So you think you're an audiophile?

Discussion in 'iPod' started by Cfg5, Oct 15, 2005.

  1. macrumors regular

    I'm not an audiophile myself, however I think that alot of "audiophiles" out there are phony.

    Here's a link to a zip file with 3 .aiff files in it. One of the .aiff files is ripped directly from the cd. One is a .aiff file converted from a 128 kpbs aac file (so no one could look at the file size and tell). The last is a .aiff from a 320 kbps aac file.

    The file names are 1.aiff, 7.aiff, and 9.aiff


    email me here ( and tell me what files belong to what encoding and give me your member name too.

    I'll post in a couple of days who got it right and who didn't.
  2. Moderator emeritus

    I hate the term 'audiophile' and would never apply it to myself, however I do appreciate good sound quality, not outrageously stupid high-end stuff.

    At risk of putting my neck on the line, I will say what perhaps some of us are also thinking. Flame away, it matters not.

    I would argue that this is an extremely poor or perhaps deliberately difficult choice of recording for a comparison test.

    Poorly engineered and/or mastered, it sounds like something from the 70's, possibly even something lifted from vinyl to make a master from. Limited dynamic range so compresses well, soft clipping, limited separation with a restricted fequency range with very few transients. You can hear the vocalist's track wandering from center...

    To make things far more interesting and illustrative, try putting up a more contemporary file from a quality live jazz recording or something like a DDD file of the Berlin Philharmonic belting out something with crescendos with plenty of timpani, brass and percussion. Even a piano concerto...

    Or... even something more modern, possibly remastered but well-engineered like some Crowded House, Blue Nile, Steely Dan etc. Even some good drum & bass or techno with plenty of extension at the low-end and precise drum machine work.
  3. Moderator emeritus


    BV, you sure you weren't a recording engineer in a former life? :D

    Some track suggestions for the test:

    Weather with you: Crowded House
    Everything must go: Steely Dan
    Famous Blue Raincoat: Tori Amos
    Any Deutsche Grammaphone classical recording

    Listening tests are a bit like a**holes, everyone has one and most of them stink, the aformentioned transients and dynamics are difficult to code and show the codecs at their worst, plus the main artifacts occur in the HF band, so a lot of detail there is essential.

    Finally, it's impossible to run a comparative listening test through a system that does not accurately reproduce all of the above components, and that all parties taking the test have access to, otherwise it's a pointless exercise.

    I'm not an audiophile, I'm an audio professional, there's a difference.
  4. Moderator emeritus

    No, but I did want to be at one stage after getting into recording one of our college bands on a trusty Teac 4-track... a phase that didn't last, but a mild interest that's remained to this day along with some snippets of terminology.

    But my Dad was really into hifi and used to teach me some stuff too because he just wanted to share his enthusiasm. None of this extreme stuff with absurd interconnects or pointy coned feet to go beneath your components... he also liked his Kefs. ;)

    It annoys me that people, from perhaps a perceived insecurity about themselves, want to constantly take down others who want to be a little discerning, whether it's about food, wine, clothes, movies... or even spelling. ;)
  5. Moderator emeritus


    Ha, my dad had the pointy feet and 3" spikes on the speakers, plus a vibrated concrete slab under the turntable (a very good trick). He didn't subscribe to the interconnects either, used 30 amp mains cable for speakers... Sounds like we might have had very similar homelives.... :D

    I have KEF 105.4 Reference monitors at home, my wife calls them "The Daleks".

    As to spelling, that poor bloke must've been very surprised when all the linguaphiles lept on him... :D
  6. Sol
    macrumors 68000


    Culture of 'audiophiles,' compromises & marketing

    Why are you doing this experiment Cfg5?

    I hate the culture of audiophiles. These are people who become hi-fi and Jazz experts overnight, who think that they have more discerning ears than the rest of the population because some hi-fi store gave them a speaker and amplifier comparison test in a semi-sound-proof room. Worse of all they will go on and on about the superiority of LPs over CDs, which is not only arguable (analogue hiss vs digital crispness) but as pointless as telling me that laserdisc is better than DVD.

    Don't get me wrong, I believe that music sounds better on a good system but there will always be compromises in any situation. For example there is no point in buying a system that costs the same as a small car if you live next to a freeway. I also think that uncompressed audio files have no place in an iPod. Sure it might sound better than AAC in a listening test but your battery will empty faster and the internal hard drive will be constantly reading, making it more likely to get damaged when in motion.

    The term 'audiophile' is a bit like 'high-definition.' Both terms have been over-used to sell products not worthy of them. The situation now is that almost everyone who buys components will think themselves as 'a bit of an audiophile' because the sales staff talked them into justifying a relatively expensive purchase.
  7. macrumors 6502a


    There are a number of factors that could explain your suspicion of audiophiles and those who prefer to encode their music at higher bitrates. Aside from your choice of music, it could be that you listen to music passively (as many people do) or that your listening skills are not sufficiently developed for you to discern the subtleties retained by uncompressed music.

    I can't discern any real difference between 192 kbps and Lossless when listening to old folk and blues recordings, but differences become readily apparent when listening to high-quality modern jazz CDs, such as those recorded by the ECM label.

    Sound-reproduction equipment is also a significant factor: most music sounds acceptable at 192 kbps through my computer speakers, but varies in quality - from reasonable to dreadful - when played through my hi-fi.

    It would be a fundamental mistake to assume that we all perceive music in the same way. If you're satisfied with music encoded at a low bitrate, then that's fine – I once met someone who was quite happy to encode his music using MP3 at 64 kbps!

    Aside from anything else - and I may be way off-base here - but couldn't participants just run your AIFF files through a waveform editor to establish which have been compressed?
  8. macrumors regular

    Blue Velvet I knew I probably should have put jazz or classical in because those don't hang well at low bitrates. I don't have Cd's of those genres go that wouldn't work welll. I wasn't trying to be all serious with this. If someone wants to do this with classical or jazz just give me the link to the audio files and i'll put it in th originial post.

    Again, it was just suppose to be a fun challenge.
  9. macrumors regular

    it would be a much funner thread if people just posted here which files they thought was which encoding. emaiing you makes the thread dead and lifeless. thats my dos pesos.

    With your permission, Lord Cfg5, I would like to post my humble opinion about the sacred audio philes. I mean files.
  10. macrumors regular

    Cfg5, I am wondering what the correct ones are. I was wondering when you were going to post it on here, if ever.
  11. macrumors regular

    Thanks to the positive replies, this thread turned out to be a very good one. I didn't download the test, but I read all the replies and here are my dos pesos:
    It's not about the advantages you get by compressing the files both spacewise and batterywise. It's about the music itself. If you concentrate on the sound quality, you'll be missing the magic of music. I have some cassettes which are taped from scratchy vinyls years ago and when I listen to those, they still have the magic. I think that the difference between the uncompressed wav or aiff and the 256 or 320 kbps mp3 is almost inaudible. But if you concentrate, you will probably notice minor differences between those, and then what? Do you get a medal for that? Will you enjoy the music more? Will your friends say:"Hey this is the guy who can tell the mp3 from a wav" WOW! and more chicks will say:" I want to sleep with that guy" Guess Not!
  12. macrumors 601


    but it's important to audio engineers, eh? after all, part of their (okay, our) craft is knowing how to best present the artistry we're entrusted with recording.
  13. macrumors regular

    No doubt about that. Totally agree.
  14. macrumors 601


    then call it a blessing or a curse, i can't help but pay attention to such matters when i listen to music. whether it's "i wouldn't have used that much reverb" or "i can hear the crappy a/d converters on those cymbals", some part of me is enjoying the tune and some part of me is critiquing.

    otoh, i'm just as often thinking, "wow! how did they get *that* sound?".


    my music computer (g5 p'mac, fwiw) is tied up at the moment while i'm mixing a jazz project. once i've finished for the night, i'll have a listen to the contents of that zip file.
  15. macrumors regular

  16. macrumors 601


    i've listened to the files. the differences are subtle, and i agree with BV et. al. that the source material should have been picked more carefully. even in the one that i believe is the original, there are a number of artifacts, possibly from the original digital dump.

    nuts to the email thing, i'll post my findings here and if i'm wrong, i'm wrong.

    1 and 7 sound the most similar to me, so i suspect that they're the AAC files. that leaves 9 as the original. those are guesses. while i can hear differences, i'm not so familiar with the sound of AAC encoding that i can point to a soundfile and say, "aha!"

    edit: OR -- it could be the case that because 9 is the most different, that's the lower resolution file.

    heh heh -- all my observations are relative, not absolute.
  17. Guest


    My Shure e3C's sound good to me, as does the music my iPod puts out. That's all that matters to me.
  18. macrumors 68040


    100% agree with Sol

    no good, condecending, snobbish a**holes these audiophiles are... listen to what sounds good to you

    for me, i love my bose noise canceling headset for plane rides... and i have a pair of sennheiser something or others that are rather huge, but sound fantastic for when i'm in my room and want to be quiet...
  19. macrumors 601


    i've got what i suspect are a cheaper brand of noise canceling headphones, and not only do they murder the high end, the phase shift literally makes me nauseated.
  20. macrumors 68040


    i'll admit that i don't have any other brands to compare them to, other than the shure in-ear versions- e5's, e3's... these are the ones bose sells for around $300.

    i like them because compared to how regular headphones sound on a plane (gross, no bass, etc), these allow me to hear a much broader range of sound
  21. macrumors 601


    so cfg5 -- what's the answer?
  22. macrumors 6502a


    I did this and I got the easiest one wrong.... which kindof made me feel stupid.

    But in any case, the file numbers were:

    1 - This was the straight CD Rip... I got it wrong by guessing lo-qual 128kbps... no clue how.

    7 - This is the 128kbps file... it seemed like it was the most detailed but I was completely wrong.

    9 - This was the 320kbps file which I got right.

    I guess there's not an excuse why I got these wrong, I don't really consider myself an audiophile, but I do like better quality headphones than the standard. Anyways I tried to get these from a pair of Grado SR60's, and Etymotic ER6i's. If these were jazz/classical I imagine itd be a lot easier. Ah well :)
  23. Lau

    Don't worry about it. Whatever you think sounds best sounds best to you. Which is all you should worry about.
  24. macrumors 68020


    I know what concrete is but what is "vibrated concrete?"
  25. macrumors 6502

    While I agree with much of your post, I have a few uncompressed AIFFs on my iPod (in vain hope of overcoming a lack of bass response I perceive in my iPod). If a song is under 3 minutes, it seems to spin the hard disk and play through like most compressed files do. The four-minute tune actually drops out for a second or so while the disk spins up to read in the rest of the song. But it's not like the drive is "constantly reading". Just two gulps instead of one.

    This is a 1G iPod; I don't know if the newer ones work the same way.


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