AAC vs Lossless: Can you tell the difference?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by duy802, Jul 27, 2004.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2004
    #1
    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?
     
  2. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #2
    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.
     
  3. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2004
    #3
    Well put. Thanks!
     
  4. macrumors 6502

    micvog

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2003
    #4
    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).
     
  5. macrumors regular

    fingers

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2004
    Location:
    London
    #5
    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 ;)
     
  6. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Location:
    Thunder Bay, ON
    #6
    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.
     
  7. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #7
    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.
     
  8. Moderator emeritus

    yellow

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #8
    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)
     
  9. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    #9
    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.
     
  10. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2004
    #10
    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?
     
  11. Moderator emeritus

    yellow

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #11
    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!!
     
  12. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2004
    #12
    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.
     
  13. macrumors 6502

    Rantipole

    Joined:
    May 24, 2004
    Location:
    Boston
    #13
    When you have headphones on, ever lesser ones, you are kind of "forcing" your ears to pay attention more. So that is not surprising.
     
  14. Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2004
    #14
    You also don't have the room/cars acoustics adding their bit...
     
  15. Moderator

    Nermal

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2002
    Location:
    Whakatane, New Zealand
    #15
    Out of all my CDs, I only have one where I can tell the difference between AAC and lossless.
     
  16. macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    #16
    Beatles

    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: :eek:
     
  17. macrumors regular

    fingers

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2004
    Location:
    London
    #17
    Thanks for the recommendation - might be a little over my budget at the moment - but I'll definitely give them a shot.
     
  18. macrumors regular

    fingers

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2004
    Location:
    London
    #18
    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 :eek:)

    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).
     
  19. macrumors 68040

    JFreak

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2003
    Location:
    Tampere, Finland
    #19
    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.
     
  20. Guest

    caveman_uk

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2003
    Location:
    Hitchin, Herts, UK
    #20
    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.
     
  21. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2002
    Location:
    @work
    #21
    U2 is not about sound

    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!
     
  22. macrumors 6502a

    2A Batterie

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2004
    Location:
    Out of a Suitcase, USA
    #22
    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.
     
  23. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #23
    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.
     
  24. macrumors G4

    wrldwzrd89

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2003
    Location:
    Solon, OH
    #24
    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!
     
  25. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #25
    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?
     

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