When you buy from iTunes is that lower quality than CD?

piatti

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Original poster
Jun 9, 2010
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I read somewhere that mp3 files are not as good quality as CDs. So does that mean that if instead of buying a CD you buy your songs from online in mp3 format, you are not getting the best bang for your buck?
 

Nov 28, 2010
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iTunes sells .m4a files using AAC as codec, which is more advanced than the MP3 codec, but since it is compressed (due to bandwidth limitations) and music on audio CDs is not compressed, there will be quality loss with music purchased via the iTunes store.
But as that quality loss is hardly hearable at all (depending on one's aural abilities), it might not matter for you.
 

Mal

macrumors 603
Jan 6, 2002
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Orlando
The number of people in this world that could identify 256-bit AAC audio (iTunes quality) from CD audio is impressively small. You likely won't be able to tell.

jW
 

piatti

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Jun 9, 2010
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i think i read that u have to use a high-end speaker or headphone to hear the difference?
 

jlc1978

macrumors 68020
Aug 14, 2009
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Yeah, basically. You'd have to be an audiophile with really good ears to notice the differences.
Even those often can't differentiate between them in a repeatable manner. people assume digital sampling results in a loss of fidelity when in fact the resultant file can contain all the information needed to reproduce the original.

Of course, the audiophile industry has made boatloads of money convincing people there is a difference and getting them to spend a lot more money for "better" sound.
 

iknowyourider

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Mar 26, 2008
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I can hear the difference, and I care, but I still purchase from iTunes occasionally. Mainly for convenience, but I also like exclusives, bonuses and special occasions like the Beatles release.

I also like Amazon's 320 bit mp3 and I buy CD's too. Some of my favorite (live) selections are from archive.org given with permission from the artist. The best (clean) sound quality there is; Digital Soundboard > FLAC lossless > Shorten lossless. This is not an Ad, just a nugget.

To me it's about the end desired result. My main system is my MB w/ Alesis studio monitors and everything sounds pretty good. My iPod with 128 bit does great with any of my earbuds. iPad with 128 and earphones does great. In my car though, I much prefer CD's with CD quality.
 

thekb

macrumors 6502a
May 8, 2010
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iTunes sells .m4a files using AAC as codec, which is more advanced than the MP3 codec, but since it is compressed (due to bandwidth limitations) and music on audio CDs is not compressed, there will be quality loss with music purchased via the iTunes store.
But as that quality loss is hardly hearable at all (depending on one's aural abilities), it might not matter for you.

I think CD audio is compressed as well. Didn't we all have this debate about 25 or 30 years ago when it was records vs CD's and everyone said CD's didn't sound as good, but you had to have good ears to hear the difference! :)

Honestly, everyone here is right. In theory there are a few people that can hear a difference, but in practice, the difference is negligible. Of course, that's just IMHO, but to me the convenience and portability of a MP3/AAC file far outweigh the minuscule loss of quality.
 
Nov 28, 2010
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I think CD audio is compressed as well. Didn't we all have this debate about 25 or 30 years ago when it was records vs CD's and everyone said CD's didn't sound as good, but you had to have good ears to hear the difference! :)

Honestly, everyone here is right. In theory there are a few people that can hear a difference, but in practice, the difference is negligible. Of course, that's just IMHO, but to me the convenience and portability of a MP3/AAC file far outweigh the minuscule loss of quality.
Audio CDs are not compressed, they are just mixed down to a stereo track from a multi-track master and use a lower sample rate than todays recording and mixing equipment.
 

ssgbryan

macrumors 65816
Jul 18, 2002
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I think CD audio is compressed as well. Didn't we all have this debate about 25 or 30 years ago when it was records vs CD's and everyone said CD's didn't sound as good, but you had to have good ears to hear the difference! :)

Honestly, everyone here is right. In theory there are a few people that can hear a difference, but in practice, the difference is negligible. Of course, that's just IMHO, but to me the convenience and portability of a MP3/AAC file far outweigh the minuscule loss of quality.
The difference between CDs & LPs was that the dynamic range on LPs was very, very limited when compared to CDs. CDs were designed to cover the entire range of human hearing. CDs sounded "tinny" compared to LPs because record labels were still using RIAA equalization in the mastering process (This was necessary to overcome the limitations of vinyl.)

Once the labels made the connection, they "remastered" everything & sold it again.

Hearing the difference is easy - if you have a halfway decent stereo setup.

I do.:D
 

Moonjumper

macrumors 68020
Jun 20, 2009
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If I play a CD on my stereo, then connect my iPhone and play the same track again with a high-bitrate mp3, sometimes there is a noticeable difference, but often it is hard to tell them apart. I don't have particularly great hearing (mild tinnitus in my right ear), results will vary from person to person.
 

gretschdrummer

macrumors member
Sep 1, 2011
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The difference between CDs & LPs was that the dynamic range on LPs was very, very limited when compared to CDs. CDs were designed to cover the entire range of human hearing. CDs sounded "tinny" compared to LPs because record labels were still using RIAA equalization in the mastering process (This was necessary to overcome the limitations of vinyl.)

Once the labels made the connection, they "remastered" everything & sold it again.

Hearing the difference is easy - if you have a halfway decent stereo setup.

I do.:D
But the frequency on LPs are way better than CDs
 

dknightd

macrumors 6502
Mar 7, 2004
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I read somewhere that mp3 files are not as good quality as CDs. So does that mean that if instead of buying a CD you buy your songs from online in mp3 format, you are not getting the best bang for your buck?
Correct, but as others have pointed out, it not easy to tell the difference.

The bang for buck comes because a CD is often cheaper, and it provides a handy backup. It also means you can rerip at different bitrates to suit your needs.
 

thekb

macrumors 6502a
May 8, 2010
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Audio CDs are not compressed, they are just mixed down to a stereo track from a multi-track master and use a lower sample rate than todays recording and mixing equipment.

Sorry, I know just enough to know that I don't know what I am talking about! I was going from memory and a virtually non-existent knowledge of recording media.

I always thought that when the music was converted to 1's and 0's on CD's that some of the fidelity of the recording was lost and so the conversion process was basically like a compression. However, as I said, I gladly defer to people that actually have knowledge on the subject.

I've always thought I had a reasonably good ear and I could distinguish a very minute tinniness or harder edge to CD's over LP's, but it was never unpleasant to me so I've adjusted. Most of my music listening these days is in my car anyway, and it's very difficult to live up to audiophile standards in my jalopy! I think I bought Adam Sandler's P.O.S. car after he had it.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
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"Audio CDs are not compressed, they are just mixed down to a stereo track from a multi-track master and use a lower sample rate than todays recording and mixing equipment."

What you are overlooking is that quite often the SOURCE AUDIO that comprises the master that goes onto a CD -is- compressed "at the production level".

Studios and audio producers have been compressing audio for some time now.
 
Nov 28, 2010
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located
"Audio CDs are not compressed, they are just mixed down to a stereo track from a multi-track master and use a lower sample rate than todays recording and mixing equipment."

What you are overlooking is that quite often the SOURCE AUDIO that comprises the master that goes onto a CD -is- compressed "at the production level".

Studios and audio producers have been compressing audio for some time now.
Do you mean using an audio compressor or actual file compression?
Because I can understand the first, but not the other one, as audio files don't take up that much space to have them compressed, even with 100 tracks of audio (voice, instruments and what not), a one hour project using 192 kHz audio at 24-bit would not take more than 200 GB (if each of those 1100 tracks would be 1 hour long, which is rarely the case).

PS: Why don't you use the QUOTE function via the
button?
 
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takeshi74

macrumors 601
Feb 9, 2011
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I read somewhere that mp3 files are not as good quality as CDs.
Always consider the source. Not all ears are the same. Not all listening equipment is the same. Not all MP3 encoding is the same. And, as pointed out, iTunes doesn't even use MP3.

Sound quality's a very subjective matter. You have to determine where you're willing to draw the line. For many, highly compressed and poorly encoded MP3's are just fine. Others are pickier. It's impossible for us to tell you where you fall in the spectrum.

So does that mean that if instead of buying a CD you buy your songs from online in mp3 format, you are not getting the best bang for your buck?
Again, subjective. If you can't tell the difference there's really no difference in "bang for the buck" unless it just makes you feel better if you think you're getting what you can't hear.
 

carlgo

macrumors 68000
Dec 29, 2006
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Monterey CA
90% of home stereos are in terrible listening rooms, set up oddly, etc. A luxury car is a nice stereo environment, but once underway the wind and road noise cancels out any nuances.

You need high end closed headphones, big bucks, hopefully electrostatic ones, to hear the difference in your normal environments.

Either that or magic crystals...
 

LorenK

macrumors 6502
Dec 26, 2007
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Illinois
The decision to go MP3 versus cd is as much a question of where you intend to listen to music as the ability of the format to reproduce the original source. For awhile, I was primarily listening to music in my car. Despite the fact that the quality is compromised from road noise, the quality of my car stereo is quite high and you can tell the difference between the source quality. MP3s are not all created equal and the quality depends on the amount of information being removed as part of the compression, the concept being to remove non-essential data needed to reproduce the sound faithfully. As you get remove more data, the MP3 quality of faithful reproduction is reduced, so that there is a big difference between a 320 MP3 and a 128 of lesser, which even a person with normal hearing should be able to hear even in a car or through ear buds.

If you're going to listen to your music over your home stereo, as I have once again begun doing after adding a media room to my house, the difference is even more noticeable. On the other hand, while noticeable, it is only negatively annoying on occasion. Yes, I prefer to listen to cds remixed with a higher sampling rate than that used for the initial cd pressings (my music collection stretches back to the late 60's for vinyl, and the dawn of cds), but the convenience factor of having a lot of my music stored on my computer and accessible without flipping lps, switching tapes, or reloading cds outweighs most of the time the issue of sound quality. Most of the time you're not going to notice, and when you want to, then you can always go out and get the cd or the vinyl and make listening to that bit of music the occasion that it deserves.

Bottom line, you need to decide when you want to control the music and when it should control you.
 

gretschdrummer

macrumors member
Sep 1, 2011
69
13
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!

Please.

I would suggest that you look into both the frequency response & the dynamic range capabilities of both.
Most CDs are compressed so that the frequency range cuts off beyond the auditory range of human ears. With LPs you get the full frequency range, but it's not even that big of a difference.
 

monokakata

macrumors 68000
May 8, 2008
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Hilo, Hawai'i
Most CDs are compressed so that the frequency range cuts off beyond the auditory range of human ears. With LPs you get the full frequency range, but it's not even that big of a difference.
Sorry, but that's just not true. Both methods give the 20 - 20,000 hz range that's considered normal for a person with decent hearing.

Wikipedia isn't the answer for every question, but I just had a look at this article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_analog_and_digital_recording

and it seems good to me.

I've been involved in sound since the monaural tube days of the fifties. McIntosh, Thorens, AR -- I had them all, and more.

I don't think there's much to choose re. frequency response, but back in the analog days I hated rumble and clicks and pops from vinyl and all the other noises that crept in. Dust bug. Other cleaners. I will say that I miss the look of my Shure/SME arm, though.

And long ago I was in the field with Uher and Tandberg reel-to-reel recorders. What a pain. Trying for 7.5 ips on D-cells. I can't remember how many the Tandberg Model 11 needed -- 6 or 8, I think, and this was in a place where the nearest store was 70 miles and 14 unbridged rivers away.

Sunday I was doing field recording with 24 bit sampling. Not a pain. Four little AA batteries.

However, digital has its pitfalls. On Sunday I was talking with the sound guy, and he said that he mistakenly recorded a concert in MP3 at 48. And of course it was awful and he couldn't recover and the clients were angry.

With analog tape I suppose the equivalent mistake would be to record at a slow tape speed -- what was the slowest? 1 7/8 ips? I forget. At least if you made that error you could see the reels were turning too slowly.