1. Post #1
    Ask me about my Zimmerman fetish

    March 2005
    3,297 Posts
    I think it's a pretty interesting question that gets a lot of people riled up in the audio world. Most of the arguments I've seen for FLAC sounding better are purely anecdotal. I've never seen a study saying that one is actually better than the other. What does Facepunch think?

    For those who don't know.

    FLACs is a lossless format often at 700+ kbps, which hold all of the song uncompressed. MP3s is lossy format that holds compressed audio usually anywhere between 120-320kbps. Lower bit-rate mp3s are usually pretty easy to tell from higher bit-rate ones. A lot of people would say that MP3s with less than a 100kbps have very apparent artifacts (artificial sounds as a result from compression), once you get towards the higher bit-rates the difference between compressed and uncompressed lessens. Though, in the case of the argument, FLAC users will say they can hear the effects of compression even at 320kbps.

    Here's a nice video explaining how MP3 works, it includes some ABX testing, if you're interested in how that works.
    http://www.electronicbeats.net/tv?vi...-tech-talk-mp3
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  2. Post #2
    Gold Member
    TestECull's Avatar
    July 2007
    6,908 Posts
    I think anything over 320KBPS MP3 is overkill. I can't tell the difference beyond that point.
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  3. Post #3
    N-12_Aden's Avatar
    April 2011
    2,781 Posts
    I can't hear the difference between the 2, however FLAC is useful for editing with Audacity. Thats about the only advantage I can think of, but as far as quality they sound the same.

  4. Post #4
    Gold Member
    The Pretender's Avatar
    July 2009
    7,431 Posts
    To be honest, it's hard to tell the difference. I always choose MP3 320kbps because of the small filesize compared to WAV or FLAC.

  5. Post #5
    Gold Member
    Maxx's Avatar
    December 2006
    372 Posts
    Depends on your hardware and maybe your ears to an extent. I run a home studio and can clearly hear the difference between FLAC and MP3 on my studio monitoring speakers. To me FLAC is way clearer and has more presence.
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  6. Post #6
    Gold Member
    Takoto's Avatar
    February 2007
    1,018 Posts
    If it gets to the point where you have to struggle to even try and notice a difference, what's the point?
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  7. Post #7
    Ask me about my Zimmerman fetish

    March 2005
    3,297 Posts
    Depends on your hardware and maybe your ears to an extent. I run a home studio and can clearly hear the difference between FLAC and MP3 on my studio monitoring speakers. To me FLAC is way clearer and has more presence.
    what are your monitor speakers? I'm assuming those are self-powered so I'm not going to ask whats driving them?

  8. Post #8
    Gold Member
    Maxx's Avatar
    December 2006
    372 Posts
    what are your monitor speakers? I'm assuming those are self-powered so I'm not going to ask whats driving them?
    They're nothing special, a pair of old Behringer Truths (B2030A). The sound card also makes a big difference, I have an E-Mu 1212M which has excellent A/D converters.

  9. Post #9

    July 2010
    2,046 Posts
    Even i can tell the difference between 320 and FLAC on my average gamer headphones. FLAC files are huge though, and i'm not enough of an audiophile to really care.

  10. Post #10
    Gold Member
    AK'z's Avatar
    January 2011
    29,707 Posts
    With the right equipment yes. (soundcard, speakers, headphones etc.)

    FLAC = CD Quality = Uncompressed

    MP3 = Compressed by chopping low and high frequencies and compacted further by hiding anomalies that make it sound bad.

    MP3 is definitely not a great format for music, but it's definitely listenable and highly enjoyable. But it has way too many flaws for it to be called the definitive way forward.

    Anomalies include things like noise and overall depth, CD's are technically the cleanest way to transfer high fidelity music to your ears.

    The trouble with this arguement is that nobody here is an audiophile.

    Edited:

    also 24 Bit FLAC is quite possibly the HIGHEST of the high fidelity digital audio format for now. 1411kbps.

    That is pretty much for the people who want zero anomalies in their albums' content.

    Edited:

    If it gets to the point where you have to struggle to even try and notice a difference, what's the point?
    Think of it this way. Would you rather listen to mp3 versions of your favourite albums and notice noises that clearly shouldn't have been heard, OR never encounter them altogether.

    You know full well that mp3 is a second standard of audio. There are even similar formats like AAC and OGG VORBIS which sound better than mp3 at the same bitrate.

    Now that I can't even explain.

  11. Post #11
    marcus5's Avatar
    March 2011
    2,591 Posts
    i am pretty sure 95 percent of casual users won't notice the difference between flac and 320kbps mp3. in addition to the storage problem ( i.e flac takes up a lot more space compared to a 8-10mb 320kbps mp3 file ) i am sure most casual users are perfectly happy with choosing the latter option.

    flac as aforementioned are for the serious users; but i have seen people with flac quality songs and use 10 dollar earpieces
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  12. Post #12
    Rad McCool's Avatar
    August 2009
    3,883 Posts
    I think 128 kbs mp3 sounds perfect.

    Here is an interesting article on the subject featuring a blind test! Listen for yourselves.
    http://blog.szynalski.com/2009/07/05...3-compression/
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  13. Post #13
    Gold Member
    AK'z's Avatar
    January 2011
    29,707 Posts
    i am pretty sure 95 percent of casual users won't notice the difference between flac and 320kbps mp3. in addition to the storage problem ( i.e flac takes up a lot more space compared to a 8-10mb 320kbps mp3 file ) i am sure most casual users are perfectly happy with choosing the latter option.

    flac as aforementioned are for the serious users; but i have seen people with flac quality songs and use 10 dollar earpieces
    The music community on the internet is a minority I'm sure you'd know this. I hate to say this, but the folk who really care about discovering new music, put attention to how they listen to it.

    Secondly, the storage problem is bollocks, heard about 2 terrabyte hard-drives?

  14. Post #14
    I think anything over 320KBPS MP3 is overkill. I can't tell the difference beyond that point.
    you must have really bad ears
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  15. Post #15
    Gold Member
    AK'z's Avatar
    January 2011
    29,707 Posts
    CDs nowadays are for collectors and audiophiles.

    It's becoming clear that it's a minority. Not to say that they're inferior, they are interested in sound fidelity more.

    Edited:

    you must have really bad ears
    That's his opinion, leave the debate.

  16. Post #16
    Gold Member
    TestECull's Avatar
    July 2007
    6,908 Posts
    you must have really bad ears


    My ears work fine. I can tell subtle differences in engine notes the average person would never notice even after it's pointed out. With music? If it's above 320KBPS MP3 I can't tell by ear.



    Maybe that's because I don't listen to music for sound quality? I listen to music because I like the music. I listen to FM radio 24/7, youtube serves as my personal MP3 player, bla-bla-bla.

  17. Post #17
    Gold Member
    AK'z's Avatar
    January 2011
    29,707 Posts
    I think 128 kbs mp3 sounds perfect.

    Here is an interesting article on the subject featuring a blind test! Listen for yourselves.
    http://blog.szynalski.com/2009/07/05...3-compression/
    Why bother with online tests.

    Do it yourself:

    1. Get a CD and rip the FLAC
    2. Encode it to MP3
    3. Compare for yourself with your own music.

    Edited:

    Maybe that's because I don't listen to music for sound quality? I listen to music because I like the music. I listen to FM radio 24/7, youtube serves as my personal MP3 player, bla-bla-bla.
    Yeah, imo youtube quality is horrifically poor unless it's HD. Radio probably streams at 128kbps too, maybe less.

    Needless to say, we can still enjoy it.
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  18. Post #18
    Gold Member
    zombini's Avatar
    November 2010
    4,350 Posts
    With my creative Soundblaster card, and my logitech z906 home theater system, i can tell the difference very easily.


    EDIT: I have some slayer songs i have that are FLAC files converted to lossless Wav, i can definitely tell that the lossless wav songs sound much clearer and vivid, depending on the song, and if you listen hard enough, you can hear things you wouldn't head on a 320kbps Mp3 file. Things such as the guitar pick hitting the strings, hard to hear, barely noticeable, but if you listen, you can hear it.

  19. Post #19
    Gold Member
    AK'z's Avatar
    January 2011
    29,707 Posts
    With my creative Soundblaster card, and my logitech z906 home theater system, i can tell the difference very easily.
    But are you an audiophile?

  20. Post #20

    April 2011
    4,492 Posts
    Look at spectrograms of FLAC's and MP3 320's next to eachother. you can see that the MP3 is missing some of the tops of the highs. Whether you can hear the difference depends mainly on the cans/speakers you're using (for example anything that's rather bassy like the Sony XB's).

    Another problem is that most people aren't going to be using good enough headphones to tell the difference. For example, lots of people on FP use gaming headsets (this assumption is based on the amount of people coming into the headphone thread and saying that they've used them before) which are ALL awful and muddy and won't let you tell the difference at all because they just aren't capable of the response and frequencies required.

    The only way that this can be tested fairly would be on a pair of monitors or a good bright headphone as otherwise the top frequencies which are the only bit that is really different won't be noticeable enough. Though there will be a difference it's definitely dependent on what you're using to listen to it whether or not it's massive.

  21. Post #21
    Gold Member
    zombini's Avatar
    November 2010
    4,350 Posts
    But are you an audiophile?
    A bit, not psychotically, but i do prefer ultra high quality sound over the cut rate shit. I also try to get the best audio equipment i can afford, without being completely stupid about it, things like headphones, i never break $100 with those, i kinda indulged with my home theater setup and soundcard though, i regret the Creative soundblaster because it was a total pain in the ass to get working properly, but it works great now. The Z906 5.1 surround setup is mindblowing though.

  22. Post #22
    fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart
    Kinglah Crab's Avatar
    November 2007
    7,797 Posts
    there's literally no benefit to listening to flac over 320k mp3 unless your ears are physically capable of hearing the difference in the molecular fucking structure of the song
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  23. Post #23
    Ask me about my Zimmerman fetish

    March 2005
    3,297 Posts
    Why bother with online tests.

    Do it yourself:

    1. Get a CD and rip the FLAC
    2. Encode it to MP3
    3. Compare for yourself with your own music.

    Edited:



    Yeah, imo youtube quality is horrifically poor unless it's HD. Radio probably streams at 128kbps too, maybe less.

    Needless to say, we can still enjoy it.
    the problem with that is then it's not a blind A/B test. Psychology plays a lot in the part of how people hear things, that's why so many "audiophiles" think 1000 dollar speaker cables sound better than ordinary speaker cable, when there's not an actual difference.


    But are you an audiophile?

    Why would he want to call himself one? Audiophiles are among some of the most stupid and gullible people on this planet.

  24. Post #24
    Bad Reading's Avatar
    November 2011
    271 Posts
    I still use 1411 kbps .wav's.
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  25. Post #25
    Gold Member
    KingKombat's Avatar
    April 2009
    11,267 Posts
    Why would he want to call himself one? Audiophiles are among some of the most stupid and gullible people on this planet.
    From what I've seen, you just described an average consumer. Audiophiles are the people who actually know their shit.

  26. Post #26
    Gold Member
    ASmellyOgre's Avatar
    June 2008
    4,495 Posts
    there's literally no benefit to listening to flac over 320k mp3 unless your ears are physically capable of hearing the difference in the molecular fucking structure of the song
    Not really. Even on my home theater system, I can hear the difference between a 320kbps mp3 and a FLAC file. The mp3 usually has the very highest and lowest bits chopped off, and the compression, while not noticeable for most instruments on most equipment, is pretty noticeable on others. The easiest difference for me to hear is cymbal crashes. They wind up a little "fuzzy" with mp3s.

    It probably helps that I've played clarinet for years. After a while, you can even hear the difference between strengths of reeds. The differences are there, but it's hard to tell on most equipment.
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  27. Post #27
    Gold Member
    KingKombat's Avatar
    April 2009
    11,267 Posts
    Also, it really depends on the song, but honestly if I can't have FLAC, then I have to settle with the next best thing. Whenever I can hear any sort of clear compression, I get pissed off at the song and I end up not listening to it.

    I think the whole point of FLAC is to preserve the music exactly how it is. Compression ruins that and adds junk to the song, making it unenjoyable.
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  28. Post #28
    Gold Member
    Scot's Avatar
    March 2007
    15,384 Posts
    I own a 320kbps digital download and a CD version of an album, they both sound identical.

    The only real difference is between <=192kbps and 320kbps, anything after is a waste of space

  29. Post #29
    Ask me about my Zimmerman fetish

    March 2005
    3,297 Posts
    From what I've seen, you just described an average consumer. Audiophiles are the people who actually know their shit.
    no they don't. Most audiophiles are just egotists that put the thought of them having "golden ears" over common sense. That's why you have Audiophiles claiming their $1000 speaker cables make a difference, or that swapping USB cables on a DAC makes a difference.

    http://forums.somethingawful.com/sho...readid=3166333
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/293165/my-c...namics-power-3

    Also if you have the time, look at how many horse-shit "audio" companies are out there that market to audiophiles.

  30. Post #30
    Gold Member
    Scot's Avatar
    March 2007
    15,384 Posts
    Audiophiles are idiots circlejerking over their own delusions.

    (User was banned for this post ("This is not debating." - Megafan))
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  31. Post #31
    SK17a
    garychencool's Avatar
    October 2010
    13,420 Posts
    I've compared FLAC and MP3 320k with some free MonsterCat Releases, honestly I would rather have MP3 since it's like smaller while FLAC is often 4-10 times larger. In terms of the sound, FLAC is 48.1KHz while MP3 320 is 44.1KHz so you hear more of the highs and lows in general (depending on how the MP3 or FLAC bitrate/settings, etc. is set).


    In terms of me listening to it, it's different. FLAC just sounds more clear, with more depth, etc. If I had the space, I would stick with FLAC's all day, every day, but since my 8GB microSD card on my phone is barely enough for my music and games, I'll stick with MP3 320.

    Here's my general recommendation:
    If you listen on the go and don't have expensive headphones, you are not an audiophile or have a ton of space for the FLACs, stick with MP3 320k if you can, if you can't (let's say 128k or 192k, etc.) then don't worry about it.

    If you do have expensive headphones and have ton's of storage space, go ahead, listen to FLACs.

    If you listen on your computer, you have great speakers/headphones and you have a ton of hard drive space then why not listen to FLACs.

    It's ultimately your choice to what format you listen to.

  32. Post #32
    Warship's Avatar
    June 2010
    9,095 Posts
    MP3 is way outdated and is very shitty compared to AAC or WMA, even.
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  33. Post #33
    Gold Member
    Kaabii's Avatar
    February 2009
    7,477 Posts
    You haven't seen any studies saying one is better than the other because it's just a fact that FLAC is MP3 is a lossy format and FLAC is lossless. Even if you can't hear the difference yourself, a track in FLAC does sound better than one in even a 320kbps MP3 file.

    Even with some shitty Sennheiser HD 201s and a Galaxy S my Tron Legacy soundtrack sounds better in FLAC than the 320kbps MP3 version. It's hard to describe what it is but the FLAC version sounds like it has more depth, and it's not as tinny in some tracks like "The Son of Flynn".

    Edited:

    no they don't. Most audiophiles are just egotists that put the thought of them having "golden ears" over common sense. That's why you have Audiophiles claiming their $1000 speaker cables make a difference, or that swapping USB cables on a DAC makes a difference.

    http://forums.somethingawful.com/sho...readid=3166333
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/293165/my-c...namics-power-3

    Also if you have the time, look at how many horse-shit "audio" companies are out there that market to audiophiles.
    People who buy $1000 cables to make music sound better are not audiophiles.

  34. Post #34
    Gold Member
    AK'z's Avatar
    January 2011
    29,707 Posts
    the problem with that is then it's not a blind A/B test. Psychology plays a lot in the part of how people hear things, that's why so many "audiophiles" think 1000 dollar speaker cables sound better than ordinary speaker cable, when there's not an actual difference.
    Is that a fact?

    Seems like you're the expert in high fidelity recordings then if you can tell me that audiophiles are mentally ill.
    You are also asserting that people who don't mp3 as the standard are mentally ill.

    Clint Eastwood is an audiophile.

    Audiophiles are among some of the most stupid and gullible people on this planet.
    oh.

    Edited:

    MP3 is way outdated and is very shitty compared to AAC or WMA, even.
    MP3 is mediocre, but the majority are happy with mediocre.
    Argument over.

    Edited:

    Audiophiles are idiots circlejerking over their own delusions.
    You're entitled to prefer mp3 quality, but aren't they entitled to enjoy what they want?

  35. Post #35
    Ask me about my Zimmerman fetish

    March 2005
    3,297 Posts
    You haven't seen any studies saying one is better than the other because it's just a fact that FLAC is MP3 is a lossy format and FLAC is lossless. Even if you can't hear the difference yourself, a track in FLAC does sound better than one in even a 320kbps MP3 file.

    Even with some shitty Sennheiser HD 201s and a Galaxy S my Tron Legacy soundtrack sounds better in FLAC than the 320kbps MP3 version. It's hard to describe what it is but the FLAC version sounds like it has more depth, and it's not as tinny in some tracks like "The Son of Flynn".
    It's not taking into the account of the limits in human hearing. MP3 coding is supposed to cut sounds off at 18khz-16khz depending on the bit-rate. Engineers did this because those are the limits of human hearing.

    Humans


    An audiogram showing typical slight hearing variation.
    In a human, sound waves funnel into the ear via the external ear canal and hit the eardrum (tympanic membrane). Consequently the compression and rarefaction of the wave set this thin membrane in motion, causing the middle ear bones (the ossicles; malleus, incus and stapes) to move. The number of sound pressure level vibrations (sonic waves) per second denotes the frequency. Infrasonic (below hearing), sonic (aural), and ultrasonic (above hearing) frequencies are measured in Hertz (Hz); one Hertz is one cycle wave (or singular pressure wave in audionics) per second. Specifically, humans have a maximum aural range that begins as low as 12 Hz under ideal laboratory conditions,[3] to 20,000 Hz in most children and some adults, but the range shrinks during life, usually beginning at around the age of 8 with the higher frequencies fading. Inaudible sound waves can be detected (felt) by humans through physical body vibration in the range of 4 to 16 Hz. There is a difference in sensitivity of hearing between the sexes, with women typically having a higher sensitivity to higher frequencies than men.[4] The vibrations of the ossicular chain displace the basilar fluid in the cochlea, causing the hairs within it, called Stereocilia, to vibrate. Hairs line the cochlea from base to apex, and the part stimulated and the intensity of stimulation gives an indication of the nature of the sound. Information gathered from the hair cells is sent via the auditory nerve for processing in the brain.

    [edit]Effects of high frequency limit
    So-called "Nelson" dog whistles exploit this phenomenon by producing sounds at frequencies higher than those audible to humans but well within the range of a dog's hearing.

    When compressing a digital signal, an acoustic engineer can safely assume that any frequency beyond approximately 20 kHz will not have any effect on the perceived sound of the finished product, and thus use a low pass filter to cut everything outside this range. The sound can then be sampled at the standard CD sample rate of 44.1 kHz (or 48 kHz in DAT), set somewhat higher than the calculated Nyquist-Shannon rate of 40 kHz to allow for the cut-off slope of a reasonable low pass filter.

    When additional compression of sound is required, higher frequencies are usually cut off first, because regular adults' hearing in those areas is often even less than 20 kHz. This is due to loss of hearing in the high-frequency range, due to either hearing damage (e.g. from listening to loud music) or aging. For instance, the commonly used MP3 coding often cuts sounds above 18 kHz, or when compressing as high as 128 kbit/s, at 16 kHz.[5]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing_range#Humans

    Why not do a blind A/B test with foobar and see for yourself?

  36. Post #36
    Gold Member
    J Paul's Avatar
    October 2007
    2,861 Posts
    also 24 Bit FLAC is quite possibly the HIGHEST of the high fidelity digital audio format for now. 1411kbps.
    This isn't necessarily true. 24 bit doesn't make a difference for playback. If you're ripping from a CD, your best bet is to use 16bit 44.1kHz or 48kHz.

    Curiously enough, oversampling is actually harmful to playback fidelity. You always want to record in the highest quality possible, so that you have access to the best source material for the final mix, but when you encode it for playback, sampling at rates higher than 16bit 44.1kHz can cause distortion. 24bit 192kHz oversampling in this case causes distortion due to the processing of unnecessary ultrasonic frequencies. It also results in lots of wasted space.

    http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

  37. Post #37
    Gold Member
    Satane's Avatar
    March 2007
    3,622 Posts
    i didn't hear a difference with an onboard soundcard. got a real soundcard now and i can usually tell when a flac song comes up on my playlist.

  38. Post #38
    Gold Member
    AK'z's Avatar
    January 2011
    29,707 Posts
    let's establish that space is not an issue.
    that is for people with MASSIVE hard-drives.

    Now...
    Are you going to tell me mp3s have no flaws?

    Have any of you listened properly, with headphones... noticed any harsh unpleasant sounds or lack of bass or balance.

    That's not the studio's fault, that's the format's flaw. Once you notice flaws, you'll begin to see things from a whole new perspective.

    I don't give a crap about it, but people do. I'd rather reason with them than call them mentally ill.

  39. Post #39
    Ask me about my Zimmerman fetish

    March 2005
    3,297 Posts
    let's establish that space is not an issue.
    that is for people with MASSIVE hard-drives.

    Now...
    Are you going to tell me mp3s have no flaws?

    Have any of you listened properly, with headphones... noticed any harsh unpleasant sounds or lack of bass or balance.

    That's not the studio's fault, that's the format's flaw. Once you notice flaws, you'll begin to see things from a whole new perspective.

    I don't give a crap about it, but people do. I'd rather reason with them than call them mentally ill.
    I have a pair of 150 dollar audio-technica headphones, paired with a separate amp/dac. I could not tell the difference between 320kbps and FLAC in a blind test. This was done for a dozen or so songs.

    Maybe I just don't have your "golden ears" AK'z, you special snowflake, you.

  40. Post #40
    Gold Member
    AK'z's Avatar
    January 2011
    29,707 Posts
    This isn't necessarily true. 24 bit doesn't make a difference for playback. If you're ripping from a CD, your best bet is to use 16bit 44.1kHz or 48kHz.

    Curiously enough, oversampling is actually harmful to playback fidelity. You always want to record in the highest quality possible, so that you have access to the best source material for the final mix, but when you encode it for playback, sampling at rates higher than 16bit 44.1kHz can cause distortion. 24bit 192kHz oversampling in this case causes distortion due to the processing of unnecessary ultrasonic frequencies. It also results in lots of wasted space.

    http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html
    SACD, web downloads and vinyl transcodes.

    Supreme audio quality that can be offered is 24 bit.


    the next point that I'll make is about ARCHIVING music. ever think of that?

    Edited:

    I have a pair of 150 dollar audio-technica headphones, paired with a separate amp/dac. I could not tell the difference between 320kbps and FLAC in a blind test. This was done for a dozen or so songs.

    Maybe I just don't have your "golden ears" AK'z, you special snowflake, you.
    I'm not asking you to do a blind test.

    I'm asking you if you are telling me mp3s have no flaws.

    While listening to an album in mp3, I'd hear unpleasant anomalies. They don't ruin my experience, but at least I know they're there.