaper than ever; it's no longer that expensive to store 1000+ CDs in a lossless format. Rather than carrying out listening tests and worrying about whether a particular MP3 bitrate will be transparent, it makes sense to simply use FLAC and avoid any quality issues. Converting from FLAC to MP3 is quick and easy when required for portable use.
aef110 wrote:I've done extensive testing of all audio compression formats with various source material, and even others listening blindly have commented that the difference is like night and day, even with the highest bit rates compressed using the highest quality settings. (On very old, mono recordings I was surprised to have heard no difference, though it's surely due to the limited resolution of the originals.)
Actually the LAME developers have been looking for people who can hear encoding issues in high-bitrate files. If you've got some free time maybe you could send them some test results. I'm not being facetious; with the improvements to the encoder they're finding it hard to find anyone who can hear any loss of quality or audio artifacts, even on problem samples that are difficult to encode. People who can actually hear any improvements are very useful when trying to improve an encoder.
Having used 2 different inputs on a preamp for extended periods of time, one that ran through all the curcuitry and one that bypassed most of the circuitry, I can tell you flat out in a short term A/B test I could not hear the difference. But when I listened to one for hours on end and then the other for hours on end it was easy to tell which one provided satisfaction and which one didn't. A/B tests never reveal this. Just as bumping up the treble may be enjoyable as more detailed sound but after many hours results in nothing more than fatigue. There are also nay sayers who simply don't understand physics. Different capacitors behave in different ways, they never provide the text book theory perfect response. This is why you can have a preamp with capacitors in the power supply and yet AC noise from the living room dimmer switch switch ends up coming through to the speakers. Other nay-sayers don't want to admit that AC power actually has more different frequencies riding on it than the system's speaker wire. Lots of people have put a coat hanger where there car antennae used to be and realize that a wire picks up RF, so what does wire that runs for miles all over the place do? 2 conductor wire has inductance as well as capacitance, but people who say it all sounds the same blow off the science.
There's also a solid reason that components upgrades don't work. The whole sound system is a chain, and it's as strong as the weakest link. I saw a letter years ago where some guy went from a $129 preamp and matching components to a $3000 preamp and said he couldn't hear the difference. Well that was true, because the rest of the system could not do justice to what was coming out of the preamp, not that the preamp wasn't doing better. That's probably the most common mistake in audio, mismatched components, mistmatched in terms of capabilities, and no there is no one brand that gets it all correct. So Joe Blow comes home with a $300 audiophile power cord and connects it to his $199 system and says the power cord is crap. Well to be more accurate it's useless for him, but not everyone else. This is one of the reasons some audiophiles start to become snobs, such mistakes are downright foolish and the conclusions are all wrong.
For my pc sound system years ago I connected it to the a cheap Pioneer receiver, Pioneer having a rep of less fatigue than typical cheap seemingly more detailed receivers, and a pair of basic NHT Super Zeros. My roommates couldn't understand why it sounded "like that". His weak spot was cheap plastic pc speakers. I explained to them with a speaker the driver should move(actually only the cone not the frame), the cabinet should not. Crank up your speakers and touch the cabinet, try that with mine. Mine move too, but not like yours, less movement and at a lower frequency. The NHTs are small but they weigh like 9 pounds. At that time I never heard a self powered speaker in a typical store that sounded acceptable, let alone good, only varying degrees of obvious harshness.
Many people have built musical systems simply by switching over to some $250 US B&W speakers. Don't recall which model, recall they were a matrix cabinet but I believe it was also plastic, but pretty solid. Epos also makes nice little speakers, and not so little as well. But really highly resolving systems are a double edged sword. They let you know in no uncertain terms of a poorly recorded CD, something the big recording companies make all the time. In audio there is a saying; the quality of the recording is inversely proportional to the quality of the music. Most pros at the mixing console are notorious knob twiddlers. The few with great reputations understand the hands off approach, and make minor adjustments as they are required.
Compression should not be an issue if its lossless. Losey setups should be the losers here. A compression method with an upper limit of 16KHz may actually be benefical by removing lots of harshness and not many of the highs, ie keeping the remainder of the audio system out of it weakest area.
People who put money and political ideology ahead of truth and ethics are neither patriots nor human beings.