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View Full Version : AAC vs Lossless: Can you tell the difference?




duy802
Jul 27, 2004, 10:10 AM
I listened to a few U2 songs encoded with AAC and Apple Lossless. Listening through the standard ipod ear buds, I honestly could not tell the difference.

Has anyone been able to notice a discernible improvement with Lossless? If so, what type of music/speakers were you using?



jsw
Jul 27, 2004, 10:15 AM
I think the consensus of what I've gathered through the threads is that Lossless is no different than halfway decent AAC encodings for 90%+ of the population, 90%+ of the time.

Some people are very discerning and can hear the difference - although probably not normally with ear buds. Usually with home stereo equipment or much nicer headphones.

Some songs will show the difference to more people.

However, given the space tradeoff, Lossless is a very expensive thing to use for most songs/music types, especially if you mainly listen on an iPod.

duy802
Jul 29, 2004, 11:19 AM
I think the consensus of what I've gathered through the threads is that Lossless is no different than halfway decent AAC encodings for 90%+ of the population, 90%+ of the time.

Some people are very descerning and can hear the difference - although probably not normally with ear buds. Usually with home stereo equipment or much nicer headphones.

Some songs will show the difference to more people.

However, given the space tradeoff, Lossless is a very expensive thing to use for most songs/music types, especially if you mainly listen on an iPod.

Well put. Thanks!

micvog
Jul 29, 2004, 11:33 AM
FWIW, my experience has been that on select songs (~5%, mostly classical) I hear some artifacts at 128-bit; at 192-bit I can't tell the difference from a CD. Everything I have is at 192-bit except for what I buy from the iTMS (obviously).

fingers
Jul 29, 2004, 11:49 AM
Maybe it's just me but I actually hear stuff - I have never heard before on my ipod using the apple standard phones! Compared to the original cd on various players. - I find most mp3's and aac's sound fine at or above 160kbs and like I said I actually hear new 'parts' of the song I have never heard before... Having said that I would love to swap the phones to something more upmarket. But playing back my ipod thru Yamaha NS10's most of my mp3/aac collection sounds great. Some people seem more sensitive to the encoding than others - so maybe your mileage may vary. My ears are probably shot through too much exposure to loud music anyway ;)

live4ever
Jul 29, 2004, 12:03 PM
For me it totally depends on where I'm listening to the music. AAC @128 is fine for my Powerbook speakers, but in the car I can definately hear artifacts of AAC 128 converted to CD or aiff audio. So I just burn CDs from the original aiff sources for playback elsewhere.

jsw
Jul 29, 2004, 12:10 PM
Having said that I would love to swap the phones to something more upmarket...

FWIW, I listened to the Bose TriPort Headphones at my local Apple Store yesterday and was blown away by the sound coming from such a relatively small over-the-ear headphone at a relatively decent price (US$149). Not cheap, but not a "high-end" price either.

yellow
Jul 29, 2004, 12:21 PM
I have to agree that most folks won't even notice the difference. If everyone had electrostatic speakers, or everyone was an audiophile, maybe.. I can't really tell the difference. But then, I'm partially deaf.

I DO wish that Apple would start selling songs a higher encoded bit rates for better quality. Who cares about file size.. does disl-up still exist?!? (just kidding)

unfaded
Jul 29, 2004, 01:17 PM
Most people can't tell between 128 kbps AAC and 320 kbps AAC. And that disgusts me. :)

I can, without fail, tell between 320 kbps AAC and Apple Loseless, and it gets more and more apparent the higher quality your stereo is. On my new system, 320 kbps AAC sounds terrible, and i just can't listen to them.

Needless to say, I only rip in Loseless now, and convert to 320 kbps AAC when transferring to my iPod (first gen, can't play Loseless). Crappy portable headphones make the difference completely negligible, since they do a good job at destroying sound quality anyway.

duy802
Jul 29, 2004, 01:18 PM
I have to agree that most folks won't even notice the difference. If everyone had electrostatic speakers, or everyone was an audiophile, maybe.. I can't really tell the difference. But then, I'm partially deaf.

I DO wish that Apple would start selling songs a higher encoded bit rates for better quality. Who cares about file size.. does disl-up still exist?!? (just kidding)

How hard would it be for iTMS to allow users to specify the bit rate? The store could have a default (128-bit) and then an option for say 196-bit?

yellow
Jul 29, 2004, 01:21 PM
How hard would it be for iTMS to allow users to specify the bit rate? The store could have a default (128-bit) and then an option for say 196-bit?

It'd mean an instant doubling(+!) of the required disk space for all these songs that Apple has squirreled away someplace. That could mean a serious expensive hit for Apple. Plus potentially longer download times, so more server "slowness" and complaints from end users.

But it would be nice if we had a choice!!

kant
Jul 29, 2004, 01:23 PM
I have to agree that most folks won't even notice the difference. If everyone had electrostatic speakers, or everyone was an audiophile, maybe..

I DO wish that Apple would start selling songs a higher encoded bit rates for better quality.

With my car stereo I can't tell difference. However, I am something of an audiophile (champagne tastes on a Milwaukee's Best budget) and I can tell a huge difference at the 128 lvl when my system is connected to the equipment at my desk. Even more so when I burn a cd and use it in my cd player with its much better ADCs. But I've not got the usual computer desk setup either: top shelf holds a Rotel power amp and an Adcom pre connected to Kef speakers. The cd changer is a Harmon-Kardon with dual Burr-Brown adcs.

And I'll start buying music online when I can get it at a high quality bitrate.

Rantipole
Jul 29, 2004, 01:36 PM
Maybe it's just me but I actually hear stuff - I have never heard before on my ipod using the apple standard phones!
When you have headphones on, ever lesser ones, you are kind of "forcing" your ears to pay attention more. So that is not surprising.

Blue Velvet
Jul 29, 2004, 01:46 PM
When you have headphones on, ever lesser ones, you are kind of "forcing" your ears to pay attention more. So that is not surprising.

You also don't have the room/cars acoustics adding their bit...

Nermal
Jul 29, 2004, 04:22 PM
Out of all my CDs, I only have one where I can tell the difference between AAC and lossless.

CubaTBird
Jul 29, 2004, 10:44 PM
If when the beatles become available on the iTunes music store, its going to be really interesting to see how people react to the Beatles at 128 aac.... Is just me or do a lot of the early James Taylor and Marvin Gaye recording on iTunes music store sound like crap?? :confused: :o

fingers
Jul 30, 2004, 04:43 AM
FWIW, I listened to the Bose TriPort Headphones at my local Apple Store yesterday and was blown away by the sound coming from such a relatively small over-the-ear headphone at a relatively decent price (US$149). Not cheap, but not a "high-end" price either.

Thanks for the recommendation - might be a little over my budget at the moment - but I'll definitely give them a shot.

fingers
Jul 30, 2004, 05:09 AM
When you have headphones on, ever lesser ones, you are kind of "forcing" your ears to pay attention more. So that is not surprising.
Yes - I agree. But I think that also the aac conversion process is actually 'cleaning up' the recording. Just a little theory of mine - but I find it especially true for older recordings (made in the analog tape days). It seems to reveal things that were often hidden in the mix before. (but this could be just 'me' lol :o)

You also don't have the room/cars acoustics adding their bit...
Yes - I often mix on headphones when I make music - usually because it's late at night - but phones do give a better stereo image, and also as you quite rightly state are not affected by the acoustics of the room. I actually like the acoustics in my car - it's pretty 'dead', nice rounded shape and I can turn it up as loud as I like ;)

OT:I use BeyerDynamic DT770 Pro phones for making music - but when powered by my iPod they don't drive them loud enough (for my tastes).

JFreak
Jul 30, 2004, 07:01 AM
i have a +5000 dollar audio system in my living room. i would not listen to aac encoded music through that, if i have a choice. the difference is so clear. so the real question is: "what is the most feasible quality and where it is?"

i also have an ipod. 4G model, 20-gigger. when i put lossless and lossy audio files in that beauty and play the files through standard ipod earbuds, the difference is really small. the earbuds lose so much that there is no real gain in playing lossless via the crappy standard earbuds. the situation changes when i plug in my shure E5 in-ear pro monitor earplugs - the difference between lossless and lossy is again clearly audible.

given that the difference becomes audible, one could think that it's no use encoding to aac, but let's make one more test: now i want to compare lossless with standard earbuds to lossy with pro earbuds - guess what? lossy sounds way better (meaning: closer to original cd via my living room audio system) when listened to through pro earbuds than lossless when listened to through standard earbuds.

so...

if someone wants the best audio quality on-the-go, it's not a matter of digital systems (file formats or bitrates) - it's all about the analog stage of the system (earphones, headphone amplifier, digital-to-analog converter), and since you cannot influence to ipod internals, it's all about the quality of earbuds you use. really. you can listen to dvd-audio through the standard ipod earbuds and it will not sound nearly as good as aac-encoded files through pro earbuds. why? at the end of the day audio quality is as good as the weakest link. and i can tell you that the weakest link of a portable music player is NOT lossy-encoded audio file but the earphones. get a good pair and be happy with the AAC128 format.

caveman_uk
Jul 30, 2004, 08:23 AM
I can tell the difference between 128 and 192 AAC - it's pretty easy. 192kbs sounds OK and to my ears the improvement between 192 and 320, although discernable isn't worth the bigger file size. I've not tried lossless as it's not that compressed anyway - you might as well use AIFF.

Incidently, if anyone tells you '128kbs AAC is CD quality' then they either need new ears, new speakers or new 'phones. Either that or they're lying. I buy single songs from iTMS when I'd never buy the whole album. But if I want the whole album it's a real CD every time for me. In fact some of the iTMS stuff is really badly encoded. Some is pretty good but others are awful. Try listening to some of the Kings X albums to see what I mean.

niar
Jul 30, 2004, 08:36 AM
You have to compare jazz or classical with quite good earphones to hear the difference.

I personally think U2-like rock sounds better on cheap earbuds like iPod's. so leave it 128 AAC and You'll be fine!

2A Batterie
Jul 30, 2004, 09:24 AM
I don't want anything at all lost. Period. I'm saving up to buy a 1.6TB HD so that I can store my whole audio library without any generation loss.

jsw
Jul 30, 2004, 09:47 AM
I don't want anything at all lost. Period. I'm saving up to buy a 1.6TB HD so that I can store my whole audio library without any generation loss.

Well, with that much room, you can do it lossless and lossy. Lossless for your purposes, lossy for the iPod.

BTW, how are you going to backup that bad boy? That's a lot of data to go kerpluck if there's a surge or something gets dropped, etc.

wrldwzrd89
Jul 30, 2004, 09:49 AM
Not only can I not tell the difference between 128 kbps AAC and Apple Lossless; I can't tell the difference between 96 kbps (stereo) MP3 and WAV!

jsw
Jul 30, 2004, 09:51 AM
Actually - that suggests a nice iTunes/iPod feature - the ability to send re-encoded, lossy tunes to the 'pod. In other words, I could store it all Lossless on my HD, then sync with the 'pod, sending much smaller, slightly lossy versions to it. On the 'pod, fidelity isn't as important, and slight - probably unhearable - loss is a great compromise for significantly smaller files.

Just an idea. It's use CPU cycles, but might be a nice feature, esp. for mini owners - 4GB only holds, what, 12-15 Lossless CDs?

Sol
Jul 30, 2004, 10:43 AM
Actually - that suggests a nice iTunes/iPod feature - the ability to send re-encoded, lossy tunes to the 'pod. In other words, I could store it all Lossless on my HD, then sync with the 'pod, sending much smaller, slightly lossy versions to it.

I emailed this suggestion to Apple last week. It is very doable, especially with the PowerMac G5s' performance.

The only thing that would be a problem are the current hard drive capacities. If my current music library was to be re-encoded in Apple Lossless it would need ten times the space (in this case, 160 GB). That would not leave a lot of room for OS X, applications and files. My calculation could be wrong and perhaps someone here can correct me in regards to how much bigger a lossless file is to one that is encoded at 160 kbs. Whatever the correct size, it would be a lot for most people's hard drives and so Apple should wait a while before offering this feature.

In regards to higher bit-rate tracks in the iTMS, there is no need. The store exists to complement the iPods, not $5000 stereo systems. For most users the bigger file sizes would be an inconvinience when downloading and when playing the files in the iPod; the device has 32 MB of memory and bigger files make it use the hard drive more.

Nermal
Jul 31, 2004, 01:51 AM
Not only can I not tell the difference between 128 kbps AAC and Apple Lossless; I can't tell the difference between 96 kbps (stereo) MP3 and WAV!

Wow, I can definitely tell the difference there!

jtgotsjets
Jul 31, 2004, 02:36 AM
I didn't used to be able to tell any difference between low quality mp3s and CDs, but I've managed to slowly train my ear (this happened in middle school when I had my Rio 32 MB player, and I reencoded everything down to 56 kbps before sending it to get the most music on it. Eventually, some songs were unbearable, and I slowly moved up the quality up. I eventually had to settle at 96 kbps as a compromise, but it still sounds terrible)

I'd say that I'm currently an audiophile in training, as my current system is far better than any of my friends, but it still only cost me about 50 dollars total (not including the iPod, which replaced my terrible CD player [trust me, the quality of the iPod throught the dock with 128 kbps is way better than my cd player was]). I got the reciever, tape deck and turntable at garage sales, and the speakers were hand-me-downs from my dad's stereos that constantly breakdown in his shop (he builds vintage dragsters and his shop is not very stereo friendly).

Either way, at the low volumes my stereo is normally at, 128 kbps MP3s (I'm not switching to AAC till it becomes a tad bit more universal) sound fine, and same with iPod earbuds. The only time I can hear the difference is in my car, because my front speakers are pretty nice, as is my stereo, plus I tend to play music louder in there, so even with a direct line in (as opposed to tape or FM adaptors) I can hear difference between MP3 and CD.

As for reencoding MP3s before sending to iPod, my old Rio mp3 player did this, and while it took awhile to transmit even 12 songs, you'd only have to do it once for most iPods. So anyway, it is totally possible, but getting apple to do it might be tough.

MacFan26
Jul 31, 2004, 03:57 AM
I imported a couple of CD's with lossless, and didn't really have any problem with playing them on the computer, but would skip ocassionally on my iPod. I re-imported them with AAC, and the didn't skip anymore :confused: . Being an audiophile, it annoys me that I might not be getting the highest quality. It probably doesn't bother me that much though since I've been listening to MP3's, etc. for so long now. Really, one of the only things I care about is that all of these formats are going to be playable in the future, without having to do compressing or something.

titaniumducky
Jul 31, 2004, 04:30 AM
FWIW, I listened to the Bose TriPort Headphones at my local Apple Store yesterday and was blown away by the sound coming from such a relatively small over-the-ear headphone at a relatively decent price (US$149). Not cheap, but not a "high-end" price either.

I picked up a pair of Sennheiser HD202s from Amazon, and they sound awesome! They're definitely bulky, but are amazing headphones if you're in the market for budget headphones which sound good too.

BlackMangoTree
Oct 11, 2010, 03:23 AM
Never read so much rubbish in my life.

Provide ABX logs otherwise all your claims about hearing a difference is all placebo.

netdog
Oct 11, 2010, 03:55 AM
On any decent hifi system, 128 sounds like mud.

While many have cited the importance of decent amplification and good speakers or headphones, another important link is the quality of the DAC. Obviously computers and iPods tend to have pretty crappy DACs though the G5 video iPod apparently has a *relatively* decent DAC, at least for an iPod.

Bernard SG
Oct 11, 2010, 04:21 AM
For me, the threshold is generally 160 kbps. At 128 or below the basses may sound quite weak while the high frequencies - like cymbals - will sound like they pass through a phaser (effect) and it's really very noticeable and annoying for that matter.
However, it seems that the encoder used plays an important role. It seems to me that 128 kbps encoded on a today software is much much better than on a software from the early 2000's.

BlackMangoTree
Nov 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Most people can't tell between 128 kbps AAC and 320 kbps AAC. And that disgusts me. :)

I can, without fail, tell between 320 kbps AAC and Apple Loseless, and it gets more and more apparent the higher quality your stereo is. On my new system, 320 kbps AAC sounds terrible, and i just can't listen to them.

Needless to say, I only rip in Loseless now, and convert to 320 kbps AAC when transferring to my iPod (first gen, can't play Loseless). Crappy portable headphones make the difference completely negligible, since they do a good job at destroying sound quality anyway.

What a load of ****. Without fail? You wouldn't pass any ABX test let alone without fail, unless you have dog hearing

richpjr
Nov 16, 2010, 11:01 AM
What a load of ****. Without fail? You wouldn't pass any ABX test let alone without fail, unless you have dog hearing

That seems pretty far fetched...

Jolly Jimmy
Nov 16, 2010, 11:15 AM
What a load of ****. Without fail? You wouldn't pass any ABX test let alone without fail, unless you have dog hearing

Something tells me you're not going to get and answer... This thread is over 6 years old and the user you're quoting hasn't logged in for about 2 years.

ender21
Nov 16, 2010, 01:14 PM
Something tells me you're not going to get and answer... This thread is over 6 years old and the user you're quoting hasn't logged in for about 2 years.

It seems, based on many of his most recent posts, as though he's looking for people with whom to argue his "side." I guess even if it goes back years. ;)

With such types I usually let them go as it seems they're more interested in convincing themselves of something rather than understand that others may have different experiences than them. Rabidly partisan individuals unwilling to accept new or different information are usually not very interested in discussion, nor worth the investment in it.

Having said that though, the fact that this is still a debateable topic with heated discussions all over the internet tells me there's something to both sides. So I tend to take people at their word unless evidence points me elsewhere.

While I don't agree with every point in the link below, there is reason to suggest that even ABX isn't a holy grail proving one thing or another.

http://www.avguide.com/forums/blind-listening-tests-are-flawed-editorial?page=2

hachre
Nov 16, 2010, 02:53 PM
I have learned to hear the difference. Even though it requires some concentration, you need to know the system you are listening on well, and it's more of a feeling kind of thing than a real quality difference you can put your finger on...

Yet I am able to tell high quality AAC and Lossless apart to an almost 100% probability degree.
I did blind tests on myself because I am quite the science person myself and couldn't believe the results either, especially because it is feelings based.

So my personal decision has been to completely go Lossless for my Library. I also no longer buy on iTunes because they don't offer Lossless versions. On my iPhone I still use Lossy versions (with the iTunes auto convert option) because I can't tell the difference in the car anyway. Also I can't be as focused on the music there as I can be at home. The upside of course is that I can fit more than 10 times more music on the iPhone thanks to the lossy files.

Short version: Yes you can tell the difference, it's a personal decision everyone has to make for themselves.

Edit: oh my god, I didn't notice this thread was from 2004 :)

BlackMangoTree
Apr 15, 2011, 01:45 AM
Where are the ABX logs ? Making claims we can't believe. Just like i saying i can walk through walls.

genome2k
Apr 15, 2011, 04:21 AM
Given the same audio source quality (let's say the CD quality), i can't hear any difference from anything (mp3, acc, or whatever) with 192k+ sample rates.

I'd say the most important thing is the quality of your source rather than the encoding of a converted file.

BlackMangoTree
May 1, 2011, 01:17 PM
That seems pretty far fetched...

Yea and i can walk through walls.

People make all these claims and what not with no proof. Provide proof to be taken seriously.

Absolutely absurd to say you can tell between 320 AAC and lossless easily.

Unless one does a blind listen test like explained here their claims mean zero http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=16295