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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I read a comment in another thread that there is no sound quality in MP3s. I know others who feel similarly. We each have our opinion of how music sounds to us in compressed and "uncompressed" formats. I am not writing in opposition to that view but rather to offer the following observations from decades of experience in media content creation, video, audio including music, film etc.

The quality of the recording, the original source material and how it is mixed and edited, is by far the dominant factor in how the music sounds. Nearly 70 years ago, at the beginning of the stereo era, many amazing recordings were done of classical performances by RCA and Mercury. The engineers and producers were top pros and carefully setup and balanced the inputs, recording to magnetic tape within the limitations of the equipment of that day. Today the labels continue to release those performances from the tapes transferred to high res formats, 24/96 or 192 and DSD, and even with some aging of the tape, the sound is still wonderful. Many transfers to 16.1/44 (Redbook CD standard) sound very good also.

Contrast those with the "quick and dirty" recordings that were made of many of the top rock hits of the 1960's. Even on the best playback equipment there is little that can be done to improve the very rough quality of the sound. Its is certainly true that some pop/rock/rap recordings today are produced at so-so production quality. There is a mindset that the quality of the source material matters little. Most unfortunate when quality recording doesn't have to be expensive. The former editor of Stereophile produced some excellent vocal and instrumental recordings a few years ago, with a high quality space (the hall), input setup and recording to a production grade laptop. Their releases on digital and on quality LPs sound wonderful.

Where I differ from some others is my experience with MP3 compression (and AAC, Ogg Vorbis and OPUS) of high quality source material. When compressed using a good psy model, LAME for MP3s for example at VBR 1, the sound quality retention to me is pretty good, not easy to hear artifacts and frequency clipping. A case can perhaps be made that compression is more noticeable with 24/96 and higher material that has very wide ranges in frequency and volume. Most people don't own playback equipment that can reproduce those highs and lows in frequency and volume.

I think most people can enjoy the sound of music in MP3s and other formats when the source material is good and the compression is done with a high quality psy model. I can create some samples for blind testing if of interest.

Again, I am not taking a position for or against other comments on the forum. Just adding this perspective from experience.
 

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One thing I like about MP3 when travelling, one disc can entertain me from San Francisco to Medford, Oregon, or to Wendover,Utah. I do stop for a couple of potty breaks and lunch. I have noticed though that LAME format is good enough for my car's OEM stereo, and agree that you never can get a better playback than your source anyway. Rip and burn, baby rip and burn.
 

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Mp3 encoded at "V0 VBR" (variable bit rate = all frequency range) is as good as it gets , size wise.

Mp3 encoded at "320 CBR" (Constant Bit Rate = All frequency except for 18khz and higher) is not bad but not great either.

Majority of my music on my Phone is V0 VBR mp3's that I've either downloaded off of soulseek or converted myself from .FLAC (free lossless audio codec) files.

.FLAC files are really only "needed" if you're a professional DJ playing Concert Sized PA Systems ... otherwise V0 .mp3 Encoded from .Flac will do just fine ...

And I know plenty of DJs who play using V0 mp3 with no complaints.

Downsizing all that into a car audio system ... flacs might sound a touch better but they are much harder to find ...

v0 vbr. Mp3 are the best bang for the file size and easier to find.
 

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I read a comment in another thread that there is no sound quality in MP3s. I know others who feel similarly.
Two comments:

1. Chacun à son goût.

2. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

I refuse to argue issues of taste, and that's what this is. But I'm also willing to bet my bottom dollar that, were blind testing to be done using only car audio (as the listening environment even with the best car audio is far from ideal) a lot of those who pooh-pooh MP3 format would be caught with their proverbial pants down.

Zealots are to be avoided, and a certain streak of audiophile is the worst sort.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Great comments all! As Corollacoaster mentioned, compressed formats are very useful because of their much smaller file size. I can put over half of my music library compressed with LAME MP3 at VBR-1 on a couple of SD cards or on a phone or portable player's hard drive and have years worth of music in the cars. Concur with guyslp... I can't hear the difference vs uncompressed in the cars, even in my 17 Audi which is much quieter inside, extensive sound insulation. Even at home in a quiet environment, I am doubtful I can hear artifacts or clipping of frequencies. Cro-d-dur, a great classical music station in Prague, has an Ogg Vorbis stream that averages around 224 kbps IIRC, it sounds fine on my good quality home audio system (Pioneer high grade receiver, ADS four cone high quality speakers). As Vangm25 said, its what sounds good to you.

If anyone reading this thread is wondering about difficulty of converting from CD (16 bit/44.1 mHz) to MP3 or AAC (or WMA), it is not difficult, can be done in only a few steps using Foobar2000 (freeware), their download package includes all the codecs. You can easily and quickly rip from a couple of favorite CDs or downloads and see what you think. If you are interested there is also a lot of information on the Hydrogen Audio forums. Some people prefer using Exact Audio Copy, also freeware. A little more precision but also more complex.
 

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As an aside, and you're talking to a tech geek here, for anyone who already uses and is familiar with Windows Media Player it has always come with a built-in ripping feature. I've been ripping CDs to 320Kbps MP3 for many years now using it.

You will find almost as much arguing over who has the best MP3 conversion as you will any other aspect of audio once you get into hair splitting. But for a very great many, WMP rip is just fine once you look at the available bit rate options and choose the minimum that "suits your ears" as adequate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
guyslp - I don't know which MP3 codec WMP uses, haven't used it myself for conversions. Have you tried VBR level 0 or 1 vs CBR 320? The higher bit rate VBR compressions sound fine to me, no audible difference vs high bit rate CBR that I can hear.
 

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@STSinNYC

No, I have not tried variable bit rate. I know it could take up significantly less space, with no noticeable change in quality, but I was unaware of it for too long, and prefer to have all of my MP3s in the library using continuous bit rate.

Perhaps one of those foolish consistencies, but it's one I've stuck with.
 
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