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I tested a few audio formats, and here's the verdict.





David_Pardy
Well I've been thinking for a while: All I use is MP3s, so have I REALLY been missing out on audio quality?

The answer? No.

I used the following samples, of Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer:

WAV - 44.1khz (43mb)
MP3 - 160kbps VBR (5.13mb)
MP3 - 128kbps CBR (3.29mb)
OGG - 0.4 (approx 128kpbs) (3.4mb)
WMA - 98 (16.7mb)
WMA - 90 (forgot to check before I deleted it)
WMA - 75 (4.89mb)
WMA - 50 (2.89mb)


I used a good quality pair of well-enclosed headphones, and a little bit of EQ to round out the sound.

The verdict? The WMA(90, 9Cool, MP3 (160VBR) and WAV had absolutely no differences, and no artifacts in the sound. There was no 'chirping', no loss of bass, or anything like that whatsoever. They were essentially identical to the human ear.

The MP3 (128CBR) had some vaguely noticable artifacts in the sound but if you weren't listening for them, you'd only notice them if you were comparing it to the original like I did.

The OGG (0.4) was slightly worse quality than the MP3 (128CBR), with noticeable artifacts in the sound when comparing to the original. I would put the WMA (75) on this level as well.

The WMA (50) was the worst of the lot, but given as it was the smallest in size, (ie. using the most compression) it seemed more 'dull' in sound, compared to an MP3 encoded at 96kbps which has quite noticeable chirping, and occupies roughly the same disk space IIRC.


So in reality, unless you are using professional quality PA speakers, you are not going to need to use MP3s encoded higher than 160kbps (VBR or CBR), WMA above 90, or whatever else. If you are, however, then you'd probably want to go full quality anyway and if you're operating music in a professional capacity you'd probably be better off using the original CDs, or just using full-quality WAV rips. There are also other lossless compression formats out there (such as FLAC), but there is very little support for those formats (besides lossless WMA files) on equipment you buy from shops (such as car stereos).

There. The debate can now end. WMAs seem to use a better compression algorithm, where the lower quality ones are more pleasant to listen to than MP3s, but you're still going to use pretty much the same amount of disk space either way for good quality ones.

It would be good to see OGGs get more support as they are open source and don't have any confusing/money laundering licensing schemes (not that anyone cares anyway). If I had used a higher quality OGG compression, then I imagine I would have had comparable quality to the other high quality rips I did.
Ducksteina
I'm sure it was much work, but I'm sorry to say the result doesn't mean anything.

You should have done a double blind test to get real results - which is just not possible for a single person.
Also, I doubt your ears are good enough. Real sound experts CAN hear a difference between different formats.

No offence, but you shouldn't rely on that results too much...
achowles
The main problem with this test is that MP3s vary greatly according to the way in which they are encoded. So, chances are, you used very good codecs to encode the mp3s that you used. Some can sound awful.

I've never heard any artefacts in OGG files, despite the fact that I can clearly hear them in a poorly encoded MP3, even when the bitrate is high. So again, I think that it depends on the codecs.

It might be a good idea to specify which codecs you used to give the results more validity.

Oh and Ducksteinia is right, chances are that this test is only valid in the context of your hearing.
David_Pardy
Nice to hear you assume that I'm not an expert, or that I don't already have a lot of experience in this sort of thing Smile.

I used the LAME MP3 encoder, and used dBPowerAmp to convert to WMA and OGG files. I wouldn't use a crappy MP3 encoder if I was trying to make a fair comparison, I used the best that I know of. I only tested OGG because I know that they're relatively popular, so the encoder I used may not have been that good.


I listened to each sample many times over, comparing them to each other and to the WAV file. The higher quality ones all sounded identical, and yes - I do know what to listen for, thankyou very much.

If I can be bothered, I might do a similar test on my car stereo, which supports MP3s and WMA files. Perhaps at much higher volumes there are more noticable defects. My car stereo has a much richer sound Smile.
photon
Well you missed aac. I think that is much better than any other compressed music. Most of my music is mp3 though, and i dont feel much difference cause i don't have a good set of speakers.
dayveday
Although it's obviously not lossless, so kinda in different category altogether, I always rip CDs etc to FLAC on my PC. I only convert them to mp3 when I need to put them on my portable player (and with its tiny little DAC, I'm sure that the encoding isn't the worst thing happening with the sound quality!)

I find FLAC much better than the other lossless audios I've come across. It seems much better written and quicker (decoding) than Monkey's Audio does.
{name here}
dayveday wrote:
Although it's obviously not lossless, so kinda in different category altogether, I always rip CDs etc to FLAC on my PC. I only convert them to mp3 when I need to put them on my portable player (and with its tiny little DAC, I'm sure that the encoding isn't the worst thing happening with the sound quality!)

I find FLAC much better than the other lossless audios I've come across. It seems much better written and quicker (decoding) than Monkey's Audio does.

FLAC is probably the best digital sound format for audiophiles besides WAV.
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