Lossless

mizzor

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Oct 1, 2015
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With everyone going for a lossless option I wanted to explorer this quantitatively

I failed in blind testing in the past and I was certain that it was just because I did not spend enough on my hifi system.

I was excited to do new tests on my LS50wii and quite shocked to see I couldn't make the difference.
Without blind testing I tend to think that I sense something but after blind testing clearly I can't tell (
or this test is crap http://abx.digitalfeed.net/list.html)

I checked my ears and clearly it's not a physiological issue as I can easily hear up to slightly above 18Khz and after doing those tests I doubt that anything that can be heard at those levels can be enjoyable. Theoritically if a track was made to include those kind of sounds I'd rather listen to a 320kbps song. I am know thinking that 320kbps is marginally better than lossless.

Questions:
1. Are there many people that can reliably pass those tests? Do they enjoy it more if they can make the difference?
2. What percentage of people are actually enjoying lossless audio? (for what is is, or for marketing. I was enjoying Qobuz before but I think I've been fooled)
3. Why most reviewers makes you thing that lossless is great?
4. Am I stupid?

When I read this on Tidal's review by Whathifi, I must seriously consider that 4. is true.

"We’d wholeheartedly recommend signing up for Tidal HiFi if you can.

While the 320kbps streams just pip their Spotify and Deezer equivalents with a slightly richer, fuller-bodied sound, tracks streamed in lossless offer much more detail, a better sense of space and a tighter handle on timing than their 320kbps counterparts."

After reading twice, in particular "While the 320kbps streams just pip their Spotify and Deezer equivalents with a slightly richer, fuller-bodied sound" I am feeling less stupid actually.
Are there really people thinking that Tidal has such a better way of encoding at 320kbps to make it richer and fuller-bodied?? Seriously wtf??

I wrote this because I am slightly disappointed to understand that lossless heaven is a myth but relieved not to ever bother again about this. Unless I am mistaken but I don't see how. I am not going to change my mind again if the difference is never going to be huge.
 

DougK

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Dec 8, 2013
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My 2p's worth.
You're not stupid! Never done any of the tests as they don't really interest me. What I have found is that it is all down the the master/recording, if you have a poor master then no matter whether it's 320 or full fat it will not sound as good as 320 from an excellent master file.

I don't subscribe to any streaming services so all my files are full fat ripped from CD, some sound excellent, some don't.
 
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muljao

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I think something else is at play with lossless listening. Have you ever listened to something and it sounds good but lacks something?

I too compared CDs to Spotify with cd player and streamer both plugged into optical inputs on my amp. I could not tell a difference. However if I listen to certain music on Spotify (Nirvana Nevermind is my most used example), it doesn't draw me in like the cd does. If I compare them both switching from one to another I can't tell which is which.

I don't know if this is in my head but I wonder if the higher quality in some cases may not be obvious but overall is somehow better.

Just to note it only seems (for me) to matter with dense music that is very layer and has a lot going on. Also I'm open to the fact it could be my imagination
 

mizzor

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Oct 1, 2015
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I think something else is at play with lossless listening. Have you ever listened to something and it sounds good but lacks something?

I too compared CDs to Spotify with cd player and streamer both plugged into optical inputs on my amp. I could not tell a difference. However if I listen to certain music on Spotify (Nirvana Nevermind is my most used example), it doesn't draw me in like the cd does. If I compare them both switching from one to another I can't tell which is which.

I don't know if this is in my head but I wonder if the higher quality in some cases may not be obvious but overall is somehow better.

Just to note it only seems (for me) to matter with dense music that is very layer and has a lot going on. Also I'm open to the fact it could be my imagination
I had similar thoughts but now I think that a slightly different volume gives you an impression that the higher volume has more to give.

Truth is in blind testing. I just know if my test was reliable.

I'd have problem to believe that I am actually better off on the long run with lossless without being able to demonstrate that I can make the difference

If there was a clear diffence I bet we'd see a lot more tests and demonstrations but what we see is essentially marketing (I have nothing against it though)
 

Lilitti

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Apr 30, 2021
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Marketing? 320 kbps MP3 contains less information than FLAC and this is objective and undeniable. It's not like spikes or digital cables, it's actual loss of information in the audio spectrum.
You may fail to tell a format from another in a brief listening experience, but think about your entire music library, all the music you love listening to. Hundreds, thousands of hours of music. Can you believe that every second of every song you listen to does not actually benefit of a lossless format?
See it the other way: lossy is certainly not better than lossless, and that's already a good reason to choose lossless. Nowadays connections are fast and storage space is cheap. And in the future you may have a new system which highlights the differences more clearly and more often. If you have a FLAC library you can always create MP3s for your phone or bluetooth speaker. If you have an MP3 library you have lost something that cannot be recovered.
 

mizzor

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Oct 1, 2015
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Marketing? 320 kbps MP3 contains less information than FLAC and this is objective and undeniable. It's not like spikes or digital cables, it's actual loss of information in the audio spectrum.
You may fail to tell a format from another in a brief listening experience, but think about your entire music library, all the music you love listening to. Hundreds, thousands of hours of music. Can you believe that every second of every song you listen to does not actually benefit of a lossless format?
See it the other way: lossy is certainly not better than lossless, and that's already a good reason to choose lossless. Nowadays connections are fast and storage space is cheap. And in the future you may have a new system which highlights the differences more clearly and more often. If you have a FLAC library you can always create MP3s for your phone or bluetooth speaker. If you have an MP3 library you have lost something that cannot be recovered.
It contains less information that's for sure, but how can you be sure that this information is good for the listening experience. If you create a file extracting all the lost information you'll see that you get those frequencies are the most annoying you can hear, if you can.

The only things that matters to me is to have the best experience possible and the only reason to bother with lossless is if you can reliably tell that it's better when blind testing. It sounds like you might benefit from understanding more about what is the extra you get on the lossless.
 

muljao

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It contains less information that's for sure, but how can you be sure that this information is good for the listening experience. If you create a file extracting all the lost information you'll see that you get those frequencies are the most annoying you can hear, if you can.

The only things that matters to me is to have the best experience possible and the only reason to bother with lossless is if you can reliably tell that it's better when blind testing. It sounds like you might benefit from understanding more about what is the extra you get on the lossless.
What streaming do you use? Tidal/Spotify?
 

mizzor

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Qobuz/Spotify. I was using qobuz a lot beacuse of the fear of missing out. I'll only use Spotify now for convenience.
 

muljao

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Qobuz/Spotify. I was using qobuz a lot beacuse of the fear of missing out. I'll only use Spotify now for convenience.
Is quobuz the hifi quality one? If you can't tell a difference, no one will convince you otherwise and I would say you are not missing out. I would say though if you have an album or two you know and love, rather than compare side by side, listen to them via alternate systems (Over a few weeks)when you are really listening and see if somehow one gives more enjoyment than another.

If you still can't tell well it's happy days because the non lossy is less bandwidth and likely cheaper
 
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mizzor

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yes Qobuz does a lot of HighRes. Clearly I can't tell the difference but I wanted to know if people can do it and how bit it can be. Actually now I want to know what's going on in the head of reviewers writing amazing comments about lossless. I find this very puzzling and concerning towards speakers reviews.

Do you really think you can't do the difference side by side, but you can do the difference on a whole track? In that case I'd recommend you do a blind test with at least 10 tracks.
 

muljao

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Jul 18, 2016
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yes Qobuz does a lot of HighRes. Clearly I can't tell the difference but I wanted to know if people can do it and how bit it can be. Actually now I want to know what's going on in the head of reviewers writing amazing comments about lossless. I find this very puzzling and concerning towards speakers reviews.

Do you really think you can't do the difference side by side, but you can do the difference on a whole track? In that case I'd recommend you do a blind test with at least 10 tracks.
The reviewers may hear what you or I don't hear.

I tried blind testing, didn't work for me. A track may not work. It's like a bed you get into, may feel the same as the b+b bed but your more comfortable in the morning 😃

Over and out 👍
 
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You mostly notice in the low band the loss of info. 320 just sort of cuts off like your speakers can't go that deep and this brings me to speakers, In general, it really depends if the speakers can actually dig that deep or extend that high (most do these days). The "important" stuff is there like midrange and so you mostly won't notice if your speakers don't extend past 50-40hz but that the most noticeable thing i could point out.

When it comes to the next run-up, above CD, i find it very hard to tell but it doesn't mean there isn't a difference. But then I listen to music and not analyse it, All i know is The Foo fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace is much more coherent and easier to follow at 24/192 than the CD version, Could i point it out blind? No. And that's because aural memory is a terrible thing. By the time you have found that part of the track again to compare you've forgotten, it literally takes seconds to forget.

But none of this is night but aren't we all here because we're trying to achieve the best we can get with what we have?

I really don't get all these arguments/discussions, Everyone is into measurements and the measurements clearly say its better (if the recording is good in the first place) but when it comes to digital music those details no longer matter, "i can't hear it there's no difference you wrong I'm right and so on" when it comes speakers its heresy to listen to speakers that are anything less than flat (or close too). I find it hilarious in all honesty.

Apple are certainly going a good job exciting the market!
 

Vincent Kars

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Mar 6, 2021
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I am know thinking that 320kbps is marginally better than lossless.
If you are not able to hear the difference between lossy and lossless in a unsighted test, you can't draw this conclusion :)

BTW: one of the tricks used in lossy compression is to roll of the treble. If a recording is harsh, it might become more agreeable because of this.

High bitrate lossy is almost indistinguishable from lossless most of the time.
But not all of the time, the famous killer tracks exposing the limits of MP3

A nice read imho: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/what-data-compression-does-your-music
 

Tinman1952

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May 19, 2021
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My take is that the problem with A B testing of different tracks…..is that our audio memory lasts about 10 seconds in my experience. Unless you are listening to a particular sound/instrument in a track it’s extremely difficult to discern slight differences in sound quality. However differences in soundstage width and especially depth are much easier to discern.
I listen for at least an hour and then change….. and see if the musical experience changes.
 

mizzor

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for me the level of focus during the listening is influencing more that the bitrate. Not knowing which one it is is a troubling experience especially when you've mistaken 128kbps for lossless...

Why would you expect the soundstage to change with lossless? If you think about it it makes no sense no?
 

Tinman1952

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In my opinion the extra audio information in lossless files conveys more ’spatial’ information. So stereo imaging and the recording ‘space’ are more easily discerned with good equipment. Not all tracks are well mastered though and this complicates things…
 
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I can't tell a difference between 320kbs MP3 and FLAC even with very good headphones which I think give you a level of detail that's much harder to achieve with speakers. I CAN tell a difference with lower bitrate MP3 though. I can also tell a difference between high res files ( 24/96, 24/192 etc ) and FLAC or 320 MP3.

I have my entire CD collection ripped to FLAC just to have everything in the same format and at the same levels.

I wish I could still hear 18k. My ears are actually very good considering my age. I can hear 15.1k with my right ear and 15k with my left. Which is about normal for a 30 year old male. I'm 47.
 
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Lilitti

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It contains less information that's for sure, but how can you be sure that this information is good for the listening experience. If you create a file extracting all the lost information you'll see that you get those frequencies are the most annoying you can hear, if you can.
It doesn't matter. It's information that the artists put in the recording and if it's missing, that's a loss.
You may want to pull out Roger Taylor's voice from a Queen's song but that's subjective. It's not the point of the discussion on lossy VS lossless.
If the higher end of the spectrum - which is the most affected by compression - sounds harsh or annoying, it usually means that the speakers are bad.
 
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Tinman1952

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It doesn't matter. It's information that the artists put in the recording and if it's missing, that's a loss.
You may want to pull out Roger Taylor's voice from a Queen's song but that's subjective. It's not the point of the discussion on lossy VS lossless.
If the higher end of the spectrum - which is the most affected by compression - sounds harsh or annoying, it usually means that the speakers are bad.
Agreed!
it doesn’t help when some speakers are voiced to accentuate the treble particularly in the presence region…to sound impressively detailed in the showroom.
 
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abacus

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1. Lossless adds no extra information; it is 100% of the original.

2. Lossy removes information that can never be recovered, thus it will always be inferior to lossless.

3. Whether you can tell the difference only you can decide, but, if you go with lossy and something changes that allows you to hear the difference (Different equipment, room etc.) you’re stuffed, whereas if you go lossless then no matter what happens in the future, you will always have 100%.

The choice as they say is yours and yours alone.

Bill
 

mizzor

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I can't tell a difference between 320kbs MP3 and FLAC even with very good headphones which I think give you a level of detail that's much harder to achieve with speakers. I CAN tell a difference with lower bitrate MP3 though. I can also tell a difference between high res files ( 24/96, 24/192 etc ) and FLAC or 320 MP3.

I have my entire CD collection ripped to FLAC just to have everything in the same format and at the same levels.

I wish I could still hear 18k. My ears are actually very good considering my age. I can hear 15.1k with my right ear and 15k with my left. Which is about normal for a 30 year old male. I'm 47.
Does the difference translate to a much better experience?
 

mizzor

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What many miss here is to compare CD to the same streamed album. I can tell you now Spotify at the highest 320 quality doesn’t compare to CD for Pink Floyd and Roxy Music albums. They sound quite flat on Spotify.
how can you explain that? I am curious to know what is creating this flatness feeling
 

mizzor

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Oct 1, 2015
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1. Lossless adds no extra information; it is 100% of the original.

2. Lossy removes information that can never be recovered, thus it will always be inferior to lossless.

3. Whether you can tell the difference only you can decide, but, if you go with lossy and something changes that allows you to hear the difference (Different equipment, room etc.) you’re stuffed, whereas if you go lossless then no matter what happens in the future, you will always have 100%.

The choice as they say is yours and yours alone.

Bill
today that means switching settings on the streaming service. I am never going to bother with anything else.
 
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Tinman1952

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God don’t get me started on vinyl……a 19th century technology that destroys the media it’s playing…… cannot even produce full frequency range without ‘equalisation’ (fudging….)
Here we go……🙂
 
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