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Sound quality from internet download

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by Scalabre, Apr 6, 2005.

  1. Scalabre

    Scalabre
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    I hve a few simple questions:
    1. Is sound quality from internet download as good as from original CD
    2. Once you download your CD music to your PC, is sound quality maintained?
    3. Is sound quality on a PC (laptop Compaq Presario R3000 with nVIDIA crd) affected by sound card quality.
    In a nutshell, can your PC become the hub for storing your music and feeding your amp. :hiya:
     
  2. SOUNDSTYLE

    SOUNDSTYLE
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    It depends what the quality is like when you download it.
    If it's 192kbps then the quality is very good. I doubt you will be able to tell the difference from a cd, but anything below 128kbps forget it, if you're after cd quality.
    I find that @ 128kbps and below, you lose bass.
     
  3. Legzr1

    Legzr1
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    Whether you can tell the diff. between compressed music + cd has a lot to do with equipment upstream.
    Using a budget £200 amp > bare bones cables > £200 speakers I doubt you'll notice a major difference.Some 'music' actually sounds better compressed @256K/320 (this removes some nasty treble so common to 'pop' releases).

    If ripping CD's to your laptop the best thing to do to maintain quality is to use something like EAC - this takes the music data from the CD without compressing.Obviously this can use a LOT of hard disc space (up to 750MB per album!).Using any decent ripping software and converting to 192K or higher will give decent results.As always there is a balancing act between file size -v- quality.This is something worth experimenting with.If you tell no difference between,say 160K and 256K then rip at 160K !

    Sound quality 'can' be affected by the d/a converters in a sound card.
    As always you pays your money etc.
    If,however you're using an AV amp with a digital input then your soundcard becomes unimportant as the digital stream will be passed to the amp without compromise.Almost all recent soundcards come with digital output.

    Finally - YES a laptop/pc can become a music hub - lots have done it.
    There is software available to create listings/inventories etc.

    HTH
     
  4. gerbilly

    gerbilly
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    You will notice a difference with downloaded music compared to a normal cd no matter how cheap or expensive your amp is.
    The best is apple loseless for making cd from downloaded music but it does take up a lot of space on a i-pod or your HD.
    If however you use a pc and a laptop that may not be much use for you.
    As for the comment about Bare Bones cable that is just nonsense.
    There are people who have swapped over to T and E cable and CAT5 from cables such as QED Silver Anniversaryand have heard no difference or actual improvements.
     
  5. alexs2

    alexs2
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    In a nutshell,your PC can become the hub of a music/video system,and several of us here use one for that purpose.

    Downloads or CD to HDD copies are only as good as,or close to the original if the music is transferred and copied in it's native cda form(my opinion)....as soon as you begin to add in compression,even with lossless encoders,quality almost inevitably begins to suffer,and more so as the compression increases.
    As others here have said,using MP3 at rates below 128kBps is usually pretty awful,and sounds flat,compressed and lacking dynamic range.
    The downside is the need for larger files.

    It is also worth mentioning that Windows Media Player uses Windows Kmixer to resample to 48Khz,and does so very poorly,with attendant loss of quality.

    Sound card quality is very important....there are some very good low cost sound cards,but also some very poor ones....the M-Audio cards,and the Audiotrak ones are good low cost solutions,and in the upper ranges,the Lynx cards will rival or exceed many very good DACs in terms of sound quality.

    So,yes....it can be the basis of a good system,but will require not only a bit of money,but also sensible choice of software,and preferably avoiding Windows Kmixer.

    If the overall cost of the system is low,then a lot of this advice will be irrelevant,except at very low sampling rates,as the differences will be lost with lower resolution systems.
     
  6. Mandel

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    Do you have any supporting evidence for lossless encoders causing a loss in fidelity? The purpose of a true lossless encoder/decoder system is to store an exact copy of the 16/44.1 wave file in a more efficient form. This is like saying that programs downloaded as zip files are inferior to their original form!

    On the other hand ripping an original CD to the hard-drive invariably does result in a loss in fidelity as does copying CDs to CD-R
     
  7. Legzr1

    Legzr1
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    :rolleyes:
    Interesting.
    Someone who claims no difference in sound using different cables yet can tell the difference between ripped mp3 and CD on any system.
    And he quotes me as speaking nonsense !
    For the record,the bare bones cables in my example also included interconnects,not just 'budget' speaker cables.
    Try it and see for yourself (as always).

    AlexS said "as the differences will be lost with lower resolution systems." - sums it up pretty well IMHO.

    To clarify :In my experience,using budget amps,cables + speakers there is very little difference in sound quality between a well ripped MP3 and an average,poorly produced 'pop' CD.
    Have a quick look at any of the forums which specialise in 2ch music - I think you'll find a very similar story.

    Have fun. :)
     
  8. alexs2

    alexs2
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    The first thing I'd use in support is one's own ears.....I've used a couple of lossless encoders(Monkey's Audio and Media Player).....both are ok,and certainly the former is to my ears better than Media Player,but both don't sound as clear,or easy to listen to(if that's the right description)as the originals.

    Another thing that made interesting reading was a review article in the month's HiFiWorld,looking at comparisons of lossless encoders(WMP,FLAC,Monkey,QT Pro etc)and relating the performance to both bitrates and distortion spectra.
    The results from WMA were surprising to say the least,and may go along way to explaining the sound quality.

    It was certainly clear from that article that a supposedly lossless encoder may well have been storing the original data in a lossless fashion,but it was also adding a lot of unwanted material secondary to the encoding process,in the form of distortion.

    I can certainly see,and agree with your point that a lossless encoder should do just that,but my argument would be that few seem do to only that.

    Obviously,at the end of the day,the sound quality is a very subjective thing,and if you like the sound offered by any particular combination of encoder and equipment,then thats fine....

    I would have to also ask your basis for saying that ripping a CD to HDD results invariably in a loss of fidelity,other than for the jitter related issues,which are well known,unless this is the basis for your statement.

    Ripping an original to your HDD using native cda format should give very good results,as long as the issues of jitter have been attended to,and I assume this is what you allude to when making your comments about ripping an original CD to HDD.
    That usually opens the floodgates for those who are on either side of the digital copy divide!
     
  9. Legzr1

    Legzr1
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    MMmm,i'm confused.
    So,what you're saying is a lossless encoder will copy an original ,bit-for-bit ,without any loss whatsoever?
    Perhaps that is true but then you say copying CD - CDR results in loss of fidelity ???
    Is this not also a bit-for-bit copy?

    As always,there is a simple way to verify things.
    Get someone without any interest in the results to select a piece of music from an original CD.
    Do a direct disc-disc copy of the track onto a CD-R but don't finalise it.
    Then,rip the track onto the HDD using a decent ripping program (EAD for example) without compression.Burn this track to the CD-R.
    Finally,convert the track to MP3 at varying rates (say 160K - 320K) and save on the HDD.
    Burn the compressed tracks as music files to the CD-R.
    Ask your friend to keep notes of which track is which (more important than you might think :smashin: )
    Finally,insert the CD-R into your CD-player and have a very close listen.
    Try to pick which track is which - I think you will be amazed at the results :thumbsup:
    Go on,give it a go and post the results on here.
     
  10. Mandel

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    Well I don't know about WMA, though I wouldnt be suprised if there are some programs that claim to be lossless but aren't entirely :) However a FLAC encoded file should be an exact copy, the flac encoder has a -v (verify) option to ensure that the decoded flac file is an exact copy of the original.

    As for copying CDs to your hard-drive I was refering to CDs being difficult to read perfectly unless they are handled very carefully. Also jitter is an issue, though by using software like EAC any errors can be minimised.
     
  11. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Yes....I can see what you're getting at there!.....my comments regarding not only listening ,but also the article I quoted,were aimed at that also.

    I'm sure that a lossless encoder may well be able to losslessly encode music from a cda file,but it does appear that many encoders add a fair amount of distortion,and in particular Media Player,perhaps due to the unwanted attentions of Kmixer and it's poor SRC handling.
     
  12. Mandel

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    In theory yes. However CD are in practice an error-correcting format. This is why the storage capacity on a data CD is so much less than an audio RBCD... So much parity is needed to ensure the data integrity. This is more of a problem with CD-Rs, audible errors accumalate much more quickly.
     
  13. Mandel

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    This is far more likely. I wouldn't trust Windows Medias lossless encoder or Kmixer as far as I could throw them. There are numerous ways for computers to screw with the audio stream. Hell my computer can't even send a signal from the CD-ROM drive to the SP-DIF out without it being altered (and yes I am using the IDE cable for audio). Discovered this when I tried using my computer to send the signal from a DTS-Audio disc to my amp!
     
  14. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Certainly worth finding a copy of the article and having a read.....a lot of it is the usual somewhat technical breakdown of distortion and jitter spectra,but it is clear that whilst the encoders,FLAC included,did the job of encoding,there were unwanted effects in the form of distortion added to the signal.

    I've also never had problems with CD-R's and reading,nor any with cda files copied in native format to an HDD,but I would say that the best way of avoiding jitter related problems is by using equipment with low inherent rates initially,and avoiding sample rate conversion wherever possible....of course that opens the other can of worms relating to upsampling/interpolation and the likes....another debate,and not for this thread perhaps.
     
  15. Legzr1

    Legzr1
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    Alex,you mention HifiWorld magazine (a great read that covers 70's Leak valves up to BlueRay and everything inbetween!).
    Which months edition are you quoting from?
    It's been a while since i've read it (December 04 is the last time I picked it up).
    The edition you mention sounds interesting.

    Cheers,
    Steve.

    p.s.
    Krell MDA in your sig - 300 or 500 (you lucky *** :smashin: )
     
  16. Legzr1

    Legzr1
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    I'm not doubting anything you say but surely you can verify the data on a music cd-r just as easily as the verify function contained in some of the lossless encoders?
     
  17. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Thats yet another problem!.....there are quite a few good DTS encoded CD's about,and whilst I have no problems if I use the right digital outs on my HCPC,getting it wrong gives a nasty blast of digital noise.

    I think WMP needs a thorough overhaul in the audio department,but as it's aimed at the mass market rather than the small audiophile market,it's unlikely to happen.....it's a pity that we have a relative profusion of high quality formats(DVD-A/SACD,and even good old CD if done properly),but the overall trend in replay is towards a lower overall quality or denominator in many cases.
     
  18. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Yes you can....but none of these may take jitter into account,and whilst it's often used as a copout for all faults in the digital domain,at high levels,especially if data related,it would appear to be an audible problem...certainly one that afflicted early generation DVD players when faced with audio CD's,as an example.
     
  19. Legzr1

    Legzr1
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    I have to agree totally.
    As you've no doubt heard elsewhere the majority of todays music seems to be mixed to sound good on radio (be it FM or DAB) or even as a ringtone (a worrying fact - last month was the first time the sales of ringtones outnumbered the sales of CD singles :eek: ).

    One thing that did prick my interest was the news some months ago of a certain Mr Gates buying the rights for HDCD.
    Whats the odds on the next WMP making a mess of that format too?
     
  20. alexs2

    alexs2
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    I'd imagine that has a lot to do with the certain person's global view of digital rights management,and licensing/distribution potential.

    There is no doubt that the internet is viewed by the big music companies(BMG/Sony/EMI/Warner....there aren't many left after that!) as the next big market,and the success of iTunes has only added to that view.

    There is so little music available in HDCD format,and the resolution gains(about 1-2 bits overall) are so small that I can't see WMP having any real use for it.

    If they'd only get round to some way of incorporating DVD-A or SACD.....
     

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