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Old Jan 7, 2012, 11:22 PM   #1
Aragornii
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What's best: 320 kbps mp3 or 256 kbps AAC from the iTunes store?

I plan to use the iTunes match trick to upgrade all my low bit rate tunes to 256 kbps AAC using iTunes match.

What about tunes that are 256 kbps mp3 and above. Are the iTunes store tracks still better? a) AAC is better than mp3 and b) iTunes tracks are made from masters and not the CD.

I know that lossless tracks will be better, but are there any higher bit rate mp3 that are better quality than the 256 kbps AAC files from the iTunes store?
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Old Jan 7, 2012, 11:23 PM   #2
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What equipment are you using to playback the songs?
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Old Jan 7, 2012, 11:27 PM   #3
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Err... you seem to be confused. AAC is not lossless.
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Old Jan 7, 2012, 11:32 PM   #4
Aragornii
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Originally Posted by miles01110 View Post
Err... you seem to be confused. AAC is not lossless.
I know. My point is that I know lossless is better than 256 AAC, but is 256 AAC better than 320 mp3? Especially when the mp3 is ripped from a CD and the AAC is made by Apple straight from the master (higher sample rate) recording.
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Old Jan 7, 2012, 11:33 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aragornii View Post
My point is that I know lossless is better than 256 AAC, but is 256 AAC better than 320 mp3? Especially when the mp3 is ripped from a CD and the AAC is made by Apple straight from the master (higher sample rate) recording.
No.
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Old Jan 8, 2012, 06:15 AM   #6
Julien
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Originally Posted by Aragornii View Post
....and the AAC is made by Apple straight from the master (higher sample rate) recording.
We don't know this and its not likely that Apple has access to record compony property (master tapes) or needs/wants this. iTunes' songs would probably be at a 48KHz sampling rate if this were so. I bet the record companies send over CD quality (44.1/16) files (maybe even just a Redbook CD) for Apple to use.
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Old Jan 8, 2012, 12:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Julien View Post
We don't know this and its not likely that Apple has access to record compony property (master tapes) or needs/wants this. iTunes' songs would probably be at a 48KHz sampling rate if this were so. I bet the record companies send over CD quality (44.1/16) files (maybe even just a Redbook CD) for Apple to use.
Here's where I got that information.

http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/20...why-bother.ars
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 07:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Julien View Post
We don't know this and its not likely that Apple has access to record compony property (master tapes) or needs/wants this. iTunes' songs would probably be at a 48KHz sampling rate if this were so. I bet the record companies send over CD quality (44.1/16) files (maybe even just a Redbook CD) for Apple to use.
There's the "made for iTunes" program - check it out on the iTunes store.

Lots of recordings are actually converted from 192,000 samples per second / 24 bit recordings, which improves the quality. And Apple provides the record companies with tools that make sure there is no clipping in the whole encoder / decoder chain.
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Old Jan 7, 2012, 11:31 PM   #9
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What equipment are you using to playback the songs?
I'm using an Apple TV 2 hooked up to a Denon 4308 receiver and Bower & Wilkins 683 speakers.
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Old Jan 7, 2012, 11:32 PM   #10
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I don't think you will notice any difference.
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Old Jan 7, 2012, 11:39 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Peace View Post
I don't think you will notice any difference.
That is almost certainly true. In my personal tests using successively higher bit rates from the same CD, I could tell the difference up to about 192 kbps but anything above that I couldn't distinguish. I guess I'm still interested in what is theoretically better as there might be some subtle differences you don't pick without doing comparisons across a wide variety of music.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by miles01110 View Post
No.
That's a useful opinion. I ripped about half my library at 320 k before hard drives got bigger and I did the rest lossless. My inclination is to just leave those alone, but if an easy opportunity presented itself I'd upgrade them to a higher quality.
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Old Jan 8, 2012, 12:23 AM   #12
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In all honesty it probably varies from song to song. The two different codecs treat different types of complexities within a file differently.

I think the best option would be to not worry about it and give yourself some peace of mind.
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 08:28 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peace View Post
I don't think you will notice any difference.
Yeah. iThink the sample rate (44.1 kHz vs. 48 kHz) is much more important. I use always 48 kHz instead of 44.1 kHz in the iTunes AAC or MP3 encoder, and the results sound great.

See also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact...Hz_sample_rate
(Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem)
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 10:12 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Aragornii View Post
I'm using an Apple TV 2 hooked up to a Denon 4308 receiver and Bower & Wilkins 683 speakers.
Nice system you have there. Here is some thoughts but not answers per se -

In general I can tell the difference between mp3 and aac files both at 256. A well done mp3 file at 320 can be extremely good as well.

I have a particular LP that I later got as a CD and also downloaded it from iTunes. There is a definite difference in how the 256 AAC file sounds compared to the CD. The LP to me sounds best but the CD is pretty darn close.

My problem with iTunes is that we don't know what the "Masters" are. This is not much difference between when we get a DVD that just sucks beyond belief in quality of transfer and those that are done by a good master with some craft. My point is that not everything on iTunes is great but some are very good and worthy.

If you want to do matching from iTunes, be sure you know what you are getting best you can. If you already downloaded a song from an album and like the quality then chances are the rest of the album via match would be to your liking. The biggest loser downloads are any recordings that are vintage by nature. Newer recordings tend to sound very good from iTunes.

I did a test where I played Carole King's "Tapestry" album via LP, then CD and later my friend's 256 AAC files. Last, I downloaded from HDtracks higher res flac file version. Here is the order of preference that we liked -
Best - Flac 96/24
LP
CD
AAC

Later, we did a lossless Apple file from the CD and it was just slightly better sounding than the AAC 256. One had to listen carefully. - Remember, this is all subjective and limited to equipment.

My equipment included a Marantz AVR, Oppo103, NAS storage, Mac Mini, Audacity software, Pioneer Turntable (upgraded), Garage custom turntable, vintage but spectacular Dynco PreAmp for both turntables, Seinnhauser cans, and older but moderately faithful Energy speakers. Between all this we have what might be a music hobbyist set up but certainly not audiophile level. If we can tell on this system, chances are you might too.
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 10:36 PM   #15
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I recommend opting to rip all CDs 8-12 times at various bitrates and codecs so when the popular culture tastes change on "what's best" from month to month, you can keep up with everyone else online as they bicker back and forth on preferences.
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Old Jan 31, 2013, 06:48 AM   #16
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My 10 cents

The MP3 codec uses linear compression over the whole track, which means that portions of the track with more detail will lose more of that detail, whereas portions with less detail will sound less compressed.
AAC is a variable compression codec, which uses less compression in areas of more detail (preserving that detail), and more compression in quieter areas (where detail can be preserved even after compression).

Therefore, the quality of the MP3 on average will be poorer than the AAC.

Obviously the quality of the source track needs to be considered too, as does the playback hardware, the acoustics of the venue, and the aural health of the listener.

All things being equal except for the codec, I would plump for the AAC option
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 02:58 PM   #17
Aragornii
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Thought you all might be interested in the results of a test I ran.

I started with George Harrison's "What is Life" in Apple Lossless format. I converted one copy of it at 256kbps AAC using iTunes, and downloaded a 256kbps AAC from the iTunes store using iTunes match.

All versions sounded great, and straining to hear the slightest differences, I could not find any differences between the ALAC and 256 AAC versions. I could however, spot a difference between the lossless and the iTunes store version.

If you listen to the song, the high-hat cymbal comes in when the verse starts (go to 0:28 here for what I'm referring to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XFfUt7HQWM). On the original lossless version and the 256kbps conversion, the high-hat cymbal is loud and clear, and really stands out. On the iTunes store version it is much less prominent and sounds a little muffled.

So, im my listening test, ALAC = 256 AAC > iTunes store.

I think what that really means is that for me all else being equal I can't distinguish 256 AAC from lossless, and that things like the original source are much more important to the final product.




Quote:
Originally Posted by MacCruiskeen
It seems to me that the OP could easily test for himself on his own system. All he has to do is round up some uncompressed source originals he is familiar with, rip them into each format, play them, and then decide which is satisfactory to him. It would probably take less time than reading this thread.
Quote:
Originally Posted by phrehdd View Post
Nice system you have there. Here is some thoughts but not answers per se -

...
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Old Apr 2, 2013, 01:16 PM   #18
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AAC has a slight case specific advantages.

Beyond 192kbps, the difference is not distinguishable. However, AAC has some advantages because it's a newer format.

A-) If you shop from itunes store a lot, your library will be intact. Just 1 sound format across all your library.

B-) If you have any gapless albums such as live concert records or DJ mix compilations, the transition between songs will be seamless since AAC supports gapless playback natively, where they integrated it into mp3 later and the performance differs from encoder to encoder.

C-) Smaller file size. Storage is cheap nowadays but the storege on portable devices are still limited. If you have a huge library, there will be a lot of space savings compared to 320kbps mp3.

The only downside of aac may be compatibility but I havent encountered any device that does not recognize aac yet. Even our 7 year old car stereo recognizes it.
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Old Jan 9, 2012, 12:35 AM   #19
phrehdd
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ACC, Lossless, MP3

You are going to get all sorts of responses (as you have seen)..here's my two cents -

When possible, best to have "master" copies that are the highest bitrate possible. Lossless is ideal and given a choice between AAC 256 and mp3 320, I'd take AAC 256 as I can tell on some files a difference. Some files you wont hear much difference do to their range or the quality of the original.

All my CDs are converted to Lossless. They play of course great.If I want, I can make AAC 256 from them with just the direct compression "loss."

My downloads from iTunes remain at AAC 256 and I have from days gone by some MP3's that are ranging from 128 up to 320 bitrate. I hope to replace those later.

The only advantage of Mp3 is if you have multiple "players" that don't play AAC files. Again, having a Lossless copy you can then make mp3 version for those players.

I'll be short on the iTunes store - I have downloaded very good copies of songs at 256 and then all the older material (stuff from decades ago) sound horrible. However, LP version of the same album and some CDs were evidently cut from different "masters" than what iTunes got. I often think the problem remains with the high speed method of conversion. No one checks the quality and not all "masters" (I should say original source) are the same when it comes to transfers. So if you prefer more modern stuff, iTunes is pretty darn good. If you like say some Glen Miller or Ethel Waters or...its hit and miss.

Bottom line - mp3=good, AAC 256 Superior and Lossless =can't be better
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Old Jan 9, 2012, 01:16 PM   #20
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phrehdd - that's my belief as well, that AAC is a superior format so the quality is better than mp3 even at a lower bitrate. I've decided not to mess with my 320k mp3's in any case, just because it's not worth the hassle.

Instead of the next step up in sampling rate I wish the industry would start delivering multi-channel music. Most of us are hooked up to home theater type systems now and can take advantage of it, and the difference of moving from stereo to 5.1 music would almost certainly be more noticeable than a higher sampling rate or higher bitrate.
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Old Jan 9, 2012, 04:40 PM   #21
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After 192 kbps there is little difference between the two unless you have some really Hq headphones.

That being said if you are only using ipods or AAC compatible media player I would pick AAC on the account that you'd save a little bit of space. If the choices were between mp3 at the same bitrate I'd pick mp3 for Max compatibility.

At 128 kbps AAC is superior to MP3 no doubt.
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Old Jan 9, 2012, 10:18 PM   #22
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Also iTunes is not just pure CBR 256Kb/s. They are actually VBR and sometimes reach up to 320Kb/s. Found this out when getting iTunes match and my old CBR 256 mp3s were redownloaded as AAC and the files were more than marginally bigger on some songs (256kB/s is 256kB/s, regardless of file format, plus or minus a few bit difference for format meta data). Also my 3rd party sees them as VBR files.
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Old Jul 27, 2012, 12:10 PM   #23
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How about "Mastered for iTunes" - doesn't that equal to a vast amount of music on iTunes Store? When I listen to audio previews on iTunes Store (or Spotify) a lot sounds more "wider/clear" compared to equal tracks from my own mp3s/AAC's. Perhaps its my pure imagination or could it be that music on iTunes Store is ripped with superior gear, some "nice compression/EQ"?
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Old Jul 28, 2012, 08:01 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aragornii View Post
I plan to use the iTunes match trick to upgrade all my low bit rate tunes to 256 kbps AAC using iTunes match.

What about tunes that are 256 kbps mp3 and above. Are the iTunes store tracks still better? a) AAC is better than mp3 and b) iTunes tracks are made from masters and not the CD.

I know that lossless tracks will be better, but are there any higher bit rate mp3 that are better quality than the 256 kbps AAC files from the iTunes store?
256 KBit AAC will be better quality than 320 KBit mp3. And it is possible that the iTunes Store has better originals than you had. There's also the problem that the encoder that was used plays a role - 320 mp3 encoded with a rubbish encoder isn't as good as 320 mp3 encoded with a very good encoder. Worst case, someone might have recorded an LP with 128 KBit mp3, then converted it to 320 KBit.
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