iTunes 'not CD-quality'

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacBytes, Jul 5, 2004.

  1. MacBytes macrumors bot

    Jul 5, 2003
  2. The Cheat macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2004
    Toronto, Ontario
  3. jholzner macrumors 65816


    Jul 24, 2002
    Champaign, IL
    #3 beat me to it :cool:
  4. GaelDesign macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2002
    What is this? The Boss Zone in Dilbert?
    Compressed audio isn't fully CD-quality. Um, duh. And double duh. Talk about stating the obvious.

    Frankly, AAC at 128Kbps created by a good encoder is close enough to the original CD-quality audio that most people wouldn't notice unless they did careful A-B tests on a really high-quality stereo. I'm a pro audio engineer, yet I buy AAC tracks on iTunes and listen to them on my iPod because CD-quality audio in that situation isn't noticeably any better. And iTunes is damn convenient.

    Move along folks, nothing to see here...

  5. Neuro macrumors regular


    Jun 15, 2003
    Heh, like duh. He could have redeemed himself by saying 128Kbit AAC sounds better than other commercial codecs at the same bit rate.
  6. macridah macrumors 6502a


    Feb 18, 2004
    How does wma or sony whatever format compare to aac? itunes never claimed cd-quality, they always said near cd quality music. I do notice that aac sound better than anything i rip from my cd or downloaded from any p2p. The guy that wrote the article must be a hater. itunes rock on.
  7. 0 and A ai macrumors regular

    Jan 12, 2004
    Yeah he must be a hater.
  8. matthew24 macrumors 6502


    May 30, 2002
    Apple must go higher

    I agree with the author, Apple should move to at least, to 192Kbit.

    I did once encode a CD to 128Kbit and decoded it again, the difference between the original and the encoded/decoded copy was just too big.
    Apple should do better for a dollar a song. At this moment I do rate the quality they offer at 60/70ct for each track. So I am still going for CD's.
  9. crenz macrumors 6502a


    Jul 3, 2003
    Shanghai, China
    Hopefully more people will criticize them for that, and also for the DRM. I will continue to buy mostly CDs (instead of downloads) until I can get losslessly compressed audio at least at CD-Quality (48Khz/24 Bit would be nice, though) and without DRM as a digital download.
  10. nuckinfutz macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    LOL "CD Quality" as if there's some sort of certification process that sets a baseline of CD quality. I've 300 CDs and I can tell show you CDs that sound like crap and some that sound magnificent. AAC is definitely better than CD Quality because no such "magical mark" exists.
  11. yamabushi macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2003
    Rather than increase the bit rate significantly I think Apple should offer CD-quality (or better) versions of songs as downloads in addition to standard 128bit AAC. They should also sell CDs by mail bundled with the same album as AAC for download.
  12. Sayer macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Thank you Captain Obvious

    In other news, the Earth revolves around the Sun and the Sun is not the center of the known universe.
  13. nuckinfutz macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    Prepare to wait. Your great great great grandchildren are going to love those features :p

    Oh yeah and why do I hear consumers bragging about 24bit/96k soundblasters cards. ROFLMAO....come'on people you don't actually think you're hearing 24bit audio do you? Haven't these people ever looked and said "geez why does an Apogee 24bit converter cost $3500 when I got my 24bit Audigy for $150?"

    Now we have the same consumer pontificating about the merits of 128k AAC files being played on the crappiest of headphones or speakers. Please wake up from lala land. Yes I believe you can tell a difference on some songs. Perceptual encoders offer varying performance depending on musical content but the end result is pretty damn good. After all the typical consumer seems to place a priority on high quality video over audio. How many times have you seen a nice big screen TV with a cheap "home theater in a box" setup. I've seen it far too much.
  14. nuckinfutz macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    Folks that no go. The RIAA is not going to license lossless music. AAC offers us low cost access to music that does sound better than CDs did just 5 years ago but if you want the pinnacle in soung you have to buy the CD.
  15. King Cobra macrumors 603

    Mar 2, 2002
    To the New York Times: Don't fill your iPod will completely uncompressed versions of the songs. You will drain your iPod's battery.

    Wrong. 128Kbps isn't an extreme. The lowest you can encode from iTunes is 16Kbps, so 128Kbps hardly sounds like an extreme. And with LAME encoders, I think you can do less than that. Also, Sony uses a form of compression, as well. And then there's mp3, MPEG-2.5 audio, etc.

    Now this proceeded to piss me off:

    What the hell do you define as a mortal? Point one out to me! Besides, Sony's format, ATARTC-3 (or whatever it is) is way worse than AAC at 128Kbps, because the Sony format recompresses already compressed music into 48Kbps, I think. Hey, Stross, that would sound so bad in the same side by side test against the original -- or even the first compression, OR 128Kbps AAC -- that it would make mortals cringe in their sleep. Take that, you damn PC zealot. [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Note to self: Never trust a report from Randall Stross again.
  16. nuckinfutz macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    I didn't even bother to click the link. Why in the world would I take audio advice from a writer for the NY times? They need to stick to spouting their liberal crap and leave the technical stuff to others.

    What a dumbass. That's "Sampling Rate" you doofus. AAC compression analyzes the music and decides what data can be stripped because the ear is unlikely to hear sounds that are masked. That's a crude explanation but at least it is in the ballpark unlike this guy.
  17. fraeone macrumors regular


    Sep 26, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Crap on NYT, crap on the writer, or whatever, but COME ON. What's wrong with asking for better quality. The difference between a 128kbps AAC rip and a real CD should be audible to anybody. At least give us a choice between 192 or 256 and 128. I'm not of the opinion that lossless is worthwhile (yet).
  18. jbembe macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2003
    Baltimore, MD
    Hmmm, let's see. Apple starts offering lossless music.

    Whine&Complain Gallery: Beware, downloads take over an hour, so iTMS sucks.

    File this under caveat emptor to people who don't really know what a MP3's are. For the rest of us, this guy at NYT appears to need a new vocation.
  19. bertagert macrumors 6502

    Jan 13, 2003
    So, lets see, all the millions of AAC & MP3 files people download from itunes and P2P networks are no good? I'm not saying that original CD quality isn't better than MP3, AAC or WMA. I'm saying, people aren't caring about the quality so much. They like the convience of getting these compressed files and how nicely all of them can fit in the palm of their hand. Writers like this guy really need to investigate the story so they can give the over all picture. A report like this one should be targeted to audio files as they are the ones that care.

    On a side note: Haters of iPods don't get it when they write stories like this. Even though they're blasting Apple, they're actually advertising the ipod.
  20. dashiel macrumors 6502a

    Nov 12, 2003
    just because a 'mortal listener' can tell the difference between 128k compressed audio and uncompressed, does not necessarily mean they can tell which one sounds better.

    audio compression is a lot like wine. sure i can tell there is a difference between a $5, $50 and $500 bottle of wine, but in a blind taste test i could probably tell you that the $50 was better than the $5, but that's about it. after wine gets above $10 i just don't have the experience or knowledge to determine what is a better wine. i'd be willing to bet 90% of the population is the same way and that the same holds true for audio.

    put on an AAC encoded track, an MP3 and an unencoded on the average persons stereo, in the average listening environment and i'd bet dollars to donuts they wouldn't be able to tell you definitively which was which.

    apple and the average consumers doesn't care that you can hear minute differences in audio quality when you listen through a linn hifi with ribbon speakers and $30 a foot monster cable.
  21. Keynoteuser macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2003
    Columbus, Ohio area
    What I want

    I want Apple to add a REAL music store to the system, and let you pay a few bucks extra to download NOW and also get the CD mailed to you. I'd pay $12 or $13 to get the songs now at 128 and also get a CD in a week or two. Heck, they could join up with Amazon to provide the fufilment system. I think this would be the ultimate music store.
  22. ITR 81 macrumors 65816

    Oct 24, 2003
    For folks that want higher bitrate or lossless all I can say:

    You'll have to wait until over 60% of US gets boardband if not more.

    I want broadband but all I can get is Dish Broadband for around $60 a month.
  23. yamabushi macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2003
    That is precisely what I was suggesting. :) Actually, this would probably be an adequate solution for audiophiles as well since they would then be able to rip the CD later at higher quality settings.
  24. SiliconAddict macrumors 603


    Jun 19, 2003
    Chicago, IL

    We are already over 50% and I think that report came out last spring/summer.
  25. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Quality fixes for iTunes; and Sony 8TRAC test

    From my own experience, I believe that almost all the problems people hear with iTunes (and some of this may apply to iPods) is NOT the fault of the AAC, but rather is Apple's fault in the way effects are applied--and you can fix that!

    iTunes has several effects that can boost the amplitude of music: Soundcheck, Sound Enhancer, and Equalizers. All three cause problems. The first two can be turned off in iTunes Prefs. Equalizer settings you can fix yourself: just lower the pre-amp slider below 0, just as far as the highest equalizer slider is above 0.

    The problem with all three, in my experience (with some educated guesswork)--is that digital audio maxes out or "clips" (which can sound like crackling) when raised too high before conversion to analog (a.k.a. in the computer before your line-out). Apple should be smarter: they should always LOWER and never RAISE amplitudes. The effects would then give you less volume but without the clipping. No problem then--just turn your speakers up.

    I have tested all three individually, and ANY of the three effects can cause crackling. Do yourself a favor and turn them off, or use the pre-amp in the case of equalizers. (iPod's built-in equalizer may or may not share this clipping issue... Anyone know? I hope not, since you can't use custom equalizer settings with current iPod software.)

    BTW, Crossfades don't raise levels--so that's harmless. (And would be another nice addition to the iPod before I buy mine :) )

    Given all that, yes of course there is also SOME difference between AAC/MP4 compression and lossless compression--that's why Apple Lossless exists. But can you really hear it when testing blind?

    I'd have to have really good hearing, special training, top-end speakers properly connected to a high-quality amplifier, and be paying close attention in a silent listening environment to actually notice these issues, much less care. And I STILL probably wouldn't notice UNLESS I heard both versions side-by-side. My actual music listening is generally in FAR from ideal circumstances, though, and even listening in silence with headphones, my ears haven't been able to tell AAC from CD. I notice defects from the speakers, noise outside, even problems in the original CD recording itself--but I notice nothing different from the original CD vs. the AAC. I think that's true of most people. (I sometimes hear a defect and want to blame AAC... then I pop the CD in and invariably I hear the same defect--I'd just never noticed before.)

    I do dislike the "idea" of compression, on principle. It bugs me, the way getting a JPEG from a client instead of a TIFF bugs me--even if I can't spot any defects. For my favorite groups, I often choose the CD for that vague reason. But generally I can get over the "on principle" discomfort for the sake of fitting more music into less space, downloading it faster, and playing it with less battery drain. Thus, even my CDs are ripped to 128 AAC, and I'm more than happy using my PowerBook as my home stereo.

    I suspect a lot of people's objection to compression is like mine--it's "on principle" rather than genuinely sounding bad to them. So they're psychologically predisposed to make themselves hear defects.

    Try a BLIND comparison with the above iTunes-settings factors eliminated. VERY seldom do people do a blind test, not knowing which they are listening to. I think if they did, almost nobody would complain.

    FYI, some links to AAC compared to other formats:
    (AAC shown to be a more faithful reproduction than WMA--and MUCH better than MP3.)
    From those listening tests, even 132kbps ATRAC3 is poor quality--to say nothing of the 48kbps Sony sells via "Sony Connect!"

    In closing, one more factor: even if you're the rare person who can tell the difference, that doesn't mean you are hearing a "problem" or a "defect." You'll hear a difference from one speaker to another, one stereo to another, one room to another, one format to another... different frequencies emphasized, etc. You may like one sound better than another. You may like AAC better than the raw CD--I've read that blind tests DO often come out that way! It's largely personal taste--and the difference is utterly swamped by your own setup's variations anyway--things like the equalizer on your stereo.

    So the "defects" that expert audiophiles may hear between CD and really good compression like 128AAC/MP4 aren't generally crackling or something totally missing. It's something emphasized or de-emphasized differently from the original. Another case where I wouldn't like that "on principle," but in actual practice it's trivial. Zero effect on my music enjoyment.

    (And if I COULD tell a defect, I still wouldn't want the time/hassle/bother of buying a whole CD for the one good song :) )

Share This Page