Why sometimes there really is no difference between lossless and lossy codecs

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by Edi M, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. Edi M

    Edi M New Member

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    OK, i`m just trying to bring a new perspective into a heavily discussed subject. Some people say there is a huge difference between a cd/flac and a mp3 rip. Others claim flac is a waste of hdd space because there is hardly any difference between them. Who`s right? The correct answer? Both parties are right. That`s my take on the subject.

    Let`s put this debate into a real life perspective. Although music reproduction and storage have never been more accessible than they are today, the average quality of the audio gear used for playback has been dropping. There`s no point in arguing this- the very existence of the mp3 lossy codec and playback done on mobile phones with 2 dollar headphones is the only example i need to prove my theory. Sure, there was crappy equipment 40 years ago- the difference being that today there is 10 more of it around. Which leads to the same conclusion, that the average quality of gear has been decreasing simply because there is more audio crap produced and sold today all over the world.

    How exactly is an average person supposed to hear the difference between a quality recording(in this case cd/flac) and 128kbs mp3 playing on a cheap sony digital walkman/ipod/average mobile phone with the provided headphones, which in 99% of cases are simply gruesome?

    The debate on lossy versus lossless codecs would be easy if everyone would have access to quality hardware, which sadly is not the case. I can tell you right now than if i listen to a cd or flac file on my laptop with a better than average pair of headphones i`d be lucky if i could tell the difference in sound from a mp3 file or youtube video. In some cases i have even come across strange phenomenon when playing flac files, like cracking noises, which obviously are lacking from mp3.(I still can`t explain that, by the way).

    Bottom line is, most of the gear people use today(including myself) simply isn`t made with quality in mind. I`m not even talking about quality audio reproduction, i`m simply saying that most of the electronics people buy from walmart or whatever are crap and belong in the dumpster. You can`t expect miracles from a 20 dollar pair of headphones connected to a 200 dollar phone that is supposed to do everything(photos, videos, email, web surfing, talking, texting, gps navigation etc etc).

    In most cases, people struggle to hear the difference because there barely is any difference at all. Ever since i started becoming concerned with the quality of the audio gear i`m using, the only conclusion i came up with is that i need to spend more money before expecting to truly enjoy HIFI audio. It all comes down to money in most cases.

    So yeah, if you can`t hear the difference between lossless and lossy codecs it`s most likely because you`re not using the sort of gear that would allow you to hear it, not because there isn`t any or your ears are not doing their job. When i`m listening to a song on my vintage philips cd player the sound i`m getting is much more enjoyable than listening to the same song in mp3 form on my laptop. Tiny laptop speakers, again, are not even in the same universe as a pair of decent quality loudspeakers.

    Once again, if you can`t hear the difference between lossy and lossless- maybe it`s because you Really Can`t Hear it. You know what they say: Blame the gear, not the ear. If at first you don`t succeed, spend more money and try, try again.
     
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  2. robert_kc

    robert_kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    FLAC does not equate to CD “rips”.

    Most modern recordings are made, and mastered, in hi-res (24bit/192kHz) digital PCM format, or hi-res DSD (single-bit) format. The issue for modern recordings is whether you buy the recording in this hi-res format, or if you buy a deliverable that has been “down sampled” into the 30+ year-old CD format (or some highly compressed format that is optimized for portability vs. audio quality).

    If you want to acquire recordings that have better than CD quality, then buy high-quality SACDs, Pure Audio Blu-ray, Blu-ray, hi-res (24/96 or 24/192) FLAC downloads, and hi-res DSD downloads.

    There’s plenty of equipment – some of it 60 years old – that will deliver excellent audio quality.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  3. Condorsat

    Condorsat Audio Enthusiast

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    We'll there's that theory ... there is also the theory that these guys just knew what they were doing.
    Brief history of the MP3 by Stephen Witt (first part of video).

     
  4. BillWojo

    BillWojo AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I have to agree with Edi M. Every improvement that I have made into my gear has let me listen deeper into recordings. If I pick up something and set it up in my system I'll put on a CD of something that I know quite well. When I hear a positive difference than I know it's an upgrade to what I was using before. I have some CD's that are terrible on my stereo but sound fine in my car.
    Ear buds and computer speakers are not high fidelity. They can be fed with crappy source material and will still sound OK.
    It's very easy to believe that lossy recordings will sound sub-par on a reveling system compared to a much better recording.

    BillWojo
     
  5. robert_kc

    robert_kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    What is the point of this rambling video?
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  6. hnash53

    hnash53 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    That statement... along with several others... acts as a severe indictment of those with "subpar"... whatever that means (but you seem to know)... equipment. Throwing stuff in the trash... etc etc etc... about what you said.

    I don't give a rip about the equipment people use for "music reproduction." The fact that they are choosing to listen to music... versus a whole slew of other things they could be doing... is very encouraging to me. I don't list my "music reproduction" equipment. But I do read what others have, and almost without exception, their equipment would be considered much above mine. And that's quite ok. I have what I have because at the moment, I can't imagine the sound being any better than it currently is.

    Plus, I can't imagine that all the others with better "music reproduction" equipment are any more or less enthused than I am by the performance of the equipment.

    Lo-fi, Hi-fi... again, the fact they people are choosing to listen to music versus watching cable/satellite TV is something I will always champion.

    And by the way, 99% of what I listen to is the very stuff you are critical about. 192kbps and 320kbps (Pandora and Spotify) sounds so damn good through my system... cheap-ass as it is.

    And finally, the crap (your word) that people are buying from Walmart is precious to them... just like my BSR turntable in 1973 was precious to me in college.

    Please, no more comments like that, OK?
     
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  7. Edi M

    Edi M New Member

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    Yes Sir, thank you Sir! May i have another, Sir?(Classic Cow and Chicken quote for those asking).

    Maybe i am confusing you by talking about electronics when you obviously want to talk about music. I am not criticizing your music listening. I am criticizing the state of electronics sold worldwide and their sonic qualities. People have enjoyed music long before the development of the phonograph, there is nothing here to argue about.

    I listen to old and badly recorded tapes on old cassette decks and so far they bring me more joy than anything else i`ve listened to. There is a certain attachment people develop over these things. That doesn`t mean you are not allowed to disapprove of my listening habits. It`s a personal thing and in my initial post i wasn`t discussing personal habits or taste in music.

    That being said, between the sound coming from an old quality cassette deck and an iphone, i`d much rather have the first. Some electronics just suck the life out of the recordings, while others reproduce music with grace. This is the debate, not what you do at home while you`re in bed with your little radio, laptop or whatever "music thingy" you may use.

    I say that as long as it plays music and is produced in a factory by an underpaid chinese worker, i have the right to criticize it. Or maybe you are against discussing labor rights as well?
     
  8. hnash53

    hnash53 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Not against anything you just said at all. But... if it was made by an underpaid American worker, would you still criticize it? That's almost rhetorical, OK... and no need to answer.

    I just saw some negativity in your original post... that apparently wasn't intended by you. Peace, bro.
     
  9. KrisM

    KrisM Lunatic Member

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    To each his own. I'd take the music coming out of an iphone over a cassette deck any day.
    In fact, I do every day. I've got a 2TB hard drive the size of a small Walkman full of (mostly) FLAC files that gets played through one of the iphones/pods/pads around here. No life is sucked out of any of the music I spin.
     
  10. Quadman2

    Quadman2 Super Member

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    Sorry, I'm still trying to figure out your main intent in starting this thread.:idea:

    You do point out that gear needs to be at a similar level of reproduction to appreciate good sound and if there's a weak link in the chain, then all is for nought.

    I guess I'm concerned with your use of "average" when it comes to people and their particular buying habits. Who is average? How do you measure this?

    I for one am just getting into the FLAC game and have noticed a tremendous difference in what this format can produce compared to the older mp3 codec. Eventually I want to enjoy a LADC connection with ear buds that will allow this to happen. However with my "Skull Candy" buds costing me $60 or so, I can notice this aforementioned difference already using my newer Walkman. There are instruments in the tunes I've never heard before!

    And yes, there will be people out there who tend to mismatch their gear, having a $800 phone that was given to them free (right?...not!) and going cheap on the DAP's, HP's, BT speakers, but they don't care about how they match up. Maybe no one has clued them in to the audio game, or maybe the lyrics are more important than the melody, as in RAP.

    As for the Chinese "crap" that's available, has allowed some to get into the electronic game and that's a start in the right direction.(my bias). In the same way, there are some who will spend $10 on a new watch, while others will splurge $5k on a watch and may or may not know the difference and don't really care. In some areas, the sound gear is improving, as in the mp3 players which can play several codecs and be able to modify the sound within the device that moderately priced ear buds/HP's can bring out some pretty decent results. The same can be said about BT speakers that can handle the improved connections.

    Not sure if I addressed your intent or not? Money does to a degree does play a part, but it always has. Appreciation? That's another matter.

    Q
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2018
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  11. Alobar

    Alobar Pulling out of the Last Chance Texaco.. Subscriber

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    Well this is going to hit us hard here on AK.. Very sobering news! :rolleyes:
     
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